Earlier this year, I wrote an article about the wristwatch that succeeded the Replica Rolex Submariner as official issue to the United Kingdom's Royal Navy divers. That watch, made by Cabot fake watch Company, was only built in self-winding form for two years ?1980 and 1981 ?making it one of the rarest military watches, and highly collectible. CWC went on to make updated versions of the same fake watch for distribution to Navy and Royal Marines divers, albeit powered by quartz movements. The company also released updated automatic versions, which were not military-issue, and subtle changes were made to the basic fake watch platform over the years, such as a new CWC logo, Luminova-painted markers and hands, and an aluminum bezel insert. But all versions of this dive fake watch retained the no-nonsense, purpose-built appeal that came straight off a 1970s Ministry of Defence spec sheet. This year, CWC decided to heed the growing clamor over the original automatic diver, and create a limited series homage to the original from 1980 that started it all. I recently got my hands on one to check out.
A military-issued quartz CWC Royal Navy Diver from 1995.
The 1980 Royal Navy Diver Re-issue (as it's officially called) is a case study in small details making the difference. After all, with so few changes made to the fake watch since 1980, there's a limited palette with which to work. In a way, it's akin to the differences in Omega Speedmasters over the years. At a glance, a 1968 Speedy looks the same as a 2017 one. But things like stepped dials, applied logos, fonts, and of course, lume, are determiners of appeal and desirability for collectors and aficionados, which is why the "Trilogy?edition Speedmaster released at Basel was such a sensation https://www.strangematterrva.com, recreating the first Speedy, and highlighting the generations of change between the Alpha and?er, Omega Speedies. The same holds true with the 1980 RN Diver Re-issue.ADVERTISEMENT
First off, the most obvious similarity to the 1980 original is in the dial markings. Since the early 1970s, on its Army and Royal Air Force watches, Cabot fake watch Company used a tiny logo at 12:00 that entirely lacked flourishes. It was just three tiny letters ?CWC ?and seemed almost an afterthought. Then in the early ?0s, that logo changed to a larger serif font, surrounded by an oval. Still pretty spartan, but maybe CWC finally decided to hire a graphic designer. Purists still prefer the original logo, and it was dusted off for CWC's re-issued 1970s Royal Air Force pilot's chronograph of the early 2000s. Here again we see it on the Diver re-issue, along with an even smaller "circled T?symbol at 6:00, denoting the use of tritium on the dial and hands. Except the re-issue doesn't use tritium.
CWC replicated the hue of aged tritium for the dial markers and hands.
After tritium fell out of regular use on fake watch dials about 20 years ago (for health and efficacy reasons) CWC switched to Luminova, the new industry standard for luminescent paint. On dials of its watches, the circled T symbol was replaced with a circled L. The re-issued RAF chronograph was perhaps the final use of tritium by CWC and those replica watches retain the honest T dial, and their lume will presumably begin to age to the "café au lait?patina (ie, "decay? we all know and love on our vintage watches. The re-issued Diver presented a conundrum to CWC: to use the circled T, per the original, on a Luminova dial or not? As you can see, they decided to err on the side of visual, instead of material, accuracy.
The Diver's case had to be re-engineered to mimic the more pointed crown guards of the 1980 original.
This quest to emulate the tritium dial of a 1980 CWC diver extends also to the color of the markers and hands, through the use of "vintage tinted?paint. It is the most noticeable trait of this fake watch and the most marked difference from more recent versions of the watch. The use of what has become known as, "faux patina?is a hotly debated practice, and one used by many brands from Jaeger-LeCoultre to Omega to Oris. I've always been of the opinion that a yellowed marker color is simply another aesthetic choice, just as bright green or white might be. And the fact is, most people adore the yellowed appearance of lumed markers on vintage watches, often seeking out the most desirably creamy iterations. So why the distaste for this same color on modern watches? Is it because it was achieved through paint tinting instead of the aging of a radioactive material? Does that somehow make it less honest?
The new CWC 1980 Royal Navy Diver Re-Issue and a 1995 quartz model side by side.ADVERTISEMENT
The yellow markers on the CWC are a direct facsimile of those on a 1980 fake watch they used as a template, and are a deep butterscotch gold. The hands are slightly lighter in tone, which would be a red flag were this a vintage piece (mismatched often means newer hands), but apparently this was the way the vintage fake watch aged. I don't mind the color personally, though I find it perhaps a little too gold. Also, the paint is generously applied, giving a puffy three-dimensional appearance, and is slightly glossy, catching the light in a way that an aged matte dial fake watch would likely not. These details are more noticeable up close but from arm's length, the fake watch looks altogether like a 37 year old Royal Navy Diver. CWC told me that they do plan to offer a less tinted dial in a future fake watch and may be willing to swap dials should an owner desire it.
Moving away from the dial, the other differences from the standard CWC dive fake watch are more subtle. Like the original fake watch to which it pays homage, the bezel is made from a kind of acrylic resin with longer hashes and luminous numerals and arrow. After those first couple of years of production, CWC went to an aluminum bezel insert with only a luminous zero "pip? The bezel is quite sumptuous, essentially a dead ringer for those old Bakelite ones from vintage Seamaster 300 Omegas ?no surprise, given the fact that the MoD spec sheet was based on the SM300.
The sweep seconds hand on the 1980 Re-Issue resembles that of its historical inspiration.
The hands are also slightly tweaked from modern CWC divers, with a fatter minute hand sword, and a sweep seconds hand that terminates in a diamond flag rather than a needle.
