Smith & Bradley Atlantis Review
The last time I had some hands-on time with a piece from Smith & Bradley, I was taking a look at their Sans 13 model, which I was in a sense previewing before their Kickstarter campaign finished. That campaign was ultimately successful, and they’ve turned their attention in a new campaign from a quartz tactical watch to an automatic diver. Will the Atlantis project sink like the mythical city? I don’t think so, but read on to see what the watch is all about.
As with the Sans 13, the Atlantis is a watch that’s been designed (and subsequently assembled) right here in my home state of Illinois. This decision to build the watch here, locally, was one fueled for a practical reason. Sure, if also gives that additional cachet of “made in America”, but there’s more to it. This allows Smith & Bradley to keep a very close eye on the quality of the components and the final assembly.
For example, take a look at their movement. Here, they’ve gone with the Seagull ST 2130, which they selected due to it’s reliability and serviceability. When they receive the movements in, they’re going through each movement, inspecting and cleaning them, and then timing them. This timing report is then included with every watch they build, so you know what rate the watch should be running at.
For a small brand like S&B, that’s a level of commitment that you don’t always see. Often times, all the assembly and quality control is done by some third party, and the brand doesn’t have direct control over the quality of the product being provided, other than whatever inspection they may do before sending the watch on to you. Here, it really does seem like a careful eye is being cast over every component coming in, and every watch going out the door.
As far as the components themselves go, we’ve already covered the movement. As you might expect of a diver, this is housed in a 316L stainless steel case, which measures in at a modern 44mm. In practice, it does feel like it wears a bit smaller than the diameter might suggest. Additionally, it wears thinner than most of the small-make dive watches I’ve looked at over the last year or so, which is a surprise given it’s 15mm height.
Topping the case is another surprise from a small brand – a flat sapphire crystal (normally you might expect mineral crystals to keep costs down) that has AR coating on both sides (another thing you don’t commonly see). In my time with the Atlantis, I did find that glare really was not that much of an issue for the watch, which of course enhances readability.
This is helped along as well by the stark contrast between the matte black dial and the white SuperLuminova that’s used on the indices and polished handset. In a watch that’s intended to be a tool watch used for a specific purpose, legibility is a key thing I look for, and the Atlantis does truly deliver. The monochrome scheme also makes it so the white date wheel actually does blend in well (yes, that’s right – I actually like the contrasting wheel this time!).
If I were to change anything on the dial at all, I think it would have to be the handset. As it stands, they’re well-proportioned to one another, and there are no issues with using them to read the time. In relation to the diameter of the dial and watch, though, they feel a tad small to me, mostly on their width. Overall length is good, but since it tapers to a needle tip, your eyes initially just pick up the luminous paint, which makes it look like a shorter handset. As I said, I didn’t find that it impacted my ability to read the time at all, it’s just a facet I feel might merit some adjustment in future iterations.
Topping that dial you’ve got a sapphire crystal (which is an upgrade from what we originally saw on their first Kickstarter project), surrounded by a 60-minute count up bezel. On this Kickstarter-specific version, I did notice that the bezel had a bit of play to it – not just side to side, but also up and down. When I asked the owners of the company about this, they stated that they’re working to the industry standard when it comes to bezel fitment and ratcheting/clicks. That said, they’re redesigning things to a proprietary ratcheting system, which should be showing up on the full-production variant of the Atlantis.
This leaves us with one last major component, the silicone strap that the Atlantis comes on. As with the Sans 13, this makes for a comfortable fit to your wrist, and is an appropriate choice for a diver model (as well as keeping costs down). If I were to nitpick at anything with the strap, it’s that it has a propensity to pick up lint, but that’s a problem endemic to most silicone straps that I’ve had cross my desk. Of course, that in no way affects the wearability of the piece.
And, in daily wear, I thought the watch worked quite well. The Atlantis itself has an unobtrusive look to it, which helps it to settle in to wherever you happen to be wearing it. In other words, it’s a subtle diver – the (relatively) smaller size helps in this respect, as does the simple dial layout and coloration. Simple it may be, it’s a crisp look, and it makes reading the time a snap, as I mentioned earlier. With a pricing structure lets you get a watch for $350, it’s quite an affordable diver.
So, what would make you choose the Atlantis over any other of the variety of small-make divers that are on the market? First off, I think it’s the story they’ve built around their commitment to quality and reliability. While I’ve not visited their workshop, I’ve had several conversations with the guys behind the brand, and this drive to creating a totally reliable piece is more than just a story – it is a defining characteristic of what they’re trying to build. Next up, it’s the “made in the USA” angle. Sure, many of the components are sourced from outside the US, but the design concept came from these shores, and the final assembly is done here as well, to keep close eye on quality.
Finally, it really boils down to what you’re looking for in your diver. If you want over-the-top style or a puck sitting on your wrist, the Atlantis is likely not for you. If you want something that can hit the waves and still carry a more subtle presence on your wrist, then the Atlantis is a good bet for you. If you’re looking to get in on this Kickstarter project, though, you’ll need to move fast – the project actually closes out this Thursday, February 13th (and it’s over-funded at this point, so these watches will be a reality).
If you don’t make it in, feel free to sit tight. Smith & Bradley are working on the full-production variant of the Atlantis, which will have quite a few nice upgrades to it. As I mentioned above, they’re working on improvements to the bezel ratcheting. Additionally, the new version will move from using the Seagull movement to ETA 2824 (the Seagull might still be an option for new buyers), and the strap will go from silicone to a Horween Cordovan brand (leather from right here in Chicago). All told, it seems like a nice, meaty upgrade that keeps the existing looks completely intact. Pricing is still up in the air, but it’s sounding like it’ll definitely be a sub-$1000 piece. Once one is ready, we’ll have one in for review to compare to this Kickstarter variant, and we’ll have a better idea of pricing at that time. smithbradleyltd.com
- Brand & Model: Smith & Bradley Atlantis
- Price: $350
- Who’s it for?: The person looking for a diver watch that carries a more subtle look and feel
- Would I wear it?: Very likely – it carries a smaller profile, which I’ve more recently become a fan of in divers
- What I’d change: I’d love to see the handset extended a bit more
- The best thing about it: It’ll sound repetitive, but it’s the crisp, subtle styling