Spinnaker Watches offers the Spence dive watch in their vintage category that has good-enough wearability but lacks a few key underwater dive functions. If you dive from the edge of the pool, this might add some color to your water-watch collection.
Spinnaker is competing in an ocean of dive watches in the sub $500 range. Its competition ranges between high-value heritage (Seiko) or exceptional luminescence and dial color options (Deep Blue). I’m not convinced this watch stands out in that ocean, but it does provide a fair option for weekend water-wear.
Spinnaker may be a little-known brand but it offers a variety of watches under the $500 US price point that compete with the likes of Deep Blue Watches. Its models are organized by the Core, Pro-Diver, Solar, Wood and Vintage categories. The Spence is part of their Vintage collection.
Now, I’m not a diver or astronaut, but I do appreciate those who move in that underworld and outer space. I read and rely on my book knowledge of their functional requirements and the demands on time keeping. Jim did a review of another Spence 5039-03 and he discussed ISO ratings and dive watches here. This watch is the Spence 5039-02.
There are a few key elements in dive watches besides accurate timekeeping and water resistance that you want on your list and wrist: legibility and luminescence.
So, when I opened this watch, I was surprised not to see a black dial, a desirable dial color you’d see on a dive watch. Black dials with white hour, minute and second hands offer the contrast and legibility you want in the low light underwater world.
I found that once on my wrist, the 42 mm case-width was a good fit for my 7.5″ wrist. It has a lug-to-lug length of 47 mm, and a tall, 15-mm height. The height got an extra boost, too, when the NATO strap wrapped under the mineral display case back. I never got comfortable with that high stack of steel even though the weight was a lot less than a typical diver at 99 grams according to my scale.
Overall, the dial design is efficient in its display of information. The Spinnaker logo at 12 o’clock is the strongest design element on its clean, white dial. The font gives a nod to a 1940s futuristic look resembling the “Top Speed” or “Rocket Script” fonts. It is a nice design for a watch that wants to be salute the vintage flag, but the vintage look stops there.
No other watch outside their vintage category has that logo, which I don’t understand. This might cause a little brand confusion in the market or at least a little confusion in their design department. (ed. we’ve addressed this before. Spinnaker uses a font reserved for their ‘vintage’ range, and on other watches uses a font for their ‘diver’ and ‘core’ range. They do this to not disrupt the vintage feel of the rest of the watch with a modern font.)
The hour-hand has a bowtie-like tip of luminescence and its black outline offers a good contrast with the white dial. The minute hand is orange and frames the luminescence with less distinction between it and the dial. This makes the minute hand not as distinguishable and harder to find.
The black center-second hand is a lollipop design with a small lumen center and its sweep can be clearly seen on the dial. The hour markers are deep blue with luminescence in the center of each. The largest markers are where you expect them to be at 12, 6 and 9, while the smaller ones take position at the remaining hours leaving 3 o’clock position with a blue-framed date window. This date is a simple, thin-lined number on a white disk and is clearly legible in good light. Right above the 6 o’clock is its water resistance rating of 200 WR, which you apparently should know is in meters.
I like the chapter ring around the dial with its ordinary lines indicating the minutes and then squares at each hour. Neither of these markers have luminescence, but they do offer a nice transition from the dial to the bezel. The clean and simple design allows the minutes to be clearly read when the hand points to each.
Another function on a dive watch that is necessary to have is a unidirectional bezel that you can easily grip and turn while wearing gloves. It’s a great way to time intervals of your dive. This bezel clearly defines a 15-minute span in orange, while the blue colors the remaining space with aluminum Arabic numerals at 15, 30 and 45 that offer some contrast on the bezel but only when the aluminum is reflecting a contrasting color.
There is no luminescence on the bezel except for a small pip in the upside down silver triangle at 12 o’clock, or at whatever time you set it. This dab of luminosity is hardly enough to show up and I’m also not sure how long that little guy would stay on the bezel if you are rough on your watches.
I blasted this watch with my UV flashlight and it rocks along for a few minutes before giving up to the dark– kind of like me in the cookie aisle at the grocery store. This is a 6 second exposure in a low light room.
The unidirectional bezel on this is a little slick and the edges don’t provide quite the grip I’d like. I didn’t try it with gloves, but it can’t get much better with them. There is some play in the clicks, too, and that was disappointing.
But we all know that it’s the inside that matters most, right? This Seiko movement has hand winding and hacking. These two features are pretty important for us who have the tendency to wear multiple watches in a week and are too cheap to buy a winder. This movement also has the date function, which may not be an aquanaut requirement, but it’s still nice to have.
The screw down mineral display case back is always nice to see but hardly expected in a serious, tool dive watch. That’s ok, since this thing is not that. I always enjoy seeing the movements on watches, but this is nothing fancy. Its matte-black rotor has been branded with the Spinnaker name and makes up for the soulless metalwork underneath it.
This watch has a 200 meter water resistance which is enabled, in part, by the screw down crown. This compares to the Seiko SKX007, which doesn’t have a display back as well as doesn’t hack or hand wind. I wonder if Spinnaker gave up the display back, they could’ve gotten another 100 meters out of the water resistance and competed more with Deep Blue Watches, who might let you go deeper for the same price.
This watch wore very well on the 22 mm NATO strap around the house and about my day as an office drone. The strap, like a lot of NATOs, is best around your dive suited wrist and not under a long sleeve dress shirt scratching on your laptop’s keyboard.
The other strap was described as “genuine water proof leather” and if it is leather, it comes from an animal I’ve never seen. It is water proof, though and comes with complementary orange stitching and signed hardware. I really had a hard time getting that strap to fit snuggly on my wrist. I put the watch on an aftermarket leather strap and it did fine, although it didn’t quite hold up to the water-watch look you may want to keep.
The bottom line is that this is an inexpensive watch from a brand that wants to attach itself to diving legends and offers some nice design elements. They are lacking some functional luminosity and a solid bezel, but its movement is a pretty standard engine that will not leave you stranded at the pool’s deep end. It costs $280 at Spinnaker Watches.
- Brand & Model: Spinnaker Spence SP-5039-02
- Price: $280
- Who we think it might be for: This is for an Auburn University fan who spends the weekends at the lake.
- Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: I would look for one with a black dial instead.
- If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: I would really consider the luminescence upgrade and a rubber strap.
- What spoke to me the most about this watch: I really liked the Spinnaker logo and wished it was their logo for all their watch collections.
- Brand Model: Spinnaker Spence SP-5039-02
- Movement (technology): Seiko 24 Jewels, self-winding, hacking with date display
- Size of case diameter (mm): 42 mm excluding crown and guards
- Height of case: 15 mm
- Weight: weighed at 99 grams on the NATO strap
- Case material: 316 L Stainless Steel
- Case Back: Mineral
- Crystal/Glass material: Mineral
- Water resistance (m/ft/atm): 20 ATM.
- Crown: 8mm, signed, screw down
- Strap/Bracelet material: 22mm wide with “genuine water proof leather” and a nylon NATO strap.
- Illumination: Yes.
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