Heard of Héron before? No, me neither. But after having the Canadian brand’s latest offering on my wrist for the past week, my guess is that the brand’s popularity is set to soar.
Héron first appeared on the scene in 2021 with its Gladiateur, but the Montreal-based company’s second watch, the Marinor, is quite the leap forward and offers an appealing mix of vintage charm and modern-day capabilities.
Taking inspiration from dive watches of the past, most notably the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, Héron dubs the Marinor ‘a tribute to seafaring and 1950s diving watches’. It’s a well-timed release that will have some buyers scratching their heads as to why they’ve just spent nearly as much money on a plastic Swatch with fabric strap (Swatch/Blancpain collaboration for those who have been living under a bush for the past few months!).
Three colourways are available from the core collection, priced at $620 USD – Seastorm Black, Atlantic Blue (a dark, dusky blue) and my favourite, the vibrant Caribbean Blue with matching sapphire bezel (Close to teal in colour). My review model was the Maelstrom from the Anchor Collection which was an exclusive colour as part of Heron’s Kickstarter campaign. Sadly, this colour is no longer available, so apologies to those who like the look of it from my photos. Unfortunately, my review watch was delayed at customs, so I couldn’t publish my review before the campaign ended.
The Case and Wearing Experience
The Marinor’s case dimensions are sure to be crowd-pleasing. With a diameter of 39mm, lug-to-lug measurement of 47mm and overall height of 12.9mm, it’s an easy watch for most people to wear.
The case is made from 316L stainless steel, standard issue for watches now, right? Yes, but Héron has given the entire case and bracelet a hardening treatment, which is a huge selling point. This provides a hardness rating of 1200hv (Vickers), six times that of stainless steel. What this means is that your Marinor will stay looking pristine for longer, and that this is one of the most ‘Instagramable’ watches out there, so go ahead and grab those ‘on the rocks/at the beach’ pics all you like, without fear of scratches.
I was initially sceptical about just how scratch resistant the watch would be, but I was encouraged by Héron to use the length of ‘standard’ stainless steel bracelet included in my review package as a benchmark against which to test the Marinor’s scratch resistance. They insisted that I give it my best shot and attack the watch case and bracelet with everything I had. Now that’s confidence in your product! Being the reserved English gentleman that I am, I was reluctant and decided to photograph the watch first, just in case. But once I’d got my quota of pics, I did indeed put it to the test, using paperclips at first, progressing to the end of a skewer and finally a knife. I was disappointed at first as I could see marks to the metal. However, after a quick rub of the surface the watch appeared to heal itself, surviving unscathed, so much kudos to Héron here!
In terms of design, the mid-case is very slim and has a lovely profile with lugs that curve gently down, something that undoubtedly adds to the comfort factor. The 6mm screw-down crown features a ship’s wheel and sits at the 3 o’clock position, flanked by full-sized crown guards. Crown operation is good, with a confident screw-down action and no ghost date position.
The case features a blend of different finishes which adds to the refinement and level of detail. The mid-case is horizontally brushed to the sides, with circular brushing to the tops of the lugs. Polished bevels grace the edges of the lugs and widen towards the bracelet end.
The 120-click rotating bezel is polished, has a rounded coin edge for grip and a gorgeous, domed sapphire insert. Bezel markings are kept simple, with Arabic numerals for the 15, 30, 45-minute markers and hash marks for every five minutes between. It’s a good move to keep markings simple here as legibility on a domed sapphire is never going to be quite as strong as on a flat bezel insert.
Rising above the bezel is a scratch resistant, box sapphire crystal with clear anti-reflective coating to the underside, a detail that adds to the vintage vibe and is an indication of the attention to detail and quality materials used. Bezel action is excellent; smooth, accurate, and refined. I’d go so far as to say that the bezel action is probably the best I’ve experienced on a microbrand watch.
The screw-down stainless steel caseback depicts an archetypal ship captain. It’s a complex engraved and embossed design that combines brushed, bead-blasted and polished elements. The caseback is also nice and slim and barely protrudes from the mid-case, so the watch sits flush to the wrist.
