Over the last 10+ years, I’ve been fortunate to experience quite a number of different watch brands, and get to meet people (at least via email exchanges) from all over the world. One of the latest international travelers to cross my review desk calls Australia home. Friends, meet the Houtman Pilbara Rock.
So, let’s talk about that name a bit. Houtman hails from Western Australia, and they’re drawing inspiration for this watch line from the Pilbara region, with that dry earth directly inspiring (I believe) the crushed rock used to make the dial of the loaner we had in. And, given that the region does border the waters, I’d say this take on a dress diver makes sense.
As we started with the dial, let’s keep talking about that. While there are some more traditional dial options for the Houtman Pilbara, we wanted to see the rock. For one, the way they’ve crushed and compressed the rock gives things a rather unique texture. Depending on your point of reference, it can look like silly putty pulled off of a bumpy surface, a cork board, or even a somewhat-alien landscape. It’s earthy, it’s unique, and we like it.
Due to the uneven nature of that dial, that means the Houtman Pilbara Rock had some other design considerations to overcome. For one, dial printing. To get around that problem, they opted to print on the underside of the sapphire crystal. This is something I like, as it gives an excellent floating effect to the letters, and I’m sure makes for some “fun” getting things aligned in assembly. Secondly, that means the indices on the chapter ring are floating a touch over the surface as well. In other words, if you’re a fan of dimensionality under the crystal of your watch, there’s a lot going on here to like.
All in all, it makes for a unique look, even as the Fifty Fathoms-inspired timing bezel and 5-link bracelet remind you that, yes, the Houtman Pilbara Rock is a diver much like those that came before it. With it’s specs (see below) it is very much a tool watch. The steel of the watch itself is brushed all over, but even so, I felt it worked quite well with a suit while on the bracelet. As far as a daily wear goes, I’ve always felt a diver works for that. And this one, being under 12mm thick, means it’ll be a more compact (even at 41mm in diameter) wear than most independent divers tend to be.
In terms of practical use, I found the Houtman Pilbara Rock quite legible (the white indices pop quite well against the dial), and when the lights go down the glow helps you out, including on the bezel and the crown. The one thing that folks might find a bit divisive is the font of the logo. This is based on some comments I got on Instagram around it, as some folks were really not a fan of it. I asked the brand about it, and it’s something that they came up with themselves, messing around in AutoCAD. So, even if it’s not your cup of tea, I’d say you’ve got to give them kudos for doing their own thing. As our own Victor will attest, designing your own font is no walk in the park.
If you’re finding yourself looking to add another affordable independent diver to your collection, this is a watch to check out. It hits all the highlights we expect from indie divers (even including a Miyota 9039 movement), and still giving us some of their own unique touches. While the Houtman Pilbara carries an MSRP of $560, they’re currently on pre-order sale for $373, across all of the dial colors – the rock we reviewed, as well as white, blue, green, and black. Check them out over at houtmanwatch.com
Tech Specs from Houtman
- Red rock dial, made from special compressed rock material.
- In this variant only the dial text is printed on underside of sapphire, rather than on the dial. This creates a ‘floating’ effect, where the watch hands can pass underneath the text, and in certain lighting can cast a light shadow across the dial – an interesting, and sometimes captivating, effect.
- Movement: Miyota Calibre 9039 Premium, high beat, Automatic
- Water Resistance: 200m/660ft/20ATM
- Case Diameter: 41mm
- Bezel: 41.5mm diameter, unidirectional with SuperLumi-Nova filled indices.
- Case Thickness: 11.8mm, including domed sapphire crystal
- Case Material: 316L Stainless Steel, brushed and polished.
- Crystal: Very Slightly Double Domed Sapphire with Anti reflective coating.
- Straps: Comes with rubber strap, stainless steel bracelet. Both with quick release spring bars.
- Lug Width: 22mm
- Lug to Lug measurement: 49mm
- Crown: Signed, lume filled
- Case Back: Stamped, 3D dog inspired by “Red Dog”