The Evant Tropic Diver Pro

An honest hands-on review on the neo-vintage dive watch from Evant

Date Published
Aug 19, 2023
Fahmi Ebrahim
Gnomon Viewpoint
SponsoredAcme Inc.

One: The Origin Story

 There is more than one design decision that gives the evocatively charming Evant Tropic Diver Pro 39 its joie de vivre. Two are key, with the second of those being the period-correct yet altogether modern and ergonomic execution of its beads-of-rice bracelet. But more on that later.

To have a better understanding of that first key design consideration, the one most obvious, we have to go all the way back to the swinging (Swiss) sixties, and the waters of Switzerland’s largest lake, Lake Neuchâtel.

(Photo Credit: MySwitzerland)

To paint a picture, the sixties were a beautiful time in central Europe. The polar ice caps hadn’t yet started melting, and the Great Depression and the subsequent war that had crippled the hearts and goodwill of Europeans was just far enough in the rearview mirror for one to feel a little bit safe. The horizons didn’t hold battles anymore, but sailboats.

They were a bit more cashed up too. After three decades of ration and uncertainty, the 50s had seen European economies gain considerable traction, and by the 60s, Europeans had begun traversing their continent again in their Porsche 911s, Minis, VW Kombi Vans and Citroen DSs, all iconic, all launched between 1955 and 1963.

It was, therefore, the perfect set of circumstances for the explosion of a new pastime that combined travel and a bit of consumerist freedom: diving, an activity that would transplant nicely from a wartime application to a civilian one.

And so, back to Lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland’s largest (unshared) lake covering 218.3 square kilometres with a maximum depth of 152 metres (499 ft), a body of water that would eventually become the proving ground for many dive watches conceived by Swiss maisons.

This is where the orange dial diver was conceived. 

Jacques Cousteau with his DOXA (Photo Credit:Time And Tide Watches)

DOXA’s Directeur Commercial at the time was the visionary Urs Eschle. He planned to utilise the lake’s “polluted” waters (his words, not mine!) to engineer a rugged, legible, reliable and affordable watch specifically designed for diving. And to achieve this, the company consulted with two of diving’s poster boys: Frenchmen Claude Wesly, and through him, the legendary Jacques Cousteau. 

Eschle had a fairly solidified concept of what the case construction would be: relatively large and in solid stainless steel. That would provide structural integrity and resistance to pressure.

But what about visibility under depth?

His solution was to use a bright dial colourway with oversized luminous markers. And to make it all glow with unrelenting clarity at depth, he wanted to use the highest amount of Tritium ever used on a watch. Something, dear reader, he would not be allowed to get away with today, unless the tritium was encased in tubes, as is it in modern Ball Watch Co., and Marathon products.

The über diver from DOXA that started the orange dial aesthetic (Photo Credit: WatchGecko)

The colours DOXA tested were turquoise, orange, yellow and red, with orange proving to be the most legible colour down to a depth of 30 metres due to the high contrast it provided against the blocky black hands.

Soon, this rather flamboyant colour choice would be complemented with a unique, patented decompression bezel and the iconic, and imminently practical beads-of-rice bracelet. 

The result? The iconic DOXA Sub300T Professional dive watch, which would be launched at Basel in 1966. It was a hit, and had implanted itself in the consciousness of diving and watch enthusiasts. It is the brand’s icon and cash cow to this day.

An array of orange dive watches (Photo Credit: WatchResearcher)

In a way, every orange dial diver owes its existence to the Sub 300T. From Seiko to Tag Heuer and even Audemars Piguet, everyone has given the orange tree the proverbial shake.

Enter the Evant. With that lush pumpkin orange dial and modern sizing, it has the design provenance, sure, and is priced aggressively. But how does it stack up overall, as something you would want to own? 

Two: The “feels” 

When I receive a watch, for review or otherwise, I take the bracelet off. I close my eyes and let the watch head sink into my palm and feel its density. I compare the heft I am feeling in that moment to the heft I thought I would feel: the delta between a tangible reality and internet-born expectation, if you will.

I run the skin of my thumb over its crystal, for It is one thing to have read and seen that the surface is domed – from the high-res photographs at sultry angles and YouTube videos – but another thing altogether to feel it.

And on all those fronts, the Evant delivers in spades, and punches way above its price bracket. 

