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5:44 PM

Review: IWI Marine Diver Unitas

Posted by Rennaisance Man

IWI Marine Diver Unitas


Summary:

  • 44 mm diameter
  • 52 mm length lug-to-lug
  • 13 mm thick
  • 24mm wide X 4 mm thick solid screw link stainless steel band
  • 250 grams
  • ETA (Unitas) 6497-1 21 jewel 18,000 bph movement
  • Sandwich lume, high gloss deep black dial
  • Stainless steel case, crown and back
  • Heavy screw pin band attachment
  • Sapphire slightly domed crystal with underside AR coating
  • Sapphire display back
  • Lock down crown and butterfly clasp with pushbuttons
  • Seconds sub-dial
International Watchman, Inc. is a small company located in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Like a number of very small watch companies in the U.S., they are technically a "Private Label" firm. The watches are custom made for them with IWI's name and logos by an "Assemblage" in Switzerland.

IWI has quite a range of mechanical watches. While a few "dress" models are offered, most of them are Diver, Pilot or Quasi-Military styles, including a line of GMT variants. They offer many more models and variants than most other watch companies of similar size, including a good number of Women's watches. IWI uses excellent materials, including Swiss Made ETA movements in all their watches. Their entire offering appears to be mechanical; browsed through their catalog and could not find any battery powered quartz models (including in the Womens' models and in their "Dress Watch" line). This one is the "Marine Diver Unitas" with silver hands and it's on an optional (at extra cost) stainless steel band. It comes with a see-through "display back" that allows viewing the mechanical movement inside.

Although it's not the largest watch they make, the Marine Diver Unitas is still quite BIG! It's the first thing noticed when opening the box. A 44mm case diameter on a cushion style case with a comparatively thin bezel and very large crown guard that protrudes 6mm from the side of the case to completely surround the crown makes for a watch that looks even larger than its dimensions. Other case dimensions: 52mm from lug tip to lug tip, 13mm height, and 24mm band width between the lugs. Case, crown and bezel are made of solid 316L stainless steel. Both crystals (top and back) are sapphire, and the top crystal is very slightly domed with an AR coating on its inside to reduce reflections. A watch head this size made of these materials will be quite heavy; it's over 250 grams. Dial is an extremely high gloss, deep "India Ink" black color. The dial is actually a "sandwich" with its very bold hour indices in arabics and batons cut out in the upper dial much like a stencil. The lower dial under it is coated with luminescent paint (either Luminova or Super-Luminova). This design gives the dial a unique 3-D appearance different from most other watches. The hands are highly polished silver color batons with a wide center stripe of Super-Luminova (variant models have gold hands or blued steel hands).

The overall concept for the Marine Diver Unitas is derived from the large wristwatches used by the Italian Navy (Marina Militare), notably by their special manned torpedo commandos of the 1a Flottiglia Mezzi d'Assalto formed just prior to WWII in 1938. Two years later in 1940, at about the time Italy joined WWII, its designation was changed to Decima Flottiglia MAS. The Italian navy was the first to use "frogmen" and human guided torpedoes. These SLC (Silura a Lenta Corsa; Slow Running Torpedo) commandos would be transported to their target area by submarine. Once released from the sub, each torpedo (called chariots by the British) with a crew of two would ride it to their target, detach its limpet mine warhead, and attach it with a timer on the targeted ship. The crew would then use the torpedo to ride back to the submarine.

Although their daring was high, their success rate was low with a very high casualty rate. Even so, for the small size of Xa-MAS during the war, they managed to sink over 200,000 tons of Allied warships and merchant ships from 1940 through 1943 prior to Italy's armistice with the Allies. Although some of the commandos stayed with the German military until Germany's surrender in 1945, SLC manned torpedo operations ceased in 1943 with the armistice. Italian commando units were formally disbanded and banned at the end of WWII, but the Xa-MAS was resurrected when Italy joined NATO in 1954. A number of nations, including Italy, continue to make and keep manned torpedo commandos, and train commando crews for them.

