With its latest diver-style watches, Geneva-based ArtyA has been merging its art-focused luxury wristwatch platform with the original type of design work its founder, Yvan Arpa, is known for. Arpa set up ArtyA as a company he personally controls some years back with the intention of creating one-of-a-kind art pieces. Since then, the brand concept has expanded beyond the wonderful weirdness of its more novel products to include some of the sporty watch themes Arpa is so good at coming up with. Last year on aBlogtoWatch, I reviewed the 40mm version of the sapphire-cased ArtyA Diver Sprtiz here, which comes in at a much higher price point. While these Son of Sea collection dive watches are expensive for what they are, they do represent an entry price point into the ArtyA brand, and there is a lot of charm and artistry here that is unavailable elsewhere. What you always know for sure with ArtyA is that originality and fun are very high on Arpa’s’s list of product design priorities.
ArtyA refers to this 43mm wide case and dial template design as its Son of Sea product collection, and the company is prone to changing product names without much notice. The assortment of available Son of Sea pieces is typically prolific for the brand, which likes to experiment with a lot of looks to see what the market will want. People also love colors today, so a lot of the available Son of Sea products are the same watch but with different colors dials, bezels, straps, and cases. He and his design team have done a good job offering variety with what is essentially one core wristwatch design.
What Arpa does particularly well, in my opinion, is merge visual artistic interest with technical functionality. Arpa can certainly push the envelope, and his designs can verge more into the expressive (versus functional) realms, but with the Son of Sea diver-style watches, Arpa has really restrained himself and chosen to first make a competent sports watch, then second giving them an artistic twist. More so, unlike the sapphire crystal diver-style watches ArtyA produces, the Son of Sea collection are legitimate diver’s watches with properly rotating uni-directional bezels and cases that offer 300 meters of water resistance.
For this review, I have selected two of my favorite ArtyA Son of Sea dial styles: the wave-style ripple dial and the color-based depth gauge dial. ArtyA also produces a lovely series of colored aventurine dials (the red is particularly cool), as well as a more traditional flat dial with a color gradient effect. I will spend a bit more time talking about these dials below, but first let’s look at the Son of Sea case and overall specs. The cases for these watches are 43mm wide, seen here in natural or black DLC-coated steel. It is just over 13mm thick including the domed AR-coated coated sapphire crystal, and as I mentioned above, the case is water-resistant to 300 meters. The case has a lug-to-lug distance of about 50mm and wears quite comfortably given that it isn’t the smallest case. Arpa knows how to make a comfortable watch, and this is certainly one of them.
The most distinctive feature of the Son of Sea diver’s-style case is the bezel, which has a crashing wave effect for the grip on the rotating bezel. This is not the first time we’ve seen a bezel that incorporated this “saw blade” look, but this is arguably among the more elegant instances of this visual bezel style. Inside the bezel are ceramic inserts, the colors of which depend on the particular ArtyA Son of Sea watch and include available ceramic colors black, blue, red, green, and gold. The rear of the case has a shark maw design with two styles depending on the movement in the watch. If you look at the ArtyA website, it appears as though this watch has a display window built into the maw graphic, but these models shown have solid casebacks. That’s because ArtyA offers two movement options at rather different price points for the Son of Sea watches.
Another difference between the Son of Sea watches on the website and these reviewed models are the straps. I believe the watches I reviewed were given early-production silicone straps versus the nicer rubber straps that are available on the current retail pieces. It’s a bit confusing that ArtyA offers two movement options inside the Son of Sea watches, and it website doesn’t mention that detail. The movement inside the watch on the website is what ArtyA refers to as its”Caliber ArtyA AION COSC” (AKA “ArtyOn”). This is a fancier supplied Swiss-made movement that appears to have some decorative elements that are exclusive to ArtyA. The ArtyOn automatic movement operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve and features the time and date on the watch dials. Each of the movements is said to be COSC Chronometer-certified. The movement is supposed to have a nice dark gray and rose gold-tone series of decorated parts and bridges, but I will have to take the brand’s word for it, as these specific pieces don’t have display casebacks.
