Almost to the moon: Wolbrook Skindiver

In this blog entry I will show you a watch which probably most of you never heard of: The Wolbrook Skindiver Automatic. Let me first say, I am no big fan of microbrands. And I am no big fan of Kickstarter. So why did I order a watch from a microbrand via Kickstarter?

First of all is design. Ok, an inhouse movement or things like a ceramic bezel or other fancy stuff might be interesting, but I am a man with simple taste. The watch must look gorgeous. Period. And this watch got 99 out of 100 points in my eyes. The design is truly sixties, every part of this watch has vintage vibes from the bright arrow hand to the domed sapphire.

Even the movement is almost vintage… 😉 Inside the watch works a Miyota 8215, no hacking, but handwinding, a workhouse, no modern movement. It rattles like a snake and nobody would choose this movement for its precision. Miyota guarantees -20/+40 sec in 24h! But Wolbrook promised to adjust the movement to +/-10 sec in 24h. And they kept their word, my watch runs +6sec/24h on my wrist. The second thing they did is they changed the date wheel. Odd numbers will appear in black, even numbers in red, both in a really vintage font. This is called a roulette date and looks terrific, adding even more vintage style. And look at that back with the “Eagle”!

Back with “Eagle” from Apollo 11

Second let’s have a look at history. What is the story behind this watch? I must admit I don’t want to buy a watch without a story…maybe you are a frequent reader of my blog, then you know. Ok let us start: In 1949 Wolbrook and his sister Douglas (second brand of Wolbrook, named Douglas, but inside all parts were marked Wolbrook) were founded. You may never heard of this names and neither did I before. It was never a big watch company and it vanished only 25 years later in the quartz crisis. In the 60s they sold their Skindiver “Worldtimer” for a mere 20 USD (a Rolex Submariner was about 230 USD).

Old advertisement (picture copyright Wolbrook)

There was one well-known customer: Neil Armstrong, the to-be first man on the moon. He wore a Douglas Skindiver, not the one with the worldtimer bezel. His watch was sold in an auction in 2019:

Let’s quote Wolbrook from the Kickstarter campaign:
“The 1960s Skindiver “Worldtimer” was a solid, water resistant and highly legible timepiece with luminous markers and hands, large sweep second hand, distinctive hour and minute hands, time zone, elapsed time and 24 hours indicators. This mix of features from a diving watch and a pilot watch, makes it the kind of tool-watch “a NASA engineer and test pilot” would personally choose and wear.”

With both, design and history, on my mind I backed the Wolbrook Skindiver on Kickstarter. And let me mention this: with twelve Kickstarter campaigns before (not only watches) I can admit this campaign was the most professional managed I participated. Of course there were delays, but with Covid-19 in the background ruining and disturbing every supply chain the new founded French company made a terrific job. Chapeau!

Of course I chose the watch with the original Wolbrook design. There were many other colors of dial and bezel and even a PVD version but I think this versions lack some of the vintage touch.

They delivered the watch with a leather strap which I removed first hand. It’s no bad strap but for me it was clear from the beginning that this watch looks best on a vintage Tropic style strap. I found one with the typical Tropic pattern and some holes and I think that’s the perfect couple.

Skindiver on vintage Tropic style rubber

Ok, you missed the campaign, but you want this watch? You can get one from Wolbrooks online store for a higher price. I think the current price of about 400 Euros is no bargain, but they improved the movement again. It now has a hacking feature. And you still get a watch with a unique design, a solid over-all quality and an interesting background.