Review of the Damasko DK-11: (tapatalk users view with web browser)
I decided to write a review of this interesting watch because I couldn’t find much about it anywhere other than pictures- probably because it is just now entering the marketplace, and only in pretty limited numbers. For a variety of reasons, it’s a pretty exceptional watch produced by a company with a reputation for serious watch making.
About the Company:
Located in Germany, Damasko the watch company is a very small family run business. Per Damasko, their current production volume is about 3000 watches per year, mostly DA3X and DA4X varieties and they employ about 30 people. The Damasko family also own and operate a machine shop producing high precision components.
Starting in 1994, Konrad Damasko began the process of creating a watch company. A pretty impressive endeavor since Herr Damasko is a self taught watch maker, albeit one who’s been into fine machines since he was a boy and who is friends with Helmut Sinn, founder of Sinn watches.
Damasko began developing a variety of high performance improvements to the watch cases from the start, including high hardness steel cases, innovative crown and bezel construction, and high magnetic resistance on par with Rolex’s Milgauss. While the initial watches used ETA 2836 movements, Damasko quickly began taking ebauches and modifying them, adding free sprung balances, silicon springs ceramic ball bearing winding rotors and upgrading the performance to the official chronometer standard. Starting in 2008, Damasko also began working to produce an entirely in-house manufacture movement, the A35 and the H35. In addition, they are working on developing a completely lubricant free movement.
While so far all of Damasko’s watches have been very much tool watches in style and features (pilot watch style) with blasted finish and minimum ornamentation, the upcoming hand wound model is widely expected to be much dressier.
Forum Moderator Mike Stuffler interviewed Herr Damasko in 2007 and you can find out more about the company and founder if you follow the link: http://forums.watchuseek.com/f8/damasko-report-64554.html
About the Watch:
Case Diameter: 42mm W/O crown
Bezel Diameter: 43.80mm
Lug Width 22mm
Distance Lug to Lug: 49mm (approximate, don’t have a caliper)
Movement: Damasko A35 Regulated to 5 positions and tested to official chronometer standard.
Case Material: Hardened nickel free stainless (HRC60 hardness and very corrosion resistant)
Case finish: Bead blasted
WR Rating: 100M
Antimagnetic rating: DIN 8309 Compliant
Shock Resistance: DIN 8308
Band: Rubber lined leather, padded, with blasted and signed buckle.
Lume Luminova C1 over entire dial face.
Observed Accuracy: +1s / d when worn 24/7. Will Report positional variance later
Damasko packages the watch inside of what appears to be a wooden box with a black lacquered finish and a leather lining. It smells nice, but I can’t honestly tell you whether its super high quality plastic or wood or if the leather is real. It certainly looks top notch. I don’t buy watches for the boxes though (It’s getting stuffed in a book case along with all my other watch boxes). Even so, it’s a box befitting an expensive watch.
The watch body:
The watch machining is as impressive as I could ask for. The tolerances are very, very tight and the finish is flawless. Like my other Damasko, the lugs are drilled for easy strap changes, but don’t expect to put an aftermarket bracelet on it: the lugs are short compared to the diameter and it’s hard to see how the end link wouldn’t rub on the case. The finish is darker grey than your typical brushed or stainless steel watch- typical of watches with a blasted case. As mentioned above, the steel is HRC 60 hardened, making it approximately 4 times harder than standard stainless steel, and it’s hardened all the way through so if you do manage to scratch it, you can get it refinished without worrying about removing the hardening like you would with surface hardened watches. Also, the nickel free stainless used by Damasko is much more corrosion resistant than standard stainless. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to worry about pitting the seal surfaces or corroding the watch from regular contact with salt water. Along those same lines, all the watch seals are VITON, which has exceptional chemical resistance.
The crown is made from the same material as the watch case and has a patented seal system which is self lubricating and unlikely to leak or wear out for many years.
The case back shows the model and serial number (don’t know if they’re sequential or not, but mine is apparently serial number 101). As well as the water resistance rating, the steel hardness, etc. A big bonus for those of us who like pretty movements, it has a sapphire crystal on the back too.
As mentioned above, the entire face is coated with Luminova C1, providing excellent night time visibility. As you can see from the photos, the black paint on the face is actually shiny, though you can’t tell except when photographing it up close or when you hold it at just the right angle in bright light. Frankly I think it looks really cool. The sapphire crystal is AR coated inside and out, and if it wears like my Damasko DA36, it’s very durable.
