Anticipation is high as new British watch brand BŌKEN prepares to launch its first watch later this week on Kickstarter. The aptly named Nomad is a modern titanium dive watch, said to embody the spirit of adventure. So, after having put a prototype of the watch through its paces for a couple of weeks, is it up to the task?
Tool Watches for Explorers With a Social Conscience
BŌKEN, (the Japanese word for ‘Adventure’), is headed up by owner and founder, Daniel Banks, who wanted to create a brand where style meets adventure. BŌKEN watches are said to be a vibrant expression of untamed spirit, crafted with precision for the modern-day explorer. It’s inaugural watch, the Nomad, is Swiss-made but designed in Great Britain. True to their philosophy, BŌKEN also align themselves with Just One Ocean and will donate a portion of its annual profits to them. Just One Ocean is a charity established to protect and conserve the oceans for future generations. They achieve this through raising awareness, undertaking research, and supporting the development of scientific knowledge.
Pick a Colour, Any Colour!
To my eyes, BŌKEN appears to have taken at least some inspiration from Doxa, and Breitling’s Superocean when designing the Nomad. This isn’t a negative as I like both, and the Nomad certainly isn’t a homage watch as it brings plenty of its own design elements and character to the table. My review watch is the Ember Blaze variant with vivid orange dial and black bezel, but a total of five dial and bezel combinations are offered, so there’s bound to be one that appeals to you. Aside from Ember Blaze, you can choose from Midnight Sapphire (blue), Solar Flare (yellow), Arctic Frost (white with white bezel), or Moonlight Onyx (white with black bezel).
The Case and Wearing Experience
The Nomad’s case diameter is 42mm and the thickness is 13.4mm. This is very much a modern tool watch designed to be used as such so it wears true to size, if not slightly bigger. It’s befitting that the Nomad uses a tonneau case shape that is simple and purposeful with no polished sections or bevelling. The relatively short wide lugs, aggressive looking bezel and grippy, well-sized crown combine very well and give the impression that this is a watch where functionality doesn’t play second fiddle to looks.
The case has circular brushing to its dial-side and rear, and linear longitudinal brushing to the sides. Case finishing looks to be exemplary, and in my opinion, BŌKEN has made the right choice by opting to craft the case and bracelet from grade 2 titanium. This not only helps keep the weight down and offers increased strength, but the darker greyish tone really looks cool, especially against the orange dial. For a titanium watch, it’s still fairly hefty, coming in at 129g on the bracelet when sized for my 7.25” wrist (as a comparable, my Tudor Black Bay 41 ETA in full stainless steel is 164g). If you’ve previously ruled out a titanium watch because you don’t like how light they feel, this watch might strike the right balance for you, as the perception of weight it gives on the wrist is somewhere between titanium and steel.
Water resistance is an impressive 300 meters, thanks to the screw-down caseback and screw-down crown, which is deeply knurled to provide ample grip, and etched with the brand’s logo. I’m a big fan of the unfussy case shape, but whilst the mid-case does have a nice gentle curve to it, I think comfort could be improved further if the curve was slightly more pronounced, or the overall thickness reduced with more of a taper at the lugs. I’d gladly sacrifice a decrease in water resistance to 200m if it helped. Rather than an etched crown logo I’d like to see deep engraving or maybe embossing. But let’s face it for most people, me included, ‘etched vs engraved’ detailing will be very low down the list of criteria when choosing a watch!
I particularly love the deep bezel design, which features wide toothing and provides extreme levels of grip, even with gloves on. The bezel insert is made from black ceramic and looks to be well executed with deeply etched numerals and markings. The glossy surface looks great against the matt grey of the titanium. The bezel on my prototype has a nice action, lines up perfectly and has no back-play.
The quality of the three-link style titanium bracelet is excellent. Lug width is 22mm which tapers to 20mm, and links are secured using push-pins. The brushing on the links is very fine, consistent, and silky smooth. However, the outer sections of the clasp let it down. The deployant fold-over section, twin-trigger release mechanism and security latch need to be thicker, less sharp and preferably milled. I also wish BŌKEN had opted for female end-links to help keep the lug-to-lug measurement down. As it stands, with the non-articulating male end-links, I measure the total span across the wrist to be 55mm. Of course, the end links do have a slight curve to them, so the reality is that it wears somewhere in between the quoted 48.5mm lug-to-lug and 55mm. Half links are provided, and the clasp has three micro-adjustment holes, so you should have no problem achieving the perfect fit.