I opted to have my Marine Diver Unitas delivered on the optional 24mm wide, very thick, solid 316L stainless steel band with machined links. Each link is actually two pieces held together with a pair of flush machine screws on the underside; one part has a high polish mirror finish and the other a brush finish. The band is attached to the watch head using heavy screw pins, and removable links have screw pins and center tubes. Don't drop and lose any tubes when resizing the band; they fall out of the link centers easily when the screw is pulled! Clasp is a hidden butterfly deployant with positive closure and tabs on each side that must be pressed inward to open it. The steel band also comes with a pair of "half links" about 2/3rd the size of a normal link. This allows resizing in 1/3rd link increments by using one, both or neither of them. It also came with a "stock" leather strap (minor upgrade to crocodile) and I had a butterfly deployant (also an option) placed on the strap for delivery. Put the leather strap on the watch head briefly to size it, and it installed easily. While the strap is impressive and quite well made, as is the very solid deployant, I prefer steel bands over leather on my watches. Even so, I may swap between the two occasionally in the future. In spite of its size, it wears well on my smaller size wrist very comfortably, even with the very large crown guard. The trick to wearing a hidden butterfly clasp without it digging into the wrist is proper band sizing, and adjusting its exact location. I tweaked this for a half day using the 2/3 links to micro-adjust its size, and by moving a link from one side of the band to the other.

The large case size is needed to house a 17 jewel 18,000 bph ETA 6497-1 hand-wind with an impressive 56 hour power reserve from full wind. Doesn't seem like much except the movement was originally created by Unitas in 1950 for pocket watches, hence the "Unitas" in the watch name. Mens' pocket watch movements are not small. The ETA 6497-1 is 16.5"' (Ligne, 1/8th of the old French inch), a very old measure of movement diameters still in use. That's 36.6 mm in diameter; it's also 4.5mm tall not counting a dial and hands. Add a few millimeters all the way around around its diameter for a steel case to house it and whatever watch is going to use one is easily over 40mm diameter. ETA gained rights to Unitas' movements when they absorbed Unitas (and several other movement makers) during the latter part of the 1970's when The Swatch Group was formed to save the Swiss watchmaking industry financially. ETA kept Unitas' movement caliber number and it's still often referred to as the Unitas 6497 even though it's made now by ETA due to widespread recognition of it's original "brand identity." That a movement designed in 1950 is still in production nearly 60 years later without any significant redesign is a testament to its exceptional performance, durability and reliability.

Execution, fit and finish is excellent. The case is highly polished, the crystal is extremely clear (due to its AR coating), and the crown lock is firm and very positive in closure without binding. Dial and hands are impeccable in finish; difficult to achieve with a deep black high gloss dial finish. Out of the box it's running slightly fast, about 5 seconds per day, common for a new movement until its pivots wear in, which takes a few months of daily use. The huge, solid wood box the watch came delivered in is the largest and heaviest I've encountered. It's equally well finished with size and weight in keeping with the watch it contained. All are befitting a wristwatch in its price class and I've been quite impressed with it. The IWI Marine Diver Unitas is not a "true" dive watch as its water resistance is rated to 50 meters, nor is it intended to be. It's a "desk diver" with its concept derived from the watches used by the Italian Navy decades ago. A real dive watch is rated for 200 meters or more water resistance, and if used for diving, or even swimming, should be depth tested annually.

International Watchman does not publish a price list on their web site beyond pricing for bands and other accessories, and they do not have a published MSRP. Their business is geared for wholesale sales to department stores, and brick & mortar jewelry stores which set their own pricing. Depending on options (steel band, exotic leather band upgrade, etc.), and specific variant, retail prices among dealers for the Marine Diver Unitas are usually well under $1000.
Summary:
  • 44 mm diameter
  • 52 mm length lug-to-lug
  • 13 mm thick
  • 24mm wide X 4 mm thick solid screw link stainless steel band
  • 250 grams
  • ETA (Unitas) 6497-1 21 jewel 18,000 bph movement
  • Sandwich lume, high gloss deep black dial
  • Stainless steel case, crown and back
  • Heavy screw pin band attachment
  • Sapphire slightly domed crystal with underside AR coating
  • Sapphire display back
  • Lock down crown and butterfly clasp with pushbuttons
  • Seconds sub-dial
International Watchman Inc. Web Site
Note: I do not have any association with International Watchman other than having bought one of their watches and several accessories for it (delivered with the watch).

2 comments:

Dustin said...

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:-)

Winston said...

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