Case finishing on my review watch is flawless, save for ‘dink’ to one of the lugs. I’m assured isn’t a manufacturing fault, so I can only assume the watch must have had an unfortunate accident either with a previous reviewer or at some point on its arduous journey around the world to get to me). Comfort on the wrist is exceptional for a dive watch with 300m of water resistance. It perhaps not surprising that it feels considerably slimmer than 12.9mm, as the case without the sapphire is just 11.3mm, and even less if you take off the domed sapphire bezel.
The three-link bracelet of the Marinor tapers from 20mm to 16mm and is of a flat link design. When viewed from the side, each individual link is u-shaped, with a flat top. When viewed from the top this gives a highly engineered look with tight tolerances and hardly any daylight visible between the lugs. This design means that the bracelet is completely fluid in one direction thanks to the u-shaped underside, but you can’t ‘stack’ the links back on themselves like on some bracelets.
Short female end links and articulated second links means that the lug-to-lug measurement is a true indication of span across the wrist, and each of the screwed links is relatively small too. These combined factors mean that the watch hugs the wrist well.
The bracelet is quick-release for easy strap changes and has a milled twin-trigger deployant clasp which features polished bevelling and an engraved stylised Heron. The push buttons are ellipse-shaped and more substantial compared to many. You’ll have no problem getting the perfect fit either, thanks to the micro-adjustment system which slides at the push of a button, no tools required!
The Model Three is powered by the Miyota 9039 Japanese automatic movement, from global brand, Citizen. This extremely reliable movement beats at 28,800 vph / 4Hz, which gives a smooth 8 ticks per second, and it’s a close competitor to the Sellita SW200 in all respects bar accuracy, which is within -10s / + 30 seconds per day.
The Dial and Hands
All variants of the Marinor feature fumé dials that have a subtle gradient going from lighter in the centre of the dial, to darker at the outer edge. Indices comprise circular polished silver hour markers and rectangular batons for the 3, 6, and 9. Taking pride of place at 12 o’clock is a uniquely shaped index said to represent the North Star, a significant symbol for seafarers. All indices are filled with a blue BGW9 Super Lumi-Nova luminescent compound for excellent legibility in low light. You’ll find a simple minute track on the dial’s outer edge, which comprises printed hash marks and printed dagger-shapes at every five minutes. Other than that, the dial is clutter free, with no date window to interrupt the symmetry or micro-second printing to distract visually.
The hour, minute and seconds hand are all polished but feature longitudinal centre creases to reflect light and aid legibility. The hour hand is a broad arrow, filled with BGW9 lume which mirrors the arrow-shaped surround. The minute hand is a tapering sword shape with a lume strip that covers about a third of its entire length. Again, it’s shaped to mirror the frame of the hand. The second hand features a lollipop lume.
Legibility is generally excellent for this style of dive watch. The AR coating on the sapphire does a good job at minimising reflections and the dial lume was strong. The only slight negatives are that the bezel lume is weaker, and the printed seconds track isn’t all that visible due to the distortion from the box sapphire. The dial generally looks to be very well executed, but I was unfortunate with my review watch, as there was one small hair (or possibly a scratch to the AR coating under the sapphire). However, the good folks at Héron have assured me that quality control for production watches will be carried out in Montréal and that something like this wouldn’t be allowed to slip through the net.
The Marinor offers the best of both worlds; a comfortable wearing experience akin to a skin diver, but with the specifications of a true ‘tool’ dive watch. With its beautiful fume dial and nods to vintage inspiration, it’s on the dressier side of the dive watch spectrum and relatively petite, but this belies its impressive capabilities. There is extensive use of premium materials such as sapphire, and genuinely thoughtful, practical additions including case hardening technology and on-the-fly bracelet adjustment. Add to that 300m water resistance, nautical design touches, and a reliable Japanese movement and it’s clear that the Marinor is a good catch given the very reasonable $620 USD (approx. £515) asking price. In fact, aside from the unfortunate prototype niggles mentioned above, the only negatives I can come up with for the Marinor are purely subjective. I’d like to see the hour hand increased in size slightly, and I wish that Heron would have retained a few more of the colourways offered in the original Kickstarter campaign. But that’s it! Impressive stuff considering this is only the brand’s second watch release.