In addition to the titanium bracelet, the Nomad comes supplied with a high quality quick-release rubber strap which tapers from 22mm to 20mm and has a weave pattern to the topside, and ridges to the underside. The highlight of the rubber strap though must be the strikingly angular, branded, titanium buckle. Pairing the watch with the rubber strap helps constrain the span across the wrist to a true 48.5mm and keeps the weight down to 92g. Whilst I’m usually a bracelet guy, I have to say this watch looks right at home on the rubber strap and I think if I owned a Nomad, it would spend most of its time on this!
If there’s one type of watch that orange is made for it’s a diver! The vibrancy just screams ‘holiday watch’, perfect for a day at the beach, a dive, or an adventure. It also serves a purpose as orange is widely considered to be the most legible colour under water.
The dial on the Nomad has a smooth matt finish, against which the blocky matt-black hands with needle tips contrast nicely. The minute track is printed in black onto the white, sloped rehaut. Bolder hash marks are used for every five minutes/hour and additional Arabic numerals are used at ten-minute intervals, beginning with 05.
On the Ember Blaze Nomad, the hands are all filled with Swiss Super Lumi-Nova C5 which glows brightly in low light and has a green/yellow colour (the four other colourways all have Super Lumi-Nova C1, which is a white compound). I found the lume on the hands to be excellent and I could tell the time throughout the entire night. However, the indices don’t glow as brightly as the hands, so they would certainly benefit from more layers of Super Lumi-Nova.
The block-style, applied stainless steel hour markers also feature C5 Super Lumi-Nova centre strips. The outer sections of the indices are cut at a shallow angle. In certain light they look to perfectly match the matt black handset, and in other lighting conditions, they reflect the light. I can’t say whether this was an intentional design decision, but either way, it really works.
A simple black-on-white date window sits at 3 o’clock. Black printed dial text comprises ‘BŌKEN 1988’ at 12 o’clock (1988 is a nod to when founder, Daniel was born), and ‘Titanium, 300m / 1000ft / automatic’ at 6 o’clock.
The dial is protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal which has an internal anti-reflecting coating applied to the inside for enhanced legibility.
A Sellita SW200 Swiss automatic movement powers the watch and is visible through the sapphire exhibition window in the caseback. This workhorse movement is a mainstay for watch brands at this price level. It has a 38-hour power reserve and beats at 28,800 vph or 4Hz, giving a nice smooth sweep to the seconds hands. BŌKEN has added a custom rotor, bearing the logo and tagline ‘adventure awaits’. They’ve even gone so far as to regulate the movement to bring an improved accuracy rate of +/-12 seconds per day, which is very worthwhile improvement. Like the crown, it’d be nice to see engraving, embossing (or maybe skeletonization) used for the branding details on the rotor, but in the scheme of things, I appreciate this is nit-picking!
The Nomad is a watch that ticks a lot of boxes. Not only is it good looking, but it’s tough, extremely legible and uses premium materials. A titanium watch, designed in England, made in Switzerland, with a Swiss movement, 300m water resistance and a ceramic bezel. You couldn’t really ask for much more in a dive watch.
It’s a great first outing from this fledgling brand, that could be made even better with a few improvements. My two biggest gripes concern elements of the bracelet, namely the stamped clasp and the male end links. My other negative is purely a subjective one, that of size. I would love to see the thickness reduced ever so slightly for the MKII. There was a slight misalignment of the 6’oclock applied index on my prototype watch, but when I mentioned this to Daniel, he was appalled. Even though I explained that it’s very minor, he said that any amount of imperfection is not good enough. This is clearly a man who cares about his products, and I have every confidence that Daniel will ensure that production models will be perfect!
The Nomad is a full-sized, modern dive watch with a true tool watch vibe and performance to match. With plenty of colour options to choose from, the BŌKEN Nomad is a very cool and more exclusive alternative to mainstream offerings from brands such as Seiko and Christopher Ward, and a cheaper alternative to brands such as Tag Heuer, Doxa, Sinn. Plus, with two quick-release straps provided as standard, you can achieve a different look in a matter of seconds! If you like the look of the Nomad, I’d suggest you get in quick at the Kickstarter price of £995. The Kickstarter campaign starts at 7.30pm, 15 October and finishes 12 November. Thereafter the price will increase to £1395.