An Improved Classic: The Islander Dive Watch
What do you do with an iconic dive watch that has a few shortcomings? You improve it!
On the left is the Island Watch ISL-49, the Islander 38mm Automatic Dive Watch. Island Watch is a family owned company and takes inspiration from watches made in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and beyond. It is great to see a family run organization operating here in the United States. Since its introduction in 1965 as the 6217-8000/8001 (the "62MAS"), the Seiko SKX007, and its forefathers and variants, have been a reliable choice for a daily wear "go anywhere, do anything" watch. While this design has been beloved and proven its toughness over the years, there have been a few shortcomings that have have never been addressed. The ISL-49 does a couple of things very well; stylistically, it does a great job as an homage watch and from a functionally standpoint, it makes the subtle improvements that take the SKX and move it from a capable daily wear with a couple of nagging issues to a watch that is perfect for daily wear.
I have worn this watch for a week straight right out of the box. The proper screwdriver is included with the watch so you can adjust it yourself. I had the watch adjusted sized and set in 15 minutes and was ready to go. The weight of the watch is such that you feel that you are handling a substantial piece without it being overly heavy or unwieldly. Many linked bracelets can have a tendency to pull your arm hair (ouch!); the fit and spacing of these links is such that I have not had a single painful pluck the entire week. The links are solid (as opposed to hollow on the SKX) and this improves the overall quality of the bracelet and helps to prevent the watch from feeling top heavy on the wrist. The screw-down crown is located at the 4 o'clock position which prevents it from digging into the wrist and this helps earn the watch the 200m water resistance rating.
The dial is simple and well laid out, it is clearly taking cues from eh SKX with a couple of notable improvements. The biggest improvement may be the indices; the SKX had indices that were simply painted on the dial while the Islander has applied markers. I am not sure if these elevate the level of visibility, but they certainly class it up a bit. The lume is incredibly bright and an additional improvement here is that the bezel is also lumed so you can read the setting of the bezel in low-light/darkness as well. The day/date complications are located near the 3 o'clock and are easy to read. The bezel has just the right amount of resistance when adjusting it and the clicks are pleasantly audible. I long standing complaint with the SKX is the slight play in the bezel and its inability to align exactly where it should in the 12 o'clock position. Both of those issues have been addressed by the Islander. This enhances the feel of the quality and provides a more properly finished look.
Movement and Crystal
The watch is powered by an NH36 (24-jewel automatic movement) which hums along at 21,600 vibrations per hour. It offers hand winding and hacking and is protected on the back with an engraved screw-in case back. This movement is keeping time within specs (-20~+40 seconds per day) and so far has been as accurate as my Hamilton Khaki Field Titanium with the ETA-based H-10 (and retails for more than double).
The crystal is a true AR sapphire and is a marked improvement over the SKX; all of the Seiko watches in this line have Hardlex, which is glass treated to with chemicals that provide hardening properties. Sapphire is more scratch resistant and is the standard for higher end watches.
If you are in the market for a daily wear diver, the Islander should definitely be a contender. I will follow-up in a few months to comment on durability, but at this point I have no reservations about recommending the ISL-49 as daily wear watch suitable for all activities. There are size choices available along the Island Watch line, but for a mid-sized wrist (say 6-7.5") the 38mm is really a great choice.