Nivada Grenchen is a familiar name to most vintage watch collectors, particularly for their diver’s chronograph, the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver (CASD), and Chronoking.
Marketed under the Croton brand in the U.S. and Nivada Grenchen in Europe, the brand was ahead of its time in the 1960s with dive watches, producing examples with a groundbreaking at the time, 1,000 meters depth rating.
The Depthmaster 1000 was launched in 1965. Its predecessor, the Depthomatic, was the first watch ever to feature a depth gauge. The 1,000m (3300 ft/ 100 ATM) depth rating of the Depthmaster would not be surpassed until Rolex released the Sea-Dweller 1967.
The Depthmaster is also in a collective group of dive watches often referred to as “Baby Panerai” or “mini Panerai” by collectors, due to the similarity of its cushion case shape to those used by Panerai but having a more diminutive 38 mm case diameter (the reissue to be reviewed here is 39 mm). The case type was also used at the time by brands such as Sandoz, Alpha, Le Phare, and Vetta.
The specific watch in for review is the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster 1000 (Ref. 14105A01). The Depthmaster 1000 compares very similarly to its vintage counterpart. It features a stainless steel cushion-shaped case with drilled lugs measuring 39 mm (compared to 38mm for the vintage). It has the same 47 mm lug-to-lug and 13 mm thick measurements as it’s predecessor. The modern version keeps the same combination of brushed and polished surfaces as the original and similarly has thick lugs and a wide raised elapsed time bezel. Also featured are a screw-down crown and caseback, cambered sapphire crystal, and a helium escape valve at 9 o’clock (for saturation diving)
Maybe the most notable version of Nivada’s vintage Depthmasters utilized an art deco font and is referred to as a “Pac-Man” dial since the 6 and 9 resemble the Pac-Man character. This is recreated nicely by the modern Depthmaster in for review. The black dial contrasts nicely against the cream color luminous indexes and hands. I especially like the combination of handset and second hand here as there are multiple dial, handset, second hand, and even bezel variations to mix and match to create your own Depthmaster on Nivada Grenchen’s website nivadagrenchenofficial.com.
The vintage versions were powered by an ETA caliber 2472/2461 movement. The new Depthmasters are equipped with a self-winding and hacking Sellita SW200 no-date (without ghost position) having a power reserve of 38 hours and humming at 28,800 vibrations per hour (or 4Hz).
The Depthmasters from Nivada are currently offered with a choice of stainless steel oyster or beads of rice bracelet, leather (tan or black minimal stitch), or rubber tropic strap. I really liked both the feel and look of it on the rubber tropic that it was shipped to me to review. The Depthmaster’s retail price is $1,020 on leather strap, tropic strap, and stainless steel bracelet. All straps and bracelets have quick-release levers so you can swap the straps with no tool.
Although it wears well on my sub-7-inch wrist, I could see others on the larger end of the wrist size spectrum feeling that it could be slightly more diminutive than they would like.
I found this robust 39 mm cushion case watch to be a great, comfortable wear. It’s diminutive enough to not feel out of place in both casual and business settings, while still giving the feel of wearing an oversized diver with some heft and character. The case alone weighs a surprising 78 grams and 103 grams including the rubber tropic strap. The dial really sold me on this one, as I’ve always loved the vintage Pac-Man baby Panerai Nivadas. I believe both modern and vintage watch aficionados will enjoy this carefully thought-out re-issue as well as the options to create the Depthmaster of your choice.
Learn more at Nivada Grenchen.