After reviewing their latest offering, the Peregrine, I was quite eager to get to know the timepiece that started it all for Draken – the Tugela.
At a glance, it seems like a cracker – Seiko automatic movement, sapphire crystal, 42mm sandblasted case, rugged good looks, rustic thick leather strap; all for a reasonable £225. It ticks all the right boxes: let’s take a closer look to see if it truly is a decent buy.
Dimensions: 42mm diameter x 13.5mm height x 48.5mm lug to lug
Water resistance rating: 30ATM / 300m
Movement: Seiko NH35A
Accuracy: -25.5 sec/day
Lug width: 22mm
Warranty: 2 years
Price: $420NZD / £225
Buy here: https://drakenwatches.com/tugela/
The case is a lovely example of simple elegance. The bezel and case flows through together to create an outward singular shape. Draken likens this to the opening of a flower – and indeed Mike takes a lot of inspiration from nature and his homeland, New Zealand.
The size is comfortable with a 42mm diameter and a reasonable 13.5mm height. It provides a good amount of wrist presence whilst not being too ridiculously huge.
The Tugela utilises viton gaskets – a synthetic rubber that is more resistant than the regular gaskets used in many watches. This means they have a much higher temperature and chemical resistance.
I find a sandblasted finish is always a nice alternative to the regular brushed. It provides a very tool-like appearance too, and will no doubt prove to be hard-wearing.
The bezel is the only real negative I’ve noticed with the entire watch. It has a minuscule amount of wiggle at the bottom right corner, by 5. There’s also a small chip of paint missing by 7, which is barely noticeable.
The screw-in caseback features a splendidly detailed deep-stamped landscape illustration. The quality is really impressive and not really something that you’d usually see on a watch of this price. Various specs are deeply engraved surrounding this.
The sapphire crystal is domed on top, with a bluey anti-reflective coating. The AR could do with being a bit better, but it’s nice to see it there.
The Draken Tugela has a pretty insane 300m water resistance. This is much deeper than I’ll ever need to go, and I’m sure that’s the same for most of you too – so it’s great to know that you’re really covered.
The crown has a great knurled grip and a very impressive and accurate engraving of the Draken logo on the end.
Everything on the bold, legible dial is flat and printed. The hour markers are all fairly unique in shape; a mixture of triangles and trapezoids.
The printwork is fine and precise – with the logo in the centre of the top half, and in the bottom half is Tugela in red and automatic beneath it. There is also a subtle minute track surrounding the outer edge with white markings.
The hour and minute hands are an aggressive, chunky sword shape. The majority of the hands are a matte finish, to match the sandblasted case, with the minute hand having a red border to the top section to inject a splash of colour and to help make differentiation between the hands. The second hand has a diamond near the end, a red tip and a thicker end for the counterweight. The hands are a pleasant unusual alternative to what you usually se on a diving watch.
The date wheel is also something that’s clearly been thought about. The numerals are lumed and in a which is really cool, and it’s black to match the dial. It’s actually quite surprising to get such a customised date wheel at this price. The date window is circular, neatly cut out of the dial with a red border which is connected to the minute track – this line is also red.
The lume is strong and impressive for the price – the hour markers, hands and date wheel all work together well to create a very legible experience in the dark.
The strap is made from a pleasant rustic, thick leather which smells great. It has a beautifully textured top grain which is soft to the touch and on the wrist.
There are a couple of little stitched pieces of detailing; at the bottom of the long length and at top either side of the strap by the lugs.
The buckle is the same sandblasted finish as the case and matches it well. It has an angular shape with squared edges, and the Draken logo deeply engraved on the top bar.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Tugela came with a spare NATO strap, black and white stripes. It’s a pretty standard affair as far as NATO straps come.
The movement powering the Draken Tugela is the Seiko NH35A: one we see so often in micro brands thanks to how reliable and affordable it is.
It has the ability to be regulated to a very accurate standard. However, this one is not, coming in at a pretty wild -25.5 sec/day.
The Draken Tugela sure is a lot of watch for the money. The specs and features are all there: Seiko auto movement, sapphire crystal, decent 300m water resistance, and lovely design. It also comes with a spare NATO strap and handy travel case (see the video review to check it out) – so it feels like it comes with a lot of thought and care.
I really like the sandblasted case, it feels like the Tugela is a seamless crossover of a diver and tool watch, which makes it stand out in a busy and rather overcrowded watch market at the moment. The only negatives are the lack of regulation on the movement and the slight play on the bezel. Let’s hope they rectify those moving forward. Otherwise, the Draken Tugela is a lovely piece for the money.