Archive for October, 2009

Dievas Vortex: Diving into Controversy?

Friday, October 2nd, 2009


You’ve probably heard it already, but the Dievas Vortex is one of the best value buys this year. The watch’s main sell is its amusing but improbable claim to being equally competent at air, sea and land (eat that Jaeger leCoultre ‘Navy Seals’! -ed). Backing up that bit of horological cheese is that triangle thingy at the 12 o’clock position which supposedly symbolises “the artificial horizon, an essential cockpit flight instrument”. The ‘sea’ bit is taken care of by the useful >500m dive depth, and I guess the tough leather strap represents cows, which I’ve heard live on land.

Cheese aside, its lightweight titanium case feels solid and is superbly finished. The design is simple but yet macho at the same time. Not Rambo macho, but rather the covert, clandestine macho-violence of Jason Bourne. Anyway I digress. The 60-click unidirectional bezel turns with the precision expected of something expensive but doesn’t quite retain value, like most of my watches. I digress again. This is all very remarkable given the Vortex’s modest retail price of about US$1000.

This watch would certainly be a top seller if only its origins have not polarised opinion. The Vortex shares the same watchcase as Kobold’s SMG-1, a watch which has surely achieved cult status amongst its fans. Dievas has never concealed the fact that they sourced the Vortex’s case from Fricker, the German design and manufacturing firm which also happened to have produced the watch case for the SMG-1. The differences are as visible as their similarities. The SMG-1 has a date window and an additional GMT hand and uses a modified ETA 2836 movement; the Vortex has none of those and does the reverse aesthetically by showing all but the 3, 9 and 12 o’clock hour markers. The Vortex also uses for its movement an unmodified ETA 2824-2.

When it comes to price though, the Vortex blows the SMG-1 out of the water, crushes it on land and shoots it down over the sky. Weighing in at nearly four and a half times the price of the Vortex, the SMG-1 was never really going to find much justification for its US$4,500.00 tag in the first place, beyond Kobold’s need to make it exclusive. Now Dievas has shown what it can competently achieve for a fraction of that price. The argument’s not new but it again raises the question of where value falls over the cliff and the need for exclusitivity takes over. Of course there’s no such thing as a cheap luxury watch or indeed, cheap luxury anything, since luxury goods innately appeal to our egos rather than common sense. But Dievas has clearly identified this segment of value-driven buyers who appreciate the SMG-1 aesthetic and yet scoff at its pricetag, producing an outwardly- similar, yet noticeably different watch that will take out much less from the wallet. And attract them it did, judging by the response on several watch forums.

To those which the shape and design of the watch appeal to, it would be easy to claim that the Vortex represents value and is a far more sensible proposition than the SMG-1. However that is clearly not the case either. No one can contest that the SMG-1 was the first, the original and probably still the better of the two and that the Vortex, value for money or not, snuck in with a design that was popularised by another. The arguments will continue, but let me close this unusually tedious entry in the words of my friend, the wise Mr. D. Goh: “Once you go down this path it might to be hard to salvage your reputation as an original watch manfacture in the future”.

Dievas Vortex, Lightweight Titanium Case, 44mm, 500m water-resistance; about 42 hours power reserve. Movement: self-winding Swiss made ETA 2824-2.

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