Watch Review: Isotope Hydrium

The beginning of the new year and looking out into the unknown of the months ahead. There’s always something a little exciting, a little unnerving and a little annoying….but the hope of each week is making it to Friday, now that is just enough, just enough of a taste, to keep us trudging forward. What better way to start off the year but with an unconventional and minimalistic diver from Isotope. This 300m rated diver, with it’s eye catching color of a dial and unique design language is definitely what I needed to go into 2023 with.

The Hydrium, with its lovely double domed sapphire crystal gives me a smile every time I look at it. This little watch is so packed full of details that makes it larger than life. As I spend more time with it, I will elaborate more upon all the different details which have come together in a warm, cohesive horological harmony.

Most of you are familiar with the brand but for those of you who don’t know, Isotope is an independent brand founded in 2016 by José and Joana Miranda. Isotope is based in England. I have had some chats over the years with José and he is definitely one of the good guys. He is always so kind and willing to answer any question about the watches. The watches that he so passionately creates. I was instantly drawn to the unique designs of his watches.

The “will return” was the one that gave me the 👀. You know what I’m talking about.
It’s like when we were kids and we saw a new toy commercial. We couldn’t pause or rewind. We had to hope to see the commercial again during Saturday morning cartoons. I remember when the holidays were approaching, my mom gave me the Christmas toy catalog. I remember drooling over the pages of toys. So many action figures on each page. Frantically compiling my list for Santa. That’s the 👀 I’m talking about. It was fun looking through those catalogs. Of course there was so much want, because let’s face it kids want it all! As the years went by, I learned that want and not getting was ok. Like The Rolling Stones said “we can’t always get what you want” When I was younger that wasn’t so easy to understand.

“We always wanted to make a tangerine dial, but distinct and unique, so, instead of using large indexes, we are using over-dimensioned, high-contrast hands with the shape of the Isotope “i”.”

The dial on the Hydrium is just as awe-striking as the case itself. Peering through the double domed sapphire crystal is an absolute pleasure. Why?!? Well maybe because the orange dial is a thing of real beauty. A quite simple dial but at the same time it’s packed full of lovely details. An example of when less is more! The dial has two-layers which highlights the exclusive Lacrima, which is pure Isotope DNA, and the index ring, both of which are slightly elevated. This is the opposite of a more traditional sandwich dial where the lower layer of the sandwich typically has the lume treatment and the upper layer has the numerals/markers cut out. The lovely burnt tangerine dial just exudes such warmth that it draws eyes to it when it’s on my wrist. The simplicity of the dial is quite badass in my opinion. The domed sapphire crystal offers the perfect window view for the orange dial but also adds to some lovely side profile views of the extreme dome of the crystal.

The squared hands are also a detail of beauty but they aren’t just a pretty face. They are filled with Swiss Superluminova, as are the indexes. I appreciate the minute/seconds track that is printed in white. The white set against the orange/tangerine dial makes for some optimal legibility in well lit environments and the lume allows for optimal legibility in dark environments. The lume on this watch was a pleasant surprise with it’s yellow and blue glowing hues.

There is very little text on this dial which adds to Isotope’s minimalistic design language. You can see the limited text under the 12H location on the dial and above the 6H location. I like both busy dials and simple dials, as long as they are done correctly. Isotope definitely did this dial right. I think it’s fantastic and is cohesive with the design of this case.

What do you prefer, a minimalist dial or a busy dial? Let me know in the comments below.

“The Burnt Tangerine is available on a bespoke watch case inspired by droplets and the fluidity from the Streamline Moderne era, a principle we have consistently followed since we created the Rider Jumping Hour.”

The crown is packed full of some knurled tastiness which merges together both form and function. The knurled edges of the crown makes for some easy to grip and screw action. As you can see in the picture above the knurled details are perfectly uniform which many people don’t realize that knurling is not an easy process to perfect with uniformity.

