Today, we are taking a second look at the Borealis brand, with our first look of course being Matt’s earlier review. While he was looking at the model, we will be talking about the Borealis Sea Hawk, the first 1500m rated diver that I have had on my wrist.
Yes, you read that right – it carries a 1500m water resistance rating – and the case does not feature something that we have almost come to expect on these “extreme” divers – a helium escape valve. So, if for some reason you managed to get to anything approaching the depths this watch is rated for, how does the helium get out?
It does so by the nature of the case design. The caseback is held in place with screws (rather than being screwed down), so it allows it to act like a compressor case. This means a greater pressures the watch is more water proof, and then when the watch surfaces, things loosen up enough to let the helium out while maintaining watertightness.
Then again, I am guessing that the Venn diagram of saturation divers and readers of this site does not have much overlap, so we will focus now on the styling of the piece. Even though we may not take this watch to the depths, there is one major design element that we will interact with daily – the crystal.
This is a double-domed example, but it is not just a simple dome. It actually raises up quite a bit from the bezel, and then flattens out across the main portion. This is something that I have commonly seen with acrylic or even mineral crystals, but I cannot recall seeing this particular style in sapphire. Aside from the diving chops, it gives the watch (to my eye) a bit more of a vintage feel, since that is where we see this sort of crystal style (say, as on the Raven Vintage link).
We have a 120-click unidirectional bezel surrounding the crystal, and it is one of the most solid ones I have encountered in some time – there was negligible play once it was locked in to place. Another nice treat on the Borealis Sea Hawk is the fact that the bezel insert, along with being lumed, is made from ceramic. This makes for a great matte finish, as well as a nice smooth touch.
On our sample, we opted for the blue bezel and dial – which, while it does not look like an exact color match, they are pretty darn close. You have a simple silk-screened dial for the minute markers and branding, and lumed indices at the expected places. The Sea Hawk is set up with a snowflake handset, which is another style I have not had in previously.
This particular style of handset is something we more commonly associate with Tudor, but it is nice to see it popping up here. It gives enough of a differentiation between the hour and minutes that there should be no confusion as to which is which. The handset is something I am a bit torn about, in one way – proportions. If you keep your eye limited to just the dial, the handset is perfectly in proportion. When you take into account the whole face of the 42mm watch, though, the hands feel like they are a bit short.
Why do we watch writers harp on handset proportions? It is admittedly a minor thing, but when you spend a lot of time around a variety of watches, your eye starts to pick up on what really just looks right with a watch. And, as the dial truly is the face of your watch, it makes sense to put the best look forward that you can. Now, on the Borealis Sea Hawk, this is not an egregious issue – as I said, they are in proportion to the dial itself. If they can lengthen them a bit in a future iteration, though, I think it will be that much better looking.
So, what is driving those hands? It’s actually a movement we last saw in the Prometheus Sailfish, the Seiko NH36, which is simply an OEM version of the 4R36. If you are not super in to the particulars of movements, just rest assured that you will have a quality Seiko keeping you on time.
Keeping on time is important, but so is keeping the watch in place. The Borealis Sea Hawk comes standard on a bracelet (with a matte finish to match the top of the case) with a micro adjustment (or expansion, depending on how you look at it) clasp. Sizing the bracelet was a cinch, as they use single-sided screws to hold the links in place. While I understand how double-sided screws give a cleaner look, it is so much nicer to just use a single screw driver to adjust things. As far as the other straps that are available, they are pretty simple rubber straps. The black one is a bit bland, but the orange one does give a nice punch of color (in the end, I preferred the bracelet).
So, what is it like to wear the the watch with some regularity? Well, if you are in any way used to a heavy (the Sea Hawk weighs in at 198g on the bracelet; 126g on rubber), you know more or less what to expect. The 42mm case is just under 16mm thick, which is actually pretty reasonable considering the depth rating the watch carries. What this means for daily wear is that if your shirts have tighter cuffs, you might have some difficulty covering the watch back up. Swap a different strap into the 22mm lugs, and you can cut some of the bulk. That said, I really did not find it to be a problem, and found the watch working quite well at the office.
While the main surfaces of the watch are in a blasted (or matte) finish, there are polished surfaces to be found on the sides of the case, as well as on the edge of the bezel. This means you get some of the benefit of a polished case (in other words, making it seem a bit dressier) while the main surfaces you will be touching throughout the day are a good deal more fingerprint resistant. As an overall look, this is a watch that really clicked with me. The relatively basic two-tone palette made for a flexible piece, and it’s very tool-watch nature means there were not any concerns in daily wear (or even with a suit, as I did one day).
That leaves us with just one critical data point – the price. Fortunately for you and me, this is a very pleasant surprise. The Borealis Sea Hawk comes in at a very affordable $355 (plus VAT, should you reside in a locale that is collected) for any of the three colors offered (blue, black, or green), which makes for a very compelling argument. As I have said before, we are certainly spoiled for choice in the under-$500 segment, especially when it comes to dive watches. While this can make a decision difficult, it also gives you the opportunity to find the watch that is right for you. If you are looking for a heavy-duty diver that has a slight vintage feel to it, the Borealis Sea Hawk may just do the trick. borealiswatch.com
- Brand & Model: Borealis Sea Hawk
- Price: $355
- Who’s it for?: As I mentioned at the close, this is a great option for someone looking for a vintage-feel, yet still beefy, diver
- Would I wear it?: Yes, I would – the styling just plain works for me, and the blue hue is a nice break from black and white dials
- What I’d change: I would be curious to see how thin they could make a “lite” version, perhaps something that is simply rated for, oh, 300m say. And see if the hands can be lengthened a tad.
- The best thing about it: The overall look, which boils down to details – a great bezel (both the clicks and the ceramic material), use of color and finishing, and the handset, to call out a few items