Titanium has been making its way to watch cases since the 1970s, when Citizen brought the first titanium watch to market. It’s since become an industry staple, with numerous brands offering titanium-cased options in their lineups. Titanium’s popularity stems from its unique properties—it’s lighter than stainless steel (making it attractive to use in larger case sizes), and it’s relatively anti-magnetic, hypoallergenic, and highly resistant to corrosion. All appealing characteristics for a watch case.
Generally, watches cased in titanium demand a higher price due to the additional work required to machine the alloy. Over time, however, prices for titanium watches have come down, and there are more affordable titanium options on the market today than ever before (click here to read our review of the Steinhart Ocean Titanium 500 Premium). Today, we’re turning your attention toward two successful (thus far) Kickstarter projects both using this material in their own interpretations of a modern dive watch.
The first is the H1 by Hamtun Watches out of the UK. Unlike many lower priced divers, the Hamtun doesn’t feature off-the-shelf parts, and is instead designed from the ground up to the brand’s specifications.
The satin-finished, grade 5 titanium case measures 41mm wide, 13mm thick, and 48mm lug-to-lug for an overall wearable size. The 120-click unidirectional bezel features a ceramic bezel insert with a matte finish (not unlike the bezel of the Tudor Pelagos) and big teeth for a sure grip. Right off four is a large screw down crown flanked by a set of prominent crown guards. The crystal is a double domed sapphire with AR on both sides for maximum legibility at all angles and lighting conditions. All in all, the case is sporty, masculine, and reasonably sized for a multitude of wrists.
The dial and hands certainly borrow from some better known designs, but the execution nevertheless feels fresh. The dial is an attractive matte gray with contrasting or tonal markers, rendered as square cut outs with a lumed plate underneath to give the dial some welcome depth. Taking place of the marker at four is a date window matched in color to the dial. Below 12 is the Hamtun logo that follows the same angles as the notch in the 12 o’clock marker. The minute markers are on a chapter ring a level above the dial, and dial text is limited to just “200M” and “AUTOMATIC” above the six for a clean look.
The H1 will be offered in three styles: white lumed markers, blue lumed markers, and a very cool blacked out variant dubbed the Stealth. Backers will be given the option between a matching titanium bracelet and a silicone strap.
The movement chosen for the H1 is the reliable Seiko NH35 automatic movement. The NH35 is often selected for crowd-funded projects to help rein in cost. Nevertheless, it’s a solid workhorse featuring 24 jewels, a 41-hour power reserve, a beat rate of 21,600 bph, and it hacks.
The H1 has already surpassed its goal with plenty of time left in the campaign. Though all the early bird slots have since been filled, you can still back the H1 for £190, or roughly $245, making the H1 a great value-driven package.
The second titanium watch is the K-02 diver from Akrone. The K-02 is the brand’s sophomore campaign after successfully launching and fulfilling the ceramic K-01 project in 2015. For their second go, Akrone is focusing on bringing to life a solidly spec’d titanium diver, assembled in France, at a totally reasonable price point.
Like the H1, the K-02 boasts a new case design with similar specs, though with a seemingly higher level of detail than the former. It measures 41mm in diameter and 47mm lug-to-lug. The titanium case is largely brushed, except for the mirror-polished bevel running along the lugs. The 120-click bezel features a knurled grip and a matte black ceramic insert with raised markers. At three you’ll find a prominent crown, likewise knurled to match the bezel. Sitting atop the case is a sapphire crystal.
There is a lot going on with the dial on the K-02. It features raised indices for the hours and the minute markers are on an inner chapter ring off of the main dial. Moving toward the center, there’s an inner circle half filled with a wave pattern.
The Akrone logomark and logo are positioned below 12, with the logo and “AUTOMATIQUE” raised but matching tonally to the dial. The model name is right above the date window at six, the latter of which is matched to the dial. The hands are unique, with Akrone claiming that they’re styled loosely after surface buoy markers found at sea. To me, however, they look like blunted arrowheads.
The K-02 will be offered in three styles: Black Manta, Blue Rorqual, Grey Shark, and Full DLC Black. Backers can also opt in for a number of different add-ons for a small surcharge.
The Akrone team has chosen a top-grade ETA 2892 for the K-02. Obviously this brings the cost of the project up, but the ETA 2892, especially the top-grade variant, is undeniably a great movement.
The starting price for the K-02 is €542, or roughly $610 as of this writing, for the standards models, and €570, or $640 for the DLC.