Manufacturer: Steeldive | Price: £105 GBP ($140 USD)
Back in February of this year, I was so impressed after reviewing the Steeldive SD1970, aka the Capt Willard, I reached out to Matthew at Steeldive UK again, just to make sure that the Capt Willard wasn’t just a total fluke. So, as you can probably guess by now, I thought I’d take a look at their SD1940 pilot’s watch, a homage to the IWC® Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII, that has a rather arse-tightening retail price of just over £4k here in the UK. So a homage costing around 100 quid, or the original from IWC? Of course I’d take the original, given the choice, but would I spend 4 grand on it? Fuck NO!
- Dimensions: Case – 38.8mm, Thickness – 11.6mm, Lug to Lug – 47.7mm, Lug Width – 20mm
- Movement: Seiko SII NH35, 21,600vph, 3Hz, Hackable, Self Winding, 41hr Power Reserve
- Case Material: Brushed 316L Stainless Steel
- Bezel: Brushed 316L Stainless Steel, Fixed
- Dial: Printed, Date at 3, Index Style Handset
- Lume: Swiss Super-LumiNova® C3
- Bracelet: Brushed 316L Stainless Steel, Solid Links, Push Pins, Pressed Clasp
- Crystal: Flat Sapphire, Anti-Reflective Coating
- Water Resistance: 200m / 20 ATM / 660ft
- Caseback: 316L Stainless Steel, Screw Down, Etched Steeldive Logo
- Crown: 6mm, Screw Down, Signed
- Weight: 127g (Sized up for my 6¾″ wrist)
- Where to Buy: Steeldive UK
- Warranty: 6 Months (UK Distributor) | 3 Years (Steeldive International)
“Inspired by famous dive watches of the past, Steeldive is a young, ambitious microbrand that produces a range of classic watches, powered by the reliable & robust NH35 movement. All watches are all faithful to the ideals and design aesthetics of the originals. The watches look superb, are manufactured to a very high standard and the value is unbeatable! We are watch collectors and enthusiasts at heart, based in Cardiff, South Wales. We were so impressed with the quality and value of the Steeldive watches that we owned, we wanted everyone to own and enjoy wearing an affordable, classic watch from Steeldive too. So we asked if we could become the sole authorised distributor for the UK and European market.“
Case & Crown
The case of the Steeldive SD1940 has an overall diameter of 38.8mm. The lug to lug is 47.7mm and the overall thickness, including the sapphire crystal, albeit flat, I measured in at a rather nice 11.6mm. The case, caseback, bezel, crown and bracelet are all 316L stainless steel. The finish of the watch is entirely brushed, with no polishing to be found anywhere. The SD1940 has a total water resistance rating of 200m, which is rather unusual, but still impressive for a pilot’s watch.
The proportions of the watch are pretty good, although I do think the lug to lug is just a wee bit larger than expected, especially for a 39mm watch. The SD1940 does wear very well on wrist and it is pretty comfortable, even after wearing the watch for many hours, as well as overnight. The signed crown is great, looks good and is very easy to operate. There is no wobble at all when the crown is in use and you can also feel a very nice pop as you unscrew it. The caseback is pretty much the same design that you’ll find on the SD1970 Capt Willard, with the Steeldive logo etched into the centre.
Straight out of the box and fitted as standard to this stainless steel version of the Steeldive SD1940, is a jubilee style bracelet. Unfortunately, this is where the watch really started to piss me off. Don’t get me wrong, with a watch at this pricepoint, I expected a pressed clasp and push pins, so I don’t have any problem with those whatsoever. What I do have a problem with though, is extremely shite female endlinks. Yep, it’s the first time I’ve said that, as I usually complain more about male endlinks extending the effective lug to lug. Not this time though, I’ll try and show you what I mean in the image below, as it should also show just how bad the machining is on the material behind the links, as they look like they’ve been cut by Stevie Wonder, equipped with nothing more than a fuckin’ half eaten Mars bar!
All they needed to do is make sure that the two mid links fitted into the endlink with a better flush appearance and fit. The rest of the bracelet is perfectly fine and is pretty much exactly what I expected, like I’ve already mentioned. The bracelet itself tapers from 20mm at the lugs, down to 18mm at the narrowest point and back up to 19.5mm at the clasp. Talking of clasps, it’s the same scenario that we got with the Capt Willard, however, it’s simple enough to replace it with a milled clasp for less than £5 from Ali Express. Abviously though, you’ll need the smaller 18mm version for this one.
Movement / Accuracy
The movement selected for the Steeldive SD1940 is yep, you guessed it… none other than the SII NH35, manufactured by Seiko. The SII NH35 is a fantastic workhorse with 21,600vph, 3Hz, 24 jewel automatic movement, with a 41hr power reserve, self winding and of course hacking. Checking the accuracy after running the Steeldive SD1940 for almost a month, mainly on wrist and occasionally in my watch winder, I thought the accuracy was pretty bloody good, with it showing an average of just +4 seconds per day. Yet another excellent result from Steeldive, that gets a big thumbs up from me.
Dial & Hands
Much like the original, Steeldive opted for a date complication at the 3 o’clock position, although they haven’t used a negative black date wheel that you’ll find on the IWC. Instead, they’ve disappointingly went for the rather dull bog- standard white. A total shame really, as this watch is screaming out for a matching date wheel. Next up are the hour and minute hands… they are nicely done, with their very legible uncluttered appearance. The seconds hand does look a little out of place though on this style of watch, as it looks like it’s been taken off a dress watch of some description, with no lumed pip or marker. It does however, reach right out to the minute track when sweeping around the dial.
The lume on the SD1940 Pilot’s Mk XVIII is somewhat what I expected to be fair, nothing truly outstanding like the SWC Bunker or the Wicked Watch Co Pearl Diver, but it’s certainly been executed to a fairly high standard for a £100 watch. The lume is initially bright and although it obviously fades over time, it does actually last a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would. The actual formula that’s been applied to the Steeldive SD1940, is Swiss Super-LumiNova® C3.
Well, where do I start with this one? It’s an automatic watch that costs 100 quid and I certainly wasn’t expecting IWC level of fit & finish, but I did expect the end links to be far nicer than they are. The solution? Rip the bracelet off and fit one of your own straps. Yep it’s disappointing really, as I always prefer a bracelet, no matter if the watch is £100 or 10 grand. Is the watch still worth the £100 they’re asking for it? YES! It’s still an absolute bargain! The best automatic ‘beater watch‘ perhaps? I hate that expression, I could have a 20 quid Casio on my wrist and I’d still go out of my way not to scratch it.
Bracelet aside, I still recommend this offering from Steeldive. It is a fantastic choice for those that want an automatic for not a lot of cash. I have mentioned that it could be the best ‘beater watch’ for the money, as there isn’t a great deal of competition at this price point. Or is there… You could opt for a classic G-Shock GW-M5610 and still pocket enough change for two cases of beer! If my budget was limited though, I’d personally go for the Steeldive SD1970 Capt Willard. It is still the best Steeldive I’ve reviewed to date, although I do however plan on reviewing the SD1958 Black Bay very soon.