On the palm, the watch feels dense, and the 39.5 mm (diameter) case is definitely not heavy in that uncomfortable unbalanced way that some watches can be. In fact, you might even say it is slightly denser than what the pictures make it out to be and communicates the reassurance that is expected of all tool watches.

Which makes the aforementioned delta almost nonexistent, and that is a good thing.

As you run your finger over its surgical grade 316L Stainless Steel case, one cannot help but admire just how much considered effort has gone into making the choices that Evant have. For instance, the high polish chamfer that runs the 48.7 mm lug-to-lug length of the case provides a sharp contrast to the ice cool satin brushing that runs along the side. The grain of this finish is fine, and would easily pass in a watch double its MSRP.

Three: The crystal

Before I get to the crystal, I want to contextualise it with a full disclosure. My daily driver is a Damasko, another brand I hope to highlight in the future. One of the defining features of any Damasko is the perfect legibility under all conditions, and their formula is a flat sapphire with AR either side of that crystal.

And that means, by choosing a single-domed crystal (3 mm thick, no less, which brings the total height to 13.5 mm) Evant has set itself a tough challenge, legibility wise.

A challenge, I am happy to report, it passes with flying colours. 

Perhaps it is the blue AR coating on the underside, but the crystal on the watch manages to avoid the biggest pitfall of single-dome sapphires: glare and reflection. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three watches I have sold within a week of purchase purely because their crystals were poorly executed single domes.

The Evant’s lens also delivers on the distortion front. Tilt the watch to anything approaching 45 degrees to the horizontal, and you can see those gorgeous indices melt away in a near Dali-esque manner.

Usually I find such distortions gimmicky, because they often mean a form-over-function compromise, but when head-on time-telling is made easy, as it is here, I am won over. And this should not be trivialised. For a watch to be a reliable part of any rotation, it has to be good at its primary function. Too many modern watches, especially some pricey ones, are not.

This, again, is a very good thing. 

Four: The Dial

If we are being honest with each other, we both know you are not taking the Evant to the bottom of your nearest lake, so that gorgeous dial, with its creamy execution of pumpkin orange isn’t there to aid visibility under water. It is there, ladies and gentlemen, to look good, to add some verve to your day, to say “… yes, I am wearing an orange watch that is a little bit extra.”

And you know what? This is supreme eye-candy.

My wife, who draws a direct line between my love for watches and my addictive personality, is usually stoic about my hobby. Watches do not move her. But from time to time she will look over my shoulder and offer a nod. 

The Evant got her nod. And a smile, which is a rare bonus. 

And it wasn’t just the colourway. For me, the dial furniture is just as interesting. Consider, for instance, the shape of those indices. We get rectangles at the 6 and 9, a square at the 3 to make room for the date window. The 12 is a shield, a shape rarely used as an index. Everything else is a large dot filled with a generous dollop of BGW9 Swiss Super-LumiNova. 

“So far, so dive watch” you say.

 Now look at that handset, and zoom out.

Something is the teeniest bit unorthodox. The indices seem almost oversized. It took me a while to get used to it, but after a couple of days, you learn to enjoy how this layout makes you read the time just that little bit differently. 

Instead of reading the time from the centre outwards, as we do with most watches, you learn the reflex of reading it from a distance. And by making the hands the slightest bit undersized, Evant have avoided the design trap of making everything on the dial seem too overwhelming, leaving just enough negative space for it to be a pleasurable experience, every time.

I hope the person who designed the handset of this watch is reading this for I would like to commend them.

Firstly, because they have used the silhouette of the Mercedes hand without using the cuts inside to give it that Mercedes logo look. I have never quite enjoyed those cuts because they add nothing to the legibility experience. Sure, they look great on a Rolex, but that is because it is on a Rolex, the marque that made them iconic. On other brands, they can seem quite derivative.

Secondly, because they resisted the temptation of giving the hands stainless steel frames, and instead went with black paint. This enhances legibility greatly, and in a very interesting way, refers back to why black hands were used against orange dials by DOXA in the first place: contrast. This choice also stops the hands from becoming indistinguishable from the reflection coming off the 

steel circular frames around those indices.

The date could have been orange, with white numerals, but as a person who regularly uses a date window, black numerals on a white date wheel offer a better user experience due to the contrast it provides.

