OmniDiver Automatic OMNI-A-001
Materials, Case, Bracelet & Clasp: Grade 5 Titanium (Ti-6AL-4V)
Materials, Hardware (Screws, etc): 316L Stainless Steel
Crystal, Front: Sapphire, shock isolated Crystal, Rear: Sapphire, rigid mount
Weight: Approximately 178g with braceletWater
Resistance: 4000m (reduced due to rear window)
Case: 46.5mm Diameter
Bezel: 48.5mm Diameter
Case Height: 16.5mm
Lug to Lug: 53.2mm
Bezel: Unidirectional, 120 positions
Clasp Adjustment (no tools): 4.5mm increments X6, 14mm dive extension x1.Lug Adapter for Straps: 22mm NATO/ZULU, or 25.5mm SēL FST Strap
Today I am excited to be reviewing the Automatic version of SEL instruments Omnidiver. Before I go any further I want to point out (besides the obvious difference being the movement itself), there are some differences between the quartz version and the auto version. The areas that they share identical details you will notice that I used the same paragraphs from my quartz review, not because of laziness but because both versions share some of the same over engineered details. Now that is out of the way, let’s begin exploring this watch.
SēL Instrument is an R&D focused high-performance watch manufacturer located in Arizona, USA. Founded in 2013, our focus has been to challenge and deconstruct many traditional embodiment’s in watchmaking and re-engineer better solutions for rugged field instruments. In addition to our products, we have developed significant intellectual property with several patents pending and new research in areas including high-pressure sealing, thermal stability, and impact shock mitigation. We measure success not only by the quality of our products but also by the breadth of relationships we cultivate to support other watch manufacturers, defense contractors, and the end users of our products in the field.
The OmniDiver’s Kyropoulos sapphire is protected by a shock-isolating suspension mount. This assists with reducing the risk of fracturing the crystal which can occur from strong impacts. The crystal isn’t just protected from strong impacts but it’s unique mount also helps to protect it thermodynamically that can cause shrinking and expansion from changes in temperature. The crystal gives the perfect view to the busy but extremely functional dial. As one would expect from a military designed watch the dial includes 12 and 24 hour numerals. In my healthcare field of work I love the ease of having the military time included. If you have an eye for detail you will notice something on the automatic versions dial that isn’t on the quartz version. Take a closer look near the 3 o’clock position, notice anything? That small circular cut out gives a sneak peak at the jewel and shock absorber of the automatic movement that’s beating inside this Omnidiver. (Sellita premium SW-200-1 that has been adjusted to exceed COSC chronometer standards in 5 different positions.
The bezel on the OmniDiver is quite possibly the best functioning bezel I have experienced. It not only fits tight against the case itself but the operation is incredibly smooth. The smooth operation can be attributed to the silicon nitride balls that are ridiculously held to +/- .0001” gives the OmniDiver bezel the smoothest high precision fit possible on the casework. This bezel easily blows away anything I’ve experienced from other companies in this price range. Inside the bezel are large ratchet pistons allowing precise indexing in all of the bezel’s 120 positions without any counter-rotation whatsoever!
OmniDiver has special two-stage seals with separate low-pressure and high-pressure seals that react dynamically to hydrostatic pressure. SEL insured that the OmniDiver’s 6-piece titanium case to withstand 10,000psi. This helps reduce structural failures which could damage the seal integrity and adds to the overall water resistance of the OmniDiver which is 6000m by the way.
The OmniDiver features a screw down crown which is positioned at the 6 o’clock position nicely protected in between the lugs. Adding to the toughness of this watch, SēL crowns are pressure rated in the open position. Unlikely for most, but if you do forget to screw down the crown you are still completely safe if you go into the water.
“OmniDiver uses SēL MKI retention to integrate lug adapters and dual case lugs for bracelet or strap configurations secured with machine screws that are captive at both ends for increased strength. All that means to you is that you can change your mind easily, from bracelet to strap or back again, in about 30 seconds with a common hex wrench (included).”
