Watch Review: OWC Military Submersible

The MS-6538 case is 40.5mm case and is equipped with a 4.5mm thick sapphire while retaining a slim 12.9mm thickness. The crystal is treated with an AR coating for assisting with glare resistance.

The bezel and the 8mm crown both feature knurled edges. The Mil-Sub’s lugs are drilled and have a spacing of 20mm. The insert of the bezel is made of ceramic. Securing the bezel in place are four 1.0 mm screws.

This version of the Mil-Sub has a blue gradient dial with SuperLumiNova C3 coated applied indices and hands. Along with the new dial variant, this 6538 also features the OWC’s new version of the “snowflake” style hands. This version of the 6538 also has the new orange second hand.

The MS-6538 is the latest diving watch from the OWC (Orange Watch Company) in its ISO (In the Spirit Of) Series of watches. It takes its inspiration from the Rolex 6538 made famous in the early James Bond films with Sean Connery wearing this watch while saving the world from SPECTRE. This is OWC’s 8th iteration of the classic diver. OWC watches are incorporate some interesting technology which separates them from other “microbrands. Dan the man behind OWC, he remains quite busy always trying to refine his dive watches. He is like a mechanic, and ironically Dan has been quoted many times explaing his watches as “they are like a Porsche 911 – the same but different”

The DNA of the MS-6538 is obvious, as is the inspiration,  but the “devil” of this watch is in the details. Dan has gone through many changes in life and like life Dan has made many changes to his watches. Although these changes are hard to see, rest assure the detail is more than “skin deep”. The are quite a few 6538 models/clones out there, so why do we need another? What separates this one from the others? The MS-6538 is an inspirational piece with so many departures from just the inspirational. If you want a 6538 clone, this is not the watch for you.

The MS-6538 case is 40.5mm case and has no crown guard. The 4.5mm thick sapphire which is quite impressive given that the watch is only 12.9mm. This is where OWC uses pure engineering. The case can be defined as a “Fluid-Tight” case or a Super Compressor case. The MS-65-38 is among very few watches that use this revolutionary technique. To explain this in simple terms, the crystal and the case back are free to move. As pressure increases the crystal and back are forced together and the watch becomes more water resistant. This is not a new, with the idea patented by E. Piquerez S.A (ESPA) back in the 1950’s.

*Please note that many companies try to deceive with the “supposed compressor style case” that the watch actually has the compressor technology inside. Don’t be fooled by this blatant bullshit.*

The larger 8.0mm crown is an ideal size for function and appearance. The size and the knurled edges assist the wearer with the function aspect. The screw down crown operates with smooth threading without that “grit and grab” feel that is often found on other watches in this price range and above. The pendant (crown tube) is screwed (not pressed) into the case. There are added internal splines inside adding to the technical side of the 6538. The watch is tested to 30ATM (300m) of water resistance. The crown gaskets are specially sized and produced specifically for the MS-6538.

OWC has been using ceramic inserts for some time. Ceramic inserts are very scratch resistant, and they also tend to maintain their clean appearance for much longer than aluminum inserts. The bezel have no extra play during function of rotation. The 4 tiny screws on the side of the bezel aides in the cleaning process by allowing easy access of removing the bezel. Dan recommends having it done professionally because the l.0mm screws can be easily lost due to the delicate size.

Dan has taken the best that exists and had made it better which is demonstrated by the massive 4.5mm sapphire crystal with anti-reflective (AR) coating. The crystal sits on an O-ring and is secured with a crystal retaining ring (a la Omega Ploprof from the 1970’s). Improving upon just basic AR coatings, the 6538 AR coating are done in a multilayer process and include an extra hardening step, which not only increases the durability but also increases the clarity for superb visibility.

The craftsmanship continues inside the case of the 6538 as evidenced by the fact there is no movement ring inside the watch. Movement rings can move or distort over time. The inside of the 6538 is milled to the exact dimensions of the movement. The movement is then installed from the top and secured from the bottom. Normal servicing can be done by simply taking off the 6 case-back Torx screws. No other milsub does this!

The dial is now available in this blue no date version. The compulsory “snowflake” hour hand is present partnered with a and a very long stylish minute hand, which reaches out to the rehaut. I actually prefer the orange color of the second hand vs the red second hand found on other versions of the 6538. As many of you know from personal experience, superLumiNova C3 provides flashlight level luminescence. Like most of OWC watches, the text on the dial is minimalistic. The minute track has been moved from the dial itself to the rehaut (sight ring) which aides in making the dial super clean/legible.

The MS-6538’s bracelet is 20mm. The sure heft of the 4.0mm thick links adds a rugged feel. The links are 33% thicker than most bracelets on the market. The bracelet does not taper and has a butterfly deployant clasp. Dan explains this choice “some may find this strange, but being a pragmatist, most diving watches rarely see the bottom of a sink, this is more than adequate and makes it a perfect partner with cuffs and a suit.”  I have personally taken almost every type of clasp out their diving and I have never have an issue with any type, including butterfly style. Each link can be removed (torx screws again) and there are also 2 ½ links that makes sizing the bracelet for even the most elegant wrists a breeze. The bracelet is attached to the watch with solid screw bars, not spring bars. These are strong and while some MilSubs have fixed bars, the Screw Bar offers the strength of the fixed with easy attachment and removal. This is a detail that I rarely see and I completely appreciate. Something else that I initially didn’t appreciate at first, but as the years go on I completely appreciate, are drilled lugs. This little detail makes bracelet and strap changes so much easier and less likely to scratch up the lugs.

As I have discovered, Dan from OWC has OCD and is more than happy to be honest about his condition. He is a little too black and white, his focus is far more on engineering than it is on aesthetics. He has written extensively on the benefits of Torx vs Philips vs Hex heads. He uses Torx screws throughout this watch including the minimalistic case back.

One very small point that most will not see, is the changed solid end links. The solid end link is now longer and it follows the lug right to the end. I have never see this on any other watch. This means the first middle link is longer and the bracelet hugs the wrist better. OWC sources the parts from different manufacturers in different counties and they all arrive in Orange for inspection. If the part (including movement) is not up to par it is thrown away and the search continues until it is found to meet OWC’s standards. Each watch is assembled and tested individually. Every OWC watch is individually made to order which gives a special and individualistic feel to your timepiece. OWC is very transparent in their sources, they source from China, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Switzerland. Currently trailing leather bands from Vietnam, using OWC’s own leather. But these are not quite up to OWC’s standards yet, but I am very excited to see them once they meet OWC’s high standards.

OWC uses 2 physical identically sized movements that are worlds apart. The entry level movement is a 2892-A2 clone – not the cheaper and less refined 2824-2 or the popular choice amongst micro-brands, the Miyota 9015. OWC’s movements are made by Seagull, China’s premium  watch manufacturer. They are far more expensive than the 2824-2, the 9015 and the 6R15 and offer better performance. If movements choices were a tree, then the Soprod A-10 (now called the M100) Swiss made automatic movement would be towards the top of that tree. Currently only a handful of high end makers such as Sarpaneva use this movement. It is based on a Seiko 4L25 (unconfirmed by Soprod), but as Dan says, “it is the closest one can get to a Grand Seiko without actually buying one.”

Some might think that the MS-6538s price is on the high side. While it is on the high side when it compares to micro-brand watches on the market, but if you look at the engineering and overall design, the MS-6538 punches far above its weight. This watch that has clever engineering, great execution and understatement.

I want to thank Dan & OWC and Thank you all for reading.


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