BACKGROUND The CLERC Manufacture, which dates back to 1874 is based in Genève Switzerland, they are a manufacture steeped not only in the traditions of watchmaking that go back through the generations, but a company that today with fourth generation watchmaker, Gérald Clerc at the helm are very much at the forefront of modern watchmaking, innovating and using cutting edge technologies; the Hydroscaph is no exception. It was first previewed on OceanicTime in March 2008 and then released a year later at Baselworld 2009; three years on and as you will soon read the Hydroscaph has not disappointed.
ASTHETIC The Hydroscaph has a look and feel quite unlike anything else I have ever encountered in a dive watch before. Complicated yet clean and elegant; highly technical, intricately detailed yet functional and purposeful. A contemporary design, which could just as easily be interpreted as being as futuristic as something from the world of science fiction. An aesthetic that magnetizes the eyes towards it, inviting us not just to gaze upon, but intently study its every detail. The Hydroscaph will fascinate and intrigue not only its wearer, but anyone else whose eye it happens to catch.
DIAL The Hydroscaph sports a two-tone dial, the upper portion a charcoal gray and the bottom half, a brushed titanium like material. There’s a circular white date wheel at 3 o’clock, which sinks deeply into the dial; CLERC have not compromised the 3 o’clock hour marker though. Below the date is the Hdryoscaph's ‘1000 M’ text; on the adjacent side at 9 o’clock a polished ‘CLERC’ emblem. This is quite a complicated dial setup, but CLERC have achieved a certain amount of balance and symmetry despite the numerous elements that are coming together. You can’t help but marvel at the sheer detail and thought that has been lavished here; it really is work of art.
SUBDIALS - 24HR-GMT (12 o’clock) This large midnight grey sunburst dial has been marked out with a 24hr time scale in two hour increments; CLERC have masterfully incorporated the 24hr marker with the main dial’s luminous 12hr marker, a kind of two-in-one marker; incredible attention to detail has been exercised here.
POWER RESERVE INDICATOR The indicator has been made from yet another material using yet another tone of grey. The scale itself, which starts with dramatic orange and black hazard warning stripes indicting a low or empty reserve, the rest of the scale marked out with six open segments through which the Hydroscaph's decorated movement can be viewed.
MARKERS Large luminous applied dial markers and Arabic numerals (2, 4, 6, 8, 10) with polished beveled surrounds create a 3 dimensional feeling.
HANDS Both hour and minute hands, which are semi-skeletonized have been fashioned from a brushed metallic material (I’m really not sure of its actual composition, possibly titanium). The hour hand is somewhat reminiscent of the phallic divers hands of the late 60s and 70s; there’s an echoing of the CLERC logo in the actual shape of the end of the hour hand. Both ends of the hands have been applied with a generous application of luminous material. The second hand, a long white needle with square base; but I wonder why CLERC didn’t put any lume there? ISO 6425 states that the presence of an indication that the watch is running in total darkness is needed if was to meet its requirements for a divers watch. Apart from this I think a lumed movement indicator would have worked very well; something for CLERC to consider in the future.
LUME The Hydroscaph’s hands and markers have been applied with a decent application of Swiss C3 SuperLumiNova. The lume, which has a greenish blue hue, glows brightly and holds it charge over time. I would rate the lume at very good to excellent. Actually I can’t tell you how pleased I was to discover that the Hydroscaph's lume was as good as it is; so often an area that is overlooked or not properly addressed.
MOVEMENT The Hydroscaph is powered by the CLERC Calibre C606, a movement made exclusively for the CLERC manufacture. This automatic movement comes with 28 jewels, 28,800 vibrations per hour, chamfered, Côtes de Genève bridges and blued screws. It has an independent dual time zone complication, power reserve indicator (47.5hrs), date, hours, minutes and seconds. The decorated movement can be viewed either through the openings in the dial or the spy hole on its caseback.