Like the rest of the watch, the bezel is made from hardened steel, only it’s also coated with Damasko’s proprietary DLC coating process and is probably as hard to scratch as the sapphire crystal. The bezel is 60 click and bidirectional. It takes a fair amount of force to move it, so its good the bezel edge provides exceptional grip. Turning the bezel feels like you’re turning the indexing dial on a machine tool. Not difficult, but not buttery at all. The red lume pipe does glow, but so faintly that for all intents and purposes it’s unlikely to be of any use in the dark. For those that are a little OCD, the bezel marks line up admirably well with the dial markers.
This is really why I bought the watch. First of all, it’s every bit as beautiful as the pictures show. There aren’t many watches in the price range of the DK11 that are finished as nicely. Nomos comes to mind and I’m sure there are a few others, but not a lot. Strangely, the rotor bearing is obviously not as well finished as the rest of the movement. No idea why. Some of the most interesting aspects aren't visible though:
Almost entirely manufactured in house
Silicon Balance spring
Glucydur Balance with gyromax style regulating cams
Free sprung balance
Rotor on ceramic ball bearings
52 hr power reserve (probably thanks to the silicon escapement and free-sprung balance)
Adjusted to 5 positions and per Damasko, meets official Chronometer Standard (I assume DIN 8319, though I don’t know if they are issuing official certifications)
Here's some pictures scrounged from the Damasko websites:
The more mundane aspects are
This is an absolutely amazing set of specifications for a watch under $20,000, let alone under $5000 and from a manufacturer who produces fewer watches in a year than Rolex produces in a day. There is some debate whether a silicon escapement needs to be lubricated, but I believe Damasko does lubricate theirs (per Isabella Damasko, but language barriers may have introduced some confusion). I also asked what the service interval for the movement was. Damasko responded, “There is no special time. When the watch is working, you don’t need a service”. I’m skeptical, but time will tell.
A couple of odd aspects: When you set the day of the week, it scrolls backwards (from Friday to Thursday for example). The seconds hand does not move smoothly and runs at about 4 hz. It also occationally hesitates, leading me to conclude it's indirectly driven.
One of the things you have to learn to accept if you want a Damasko is that you’re not going to be able to get it with a bracelet. Deal with it. On the bright side, the strap Damasko supplies is very well made. It’s padded leather with a rubber back and has “Damasko” on the underside. There is a red and white thread running along the edge which matches the dial face and hands. The buckle appears to be the same material as the watch case and is signed. There is a tongue underneath the buckle which protects the wearers wrist and makes it very comfortable. Other than the usual 1 week that it takes to break in a leather strap, I’ve kind of learned to like them thanks to Damasko.
In my opinion, this watch is a screaming bargain. The case is a technological marvel of high performance every day watch durability. From the seals, to the case hardening, to the general quality of the finishing, it’s a superb case. There are some manufacturers that come close in case quality at this price point and an argument could be made that they’re equal, but they aren’t better (unless you don’t like the style or want a diving watch). However, nobody at this price point makes a comparable movement. No one else offers an in house, small volume manufacture movement that has all the technological innovations and finishing that this watch has for anywhere close. While I’m sure this will change in the next few years, it certainly is an amazing movement for the money, even more so coming from such a small company. The only catch is that it doesn’t have years of proven performance in the real world. Yes, there is a gamble here. However, Damasko has a proven track record of producing amazing quality and reliable watches, so I think it’s a reasonable bet that it will be an excellent movement. If I were Rolex, Omega, etc, I’d be taking notice and paying serious attention.
The Fly in the Ointment:
Availability of this watch is low. I bought mine directly from Damasko by pre-ordering it. I will never do this again and I strongly recommend anyone interested in buying this watch wait for it to show up at the ADs. While the Damaskos were very courteous and did their best, they clearly are not set up for retail sales. Problems included no notification of payment received (I asked 3 times) No notification of shipment ( I found out it shipped after I sent a message asking when they were going to ship it) no delivery phone number on the FedEx forms, illegible address, incorrectly completed duty form, etc. On top of that, I paid shipping fees, wire transfer fees and customs duties that added approximately $450 to the price of the watch.
If you can wait, I recommend that you do, because the watch is well worth it.