What I really like about the bracelet on the OmniDiver is that the solid titanium links and cross bars are nicely spaced, allowing mud, sand, and dirt to slip right through. The automatic version has been in my possession since right before the Covid-19 pandemic hit here in the US. Working in healthcare has become quite stressful for me recently because of the increased physical and mental demand on me. The OmniDiver has been on my wrist every day at work. Keeping this watch clean as my hands is a lot easier with having it on this bracelet. I could not imagine having a leather strap on this watch right now which would act as a germ sponge.
“The SēL WavLock, machined from solid titanium, gives you 24mm incremental adjustment (4mm increments) and a 14mm auxiliary extension. That’s 38mm total adjustment. No tools required. Plus, when closed, the design puts all of the stress forces into the solid titanium bottom plate instead of the hinge and catch like a trifold does.”
As I mentioned in my review of the HAQ Omnidiver, the Tudor Pelagos is one of my favorite dive watches of all time. Something else that I have mentioned countless times is I am no fan of bracelets. The Pelagos definitely opened my eyes on bracelets and gave me respect for quality, well made ones. Before the OmniDiver came into my hands, the Pelagos bracelet was my personal favorite. The Pelagos bracelet is far superior than the overrated SD43’s oyster bracelet. The OmniDivers bracelet, especially the WavLock feature reminds me of the good craftsmanship from Tudor, but the difference is that the Omnidiver’s bracelet is on some serious steroids. There is a slight learning curve with operating the the clasp/micro adjustment but it’s a quick learning experience. It functions with fluidity and once it’s closed it’s solidly closed with confidence of staying in the closed position. The knurled edges allow for ease of sliding the adjustment over the WavLock teeth.
The science that SEL uses for the lume is a blend of europium, dysprosium doped grade-0 particles and UV transparent binders which makes for some of the “brightest and longest lasting strontium-aluminate illumination.” This lume lasts for hours, I am talking 18+ hours. My fun bouts with insomnia allows me to be awake at all crazy hours and whenever I was tossing and turning, there was the glowing lume of the OmniDiver keeping me company. The Omnidiver definitely has made me appreciate lume, not just any lume, but Omni-lume!
The OmniDiver comes in an appropriate box. It’s crazy large, tough and just perfect for this watch and SEL’s mantra! The Pelican 1300 case holds the WavLock Bracelet, ZULU straps, lug adapters, and a tool kit. The Wiha tool kit allows you to easily size the bracelet and access lugs for easy strap/bracelet changes.
It is hard to pick my favorite part of this watch. Usually the dial or the case is a clear winner in the race to my favorite but the OMNIDIVER is a clear exception to that. The dial and case are both winners in my opinion. The first time I saw pictures of this watch it was the hands that were responsible for catching my attention first. In person the hands are just as, if not more impressive. The second hand has mass, balance, and inertia optimized which contributes to accuracy and longevity of the movement. All three hands are everything I want and need on a watch, appropriately sized to the circumference of the matte black dial. My ideal dial must he be extremely legible in both day/night for quick acquisition. The Omnidiver’s dial has a unique military design which is consistent with the overall design aesthetics of the watch itself. Everything on this watch has intentional design cohesion.
This watch is not easily lost on the wrist because of it’s shear size but extremely comfortable because the lightness of titanium, the short angled lugs and the crown location. It actually wears smaller than the dimensions imply. The bracelet also allows a precision fit around the wrist. That detail isn’t by chance either, Andrew meticulously machines each side piece the bracelet so that when the bracelet is assembled it forms a wrist conforming circle. I like the fact it doesn’t feel like a toy watch like a lot of titanium watches out there feel cheap/flimsy.