The case of the watch, arguably CWC's trademark feature, has some small changes from the version you've been able to buy (or be issued) for the past couple of decades. It is still 42 millimeters across by 46 millimeters lug-to-lug, and 12 millimeters tall; pretty perfect dimensions for a sports watch. And it is still pressure resistant to 30 atmospheres (equal to roughly 300 meters of water depth). But now the crown guards are more pointed than the squared-off ones on other CWC divers, and the caseback has a more pronounced center bulge than the relatively flat one seen on others. The case is polished on all surfaces, which seems odd for an homage to an issued military watch, but is true to the original. And naturally, the strap bars are fixed, so can only be used with one-piece pull-through straps.
From a distance, there is no telling the difference between the Re-Issue and a 1980 original CWC.
As a commemorative piece, there are no issue markings on the back but rather an MoD stock number, the broad arrow insignia (sometimes called a "crow's foot" or "pheon," indicating property of Her Majesty's Government) and a serial number from 1 to 600. Also, CWC has engraved the company name and "Swiss Made? While all of this information is presented in a fairly dry manner, it definitely feels like a commercial watch, and not some piece of military kit from the quartermaster.
Around front, the fake watch now sports a flat sapphire crystal in place of the original mineral glass of the original; a fairly invisible upgrade, and not unwelcome. Given the choice between acrylic or sapphire, I'll always choose acrylic for its warmth, but mineral glass lacks the benefits or appeal of either, so sapphire is perfectly fine.
The caseback markings now have some extra text compared to the issue markings and stock number of the original.
Finally, inside the 1980 Royal Navy Diver Re-issue ticks the ETA 2824-2, a movement that, by now, needs no introduction. The original fake watch would have contained an ETA 2783, which was the 2824's predecessor but ticked at a slower frequency. Both movements had a date wheel, though for CWC's watch, a no-date dial hid this function. In some instances, a fake watch company will go to the trouble of removing the date wheel so you don't hear or feel that little click as the date wheel ticks over under the dial. But CWC chose to leave the vestigial date wheel intact, which surprised me. I asked CWC about this, and they replied that the original 1980 fake watch was the same way so they chose to keep it in place. Small details indeed.
CWC has never been fussy with its packaging and this one is no exception. A simple fold open tin is used, as it is for other CWC watches, but for the re-issue, they also include a small leather fake watch roll with space for a spare strap. Two straps are provided; both are grey nylon "NATO?style, with polished hardware. In the past, CWCs always came with the now-iconic "Admiralty Grey?NATO strap made by the Phoenix company of the UK. These new ones are not as soft and are also a bit more robust. I personally prefer the soft length and perfect stormy green/grey of the Phoenix straps, but for NATO prices, it's an easy enough swap.
The CWC 1980 Royal Navy Diver Re-Issue should be a suitable companion for many adventures.ADVERTISEMENT
The price of the new 1980 Royal Navy Diver Re-issue is £1,999 (approximately $2,635 at time of publishing). Comparing this to the price of an identically sized and spec'd standard automatic CWC diver at £899 (approximately $1,185) gives one pause. Is the considerable price premium worth it? Pricing is a tricky point to debate, especially for what is essentially a discretionary "luxury?product (ironic, I know, given that it relates to a former military instrument). So the best way to discuss it perhaps is to compare it to other replica watches of similar ilk, such as Doxa's now sold-out "Black Lung?tribute ($2,490) at one end or Seiko's sensational SRP77x throwbacks ($475) at the other end of the price spectrum. CWC doesn't have the size or production volume might that Seiko has, and the 1980 Re-issue, to a large extent, had to be recreated, from new crown guard details to dial, to intricate bezel, in small numbers. Sure, production costs are not all that determine price. This is a 600-piece limited edition re-issue of one of the most rare, obscure issued military replica watches of all time. CWC hopes this will appeal to those of us who will never be able to find, or buy, the original real thing. In the end, time will tell, as it always does, if the price is appropriate.
The impression with which I am left by the CWC 1980 Royal Navy Diver Re-issue is a mixed one. On one hand, it is a time capsule jewel from the era when bona fide tool replica watches were still self-winding. On the wrist it wears well, looks good and would likely be a suitable companion for many adventures. But the allure of CWC replica watches has always been their lack of self-consciousness. The entire history of the company was the straightforward production of replica watches built to spec and provided for purposeful use. No ornamentation, no marketing, hardly even product names, nearly as minimalist as "Watch, Wrist, Waterproof?
Ultimately, is this vintage-inspired diver worth twice the price of a standard CWC model? That one's up to you.
To buy a new CWC felt almost like ordering from a military surplus store and to snatch up an issued watch, even the quartz version (which I own) feels like finding a cast-off piece of kit. With the 1980 Re-issue, that feeling is somewhat diminished for me. The company's star has risen in the active marketplace for military watches, and this has led to a commemorative edition with matched yellow lume, an old logo, and a premium price. I suppose it's no different from any of the other brands jumping on the homage, "re-issue?bandwagon the past few years. Pilots don't wear Mark series IWCs anymore, much less the Mark XI tribute piece, nor do race car drivers wear a heritage edition TAG Heuer Monza in the cockpit. So perhaps I'm unfairly judging a company that is changing with the times. After all, the 1980 Royal Navy Diver Re-issue gives us what we want in our tool watches—a modern timepiece up to the rigors of an active life, but with a healthy dollop of nostalgia.
For more information on the CWC 1980 Royal Navy Diver Re-issue, click here.
Photos by Gishani RatnayakeCwc Military-watches