PUBLISHED BY Joshua Clare-Flagg ON 25 Jul, 2014.
I’ll admit, I hadn’t paid too much attention to Nite watches until recently. Being an avid fan of Christopher Ward, it’s great to find another British watch brand creating great watches. Funnily enough, Nite also work by the same online-only, direct to customer basis, so you’re guaranteed excellent customer service and the best prices possible. They were also the first watch brand to introduce tritium gas tubes to the UK watch market, over 11 years ago. They were recognised for their toughness and durability when commissioned to supply the British Military with a batch of MX10s. But we’re here to examine the Nite Icon, their latest model. The design and style is slightly different to the usual Nite watch, being more pilot/aviation based rather than diver/military. Costing between £300-£400 depending on the model, let’s see if it’s a good affordable buy.
With the case, it’s obvious that the Icon is based on an aviator design. This is mainly due to the thin bezel, large case size, dial design, and style and positioning of the crown. The Icon measures in at a 44mm diameter and 12.1mm depth, so it’s on the larger side of watches. Thanks to the quartz movement, it’s relatively thin, though, so it doesn’t sit too high whilst you’re wearing it thankfully. It has a lug to lug length of 51.5mm, which isn’t too bad considering the size. This is mainly down to the design of the lugs – it fits my 7.5″ wrist very well. The lug width is 22mm wide.
The entire watch is completely brushed stainless steel and beautifully formed. The case is spotless and made exceptionally well. This is supported by the sheer weight of the thing – it starts at 180g, reducing depending on how many links you remove, which is incredibly heavy considering there’s a lightweight quartz movement in there!
As I mentioned before, the case has a very thin bezel, allowing the large dial to be the key feature. The bezel is a mere 2mm wide, allowing the dial to have a diameter of 38mm.
The lug shape is not long, but is angled down to hug the wrist well, allowing a good close fit to the wrist. The lugs also fit with the end links of the bracelet perfectly, demonstrating the accuracy of the machining on the Icon.
The Nite Icon sports a K1 mineral crystal. I know what you’re all thinking. Sure it’s not sapphire, but K1 is the highest grade of mineral crystal you can get and is highly scratch resistant. Nite recorded the following video to show this:
So personally, I’m fairly confident that the K1 mineral crystal will last. You get the better shatter resistant properties that come with a mineral crystal, plus the better clarity. And the K1 grading means you get almost as good scratch resistance as sapphire too. There must be a reason why a number of tough watch manufacturers choose it, such as Luminox, Traser, and of course, Nite.
The screw-in crown is located at 4, a nod to the aviation theme. It features great grip, which is deep, well machined and offers excellent purchase on the crown to unscrew it. The thread is as sturdy as you’d expect. The crown has the Nite logo etched very deep on the end, which is accurate and fits well from an aesthetic viewpoint.
The screw-in caseback is all brushed, just like rest of the watch. It has the Nite logo etched in the centre, plus radioactive details due to the tritium (pretty cool to see that on the back of a watch) just below it.
The watch specifics are deeply etched surrounding the logo, and are divided into quarters by a small Nite logo between them. I like the thought and attention Nite have given the caseback. It’s not a boring aspect of the case, just serving it’s purpose. But rather it’s interesting and well designed.
The Nite Icon is rated at 100m water resistance, which means you can wear it swimming or snorkelling. This is made possible due to the screw-in crown and caseback.
On the whole, the case is excellently made, and exudes a real tool-like, “throw anything my way” aura to it. Although simple, it looks and feels like a high quality piece thanks to the spotless brushed finishing.
Nite specialise in GTLS (gaseous Tritium light source), which is an external light source using tritium gas and a layer of phosphor on the inside of the tube to produce light. No charging is required, the tritium tubes are completely self powered. They glow for about 25 years, slowly diminishing in brightness.
The Nite Icon has 15 tritium tubes – one on each hand and also one for each of the 12 hour markers. The hands and the marker at 12 are orange, and all the other hour markers are blue.
There is one thing to mention – tritium tubes don’t glow so bright you can see them from anywhere in any light, like an LED for example or some luminova. The glow is not visible in daylight. It only really comes into it’s own in twilight and darker (half to full darkness), where it really starts glows well – but only after your eyes have adjusted. At night, in a watch box of 15, the Nites glow brighter than all the other watches – especially in the morning once the lume on the other watches has completely discharged. So I just thought it was worth mentioning that they do glow well, but only when the time is right.
The dial itself is a galvanised sunburst effect thanks to the brushed steel finishing, which is in an outwards direction starting from the centre. This creates a very nice effect which follows the dial around based on the angle of the light reflection.