CASE 49.6mm of Grade 5 titanium composed of no less than seventy five separate components. The Hydroscaph's patented case is as technical as they get; the starting point; CLERC's signature shape, a perfect square, which is the foundation on which all other components have been built. Both lateral case sides are separate from the main case and are attached as the caseback is by specialized hexagonal screws.
The left lateral side, a beautiful arch with a large recess that runs between 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock. The lowest joint (at approximately 7 o'clock), where its hex-screw is has been reinforced with a separate interlocking DLC coated (?) joint. I would assume not only to highlight, but also to protect such venerable areas from scratches if ever the lugs were dismantled. At its highest point a similar joint, but with the GMT pusher doing the work of connecting the joint rather than a hex-screw.
The right side of the case has a similar arched structure, which has been broken up in two places; at 3 o'clock where the crown is situated and at 2 o’clock where the bezel’s winding operator is located. Both arches have been beautifully accented with ever so slightly beveled edges, which have then been finished with a high polish; this is the kind of attention detail that I speak of in my somewhat flowery text on the aesthetic and these are the types of details that make the Hydroscaph the phenomenal watch that it is.
FINISH For the most the Hydroscaph has a light brushed finish that shows off the grain of the metal. There are some polished surfaces such as the accented sides of the case arches, the tops of the lug shoulders and sides of the bezel. You might already know this from reading previous reviews of mine, but I don’t usually go in for any sort of polishing, however I have to say that the Hydroscaph's polished surfaces minimal that they are lend much to its overall aesthetic, they accentuate the edges of the case allowing the light to reflect and play on them; quite a stunning effect.
CROWN The Hydroscaph's crown reminds me a little of cog; the main structure is made from titanium, but there’s a large specially coated black center piece that can be seen running through its middle. The face of the crown has a vulcanized rubber insert, which has been signed with Clerc’s logo. Because of the very nature of its design (cog-shaped) the crown is a pleasure to grip; opening and closing is trouble free. However the crown stem itself is a little on the dainty side; I would have liked to have seen a rock solid crown stem, just for that extra added confidence.
GMT PUSHER A design which echoes the cog-shaped main crown, but with what appears to be either an enamel or DLC signed coated face. The pusher is lockable.
BEZEL The Hydroscaph's eight-sided titanium bezel has been fitted with a sophisticated locking mechanism, which is operated by means of second crown at 2 o’clock allowing the bezel to remain securely and safely locked after your dive time has been set. This mechanism’s winding handle has been ingeniously designed in such a way as to incorporate Clerc’s logo into its winding handle. To operate the bezel simply flip the hinged bottom half of the logo and turn it in a clockwise direction. The bezel’s action is nice and smooth, and using the winder albeit a little slower going than those more traditional types of bezel is so cool and so much fun that you will find yourself sitting and playing with it like a kid complete with grinning face.
Four sides of bezel have been beveled, these have been brushed as the case, the remainder have been polished. The top of the bezel features an elapsed dive time scale marked out in five-minute increments and Arabic numerals (15,30,45) every 15 minutes. There’s a large triangular bezel pip at 12 o’clock, which has been designed in such a way that the tip of the triangle, which sits on the top the bezel and the rest of the pip have been segmented in two and then further divided in two back at the top to allow for the bezel’s one minute / 12 o’clock marker to remain. The pip has been applied generously with luminous material.
LUGS The Hydroscaph has self-adjusting lugs allowing for the most comfortable of fits against the wrist. They are secured to the case by hinges and to the strap by a set of double spring bars; I’m not quite sure what the benefit of double spring bars are apart from them being twice as strong as single bars; that in itself is benefit enough.
CASEBACK The Hydoscaph's stunning case back has been secured by eight specialized hex-screws. Its most prominent feature after its HEV, which CLERC have cleverly moved from a more typical case side placement to the back, is an innovative spy hole designed for viewing the movement. These two distinguishing features again reflect how technical a watch the Hydroscaph is.
