A Month on the Wrist: Dievas Vortex 500

My second review was this unexpected, Teutonic beast…

Date Published
Aug 20, 2022
Author
Thomas Stover
Category
Gnomon Viewpoint
SponsoredAcme Inc.

I’ve had the opportunity to wear the German-made Dievas Vortex 500 for a little over one month now. It impressed me in a number of ways that I didn’t expect for a watch at such a modest price point. For those looking for a reliable tool watch that’s tougher than most other options at less than $1000, you can hardly do better than the Dievas.

My take on this Vortex 500

Tough Build

First off, let me commend Dievas for delivering a watch with robust specs and a tough, chunky case at a reasonable size. I don’t have large wrists. However, the activities I participate in and interests I have cause me to lean towards watches on the tougher/tool-ish side. Unfortunately — excepting a few with clever geometries — my choices are limited to the few watches that measure at or under 43mm in diameter. The Dievas Vortex 500 is a quite manageable 39mm diameter with 41mm bezel, and 46.5mm lug to lug, a rarity among the uber-tough tool watches of which the Vortex is a member. The 13mm height — not extreme by any measure — combines with the other dimensions to make a reassuringly chunky case that doesn’t feel or look unwieldy. That alone might seal the deal for some in the same wrist predicament as I, though the rest of the specs check out as well, which we’ll get to.

It’s ready for action

These dimensions made wearing the watch surprisingly comfortable. For an angular “Teutonic” case design as Gnomon refers to it, its reasonable size and weight combined with leather strap keep the Vortex 500 firmly seated on the top of the wrist with no discomfort, with none of the sharp angles of the case making unwanted contact. This in part is facilitated by the unique crown placement at about 8’clock of the watch. This allows for a full range of wrist motion without any risk of unwanted crown pressure on the back of the hand. For me personally, any sport or tool watches over 40mm *must have a non-standard crown placement to mitigate the crown digging into the hand. Usually this takes the form of a 4 or 5’clock-positioned crown. The Dievas Vortex 500 is barely more than 40mm if you count the crown, but I appreciate the over-compensation of crown placement for such a robust case regardless of dimensions.

The unique crown position along the helium valve, are brilliant touches

Because, despite its size, the Vortex 500 is a solid watch. I didn’t have a chance to weigh it while in my possession, but all that metal adds up. It’s built to withstand knocks and shocks; it’s a tool, after all. But you don’t want to have to feel a watch bouncing around on the wrist, and Dievas has taken every step possible to mitigate discomfort. So the crown is at 8’clock, an interesting aesthetic on its own. But the crown position balances the automatic helium escape valve at 10’clock, creating a pleasing symmetry on the left midcase. The helium escape valve, combined with the robust case build, is what gives the Vortex 500 its 500-meter water resistance rating, suited for saturation diving. Did I mention this watch was tough?

Helium escape valves have always seemed a little ridiculous to me. Their mere presence creates an allure to a an otherwise “normal” tool watch by insinuating that it’s ready for a submarine mission if needed. Who needs that? Not me. I’m not James Bond, and I don’t need my watch to be either. But in the Vortex 500’s case I’ll give it a begrudging pass. That’s only because, more than providing any reasonable level of protection to the typical watch buyer, by achieving a water resistance of 500 meters with a helium escape valve at under $1000 USD, Dievas is making a strong point. Watch buyers can spend a lot of money on a watch. I guess no amount is ever “too much” if the buyer feels happy and justified in their purchase. Dievas is not so quietly saying: hey, maybe you haven’t seen a tool watch at a good value before. If they can put a Swiss movement in a steel case capable of such extreme depths for less than $1000, what are you actually getting for your money with considerably more expensive tool watches that do the same?

A 500m water-resistant build for less than $1000USD

Well, for one, the Dievas Vortex 500 is good, but it’s not quite a Sinn EZM 3, also with 500 meters water resistance. The Sinn cranks up the specs with a case moisture capturing capsule and extreme magnetic resistance. But if hardly anyone actually needs the extreme water resistance of the Dievas Vortex, then even less people need the capabilities of the EZM 3. The Vortex is more watch than I need, and there are some key differences to the Sinn that it thematically evokes that I appreciate.

Dial Work

Let’s talk legibility. The Dievas Vortex 500 has lots of it. It’s a unique take on watch design (like the rest of it), but the combination of Flieger style hands and dial with a diver’s bezel works. It works really well. Large, fully lumed hour numerals are incredibly easy to read at a glance, as are the large sword hands. One of my only complaints with the Vortex 500 is in fact with how large the hands are.

Legibility is key

Legibility in a tool watch is key. That is to say, size isn’t everything, especially when it begins to detract from a quick read of the time. The hand set — specifically the minute and second hands — overhang the edge of the dial and visually enter the space of the reheat. The Dievas has many previous iterations of the Vortex that it’s built upon to arrive at the Vortex 500, so I can’t assume the oversized hands are an oversight. But personally, the visual disconnect of seeing the tips of the hands in the area of the rehaut is distracting. I would easily forgive it if the rehaut had hashes at every minute, so that the hand overhang was actually for more accurate timekeeping, as there is no precise minute tracking to be found on the dial. But unfortunately, the rehaut only indicates the minutes in intervals of 5. I understand dial real estate is limited in a smaller tool watch going for maximum legibility, but I would’ve liked to have seen the hand overhang utilized as a clever design hack for increased accuracy instead of just obscuring the hour numerals.

