Watch Review: Isotope Gouette d’Eau

I first came across the Goutte d’Eau diver from British microbrand, Isotope, earlier last year. It’s not their first release, but it’s the first one I’d come across from the brand and probably my favourite. I do have a penchant for dive watches and this one certainly fits my ‘type’.

There are two versions of this wonderful design, but there are only minor differences between them. The standard version features orange accents on the internal bezel and an orange second hand along with a display case back. The second version is a collaboration between Isotope and Finnish Ice Freediving World Champion, Johanna Nordblad. The differences are purely cosmetic in nature though: An icy-blue second hand and bezel accents with a closed caseback featuring a cool artistic engraving of a mermaid-type figure along with Nordblad’s name and accomplishment. My personal preference is a closed caseback, but the orange highlights are nice and I like them slightly more than the blue.

The first thing that many people may initially think is that the case shape is slightly reminiscent of the Panerai Luminor range. Indeed I thought the same, but after taking a closer look this watch is far, far more than a vague attempt at a homage piece. Any possible similarities end very abruptly at the case silhouette.

Let’s start with this case. It’s a lovely size. Most watches of this shape often feature larger cases – 44mm or bigger. The Goutte d’Eau clocks in at a very wearable 40mm with an equally svelte 44mm lug to lug. I’ve always been intrigued by this cushion case shape, but I also prefer a smaller case size so this grabbed my attention right away. It’s compact and comfortable dimensions literally could not have been any more perfect for me. Top marks right away!

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Continuing with the case I want to restress that this is NOT a shrunken Panerai copy. The similarity extends only as far as the vague shape.  The Goutte d’Eau has definitely gone down its own path with its take on the cushion shape. It’s a lovely brushed chunk of steel with no sharp edges. Sultry curves are the name of the game here. The watch measures around 13mm thick but, if I’m being honest here, it doesn’t feel anywhere near this on the wrist. I was actually expecting it to be thinner than that. This thinness, coupled with the smaller case size, adds up to a very positive wrist experience. Lovely jubbly!

There’s no external bezel on this watch; instead, it has an internal rotating bezel, operated using the crown at 2 o’clock. This crown operates nicely but is probably one of the few things I think could do with a small tweak (no watch is ever perfect!). Whilst the time-setting crown is screwdown, the bezel-adjustment crown is not. This means that it’s possible for the inner bezel to be knocked slightly during normal wear. Whilst it was never knocked too far out of place, I did notice it moving a minute or so every now and again. I’m one of these OCD folks who likes the bezel lined up at all times (when not using it) so it’s a very minor annoyance but an annoyance all the same.

The dial of the Goutte d’Eau is clean and clear – exactly what I like to see in a dive watch. Aside from the colourful accents it’s a monochromatic affair thus excellent legibility in low light. There’s obviously a healthy dose of lume too. In this case it is Swiss BGW9 Superluminova and it’s generously applied to the sandwich dial hour markers and hands. The internal bezel is also brightly lumed, with the first 20 minutes being in a contrasting colour (different colours depending on the version). In the centre of the dial, there is a large teardrop motif which is synonymous of Isotopes design language and features on all of their watches to date in some form.

What’s running the show on the inside is a choice left to the buyer. Both the standard and Nordblad versions come with a choice of Seiko or Sellita movements; namely the NH35 or SW200. I prefer the Sellita as the higher beat movement gives a smoother sweep but you do obviously pay more for the Swiss engine. Both were well regulated and, whilst I didn’t check the exact timing specs of each watch, they kept time perfectly as far as I was concerned. The Sellita is supposed to be slightly more accurate out of the box compared to the Seiko but, to some degree, these movements are only as good as their regulation.

Finally, I want to talk about the bracelet and clasp. It’s so good to see Isotope buck the trend and come out with their own custom bracelet design. When done tastefully, a custom bracelet can really add another dimension to a watch. One that is just not the same when an ‘off-the-shelf’ design is used, e.g. an Oyster bracelet. It uses a three-piece link that has a marvellous bulge on the top. It really reminds me of the bumps on top of a crocodile or a turtle’s shell, but Isotope refers to it as a ‘tread’ design. I don’t feel my description is doing it justice here but it’s also extremely comfortable on the wrist. A major test for any bracelet is the ‘arm hair pulling factor’. This bracelet scores very low on this, which l much appreciated! You hairy gentlemen can wear the Goutte d’Eau on the bracelet with no worries.

This is actually very important because it’ll be difficult to wear this watch on many different straps. One of my review samples came on the bracelet, whereas the other came on a generic rubber strap. Whilst the rubber strap was nice enough, the fit at the lug end was not great. By this, I mean that the lug to lug is so small that there’s very little space to accommodate other straps. Indeed the rubber one, whilst it did fit in place, there were unsightly gaps showing and I could also see the springbar. You’ll want some super fat, strong springbars for peace of mind against failure, but then this compounds the issue and leaves even less space. You’ll be fine with the thinner NATO straps, but don’t bank on all of your strap collection being compatible here. However, if you’re a fan of the bracelet (and you should be, it’s gorgeous) then this is not an issue. I don’t imagine I’d wear it on anything other than the bracelet. It was, quite literally, made for the watch.

The clasp is a solid ratcheting divers’ clasp. Nicely machined and it functions exactly as expected. This is probably one of the better quality clasps of this type that I have come across of late. Some have suffered with sharp edges but Isotope’s iteration is smooth and nicely presented. A purely personal preference here – I would have probably preferred a smaller, simpler folding clasp. I say this purely because, as good as this one is, it’s a bit large in relation to the watch. They’re about the same length and it adds a fair bulk to an otherwise svelte and compact watch. Seeing as my favourite thing about the Goutte d’Eau is its compact size, the clasp hinders this a little bit. I want to stress this is just my personal preference. The clasp is one of the best ratcheting examples I’ve seen from a microbrand.

Overall I really like this dive watch from Isotope. It’s refreshingly different and sees the brand refine their brand DNA and produce a stunning little piece that easily justifies its raison d’être. In a somewhat saturated sector of the watch market, the Goutte d-Eau is not afraid to do things its own way and this boldness really pays off. I’m definitely a fan, and I would urge anyone looking for something a little different for their collection to give Isotope’s Goutte d’Eau a consideration! Find out more on the brand’s website

Pros

  • Great dimensions
  • Very comfortable bracelet
  • Choice of movements
  • Great lume

Cons

  • Internal bezel crown not screwdown
  • Short lug-to-lug limits strap change options
  • Clasp may be a little big

Technical Specifications

Case: 316L stainless steel

Case size: diameter 40mm X 44mm (with lugs)

Height: 12.7mm (with SW200-1) or 13.4mm (with NH35a)

Bezel: Inner rotating bezel (operated by crown @ 2)

Crystal: Anti-reflective sapphire

Lume: Super-LumiNova® BGW9

Bracelet: 22 mm brushed Isotope Tread Bracelet and extension clasp in 316L stainless steel

Water resistance: 200m/20 atm/656 ft

Price

£379 – Seiko NH35 version

£519 – Sellita SW200 version