It was back in the simpler days during the late 1990s when a certain dive watch enthusiast discovered a rare dive watch that dated back to the 1940’s. A watch that resonated with this dive enthusiast who was driven by passion and an idea, to resurrect this forgotten treasure of the deep. That idea then turned into a quest in 2008, a quest to raise it from the deep. It wasn’t until in 2018 when every thing finally aligned for OceanicTime to raise this treasure from the graveyard of the dive watches of yesteryear, the Hydrographic Survey Watch. Their mission, along with Crepas, was to modernize Britain’s “most legendary dive watch.” A dive watch that has been long in retirement since it’s active duty during World War II. This relic has been resting quietly in a museum, until being called to serve once again. It was to be the inspiration for Oceanictime’s vision. Unfortunately the desk of this veteran watch is quite unsuitable for every day wearing due to its shear size and weight of the solid Silver construction not to mention the well-oversized canteen style crown. Owning and wearing the original watch is no easy task they are extremely rare This military diver originally made by Longines, is technically referred to as the Hydrographic Survey Watch. It’s original mission was for the British Royal Navy frogmen that manned human-torpedoes missions during the Second World War. These frogmen wore the Hydrographic Survey Watch on their missions.
Fast forward to modern days and we have a much more wearable version thanks to Oceanictime and Crepas. The appropriately named Hydrographer comes in a 45mm x 15mm thick, stainless steel case. The blasted finish on the Hydrographer was my perfection of choice between the 3 available options. The Hydrographer is also available in a polished case and in a brushed case. The matte finish of the blasted version was the one that spoke out to me the most. The Hydrographer case is simple in design yet it is absolutely beautiful. Inside the case, ticking and beating away is a Swiss ETASA 2892-A2 movement. A trialed and proved rugged movement, ideal for this style of watch. The Hydrographer has an unique and an appropriate water resistance of 1942m. The precise 1942m is a nod to the Hydrographic Survey Watch of 1942.(1942m is signed on the bottom of the case between the lugs)
I was pleasantly surprised by the sterile bezel. When I first saw the pics of the Hydrographer I assumed that the bezel was fixed so when I had the watch in my possession, I was completely caught off guard when I discovered that it rotates. The two notches cut into the bezel allows for easy grip for unidirectional rotation. The bezel sits so evenly and tight against the case that it looks like it is a solid part of the case itself. I love discovering “hidden details” like that and thankfully it’s not the only one. The case back also has a little hidden detail which is perfectly centered on the case back. Unconventionally placed in the center of the case back is an automatic helium escape valve. I love this unique placement for the release valve. This placement helps to keep the side of the case clean, allowing the Hydrographer to maintain that sterile aesthetic. The case back features very minimal engraved text which continues with the consistency of design and history.
In my opinion, the oversized crown is the design highlight of this case. It not only pays homage to the canteen crown of the 1940’s Longines watch that the British Navy used for the hydrographic survey, but it is modernized for more functional use. In my opinion the Hydrographic Survey Watch was the British answer to the Italian Navy’s Panerai watches. I actually prefer the more manageable version of the crown on the Hydrographer as opposed to the chained canteen of its predecessor/inspiration. Obviously the Hydrographer’s crown is extremely easy to grip but thankfully it functions flawlessly/smoothly when manually winding it & when setting the time. The edges of the crown assist with it’s operation no matter what environment you may be in. During my review I was fortunate enough to test this out in cold environments filled with snow, ice, rain, dirt, etc…. so I can tell you with complete certainty that it functioned without flaw no matter what the weather may be. The wired lug style on the Hydrographer is a nice nod historical but again the historical nod comes with a modern take. Thankfully the modern take on the Hydrographer doesn’t have solid wire lugs. In the past the solid continuous wire lug would prohibit you from completing a strap change. The modern design instead has lugs designed with a spring bar. The Hydrographer does come with a nice calf leather and a nice nylon strap. Jacob straps did an excellent job on the straps. The craftsmanship is great quality and so are the materials they use. To add to the personal experience, the straps are made to size and order. Like a lot of watch lovers, I always have to change my straps up. (as you can see in the pictures in this review.) My personal favorite combo is the Vario Crazy Horse leather coal black Zulu strap. For those of you who love changing the “shoes” on your watches, the Hydrographer has a lug space of 22mm. Be warned, the Hydrographer loves to change it shoes.