The pièce de résistance is the applied Evant logo just above the six, a design opportunity not enough brand take. And it helps that the Evant logo, a stylised sailboat is a relaxing one. On the Tropic Pro this is done with a gunmetal finish, and proves a nice visual counterpoint to the EVANT wordmark below the 12, with a relatively small “AUTOMATIC” below that.

Five: The Bezel

The dial is framed with the most postmodern of touches: a bezel that is essentially ceramic, but constructed with a special blend to give it a bakelite-like finish. This is the first time I have come across this blend, which combines the retro charm of bakelite with the scratch-proof credentials of ceramic. The review copy I received showed nary a scratch, which means it has held up nicely since leaving the factory. When you consider that this must have passed through several reviewers’ hands, this is quite admirable.

Something that is not on the bezel is numbers. To be clear, Evant is not the first brand in history to use a bezel without numerals. If you’re timing your eggs, or when you start the dryer at the laundromat, things take an extra second for you to calculate the elapsed time. For me, this was not an issue. I like multiplication.

The upside with this choice is visual. It lends the watch a very relaxed look. It says, “… sure, if you want you can use me as a tool, but that 99.9% of the time you’re not going to, I am happy to just sit here and look gorgeous.”

It does. In its totality, the bezel and dial combination looks like a kind of comms gear the Rebels in Star Wars might use against the Empire, a kind of sophisticated organic steampunk pebble found on a planet in the Outer Rim.

None of this retroness takes away from the tactility of the experience. For dive watch aficionados this part of the experience is essential. You can have an amazing looking bezel sure, but if it’s spongey to the touch, or lacks in the ASMR department, it just won’t do.

What shocked me is just how crunchy this bezel was on the turn. The teeth are sharp and extremely assured. As you land it at a specific point, it snaps into its groove. There is no give, and no backplay. 

Six: When the lights go out

If you take your watch to bed, this one is a corker.

My usual wake up time is five thirty in the morning, and every time I would sleep with the Evant on, I would get a clear reading at that time. What is worth noting is that I did not have to give it a blast before going to bed. The BGW9 does an excellent job of picking up ambient light and storing it in those fat dollops. 

Seven: The Bracelet

As you do your research on the watch, you will find that the Tropic series draws its inspiration from the unobtainable cult classic that is the Breguet No. 1646. Released in 1965 with a one-off (extremely) limited run of 60 pieces, that watch came with a rubber strap. By adding a beads-of-rice bracelet to its interpretation, Evant has pulled off a masterstroke of a value-add.

This style of bracelet was originally used on chronographs of the 40s and 50s, and DOXA evolved it for their divers. The benefits are clear and twofold. One, excellent articulation and two, a bit of fluid sparkle on the wrist.

Evant’s execution delivers on both these fronts. Starting at 20 mm at the watch head and tapering down to 18 mm at the clasp, the beads are polished. The outermost links have case-matching satin brushed uppers with polished flanks giving the overall assembly some mature lightplay.

For me, someone who is not naturally a “bracelet-guy”, the seven micro adjustment holes on the beak-and-hook clasp is a godsend. I understand on-the-fly adjustment clasps are expensive to patent and manufacture, but the least most brands can do is offer more than three micro-adjusts. The mind boggles as to why more major and micro brands do not offer this quality-of-life improvement that Evant has.

Eight: The hood, and under the hood

I will keep this section quite short, because, put simply, Evant have (thankfully) played it safe and reliable with the tried and tested Sellita 200-1, a 4 Hz, 26 jewel time and date workhorse that will provide 38 hours on a full wind.

Going with a Sellita means that any decent watchmaker in your area should be able to regulate and service the watch quite easily, given that it is a clone of the equivalent ETA 2824-2.

The caseback, and the guardless crown are both screw-in, and combine to give the watch 300 m of water resistance. Graphically, Evant have kept it quite simple, with the Evant stylised sailboat logo in relief surrounded by a wave pattern. 

In conclusion, it would be easy to see the Evant Tropic Diver Pro as an affordable entry point into the world of orange dial vintage dive watches. Yet when you consider the overall package – goldilocks case proportions, Swiss movement and excellent dial and bracelet finishing – you realise that it is just, put simply, an excellent watch in its own right. And isn’t that really what it boils down to?

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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