GLASS The Hydroscaph has a flat sapphire crystal; definitely one of those circumstances where a flat crystal is more complimentary than a domed crystal. CLERC don’t actually say anything in any of the Hydroscaph's literature, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the crystal has been treated with a dual coating of anti-reflective material. There’s no obvious tint that is often applied with AR, but the crystal is almost invisible allowing for an obstructed reading of the time from even the most acute angles.
STRAP The Hydroscaph comes fitted with a black vulcanized rubber strap; the rubber compared with most other rubber straps I have encountered is really quite slim and supple, there is absolutely no stiffness or rigid-ness that you can get from even the highest quality rubber; it’s extremely light and comfortable. The front of the strap has been designed with a series of vertical grooved lines that run from top to the bottom; the back has been contoured and signed. The rubber of the strap has been lightly scented with vanilla.
BUCKLE The Hydroscaph has a double folding clasp, its closure works very much the same was that a butterfly’s claps closes, but with a large titanium fitting that comes over the top of the locking parts adding more a feeling of security. The top of the clasp incorporates an engraving of CLERC's logo. This part has a lovely deep-brushed surface, whereas the sides have been polished. Open and closing of the clasp is trouble free; when locked it feels nice and secure.
WATER-RESISTANCE As its name might suggest the Hydroscaph has been built with the deep in mind; it is water-resistant to 1000 meters, a depth rating de rigueur of professional dive watches today.
BUILD QUALITY / DURABILITY The Hydroscaph is dive watch that has been created by a Genève based Manufacture (where all components are built in-house), its build quality unsurprisingly reflects this. Each component has been flawlessly executed, every detail finished to perfection. It is beautifully refined item that exudes quality and sophistication. My only real concern is, because the Hydroscaph has such a multifaceted case design the same kind of self-maintenance that I usually recommend with a titanium diver might not be possible. I’m not saying baby it, because I firmly believe that watches should be worn and used for their intended purposes, but be mindful that this is an expensive and complicated timepiece that deserves a certain amount care and respect. Would I take it diving? Absolutely, yes!
WEARABILITY Thanks to self-adjusting lugs, a soft, supple rubber strap and its lightweight titanium construction the Hydroscaph is an extremely light and comfortable watch on the wrist. I have worn the Hydroscaph solidly day in day out for the last month, it has been an absolute pleasure to wear; on occasion I have even had to check to make sure that I was actually wearing it.
On paper the Hydroscaph is a large watch; 49.6mm for some is considered almost un-wearable, yet the Hydroscaph despite its dimensions wears more like 46 or 47mm watch; this is probably due to its unique case design, where the case sides are separate to the main structure of the watch. It is quite a thick watch, but again because of its unique design and dimensions doesn't appear to sit up too high on the wrist. Lets say that it's deceptively small and wearable watch.
VALUE The Hydroscaph retails for circa 9'000USD, but a discount of 20-25% should be achievable from most authorized dealers. When measured against similarly priced watches from other upper echelon brands, the Hydroscaph offers as much if not more in terms of quality, but what you have is a highly complex piece of engineering that has not only been handcrafted in Geneva, but has been built in very limited numbers and to the highest standards that there are in the watch industry.
CONSIDER There is nothing comparable to the Hydroscaph, it really does fall into a class of its own. However if you’re looking for 1'000m GMT diver of comparable price and quality you might consider a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving GMT (46mm version), which retails for 10'600USD.
OVERALL IMPRESSION The Hydroscaph has all the sophistication of a Swiss Manufacture diving instrument, the complexity and technical know-how of a state of the art gadget, but with an über-cool transformer-like quality; you could almost believe the Hydroscaph is capable of morphing into some sort of deep-sea horological autobot. CLERC have taken a cacophony of components and details and masterfully composed them into symphony of sophistication and utility; the Hydroscaph sets itself apart from other high-end dive watches, not only by technical prowess and know how but by innovation and staggering attention to detail; we must keep reminding ourselves that despite this the Hydroscaph is still a robust and functional dive watch that is capable of a 1'000 meters of water-resistance!
Many thanks to Gérald Clerc.