Below the gorgeous raised 5.50 mm thick sapphire crystal is the equally gorgeous matte black dial. The dial is simplistically clean like the case itself. The first charm of the Hydrographer is it’s historical inspiration and the second charm is it’s simplistic design. The Hydrographer is a prime example of when less is more. The simplistic dial consists of 12, 3, 6, with rectangular painted markers located at the in between hours. I like the faux patina color of the hour markers and of the three hands. The cathedral style hour and minute hands complete the appealing vintage aesthetic of the Hydrographer. I like how the polished metal portions of the hands catch the light. You can see examples of this in some of my pictures throughout this review. The hour markers and hour & minute hands are coated with Swiss Superluminova “Old Radium”. Crepas is always dedicated to consistency of details in each of their watches. It’s one of the things I respect about them. The “Old Radium” details hold consistent with the overall 1940’s design aesthetic of this watch. I should mention though that the lume glows brightly green when charged up allowing the Hydrographer to be equally legible in both light and dark environments. The white printed text on the Hydrographer’s dial is perfectly simple. Located below the 12H position is the Crepas propeller logo and name, & located above the 6H position is the model name. This dial is simplistic and beautiful.
The Hydrographer is a very special watch that came to light because of one man’s passion for deep dive watches. A lot of us share that passion for those dive watches that can go deeper than any human can! We also share that passion for the history of dive watches, that without we would have no modern dive watches like we do today. I am glad that Lex Martine brought this project from dream to a reality. It’s a simplistic dive watch that has so much unique personality. It has that quality that Crepas is known for and the execution of detail that has allowed them to be successful for the past 10 years. Everything on the Hydrographer functions with excellent precision. There isn’t any “sloppy” watch making or quality control on this watch. The bead-blasted finished on this case is some of the best I have ever experienced. Crepas recently finished a second batch of Hydrographers, so once this batch is gone they are gone forever.
I highly recommend this watch to those who not only appreciate the history of dive watches but also to those who appreciate something different than just another off the shelf clone diver. It wears comfortable in all settings and environments. I was pleasantly surprised by how this watch doesn’t wear top-heavy. It is definitely on my top 20 favorite dive watches of all time list for numerous reasons. Some of the obvious reasons are because of the quality, design and execution, but on a personal level it’s because of Lex’s passion for dive watches. Quick story: When I was working 12 hour night shift on an oncology unit while I was going to school full time, I would go on Oceanic’s website. I would drool over the awesome dive watches that he would feature on there. It definitely helped bring a much needed smile to my face. I would always get excited to see the new posts of watches I would have never heard about if it wasn’t for Oceanictime. I know how excited Lex was about this project and his excitement/passion/love can be seen throughout this piece!
The Hydrographer 1942 is available for purchase for 850€ at: https://www.crepaswatches.com/styled-2/photos-12/index.html
I am sure many of you know who Lex Martine of http://oceanictime.blogspot.com is and if it wasn’t for Lex, the Hydrographer would never have seen the light of day.
Why did you choose this design?
“It is a watch that I wanted to modernize and reproduce for a decade. When my 10yr anniversary (oceanictime) came along in 2018 it seemed the perfect timing.”
Why did you decide to commission the Hydrographer to Crepas?
“I had known CREPAS Watches since day one and always felt that if anyone could pull it off (the Hydrographer) it would be them”
Was it an easy process designing this watch?
“We spent months and months hashing out the best possible design. Although the design is so polarizing, it is one of my proudest collaborative projects.
Was Crepas aware of the was responsible for influencing the Hydrographer project!
“Actually even Crepas were unaware of the watch they were super excited and really put their hearts and minds into it. Nothing else like it really exists on the market.”
Thank you all for reading! Thank you to Lex Martine and Crepas.
– Diameter of the bezel: 45mm
– Diameter of the case: 45mm
– Thickness without crystal: 15mm
– Length: 52mm
– Thickness of the crystal: 5,50mm
– Diameter of the crystal: 33,00mm
– Space between lugs: 22mm
– Diameter of the crown: 8,75mm
– Thickness of the bezel: 4mm
– Thickness of the case back cover: 5,50mm
– Case, bezel, crown and case cover made of surgical stainless steel 316L
– Crystal made of sapphire
– Gaskets made of Viton and Tefzel
– Calf leather strap and nylon strap
– Hands and dial with Swiss Superluminova “Old Radium”
– Swiss ETASA 2892-A2
– Water resistant 194 atmos. / 1942 meters/ 6400 ft. Screwed crown and case back cover
– Sandblasted, brushed or polished case finishing
– Crown position at 3 or 9 o’clock
– Inside AR coated anti scratch crystal
– Turnable bezel
– Automatic helium valve at case back cover
– Made to measure leather strap by Jacobstraps
– SWISS MADE