Andrew made this watch because he was tired of watches breaking on him. The final straw was when he was looking down at the floorboards when on an important mission, seeing a watch bouncing around at his feet. Thinking to himself, that looks like my watch down there, WTF that is my watch down there. That day he decided that it was time he took matters into his own hands and he decided to design a watch that could withstand the requirements of his military lifestyle. Fast forward a bit and Andrew was ejected from a vehicle, his body sliding and bouncing across the pavement. Any normal human being would have been self concerned with injuries but not this super human, bloody and all, Andrew was more excited that his OmniDiver withstood this accident without fail! At that moment he knew he had succeeded at his watch designing/manufacturing mission!
Everything on the OmniDiver has been overthought, overdesigned, overtested and the result is a watch that functions without fail. For example, the crystal is completely free floating in the case. The movement is also floating but to a lesser degree because it is attached to the crown but the way the crown is engineered it allows the entire movement to float up and down a little by allowing the stem to change angle relative to the crown. What does this mean? Well it translates that any shock that the case experiences, it’s absorbed well before reaching the movement and if it’s a substantial shock then the floating case and movement move with the shock instead of taking “a direct hit.” I haven’t experienced a watch like this before. In fact, I can easily say that this watch has out-perform any tool/military watch out there that I have personally experienced/owned/reviewed. Designed by a professional for people who demand the most from their watch when it matters most.
SEL engineered quality that will handle the demands of your daily life. If you are out in the military field or if your daily missions are from behind the desk, this watch won’t fail you. If for some reason it does, SEL is there to stand behind their products 100%. Andrew has even gone so far to hand deliver a watch in person. I met with him in person before this review. He is what makes this inspiring, he is what makes it fun and that is often lost in this industry/community. Listening to Andrew enthusiastically talk about how even the smallest of detail is hand done by either himself (in fact he will screw down his crown and mark it to make sure that the engraved SEL will line up perfectly once it is in the fully closed position. A detail not even ROLEX does) or his small team was one of my favorite moments in my watch reviewing experience.
What would I recommend to make the Omnidiver a even better, more functional tool watch? One change I would make is adding a black date wheel instead of a white one. This is a more aesthetic change than a suggested change of function. Making the crown larger with deeper machined grooves for easier gripping and operation is my suggestion for functional change/improvement. On the HAQ version this isn’t necessary in my opinion. On the automatic version I believe that this is a must, especially if you enjoy winding the movement yourself.
I certainly don’t baby watches when I wear them though it’s never a pleasant experience banging your watch on door frame. The Omnidiver is the first watch that if I hit it on a doorframe or on a rock during a climb, that I don’t give it a second thought. I know that the engineering of this watch has been tested by SEL to be basically “bombproof” and I have spent months with the watch testing it myself. There are no concerns in my mind that this watch can’t handle anything I put it through when it’s on my wrist. Now that I have spent months with both the HAQ Omnidiver and the Automatic prototype, which version will I choose? Please check back in a few months to see which one I purchased.
A short but extremely informative interview with Andrew Founder/CEO of Sel Instruments.
What is your background, give us a glimpse of life before Sel:
I started SēL as I was leaving my prior career as a private contractor. My job then involved a ton of travel, basically assembling and running small teams to work special projects for a variety of organizations including governmental/non-governmental, private and public multi-national corporations, etc. I worked in all kinds of environments from maritime to alpine to swamps.
What was the watch responsible for your love of watches?
My love for watches really comes from the concept of a watch being at its simplest this self-contained utilitarian tool that unlike a hammer or coffee machine, has an excruciating amount of energy put into balancing aesthetic design, engineering, precision machining, etc. A watch is as much art as machine. A wristwatch, more than a tool, is an expression of who we are at our core. Just like with cars, I think you can infer so much about a person’s psychology and values just from the type of watch they chose to wear.
