In-depth review: The new dive watch: the Franck Muller Skafander Classic
Review: Franck Muller Skafander Classic Diving Watch
Retail price is SGD 23,800 inclusive of GST for the version reviewed – titanium case, with black PVD. The Skafnder is also available in brushed titanium nd stainless steel at the same price.
It has been a while since we saw a new watch from the house of Franck Muller. The last few years seem to be filled with variations of their Cintree Curvex with various complications which are interesting, but not new to the brand. Like the Master Banker and Crazy Hours in countless dial colour variations among others. Perhaps the only fresh novelty since 2016 was the Vanguard series, which is their entry point and a sporty take on their classic Cintree Curvex.
And now this. Also a sporty take on the Curvex, the new Skafander case is a somewhat like Vanguard goes diving. The Skafander is a new collection with two lines – the Classic, which is reviewed here, a hour, minute, seconds indication, and the Chronograph with additional stopwatch timing capablities.
The use of the name Skafander is interesting, as it was first used by the USSR to refer to their standard diving dress or space suits in 1959. The design was primarily based on the work of Yevgeny Yefimovich Chertovsky in Leningrad in 1931 – called the CH-1, it was a simple pressure tight suit with a helmet without any joints. It required substantial force to move the arms and legs when pressurized. Chertovsky called his suit the skafander, from the French scaphandre (itself a derivative from the Greek skaphe (boat) and andros (man), meaning “diving suit”).
The case, dial and hands
The case is a development of the beefy Vanguard case, itself the sporty version of the elegant Cintree Curvex case which has become the icon of Franck Muller watches. In the review sample, this is a titanium base finished in black PVD, with a water resistance rating of 100m. And carries a red colour theme, Ref. SKF 46 DV SC DT TT NR BR TT NR ER.
The case of the Skafander remains the same basic shape. A strongly elongated lozange shape, with curved sides, and featuring a curved sapphire glass and a curved back plate. The curved case makes it an easy wrap around the wrist, and one which spotlights the genius of Franck’s Curvex case shape. As with the other Curvex watches, the fit around almost any wrist is snug and comfortable. Despite the rather large case dimensions which measure 45.8 mm x Length: 57 mm x Thickness: 15.6 mm.
A special feature is needed to replace the traditional uni-directional rotating bezel on the standard round diving watch. This is implemented in the Skafander as an inner rotating bezel operated by pushers on the case side which is housed at 8 and 10 o’clock. The two pushers advance the inner bezel by 1 minute or 5 minute intervals respectively. For example, if the inner bezel is at the default position, to line up the minute scale of the inner bezel to the minute hand at say, the 17 minute position, one just needs to depress the pusher at 10 o’clock 3 times, and the pusher at 8 o’clock 2 times. After alignment, inadvertent pusher pressing is prevented by way of activating a safety lock at 9 o’clock.
The dial itself is almost skeleton like, and implemented as an open dial with the dial proper in sapphire glass. The markings are large exploding bar indices. The rotating inner bezel is a donut shaped device which is moved and locked in place by the system described above. The hands are large – the hour hand is a baton with a pointed end, while the minute hand is also baton shaped but with an arrowhead on the end. The seconds hand is a rather slim number with a triangle pointer end. The hands are filled with thick lume to enable visibility in the dark.
And the seconds and minute hands feature a coloured border to easily differentiate. This colour is a model code, and is repeated on the lock, the first 21 minutes of the inner bezel and the rubber strap. In the review sample, this is red. Other colour options are available.
Overall, the feel of the Skafander is comfortingly chunky and solid. And the way it wraps around the wrist is something that needs multiple mentions as it is especially comfortable for such a large watch.
The movement: FM 2800-SK
The movement within the case is the FM 2800-SK Self-winding movement with bi-directional rotor system. This movement is essentially an automatic ETA 2892-A2, a strong workhorse movement which is suited for diving duties. The movement is rather small, at a diameter: Ø 31.5 mm and a thickness: 5.69 mm. It beats at a standard 28,800 bph with a power reserve of 42 hours.
The caseback is closed with 4 screws, and the movement is not visible. Based on previous experiences with basic Franck Muller watches, we do not expect any lavish finishing being done to the movement.
The competitive landscape
Dive watches are aplenty. Seriously, hundreds in this forested landscape. If we single out tonneau shaped ones, we are perhaps left with almost none. The retail price of just under SGD 24k, leaves the Skafander almost smack in the middle of the price pack.
A possible competitor, perhaps the closest fit is the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Meca 10 is perhaps another notable entry. It measures a very similar 45 x 14.45 mm in the tonneau shaped case. It sports a form movement in the in-house manufactured Calibre HUB1233 with a 10 day power reserve. This is a very nice movement and a major advantage to Hublot, though it promptly gives the advantage back as the case is rated for only 50m, and no countdown capability as the tonneau bezel is cannot be rotated. The black PVD titanium version retails for rather hefty SGD 37.4k.
Perhaps that leaves Linde Winderlin Oktopus in the landscape. The Linde carries a more angular shape, no less as attractive, and the latest is “glow in the dark” version retailing for SGD 21k. The Linde is made in their own Alloy Linde Werdelin – a unique material created for aerospace and Formula 1 but repurposed by them. The case dimensions are also similar at 44mm (w) by 46mm (l) by 15mm (h), with a customised Dubois Dépraz caliber 14580 Automatic. The Linde is rated to 300m, and does not have a rotating bezel.
And we don’t forget the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver possibly fits into this tonneau shaped dive watch genre. Of course, the iconic shape of the AP Royal Oak, exaggerated in the Offshore redesign is perhaps more desirable, and considerably more expensive in a like for like case material at a retail of SGD 31k. The Offshore Diver is rated to a depth of 300m, and an in-house AP Caliber 4308, which is visible through the case back and nicely finished.
This is a new genre from Franck Muller. A dive watch, rated to 100m is perhaps a misnomer given the name Skafander’s reference to the pressurized diving suit. Not quite a professional diving watch, as most of these models are rated to 300m or deeper. But as a scuba styled skin diving watch, the rating is sufficient. Or as a sporty daily beater, it is quite the watch to sport on the wrist.
The element of style, which is often a strong suit of Franck Muller watches comes into to play. Strongly. Dressed up in an urban environment, the Skafander slips comfortably into the role of a stylish, upmarket watch with diver and sporty vibe.
The Franck Muller Skafander was delivered to our studio for our hands-on examination and photography. Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC 4/120 Makro with HC 2.8/80 with H28 Extension Tube. Profoto strobes.