PUBLISHED BY Joshua Clare-Flagg ON 7 Sep, 2013.
The Steinhart Ocean range of watches are extremely well known and highly regarded as a brilliant affordable homage to the Rolex Submariner. Their similar timeless design, great spec and high build quality for around the €350 make them rightly so stand out amongst the rather large crowd of affordable divers. The Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military, owes homage to the rare and rather desirable 5517 Mil-Sub (military submariner), which was a limited run of watches made specially for the Royal Britsh Navy in the early 70’s. The main distinctive features of the Mil-Sub over a standard Submariner is the bezel with the full 60 minute markers, the sword hands rather than the classic Rolex Mercedes hands, and the lumed hour markers. Anyway, that’s enough on the original, let’s take a look at how the Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military fares by today’s standards.
Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military Watch Review
First thing you notice is the bezel. It is very bold and attention grabbing with it’s unusual minute markers all the way around. It has a good thick scalloped grip surrounding the outer edge, providing perfect grip and is aesthetically pleasing. It is well machined and is not sharp or hard on the fingers whilst rotating the bezel.
Within the bezel is the domed sapphire crystal, which in itself is slightly raised – giving a two-layered effect. First a steep angle, then the lovely sweep of the dome. There is great double anti-reflection coating on the underside. Helped with the dome this is extremely effective to stop most reflections.
The 42mm stainless steel case is brushed on the top, and polished on the sides and back. It is very well machined and impeccably finished. This is most likely due to the length of time these cases have been manufactured for. They have had plenty of time to refine and hone the quality and finish of the case!
One thing which is a slight downside with the case is the extremely flat lugs. Rather than arcing in toward the wrist, they follow the line of the case straight out, giving the whole watch head a very flat appearance. This results in the watch head sitting very flat on the wrist, the top and bottom almost “sticking outwards” from the wrist. Many people have expressed their concerns with this. If you have wrists smaller than 7″, it would be a big issue. I just about get away with it, with my slightly larger than 7″ wrists. So anything larger than that would definitely be fine.
The screw-in crown is very nice, due to the great looking touch of the Steinhart logo being a major feature. The matt engraving around the logo is very deep and perfectly done, and really makes the logo stand out. The grip is good, thanks to the deep indentations all the way around the crown, which aren’t too sharp.
The crown guards fit snugly around the crown if you are looking at the case crown-on. Looking at the watch face-on, the crown guards extrude quite a far way out, resulting in maximum protection for the crown itself, yet do not appear to be overbearing from a design standpoint.
The screw-in case back has again, nice a deep etching. It has a seahorse with what appears to be a trojan on it’s back, and all the details around the outside edge. I am quite surprised to find that Steinhart have decided to omit the serial number on the Ocean Vintage Military.
The dial is all very flat with the deep matt black colour and texture drawing your eyes and all light in. Obviously with its vintage inspiration, the colours are all “aged”.
The super luminova vintage lume hands are well made, and are polished stainless steel with lumed centres. The hour hand is a fat sword, the minute hand is long and straight with a point, and the second hand is a very thin point with a small lumed arrow head on the tip. The lume is quick to charge and has reasonable strength.
The hour markers are not applied, but rather are blobs of lume on the dial. Personally, I prefer applied items on a watch face, which the Ocean Vintage Military has none, but it is understandable due to the fact that it is a direct homage to the Rolex, which didn’t have any.
The Steinhart logo is printed in the top half of the face, and in the bottom half there is a 1 in a circle (referring to the Steinhart Ocean 1 line, which this is a part of), a depth rating of 660ft = 200m and automatic. The depth rating stated on the face is actually incorrect, as the watch is rated to 300m, but rather refers to the rating of the original Rolex it is based on. Now that’s dedication! Underselling your specs to stay true to the watch you are based on!
The two important words “Swiss Made” are in their usual position at foot of the face. There is a white minute track around the outside of face, very well executed and subtle enough not to be overbearing. With all of the printing on the face of the Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military, the perfect white text contrasts well with the matt black dial.
The bracelet has often been one of the most talked about features of the Steinhart Ocean range. It is 22mm wide the whole length and sure is hefty!
It is also excellently manufactured. The solid end links fit perfectly to the case, and all links link together extremely well and move smoothly. Each link has a brushed top and bottom, and polished sides. This breaks up the surfaces nicely, and the brushed top means that it is more likely to last before ugly hair line scratches start to appear. The bracelet is also a doddle to adjust, thanks to the very well made, sturdy and dependable screw-in links. The links are all finished so well, there is no sharp edges or corners anywhere. They are also very well shaped on the underside, hugging and fitting the wrist in a way that results in a very comfortable wear on the wrist.
The clasp is something that I am not as keen on though. It is brushed on the top and polished on the sides to match the links. The top locking flap is completely polished, with the Steinhart logo deeply etched onto to top side of it. This top flap can be very hard and awkward to open up. Although this is good from a security stand point (as in it’s not going to pop open by itself any time soon), it can be annoying from a wearability standpoint.
The elbow joint of the clasp also feels very high quality and looks great to match, being highly polished. The only other thing I dislike is the thin moulded steel used. Although it looks ok whilst wearing it, it can feel a little cheap whilst exploring it with your fingers, as Steinhart have seemed to use quite thin steel.
Within the Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military is the bulletproof ETA 2824-2 Swiss Made automatic movement with 25 jewels, which runs at 28.8k bhp (8 ticks per second). It has a extremely smooth second hand movement as you would expect. It winds quickly by the bi-directional winding rotor (which means it doesn’t matter which way the rotor is spinning, clockwise or anti-clockwise, it still winds the watch). It has the average automatic movement two day power reserve. When you pull the crown out to either hand-wind the Ocean Vintage Military or set the time or date, the movement feels very sturdy in the hand, not flimsy at all. This gives you reassurance that you won’t break something inside by just changing the time (which has happened to me before with a cheap Chinese watch).
It would be unfair to compare the Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military to the original Rolex 5517 Mil-Sub, which fetch in the region of £100,000 nowadays. Rather, this is a modern watch, based on a timeless classic, which deserves to be compared to its contemporaries.
In this regard, all of the Steinhart Ocean range are amongst the best affordable divers available today. The classic design, well made case and bracelet, ETA automatic movement, Swiss Made, all for around €350 is very impressive. I think the OVM is a good choice for those who want something a little different to the standard Submariner look. The great thing about it though is the history and story behind the 5517. Sure it’s basically a direct copy of the original, but of a watch hardly anyone will know about and which is more expensive than the great majority of people can afford!
I would highly recommend his watch to someone to whom the design appeals to, which after all is the main question here. Do you like the looks of it or not? This is the only thing to consider, as it’s a winner by all other counts.