The only printing on the dial is the minute track around the outer ede, plus T25 (referring to the tritium and how many millicuries is in each tube) and Swiss Movement at the bottom. A small amount it may be, but it’s all very accurate and precise.
Everything else on the dial is applied, which is an impressive amount of detail. There are two sets of hour markers, one set being larger numerals for 1-12 situated on the outer edge of the dial, and a smaller numeral for 13-24 positioned just inside the larger numbers. The dial is well designed, as the two sets of numbers could easily clog up the dial, but the smaller numbers are just the right size not to take over and spoil the design.
We also have the applied word Nite located in the top half, and then Icon and 100m in the lower half of the dial. All of these applied hour markers are polished to a high level, and very well manufactured and fitted, even under close examination. No rough edges anywhere, wonky application or poor finishing. The only (small) gripe I have is that I would have liked the applied elements to be a little bit thicker, as they look slightly on the thin side. I just think it would have made the watch look even higher quality if they had a tad more depth.
In addition to the applied elements, the hands are also highly polished steel. You’d think that this would be a nightmare for legibility, as polished hands on a brushed dial is too similar and it would be hard to locate the hands at a glance. But surprisingly, it is very easy to read. The hands are so reflective, you can always see them against the matte appearance of the dial, which reflects the light in a different way creating a high contrast between the two.
The hour and minute hands are sword shape, with the tritium tube positioned along the centre. The second hand is a thin point with a wider section to house the tritium tube near the top and a rectangle at the base to act as a counterweight.
It’s always nice to see a dial with the light sunburst steel effect. It’s quite a bold move in this instance, and I’m sure some people would just much prefer the black dialled equivalent. But it makes the watch stand out on the wrist even more due to its light appearance.
For me, the bracelet is one of the best parts of the Nite Icon. It is all brushed to match the case, and is machined and finished to perfection. It is so comfortable to wear thanks to the soft curving of the underside.
The links are H shaped – it’s nice to see something different, and I think they look great. The links are all very thick, and gives the impression of very high quality.
The solid end links fit the case well with no wiggle or play, demonstrating the accuracy in its machining. The lug width of the bracelet is 22mm, reducing to 20mm wide at the buckle.
The links are fastened together using standard pins, so you’ll need a tool to resize the bracelet.
The steel deployant buckle is fully brushed and features the Nite logo at the top which is engraved with impressive depth. It is double locking, which feels very secure once it’s locked up on the wrist. The top flap flips in place with a satisfying click, and is secured well with no wiggle. The main body of the buckle is locked in place by the two buttons on either side, which when pressed releases the nipple on the deployant arm. Speaking of the elbow, it’s all very well put together and everything is very “chunky”, giving the feeling that it is very well built and won’t fall apart.
The buckle also has 3 micro-adjustment points, so you’ll be able to resize the bracelet to the perfect fit.
Being a self-confessed lover of thick, chunky, well made bracelets, the Nite Icon’s has really impressed me. The quality of the bracelet is excellent, and looks superb on too.
The movement powering the Icon is the Ronda 513. It’s Swiss Made, and Nite take advantage if this fact by printing it on the dial and the caseback. Obviously many would prefer an automatic watch, but I’m not too sure it would work in a watch like this. The Nite Icon gives the impression that it’s an action watch, a grab-and-go which is ready whenever you need it. It also feels like the kind of watch that doesn’t mind being bashed around a bit. I don’t believe an automatic movement would be suitable for these situations. Saying that, I’m sure many would welcome an automatic version, even if it had a more affordable non-Swiss movement such as a Miyota 9015.
The Ronda 513 is a straight-up 3-hand movement with no complications (no date). It runs for 45 months on a battery, although you can save 70% of battery power if you leave the stem pulled out when you’re not using it. It runs at an accuracy of -10/+20 seconds a month.
The Ronda quartz movements have proved themselves to be bulletproof and reliable, so rest assured you’re unlikely to get any trouble out of the Nite Icon.
There’s no denying the Nite Icon is a reasonable amount of money, this bracelet model costing you £380. But the watch is excellently made, and certainly feels worth it. There’s not too many watch manufacturers out there who specialise in featuring tritium tubes. This is mainly due to expense and also the fact that the tubes have to be applied to the dial in special certified locations, monitored by the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission). So you are paying for the privilege of this key feature. And I can’t help but feel that the tritium tubes are indeed a key selling point on this already very fine timepiece. If you’re up for going a bit tactical and want to go tritium, then Nite have got you covered.