Last week I received a very special package from Germany, from our good friend Clemens at H2O :) I am proud to have been the first in North America to lay my hands and eyes on the killer new ORCA!! And let me tell you, the H2O mastermind has completely outdone himself!
When I found out I'd be the first stop on the ORCA prototypes short U.S. sneak-peek tour I was giddy with anticipation! It's no secret I've been excited about this new model right from the first renderings, and let me tell you all, they do not disappoint! :)
I've handled prototype watches before, and while they're usually a 'fairly' close indication of what will ultimately become the production models, they usually look like, well, prototypes. Not these folks. These babies are nothing short of wrist ready perfection! Good grief are they nice!
I grinned from ear to ear when I opened the case, I think I even chuckled out loud, I couldn't believe how cool they were. These are prototypes?!? Wow! They are BEAUTIFUL!
Anyone who's seen the Kalmar knows just what H2O is capable of, and with the bar already set so high by that debut there was certainly some curious anticipation as to what Clemens would do to top it with the next model on deck. With the ORCA, my friends, not only did he meet the challenge, he crushed it!
I have never, and I mean that sincerely, never instantly loved a watch like I do the ORCA. The perfectly wearable size and weight, exquisite design and engineering, and simply impeccable finish work .... it's just awesome.
If it sounds like I'm gushing a bit, I am! It deserves it!
Admittedly, as intrigued as I was by the new interchangeable inner/outer case system, there was part of me that guardedly feared 'gimmicky'. I am pleased to say this is anything but. This is a seriously engineered and executed timepiece.
The inner case itself is nothing short of a work of art, built like a tank and precision machined to jewelry-like result. I received two inner cases, one *grey dial with the black/orange arrow-style handset and flat sapphire crystal, and the other the *black dial and this time with the chrome handset and domed sapphire. Both dials are the Kalmar-esque dive style, as with all the H2O offerings, an original H2O design. The dials are beautifully crafted, extremely legible, and with the addition of chrome-surrounded indices and a raised-tier outer minute ring, the look is simultaneously bold and purposeful yet masterfully refined. These dials are easily on par with the highest end divers out there. Very very nicely done Mr. Helberg
*I should note, that these are prototypes, and Clemens has pointed out that there will be a couple of changes implemented in the final production versions, notably the grey dial will instead have white minute markings on the raised ring, and the black dial will be a deeper/darker 'blacker' black, the latter prototype appeared more a very dark charcoal grey. Both wise changes in my opinion and will serve to further elevate these already great looking faces.
The case-back is equally impressive, the outer stainless ring impeccably engraved with the essential info, make/model, water resistance, etc, and surrounds the sapphire display back offering clear view of the custom finished Swiss ETA 2824-2 auto beating within. The movements in these prototypes use the Kamar-badged rotor, the final production ORCA models will have their own unique finish-work. Among the things that struck me most was the seemingly bomb-proof crown tube. All around the feel is is 'professional', like a quality tool. Clearly it has not been produced only for looks, this thing has been built to purpose.
The outer cases are likewise flawlessly crafted. Each unique, and each equally well executed and with their own distinct personality. The finishing is superb, from the brushed surfaces to the polished sides and bevels, these look and feel far more akin to Rolex and Omega than what we're used to from boutique players. When handling these you get the distinct feeling Clemens isn't just interested in dominating the micro world, he's crashing the big-boys party.
Two bezel choices are offred, and I got to see both. And here too, design and execution are exceptional. The new sawtooth bezel is especially cool, and as great as it looks in pictures it's that much nicer in person. As with the rest of the watch the finishing work on bezels is spectacular! I can't say enough about the sapphire bezel insert, it sits perfectly flush, reflects just enough light to add a rich sheen at angle without ever glaring, and the lumed markers glow brightly a beautiful cool blue, matching the dial markers brilliant lume to perfection.
When the inner and outer cases are engaged the result is incredible. But for the slot for the crown tube to slip through, you'd be hard pressed to see that this is a two-piece puzzle. Once they're married, the precision fit integration is seamless. Even the hex screws that are used to secure the inner cases within are cleverly hidden (and protected) by the strap/bracelet ends. Too cool.
Speaking of the bracelet... it's ridiculous. Good ridiculous. NOBODY is building a better bracelet. 24mm, reversible design with both angular and rounded link edges, immaculately brushed finish, and secured with the universally loved ratcheting dive clap engraved with the H2O wave-logo and a gorgeous micro-machine-turned internal finish. Add that EVERY link in secured with hex screws, man, I challenge anyone to find better.
The samples arrived in the black pelican case with raised H20 badge and custom cut interior foam, brand new for ORCA. Case has plenty enough room for several inner and outer cases, bracelet, straps etc... and also included two custom H2O hex-drivers. A fitting package for a fantastic watch.
All in all, I can't praise this one enough. I'm going to say out out loud.... this may well be my perfect dive watch.
Sadly for me after a great time enjoying them I had to forward them on, they're now in the hands of the next previewer (also a WUS alum), I expect w3e'll see his pictures and thoughts posted soon :)
Man I hated to see these go, I miss them already, production arrivals can't come soon enough!
Bottom line folks, if you haven't pre-ordered your ORCA yet, what are you waiting for!?! GO DO IT! IMO, there's not a better watch out there for 3X the money. Heck, there may not be a better watch out there at all.
Easily my vote for watch of the year
now without further ado, the good stuff... PICTURES!!!
Figuring there were still lots of people making final decisions about which case(s)/combos to choose, I went a bit (OK, a lot) crazy with pictures, get comfortable, there's a whole mes of them!
First up, inner and outer cases...