Midly put, microbrand diver watches are often iterations of the classics. Many go too far and only manage to create copies and pastiches of primarily the Submariner, too often wrapped as “homage”. Thankfully, there are those that want to do the complete opposite. It’s difficult to argue that Komrade Watches from New Zealand hasn’t done exactly that. Here’s a story of a watch with several extremes, many dimensions and an interesting future for the reference.
Komrade Watches – a nanobrand from the other side of the ball
A couple of kiwi military veterans founded Komrade Watches a few years ago. Some of the company’s earnings go to veteran support projects. It took some time for this nanobrand from the other side of the panet to be featured in my watch community. “You know it when you see it” is a proverb that I love and like to live by. A combination of originality, design and an unusually beautiful case back made the White Pointer stick with me immediately.
Unboxing (or unbottling?)
The first and overly obvious tell that Komrade challenges established solutions is that instead of a box, the watch comes in nothing less than a bespoke thermos mug! This is the perhaps one of the most creative “boxes” following a trend where watch manufacturers focus on utility, sustainability and originality. A mug is perhaps even more useful than, for example, a travelling case. A gimmick or not, the originality is not to under estimate.
The White Pointer is powered by and ETA-2836-2, which is a day/date movement with 25 jewels and 42 hours of power reserve. While the general impression probably is that it is a solid choice of movement, it may also be a bit odd for a small brand with a very non-Swiss appeal. Nevertheless, it’s a big plus that Komrade chose a quality movement over a more affordable Japanese movement.
Case, crown and glass
Here’s where it starts to get really interesting, if it wasn’t already. First, the case is made in titanium which makes the watch incredibly light. It has a brushed surface and fine finishing, with polished, tapered edges. The case back features a shark (the White Pointer) encircled by “Komrade White Pointer”.
44mm in diameter, but a moderate lug-to-lug width makes it quite comfortable to wear. The lugs are 24mm wide, making the strap more dominating. On the left-hand side, there’s also a helium escape valve. One could argue that this is befitting the 1000m water resistance, but I think the watch would have been as good even without it.
The general design approach for diver watches is wide bezels and smaller dials. For the White Pointer, the reverse is the situation. The bezel is quite narrow which gives a large dial. Furthermore, the bezel also doesn’t feature any insert, but is solid, with illumination-filled engraving that appear white in daylight. The 120-clicks bezel is perfectly aligned, but the bezel action is far from precise. The reverse play of the bezel is nowhere near acceptable with almost a full minute’s slack.
The crown sports a white, illuminated “K” – another interesting and fun feature in the dark. The crown features a rubber insert in the middle of the same or similar colour as the dial. While I like this idea, I notice that the insert provides most of the touching surface when moving the crown and I don’t expect the insert to last many years. The screw down crown itself is located within suitable crown guards.
Edit: The rubber insert on the crown lasted less than six months of very irregular use (less than one day per week).
Dial and Hands: dots & waves
The challenging of established practices continues with the very distinct circular indexes on the dial. The 12 o’clock index consists of two tapered bars. The 3, 6 and 9 o’clock markers are rectangular. All indexes are completely illuminated, but I suspect the concentration of the lume is slightly lower to compensate for the large surface area. Make no mistake – the White Pointer glows in dark, but perhaps not as the “lume monster” one would assume.
The full Komrade logo is located between the center and 12 o’clock on the blue sandwich dial. Between center and 3 o’clock is a day and a date window. Below the 12 o’clock marker is written in different colours: “White Pointer”, “Automatic” and “1000m / 3280 ft”.
The hands are all different in shape, appearance and colour. The hour hand is a split wide arrow hand with shiny red edges. The minute hand is a uniform syringe hand, with the point in the same green colour as “Automatic” on the dial. The seconds hand is metallic orange, with a large “K” counterweight and a rectangular lume-filled box close to its edge.
As it appears, the combinations not like anything normally seen in a major established brand or design. Some elements in isolation can obviously be recognized to some extent. Waves are found on Omega Seamaster and TagHeuer Acquaracer for example. These waves are grooved in contrast to the White Pointer where they are protruding. Dotted indexes are not uncommon, but not in this size. Different colours of the hands are also not new, but not in this combination.
The overall impression is very strong and dominating. There is something asymmetric in the way that the design elements are not harmonizing with each other, while still tying together a coherent time piece. The same inconsistency is found in for example the obvious quality flaws being contrasted by the surprisingly high quality of the dial and hands details when viewed through the magnifier.
The White Pointer comes with a very comfortable black silicon strap. The buckle is in polished steel with the word “Komrade” embossed and painted black. The standard strap is very comfortable but I’m not sure if the black colour is the best match. There is a blue strap also, which perhaps is a better option.
As mentioned, the lug width is massively 24mm which makes the strap quite dominant. Typically, this means 24/24 or 24/22mm width of the strap. One interesting consequence of a wide strap is that it makes the watch wear quite comfortably. I’ve fitted my own piece with an orange Isofrane strap and have a nice blue Nato strap that also fits well.
