If you love the look of a vintage timepiece, but are concerned about damaging your valuable relic, you’re certainly spoiled for choice these days. There seems to be no shortage of wrist candy inspired by the Golden Age of toolwatches.
Would I love to rock an Omega Seamaster 300, Tudor Black Bay 58, or Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57?
You bet I would, but food, clothing, and shelter will have to do for now. Lucky for us Budget Ballers, in addition to reissues from some of horology’s prestige names, you’ll also find a submarine-load of microbrands eager to find a place on your wrist, including offerings from Unimatic, NTH, Aevig, Lorier, EMG, Baltic, Marnaut, and more.
And you can add About Vintage to that growing list. Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, their 1926 At’Sea Automatic (in black dial and bezel, fully black, and this one in blue) certainly ticks a lot of boxes for fans of retro divers that would rather not thrash their precious vintage piece.
Upon first glance, you’ll see stylistic nods to one of the first purpose-built dive watches, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, as well as the seldom seen Gruen Ocean Chief, both of which are way too rare to risk actually getting wet.
But if you look a little, ahem, deeper, you’ll find some design touches that set the At’Sea apart.
The overall minimalist aesthetic is decidedly Scandinavian, with the subtle logo just under 12, and the sans serif text of the (overly long) model name above 6. The wide blue/gilt bezel insert, with markings only every five minutes, lends a further uncluttered look.
The leaf-shaped hour and minute hands are something you don’t see often, and they just work…at once unique and elegant.
My favorite touch? The layered ‘sandwich’ dial hour markers, evoking vintage Panerai. That extra depth adds so much character…so simple, yet so attractive.
And speaking of the dial: believe it or not, the only blue watch I ever owned was my very first watch, a tiny, blue-dialed Timex Mercury that I wore during the single digit years of my life, until it finally died, undone by the relentless battering of non-stop tree-climbing and Schwinn-jumping.
Wearing the At’Sea had me wondering, “Why did I wait so long to wear blue again?” This dial, in its impossibly inky shade of midnight is, dare I say, one sexy beast. The color is so deep, it can look black in a certain slant of light, but the wide bezel insert, just a shade lighter, reminds your subconscious that nothing says cool like blue.
The 1926 At’Sea Auto clocks in at what I call a ‘Goldilocks’ size…a svelte-lugged 100 meter case in a vintage-correct 39mm diameter…‘just right’ for the majority of wrists, with a trim 47mm lug to lug measurement. The caseback screws down, and features a lovely etched wave design. Height is a reasonable 13mm, considering the profile of its gorgeous domed sapphire crystal. And although not specifically a dive watch trait, the screw-down ‘pearl onion’ crown is another nice vintage tip of the hat. If ever a dive watch could be described as having a ‘Midcentury Modern’ aesthetic, this is it.
The packaging includes an elegant (and very big) dark wood box, with a laser engraved logo.
Are there complaints? A few.
The Miyota 8215 movement, a non-hacking affair with date (on a no-date dial) could have been thought through a little better. It’s a fine, reliable movement, but perhaps the objectively superior 90S5 or 9039 movements (both are no-date hacking movements) would have been a better call, given the watch’s $599 retail.
Additionally, I’m hoping the bezel wears in after some use, because it is one of the hardest-turning bezels I’ve encountered. Seriously, start doing some rock wall climbing in your leisure time to build that grip. On the plus side, it’s never going to slip, so there’s that.
The lume? Let’s call it vintage charm, because the brightness is nothing to write home about. It glows briefly, and fades sooner than a modern watch should, never mind the fact that the hands glow a slightly different color than the dial markers.
Lastly, the blue NATO strap is, to be polite, underwhelming, from the thin nylon fabric, to the lightweight stamped buckle. You can do better.
Luckily, About Vintage is now including your choice of a second strap with purchase, so you can pick from two different steel bracelets, two stainless mesh straps, a quasi-tropical look silicone in black or green, and a wide range of leather choices. Good thing this watch is an absolute strap monster, and I’ve worn it on everything from a seatbelt NATO, tropical rubber, or my favorite, a dark brown leather strap with white contrast stitching (which just slays with navy blue). It’s very difficult to make this watch look bad. And you’re unlikely to see another one at your next watch meetup.
In conclusion, the About Vintage 1926 At’Sea Automatic just oozes vintage charm, and although the price may be higher than some microbrands’ offerings, I believe that beautiful design has an inherent worth beyond mere specs, and that counts for something.
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