One design choice I very much appreciate is the reduced date aperture and its placement. In a tool watch, reading the time is paramount and must take priority. All other functions must not obscure that most basic purpose. Knowing the date is secondary, and something that is okay with me to take a moment longer to read. The clean, minimalist dial design is supported by how the small date is tucked away above the flat top of the “5” hour numeral. I found the date easily enough when I needed to, and never when I didn’t.

Love how the date blends with the minimalistic dial

The Vortex’ use of the diver’s bezel with minimal Flieger dial is a perfect watch marriage. I’ve never been one for countdown bezels, which is the style that often accompanies a pilot’s watch. I find a diver’s bezel more versatile and useful, especially with some imagination, and I like that it makes the Dievas Vortex 500 a true dive watch, not that I dive. But if perhaps the over-robustness of a helium escape valve turns me off, the more restrained over-utility of the simple dive watch piques my imagination. I’m not a diver, but with a dive watch on my wrist I *might be able to dive if I needed to. I’m no James Bond, but I could be a MacGyver.

The 120-clicks of the bezel line up perfectly. The gear-tooth notching around the edge provides the best grip I’ve yet to feel in a bezel. I appreciate the engraved ceramic insert in a sub-$1000 watch. I just wish that Dievas had gone with a typeface for the numerals more fitting to the rest of the design of the watch. They’re adequate, but plain. I also think a matte finish for the bezel insert would’ve been more fitting to the rest of the watch, with the already matte black dial and matte sandblasted case.

Love the bezel action here on the Vortex 500

The no-frills, no-polish, no-nonsense design of the case makes it elegant in a brutalist sense. It is architectural, with straight lines and 45-degree beveling. It looks good and wears good. As sharp and unforgiving (and cool) as the case and lugs look, the only part of the case that could potentially be unfriendly are the rather sharp looking angles at the end of the lugs, on the bottom. With regular wear I had no issues or discomfort whatsoever, so that concern was quickly put to rest.

The caseback is solid in the same sandblasted finish as the rest of the case. Beneath that beats a Swiss Eta 2824-2. Again, how Dievas packed all of these premium features in such an affordable package is beyond me, and should (hopefully) be a wakeup call to the rest of the watch industry and consumer market. The ETA 2824-2 has 25 jewels and a 40-hour power reserve and beats at 28,800 BPH.

Matching solid casebook

The screw-down crown is thoroughly protected by the serious crown guards that rise up to sit flush with the top. I appreciate the signed Dievas “D” on the crown, another nice feature for the price. Setting the watch requires learning the feel for the different crown positions, as turning and pulling the crown is met with some resistance. I expect the stiffness is due to some serious crown stem gaskets contributing to that 500-meter water resistance. Once you get the feel for it, it becomes as second nature as setting or winding any other watch.

Personal Thoughts

Fits my wrist well yet overdeliver in performance

Wearing the watch for a month was, in a word, cool. There’s a simplicity that makes the toolish nature of the Vortex 500 immediately apparent, without any complications or minute details to muddy the primary function of telling time. Wearing the Dievas Vortex 500 feels like wearing a hammer: it’s immediately recognizable, it’s a simple yet incredibly capable tool, and it’s incredibly tough. That said, the comfortability was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Alongside the details already mentioned contributing to the ease of wearing, the strap was another element that — like the rest of the watch — appears (and is) tough yet wears lush.

The leather strap balance the watch well on wrist, and check out that meticulous crafted buckle

The light brown calf leather strap that comes on the Vortex 500 is substantial. It’s thicker than any other strap I’ve worn, at substantial least 4mm from top to bottom, but it gave me no problems about conforming to the shape of my wrist quite comfortably. In fact, the excess thickness — beyond contributing to the cool factor of the overall ensemble — worked towards stabilizing and securing the watch on my wrist. A thinner strap or metal bracelet, with much more flexibility, would’ve allowed the Vortex to slip, slide, and bounce around the top of my wrist in a way that would’ve been quite uncomfortable and detracted from the overall solid feel of the watch. The thick strap (also made in Germany) is matched perfectly to the watch, and fit perfectly to my wrist. The tang and buckle match the metal, finish, and beveling of the case, with an engraved “DIEVAS”, an attention to detail I appreciate. The unique, already worn looking finish of the leather means that it will endure the same abuse applied to the watch without a fuss, and look better for it as it ages and patinas.

Conclusion

If I were in the market for a serious, no-nonsense, basic tool watch, the Dievas Vortex 500 would be a top contender. My fickleness on what I perceive as, if not a minor design flaw, at least a missed opportunity for cleverly conveying information (I’m talking about the hands) is the one hang-up that might cause me to shop harder for an alternative. Considering the alternatives to a German watch with specs such as the Vortex 500’s cost twice as much, it’s a minor personal issue I have with the watch that I could easily come to overlook. Were Dievas to ever incorporate an incremental rehaut and make full use of the oversized hands, I see no reason why the Dievas Vortex 500 wouldn’t be the all-around winner for this style of watch. It’s a novel, functional, and fun design at a size that’s thoroughly accessible, and it’s surprisingly comfortable. Combine that with bulletproof water resistance and a Swiss caliber and what you have is a watch that has no business costing what it does, yet here we are. The Vortex is a value packed beast of a tool watch. Oh, and one thing those large hands are absolutely excellent for: the Vortex 500 is a nighttime lume monster.

Gnomon Watches first opened her doors for business online in early 2002, founded by bona fide horology suitors who share a profound passion for watchmaking and fine craftsmanship.
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