Portable timepieces were some the earliest engineering complications and I think that even today, maybe more so now, I appreciate this self contained and self reliant “computer” that will run for years with no charging cords, no fuel, no intervention other than just wearing and using it as it was intended. For example, we have a power supply for one of our quartz movements that has a theoretical autonomy of almost 10 years. In a properly clean and well sealed case, that’s got to be one of the most worry free things in my life.
I know and appreciate the story of why you decided to manufacture and start your own brand, please explain it to my readers:
I broke a lot of watches. Everything from $100 Casios to relatively expensive “professional tool watches”. I lost bezels, cracked crystals, broke straps, bracelets, spring bars, etc. I was frustrated with bracelets that required special tools to size. Straps that could be too loose in one hole, too tight in another. Bracelets that didn’t easily re-size from season to season or environment to environment as wrist size changes due to changes in temperature and hydration. Because I always loved watches, I started thinking about how to improve mechanical performance and reduce breakage. Nothing we’ve done is different for the sake of being different. Our engineering focus has always been function first. If it works better, is stronger, more adjustable, etc – we’ll consider it.
What is the most important thing that you have learned along Sel’s journey?
We have faced some absolutely huge obstacles in growing the company from a start-up concept on paper to a legitimate manufacturer of extremely high quality timepieces. I think the lesson learned was that never abandoning our original focus on engineering the product for the highest performance possible regardless of difficulty or expense was the thing that ultimately began to win over customers and start selling watches in the beginning. That commitment is what defined the brand and continues to reinforce our existing customers’ confidence and win over new customers. So many people tried to convince us to do things differently because it would be faster or cheaper or whatever and that’s the kind of profit-only business philosophy that frustrated us. We’re committed to growing a profitable company but not at the expense of our core values. The US watch market didn’t want or need another company importing watches from overseas that were for all intents, built identically to watches already in the market.
and also tell us about the best moment and worst moment so far:
There are several “worst moments” but the silver lining common to them all is that they each represent a huge evolution in the company that ultimately made us stronger and more capable. I guess the irony is the worst moments lead to the best moments. For example, during the very first submersion test we did years ago, our cases flooded at about 5 feet. Not kidding. It was something like .02% of our design goal of 6000m (19,685 feet). Months before, we had hired an engineering firm to help with the development of our sealing and built prototypes to their calculations. We thought we were just a few months from being in production. We were so wrong. They had done the calculations wrong which meant the 5 prototype case assemblies we had machined were now scrap. Sometimes the old adage is true – “If you want something done right…”, so we spent the next few months learning about high pressure sealing and redesigning our cases and seals completely. We moved all of our engineering, modeling, and simulation in-house. We also built our 20,000psi hydrostatic testing system. We developed the two stage seal we use now during this redesign and seeing the watch case literally crush under pressure while the seals still held was an awesome feeling.
Can you give us a teaser of what is in the works/future plans for Sel?
Our biggest focus is on expanding our product offering without loosing our focus on unique in the world performance and bombproof engineering. In the immediate future we’re working on additional modules for the interchangeable Exoskeleton that the OPTx is based on. Basically the Exo-1 is an ultra lightweight chassis into which different modules can be interchanged in seconds. We’re planning a digital option with GPS/GLONASS and some color options for analog.
We’re also working on some other designs like a smaller and lower profile dress diver or aviator but those are still very much in concept.
One of the biggest challenge has been resisting the urge to take on too much too quickly. For companies who do aesthetic design only and outsource production overseas, this isn’t much of a problem but because we have to do all aesthetic design, engineering, prototyping, process engineering, and production, making a new watch is a huge undertaking in terms of both financial and time management. We have to carefully balance current production to fill orders against time to work on new projects.
Please feel free to add anything you would like people know.
Retail price vs manufacturing cost. I think this is one of the most misunderstood aspects of watch manufacturing by consumers and definitely results in the most misinformed comments on social media.
