A few weeks ago I found out that I would be eligible to receive my very own 20,000ft divers watch courtesy of the manufacturer, CX Swiss Military. Well, last week I took delivery of this record-setting new timepiece of which only a total of 1,000 pieces are available globally. Mine is number 8! Unfortunately I was pretty excited when the rather large box arrived and so ripped it apart without a second thought. Thankfully our good friend Ben Clymer over at Hodinkee had a bit more foresight and so has uploaded a great video of the “un-boxing” process which is definitely worth checking out.
For those of you not already familiar with the 20,000ft and its notorious indestructibility, we first covered it one of our ‘Weird Watch Wednesday’ segments. If you haven’t read that article yet I highly recommend you check it out first before reading the rest of this one as it will give you some valuable background information.
Now back to the watch. Undeniably the first thing you notice about the 20,000ft is its size. I would estimate the case is probably as thick as 2 to 2 ½ conventional watches and so it sits pretty high off the wrist (as you can see in the photo below.) To give you a relative basis for comparison, Thomas Carey Founder of the Watch and Clock Forum and good friend of The Watch Lounge asked Frank Burgin the owner of CX Swiss Military approximately how many standard sport watches did he think he could make from the same amount of material used for the 20,000ft.
The answer: at least 2 or 3!
Having said that though it is important to recognize what this watch has been designed for, and that is not to be worn with a suit and tie! This is a pure tool watch, practicality takes precedence over aesthetics. That’s not to say that the 20,000ft is an unattractive watch because its not, but it does mean the manufacturer has not compromised on performance simply to make it look better. The timepiece showcases the exceptional level of craftsmanship Swiss Military is made of and represents the culmination of several years of research and development.
Thanks to its generous case size the 20,000ft sits very high on the wrist!
…But So Does Comfort
Still, despite its massive size the watch is quite surprisingly light, relatively speaking of course. You are definitely aware of its presence on your wrist but thanks to the titanium construction it is no where near as heavy as you might anticipate. This is excellent news for the professionals it has been designed for as it means it can worn for hours at time without pulling your shoulder out of its socket. It also means that whilst it’s comfortable to wear, you’re also conscious of it being there and so are less likely to knock it against things, which is a common issue with watches that sit high off the wrist.
As you would expect from a watch that has been purpose built and tested beyond the point of sanity the quality of the case’s construction is above reproach. This is a watch that has been designed to last and unwavering reliability is all but guaranteed. Everything about this watch feels strong and safe and you really feel like it would come through for you in an emergency situation. After all the last thing a soldier in the field wants is a watch that falls apart after a tough day at the office.
It’s also the attention to detail in the case design that really impresses me. Screw-in lugs instead of the spring-loaded variety mean that the bracelet or rubber strap is firmly secured to the case, and therefore your wrist. Both the crown and the chronograph pushers are screw-down, with the pushers featuring red safety markings which are only visible when unscrewed, thus ensuring an air-tight seal. The automatic helium escape valve is visible on the left-hand side of the case, directly opposite the crown.
Something to note also, which isn’t really clear just by looking at the official photos, is that because the watch sits so high the crown and chronograph pushers don’t dig into your wrist which can be a common issue for many sports watches, especially over-sized models. Whilst this may seem like a fairly innocuous point, it can make a huge difference in the comfort stakes. Check out the photo below to see what I mean (you can also see the brightly colored red safety markings.)
Crown and pushers sit nice and high so they don’t dig into your wrist.
The 20,000ft is powered by a specially designed shock protected Swiss Made automatic Valjoux 7750 movement that has been certified as a Chronometer, meaning it will not lose more than 4 nor gain more than 6 seconds per day. This means the watch is not only highly functional but also highly accurate. The movement features a 48 hour power reserve and chronograph function, with the date aperture at 3 o’clock.
I have to say though that in my opinion the dial seems a little small and cramped, given the 46mm diameter. Initially I though this could present a real problem, especially when under water, but after a second look I realized the clever design of the uni-directional bezel overcomes this. All the essential information you need to access when diving (i.e. elapsed time) can be easily read from the very clearly marked bezel and the over-sized minute hand means the movement of time is easy to keep track of, even with just a quick glance.
This legibility is further enhanced by the highly lumed dial and bezel. Unfortunately, my poor photographic skills are able to do the luminosity of this watch justice, however, I can assure you it is phenomenal. After a quick charge the critical markings on the dial and bezel become highly visible in the dark and it is exceptionally easy to read. As mentioned before the over-sized minute hand really does make it easy to keep track of the time, even in poor light.
Top Marks For Presentation
The box the 20,000ft comes in deserves a post all of its own. Crafted from wood and finished nicely with a black lacquer, it feels as strong and as well put together as the actual watch itself (a very reassuring sign in my opinion!) Beautifully finished on the inside in yellow, the case contains everything you need to enjoy your new purchase, including instructions, warranty card and so forth. The case even comes equipped with the tool required to change the bracelet (or at least one of them, as you will discover for yourself). A copy of the Guinness World Record certificate is also included as well as information about Swiss Military’s concierge service.
As you can see I’ve chosen to change my watch over to the rubber diving strap that was also provided. No real reason, I just wanted to show you something a little different. The titanium bracelet is also very comfortable and easy to adjust. Although some other brands cut corners when it comes to packaging CX Swiss Military has really outdone themselves, as the photo below illustrates.
The attention to detail in the presentation of this watch is truly impressive!
The Final Word
During the course of my review on this watch I tried to keep in mind its intended purpose. Yes it is a big, bulky watch but it has been designed and built to be worn and used in extreme conditions. On the rubber strap the watch is actually quite comfortable, although admittedly I did get a slightly sore wrist after a full day’s wearing (mainly due to the weight) but over a wetsuit I cannot imagine this being a problem at all. The bezel is highly functional and exceptionally easy to read, although as I mentioned above I found the dial itself to be a bit small for my liking.
Overall it is very apparent that this is an exceptionally well-made, high quality timepiece which will last a lifetime and then some. Apart from its bulky size the only other main deterrent will be the price, which at EUR 2,998 is likely to ensure the patronage of only the more extreme watch users among us.
Still, if you’re one of the lucky ones you may not have to spend a penny to get your hands on this watch. That’s right, in January 2010, and with many thanks to CX Swiss Military, The Watch Lounge will be giving away the above 20,000ft to one lucky reader!
Make sure you stay tuned for your chance to win…
Category: Watch Reviews