Review - Andersmann Oceanmaster II 1000m Dive Watch
Surprisingly well-conceived and properly designed, the Andersmann Oceanmaster II 1000m watch is a modern-made quasi-retro-style dive watch that offers an enormous amount of bang for the buck. And I'm happy to say that this timepiece didn't fall through the cracks as we regularly sift through new brands and watches.
Frankly speaking, we aren't interested in more "me-too" quartz fashion watches or low-quality mechanical timepieces that aspire high but really never meet the types of standards we feel that people should be seeking even in budget-priced watches. Perhaps it is because we get contacted so regularly that we feel it appropriate to be picky, but most of the incoming new brands and models we hear about simply aren't the types of watches we can recommend or find interesting enough to write a few words about. If there is one reason many of the aBlogtoWatch articles focus on higher-end timepieces it is because the design and technical stories related to those watches are simply far more interesting to us.
With that said, we never stop filtering through our inboxes to find hidden gems like Andersmann - whose Oceanmaster I and II collections are the types of timepieces we want to share. So let's get a few minor complaints out of the way before talking about the things that I think so many people will enjoy about these timepieces. One of the things that may hurt the Andersmann brand is the practice of giving it a sort of "made-up" European name. The brand was founded by the obviously meticulous and watch-loving Raymond Chan out of Hong Kong. The watches are assembled in Switzerland. What often happens with new brands is a marketing "Euro-fication" which gives brands a name that is meant to sound European in what I believe is the hope that such a name will lend "credibility" to the brand.
This has been happening for years in the watch industry as well as the fashion industry, and several others. You can visit Asia, for instance, and see a large number of brands and labels meant to sound European that aren't even sold in Europe. This marketing practice is rather vast and common, and it might make sense in certain markets. With that said, in the watch world, we value a bit more personal authenticity when it comes to marketing and branding. Raymond Chan is probably correct in assuming that if he presents the Asian-foundation of the brand too much some people might come to negative conclusions about the quality and theme of the brand. This is a known issue in the watch world, as there tends to be an unfortunate anti-Asian bias. With that said, in my opinion, such a bias will have a difficult time going away unless quality minds and products with an Asian origin, in spite of being assembled in Switzerland with Swiss movements, are not presented as such more often.
Places like Singapore and Hong Kong are great hot spots of "watch love." It is common for collectors and business people alike to have the idea of starting their own watch brand not only to make money, but also to create their ideal watch product based on their own tastes and desires. In some instances, such as Andersmann, that desire is a vision to take a product they like and add their own twist to it.
I can't say for sure, but I am going to make a bold guess as to the idea that inspired the Andersmann Oceanmaster II watch: Mr. Chan, a Panerai fan, said, "how can I make a watch like that for the modern era?" It is no secret that brands like Panerai don't really innovate when it comes to design. In fact, they can't. Panerai along with other "historic brands" are sort of locked into an infinite loop where all they can do is recycle and re-imagine designs in their existing catalog based on the history of the brand. Panerai works tirelessly to innovate within a very narrow space that prevents them from really coming out with totally new-looking products.
Therefore, with Andersmann and other brands that come from the region, you get the idea that a passionate watch lover said, "what if I took the theme of a brand I love, and did something different with it that the brand itself might have done if they were more able to innovate?" You see this in the Andersmann Oceanmaster II 1000m starting with the dial.
Andersmann has a few dial options, but this one on the reference ANN0853 has the most Panerai-esque feel with a "lume sandwich" construction and numerals and hands reminiscent of the originally Italian brand. This same dial is available on the Andersmann Oceanmaster I, and both the Andersmann Oceanmaster I & II models each have more simple non-numeral baton-style hour marker dials as well. When it comes to the Andersmann Oceanmaster I & Oceanmaster II watches, they are very similar. From what I can tell, the only differences are the bezel styles which are totally round with textured grips on the outside for the Andersmann Oceanmaster II models and more geometric 12-sided bezels for the Oceanmaster I models. The Oceanmaster I also has a model which is totally coated in black, while the Andersmann Oceanmaster II has a model with a black bezel and polished steel case.
Before I discuss the case, I want to go back to the dial of this Andersmann Oceanmaster II 1000m which I think is very impressive. The luminant is excellent, and there is an additional point of lume as the pip at 12 o'clock on the bezel. The dial itself is totally matte with some light texture, and the design is almost perfectly symmetrical, which I appreciate. That also means no date, which goes with the more retro sport watch theme. Similar to how classic Panerai watches did their hands, the perfectly sized hands Andersmann uses are polished and filled with luminant. The seconds hand is "lollipop-style" with a lume circle as well. Usually, hands like this are improperly used against a polished or glossy dial, but here they work well playing with the light and offering excellent legibility and just a bit of visual attention-grabbing in the way people like from popular Panerai models.