The other movements used in versions of the Son of Sea, which are 3,000 Swiss Francs less (a big difference), and with a solid caseback as seen in this review, are the La Joux-Perret G100 automatic movements. These are a newer generation of mechanical watch movements developed by Citizen in Japan and then upgraded and produced in Switzerland by Citizen-owned La Joux-Perret. The G100 is basically a prettier and better-performing version of the Miyota 9000 movement series, which itself is no slouch. We are talking about an operating frequency of 4Hz and over 60 hours of power reserve.
Now, let’s talk about the main attraction of the Son of Sea watches: the beautiful and intellectual dials ArtyA has designed. The ripple-style wave dial comes in a few colors (the pictured piece has a gold look to it) and is apparently done by hand using a traditional enamel technique. The dials are made with authentic wave shapes that give the water-style ripples a more lifelike appearance. Of course, the visual effect that ArtyA is going for is what the surface of water looks like when it is disturbed, thus causing a ripple effect. This is not only visually attractive, but since it is water-themed, the style works perfectly for diver-style sports watches. I hope more people get to see these wave ripple ArtyA dials in person because they are truly beautiful and also something no one has really done before in this manner (as far as I know). This particular version of the ArtyA Son of Sea Wave watch also has a black DLC-coated case, matching black ceramic bezel insert, and a black-colored strap buckle (which is also a unique shape inspired by droplets of water).
The other dial of note is the Son of Sea Depth Gauge, and it is a truly brilliant integration that I’ve not seen on any modern watch. In fact, this might be the very first time this concept (at least this look) has been used on a wristwatch dial. What is brilliant about it is that ArtyA was able to do at least four things at once with this dial design. First, the Depth Gauge dial is colorful — and colors are very hip and in right now. Second, the dial has a rainbow look, and in addition to colorful watches being trendy, rainbow-effect watches are trendy, as well. Third, the dial is entirely functional, adding utility to the design. (More on that in a moment.) Fourth, ArtyA managed to do something that the market covets, which is to release familiar products (dive watches) with novelty (the original dial designs that no one else has done).
So, how does the functional color depth gauge work on this Son of Sea Depth Gauge watch? There are no moving parts or anything, but rather the dial takes advantage of the fact that different colors of light get filtered out of the water depending on your current depth. Divers all know that the lower you go, the fewer colors become available. This watch dial thus incorporates this optical phenomenon, using visible colors to approximate your current depth. Indeed, this is not a precisions depth gauge nor does it work at very low depths. If you need to know your precise depth, or your depth at lower than 60 meters, then a dedicated depth gauge instrument is what you will rely on. This color system allows you to know your depth to within about 5-10 meters, with possibly more precision if you compare the look of the “color-changing” dial with the read-out of a digital depth gauge instrument and begin to intuit the precise depth based on the exact look of the dial.
Even without much experience, you can simply look at the dial underwater and notice what colors are still visible. You then look at the corresponding meter indicator markers to get an idea of the current depth. Red is the first color to be filtered out by depth, and thus next to the most shallow depth rating. Blue is the last color to be filtered out by water. If you are at about five meters of depth and looking at the dial, what you would see is orange, yellow, green, and blue, but red would be represented as a vague gray color. Go down another few meters and the orange color gets filtered out, and so forth.
This particular use of colors on a dial to add both fashion and functional appeal is brilliantly effective because of how simple it is. The colors are not just printed on the dial but rather applied using an enamel technique, so they are sectioned off in their own channels slightly raised from the dial, and also wonderfully vivid in hue. More impressive is that the colors are all lumed. This is less functional and more fun, as you can see when the entire dial lights up in the dark.
The personality and poise of ArtyA’s Son of Sea collection watches make them a big win in my mind. ArtyA will never have the reach or marketing budgets of other brands who make more popular sports watches at this price point, but ArtyA will always be a very high underdog that strives to produce interesting or wild watches that other brands simply won’t. Going back to his roots a bit, the Son of Sea dive watches demonstrate a more restrained but also more commercial version of ArtyA’s Yvan Arpa. He has, nevertheless, made sure to combine a lot of spirited fun into what are, at heart, traditional Swiss diver’s watches. As I mentioned above, there are two versions of the Son of Sea watches available, either with the ArtyOn and a partial display caseback or the La Joux-Perret G100-equipped piece with a solid caseback Price for the ArtyA Son of Sea Wave Ripple and Depth Gauge watches is 7,900 Swiss Francs or 4,900 Swiss Francs for the two movement versions, respectively. Learn more at the ArtyA watches website here.