Movements do NOT drive the cost of sub $10,000 watches nearly as much as people seem to think they do. Grand complications – sure. That’s an entirely different thing. But for our tool watches, it really makes very little difference if we case a chronometer grade HAQ or Automatic or even a lower grade quartz. The bulk of our manufacturing cost comes from doing real R&D, prototyping, higher performance case and bracelet designs that are much more complicated to manufacture, better raw materials, tighter tolerances, hand finishing time, rejecting (sent to recycling) parts that don’t meet our extremely strict tolerances, CNC machining EVERYTHING instead of using less expensive and lower quality manufacturing processes like casting, stamping, forming, and yes, making nearly everything in the US instead of overseas.
Before we even started promoting the SēL brand or the OmniDiver we completely destroyed 5 of them in destructive testing to understand the failure modes of our engineering and design. That’s $28,000 in retail dollars that we sent to the recycling bin before the company even had a name. Based on our findings, we improved the entire design and went into more testing. Thousands of hours (literally) and a lot of hard cost expense goes into developing a high performance product. But it’s also the reason we had no problem driving over one with a Jeep when you suggested that it would be awesome to see.
Design cost and product quality are typically commensurate. Take any average dive watch and typically you can wiggle the bezel around on the case because the fit between the two is very loose. It’s easier to manufacture a bezel this way because fundamentally, everyone wants a “smooth” bezel and the tighter the tolerances get – to eliminate the wiggle; – the harder it becomes to make it smooth. One common industry solution to retain a bezel on a case is a piece of bent wire. These are neither high precision or strong. I learned this when I watched a bezel I knocked off fall to the bottom of the ocean.
We hold a tolerance of +/-.0002” (+/-.005mm) on the critical features and use 12 high precision silicon nitride balls to ensure a “wiggle-free” fit, smooth rotation, and absolutely no chance the bezel will ever separate from the case until we want it to. In machining, we’re holing that tolerance on 21 different features of 3 parts to make the bezel function that way it does. No doubt there are less expensive ways to do it that can still be serviceable but our method is higher precision and much stronger and unfortunately much more expensive.
Take a standard off-the-shelf tri-fold clasp. These are produced from thin sheet metal in a high pressure form press. In terms of cost and time efficiency, it’s a brilliant solution. It takes literally a few seconds and a few pennies of material to make parts like this but they can not form the off-axis features and crisp sharp edges that are essential for our WavLock to function as it does in such a relatively small size. Each of our three main clasp components take about an hour to machine from solid titanium. The irony is that even though our clasps are more expensive than the stamped steel alternative, they hold a much higher profit margin on theirs. That’s why we constant remind everyone that our business model is design/function driven, not profit driven.
Here’s another example. Titanium is not all the same. We use a domestic (US) produced lab certified alloy. The lab certification adds expense in itself BUT the requirement that the raw materials are certified before melting, along with the entire process to guarantee the alloy composition is very expensive. Buying uncertified material from overseas is a gamble. Sometimes it’s what it should be, sometimes not. The result is that our titanium is almost twice as expensive as non-certified alloy. We will not represent an alloy to our customer as Ti-6AL-4V unless we’re absolutely certain it actually is.
And, I could go on like this for hours but I think the most important thing for people to know is that to us, more important that the brand you’re wearing or what it cost you, is that that you love it and that it works for you. Buy what works for you. If you like a $75 digital watch with a plastic case, go for it! I wore them for years. If you can afford a $20,000 or $100,000 luxury watch, and that’s what you want, buy it! Everyone’s needs are different just as their realities (financial and otherwise) are different too. One thing we try to remember is how lucky we are to be doing what we do everyday. There are so many people who struggle with the most basic necessities of life and so many people who are still giving their all in high risk environments so that we can have a better and safer life. That’s why we donate 100% of our scrap recycling buy-back to veteran and first responder charities. It’s not much, but it’s something we can do to help. V/r,
Andrew McLean, Founder/CEO
SēL Instrument – Arizona, U.S.A.
SēL is a First-Responder owned company.
Thank you all so much for reading!