Now as you can see the bezel isn’t knurled but it is easy to grip and operate because of the saw tooth edges. Obviously it doesn’t have knurling but nevertheless it’s equally badass in my opinion that still retains that strong design language like the crown does. I do like the bezel insert on this watch but for my personal preference and to carry over the design language of this piece, I would have done a matte finish insert. The watch case is a lovely merging of refined soft details and rugged industrial details. Isotope combination of machined and micro-blasted stainless steel lends itself well giving the case that moody gray appearance. The rounded droplet lugs finish the case off beautifully. I would have liked to seen drilled lugs with secure screw-in lug bars, but I also understand why Isotope wanted to keep a more clean & fluid look to the Hydium’s lugs.

This is definitely a watch that has surprised me the new year. I’ve been following Isotope’s journey for a while now & I have admired each release. As you all know, pics only convey so much, getting hands on with a watch is when you can truly admire it’s beauty. I was caught completely off guard by this watch and it’s quality. We all are tired of hearing that “punches above” bullshit. I’m tired of hearing it too. Let me say this though, this watch knocks the crap out of a lot of watches that cost 3-4x more. Ticking away inside the Hydrium is a Swiss Landeron 24 movement which basically is a ETA 2824-2. I don’t get wrapped up in watch movements too much. Unless you are talking grand complications, watch movements don’t drive the cost of a watch. If the movement inside the watch keeps good reliable time and runs consistently, that’s good enough for me.

The screw down caseback is a thing of artistic beauty. It reminds me of a sculpture. A dive themed sculpture here though. It’s so badass and cool that it would make for an awesome EDC coin. The pics don’t do it justice but you can get a damn good idea of the badass uniqueness of it for sure. The Hydrium comes on a 22mm quick-release FKM strap with signed micro-blasted steel buckle. The buckle matches the case nicely. There is no denying that the strap is quality made. It’s extremely soft, pliable and comfortable. If that’s not your style of strap, the Hydrium looks fantastic on custom leather too as you can see in some of the pics.

The bezel and crown function are flawless. The bezel sits completely flush against the case, all the way around the circumference of the bezel. That was a pet peeve of mine with the Rolex I owned. Every single bezel not only didn’t sit flush against the case, there would be a gap bigger on one side Vs the other between the bezel and the case. Don’t even get me started on the misalignment between the bezel marker and the 12H position. That’s not the case here with the Isotope. The bezel when returned to the top position, the marker lines up perfectly with the 12H position. So those are just some examples how this microbrand has better quality control than one of the biggest hype brands, in conclusion, that’s why I can say with all sincerity that this watch punches way above its asking price. Makes me sad that a large majority just accepts shit quality control just because a name on the dial is a hugely recognizable. A higher price tag doesn’t mean better quality.

These are almost sold out according to Isotope, so if you want one you better act quickly.

Thanks so much for reading my first review of 2023 which is now my 10th year of my blog. I couldn’t have made it this long without your amazing support, so a huge heartfelt thank you!

Thank you to Isotope for allowing me to spend time with this amazing watch!

https://isotopewatches.com/collections/watches/products/hydriumburnttangerine

Technical Specifications

  • Micro-blasted case, 316L stainless steel
  • Case diameter 40mm X 48mm (with lugs)
  • Height 12.9mm (14.9mm with double domed Sapphire Crystal)
  • Hydrium Exclusive Stainless steel screw-down case back 
  • Uni-directional sapphire crystal/Stainless Steel bezel with 120 clicks 
  • Anti-reflective crystal sapphire
  • Screw-down crown at 3 o’clock
  • Isotope “i” hands and indexes with Super-LumiNova®
  • Water-resistance 300m / 30 atm / 1000 ft
  • 22mm Quick-release FKM strap with signed micro-blasted Steel Buckle

Swiss Mechanical Movement

  • Swiss Landeron 24, self-winding
  • Power reserve 40 hours
  • 25 Jewels, 28800A/h
  • Accuracy -12/+12 s/day
  • Decorated + Customised rotor
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