If you want a bracelet, your options are somewhat limited. There are to my knowledge few third party 24mm titanium alloy bracelets.
The White Pointer sports a day/date complication, both windows located at 3 o’clock on the dial. There is a general date/no date diversion when it comes to dive watches. The no-date seems to be the genuine, tool watch utility approach. When diving, you don’t really care what date of the month (or week) it is. Still, many if not most professional dive watches do have the date feature, mainly due to its usefulness. In case of saturation diving over many days, that is suddenly more than just a nice-to-have feature.
The full day-date configuration adds to an impression of this watch being a product of basically combining all the features that the designer liked.
Price, buying and options
The Komrade White Pointer is placed well within the 500 – 1 000 EUR/USD range that generally can be tricky to assess. Let’s look at the technical contents first: titanium case, sapphire crystal glass, ETA movement and a 1000m rating. Provided the execution is good, all these factors justify the watch to be in the mid-range. A good reference point in the cross section of entry-level and mid-range is the Seiko SRPB series (also known as Samurai). These have mineral glass and a standard Seiko movement, but sell well at their list price of approximately 550 EUR/USD. Technically speaking, the White Pointer is far superior, at least on the paper.
Let’s look at the alternatives. Generally, brining up options to dive watches is a walk in the park. However, one of the key features of the White Pointer is the titanium case which is less common. The three options I’ve brought forward are:
- Spinnaker Tesei – the budget titanium diver
- Seiko Monster – the statement Seiko diver
- Helson Shark Diver 45 – microbrand titanium option, 699 USD
Let’s start with the last one on the list. In contrast to Spinnaker, Helson is still a microbrand and hence a comparable option to Komrade. Helson has a very distinct design of their Shark Diver, which comes in sizes ranging from 40-45 mm and in various material. The 45mm version comes in either blasted or brushed aluminum and three different dials. Just like the White Pointer, the Shark Diver is a statement watch, with large indexes and a modern take on the ProPlof hands. Aspiring to be a true tool watch, there are no complications. It’s rated to 2000m and sports a helium escape valve. The Helson is powered by a Miyota 9015 which is a significantly cheaper option compared to the ETA 2836-2 in White Pointer.
Spinnaker is an interesting brand that tries to rest with one leg in the microbrand camp and the other leg as a large manufacturer. Make no mistake, Spinnaker is not the average, small-sized microbrand. In the line-up of affordable dive watches, the Tesei is made of titanium. Just like the Helson Shark Diver, the Tesei is motored by a Japanese movement, but here it’s the Seiko workhorse NH35. The Tesei has a more discreet compared to the White Pointer with its distinct dial. It is also darker in appearance compared to other titanium watches.
The final option is the Seiko Monster. While not being made in titanium, this watch still does a similar job as the White Pointer when it comes to appearance. Day and date functions, hands and a slightly different expression. However, if your appeal is with something more uncommon, then Seiko is the exact opposite of Komrade.
Wearing the White Pointer
The White Pointer incredibly comfortable thanks to its low weight. It is a sporty and colourful watch that has very little “bling” factor. I contrast to many luxury watches; the White Pointer is less a piece of jewelry. The White Pointer is a great and fun everyday watch. With the bright orange Isofrane, the watch becomes a very colorful and fun detail. Obviously, it works perfectly when dressed casually, but it can also be a very fun accent to business casual. I love wearing it with a grey or blue pullover.
As usual, people never pay attention to what you wear on the wrist. However, with this watch, the few that do notice it almost always comment and ask about the watch.
Reviewing microbrand watches is never easy for several reasons. It can be difficult to assess the long-term quality of a brand’s watches or their development on the secondhand market. In the end of the day, many microbrands become one-hit-wonders at best, and long forgotten a decade later. I sincerely hope this won’t be the case for Komrade and the White Pointer.
The nice thing when reviewing micro brands is that more often than not, one can actually get to the source directly:
LC: One one hand it may seem (don’t get me wrong here) like when a kid makes a dessert (combining everything he likes). Would you care to elaborate on the design choices?
Tony at Komrade Watches: I think you have just explained the design choices.
The watch has a very unique and distinct design that resembles nothing. Albeit a diver watch, the White Pointer is so different from the general diver segment. So much, that it creates its own nano-segment with the crazy yet balanced dial. A classic diver with a bezel insert would have killed this expression. The overall quality is high, combined with a solid choice of movement.
When rating the watch, I notice that it scores well on the dial, hands, movement, complications and price level. And, of course, the box/bottle. It scores less good on the bezel (due to its poor action) and strap. Overall, it ends up on a solid 6.9 out of 10, which is not bad for a microbrand! Due to its X-factor, it will most likely remain a keeper for me.
Komrade Watches are hinting to a new Mk2 version of the White Pointer coming up later this year.