As I mentioned, Andersmann doesn't feel like they are copying Panerai so much as taking the Panerai concept further than Panerai themselves have done. A watch like the Andersmann Oceanmaster II feels like something Panerai themselves could have made if they decided to do something new and different. Since Panerai and many of the Richemont brands have an edict to "stay the course," it prevents them from varying too far from their current brand DNA. This is a good thing if they want to focus on preserving what people love about them, whereas it inhibits a lot of natural design evolution that would occur if the brands had more freedom to experiment as they want. It actually seems to encourage brands like Andersmann and others to pick up where many of those more historic brands left off. Richemont has a distinct interest in preventing its brands from inadvertently competing with one another, but is has opened up a veritable microcosm of micro-brands that will increasingly try to create futures for the brands that are, in some opinions, too focused on their histories.
I say all this as a sort of preemptive defense of what I can see might be criticism of Andersmann for "feeling too much like Panerai." I think that feeling is intentional but without trying to be copies per se, as I explained above. It is a design philosophy, and I think among experienced watch buyers it is an excellent route to see aesthetic experimentation that would not exist if not for brands such as this.
Now, all Andersmann watches have the same large 47mm-wide steel case. I think the finishes might vary, but all have the same shape and 1000 meters of water resistance. The large size is intentional, and they wear as such. Though, for a 1000-meter-water-resistant frame, they aren't insanely thick, at 17.6mm. The lug-width for straps is 26mm, which is quite wide, but the included straps do taper a bit. The overall case length is 56mm, which is enough to have the watch extend past the edges of most people's wrists, whereas in a design such as this, it is almost sort of meant to be that way.
Uncommon for 1000-meter-water-resistant cases is the display case back fitted with a sapphire crystal over the movement. Here, Andersmann uses an interesting trick to make the movement opening appear larger so as not to feel tiny compared to the larger case diameter. There is a ring around the movement which is given an attractive perlage polishing that matches part of the polishing on the movement. The caseback sapphire crystal is fitted around this ring.
The movement itself is also very nicely decorated with perlage on much of the bridges and Côtes de Genève on the automatic rotor. This is all on the base Swiss ETA 2892-2 automatic which is used in all of the current Andersmann watches. Also, according to the company, all of their watches are assembled in Bienne, Switzerland (which is nearby where movements from brands like Omega and Rolex are made). The 2892-2 automatic operates at 4Hz (28,800bph) and has a power reserve of about 2 days. It is a very decent movement for the watch and more than suitable for the price.
The Andersmann Oceanmaster II case is totally polished save for the "diamond-style" texturing on the side of the tall rotating bezel. The bezel itself has a brushed gunmetal-toned ceramic insert which has the attractive appearance of brushed steel. It manages to have a sort of retro look with a modern construction - which I believe a lot of watch lovers will enjoy. Aside from the larger size, which I know some people will complain about, the only issue I have with the case is that the edges of the lugs are a bit on the sharp side - but it isn't really a big deal unless that is something you know you are sensitive to.
Attention to detail is very impressive throughout the Andersmann Oceanmaster II. One of my favorite details is the crown and crown-guard structure. The crown fits very well into the guard and screws down smoothly. I also really like how the crown edge texturing matches that of the rotating bezel, but on a more miniature scale. Notice how the end of the crown gracefully tapers down to reduce visual mass and is tipped with an "A" logo in relief. Of course, because of my name, I will never shy away from letter "A" logos.
Over the dial is a 4mm-thick and double-domed as well as AR-coated sapphire crystal that is fitted very nicely. The crystal offers minor amounts of glare and only a little bit of distortion when looked at from extreme angles. It also captures some of the Panerai effect that people like when mixed with the relatively simple and tool-like dial design. Around the crystal is the thick rotating bezel which clicks assuredly with 60 loud clink-clink-clinks.
Included with the Andersmann Oceanmaster II watch is a natural rubber strap along with a multi-layer leather strap. This latter strap is rather interesting, and I look forward to getting some use out of it since I've thus far stuck to the quick and comfortable rubber strap with its Panerai-style buckle. Andersmann even includes a strap-changing tool, which is nice, and the entire package comes in a travel-worthy Pelican-style water-tight case.
More importantly, with is surprisingly good fit and finish and high-quality parts, I would not have been surprised if Andersmann wanted to charge double the price that they do. No, the price seems quite fair for what you are getting, and you don't even need to "back" it as a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign. What you get here is the obviously meticulous work of a serious watch lover and his team after having gone back and forth on at lest several generations of prototypes. Watches like this deceive you with their simplicity, but I've seen enough like the Andersmann Oceanmaster II to know how rare they are because of how totally OCD their creators need to be in order to get the watches just right. If you are a fan of this style of watch and the Andersmann Oceanmaster I or II watches speak to you, then I consider you'll be delighted by the design. Timepieces like this are why seeking out good independent watch brands are totally worth the effort and purchase risk. We will continue to do our part in bringing them to you. The Andersmann Oceanmaster II reference ANN0853 watch has a price of 1,460 Swiss francs. andersmann.com