We have long spoken of our love for simple and easy to read dive watches. In fact, many dive watches have built a cult following by offering a no-nonsense approach to accuracy and legibility. Perhaps most famously, watches like the Panerai Luminor, Rolex Sea-Dweller, and even brands like Marathon have developed their tool divers into an entire brand image.
I have always liked Panerai divers but the entry cost is very high and one could easily purchase an entire collection of great watches for the cost of a new Luminor. Nevertheless, the style is timeless and has endured, remaining largely unchanged since the 1930's. That simple dial and wide case is distinct, and it represents one of the most beautiful (and copied) dive watch designs seen in modern timepieces. For the past couple of years, I have been searching for a watch that shared that similar ethos, but did so in a unique and distinctive way.
This search led to Benarus; a small indie brand based out of Germany. I first came across Benarus while reading a forum post about their very popular Sea Devil model, and upon checking their site, I found the Moray — an italian styled classic dive watch. Much of Benarus's lineup is available in limited quantities, and this was the case with the black dialed Moray (limited to 50 pieces). I had to go to the second hand market to find one, and after a couple months of patience I came across, a well priced example. Now that it is on-wrist, here are the details:
- 44mm stainless steel case.
- 500m water resistance (about 1,600 feet).
- 24mm lugs.
- 120-click unidirectional dive bezel.
- Miyota 8215 automatic movement.
- Domed sapphire crystal with internal AR coating.
- Solid end link bracelet with screwed links and lugs.
- Date window between the 4 and 5 positions.
- C3 Superluminova on dial and hands.
- Limited to 50 pieces per dial color.
The Moray comes in a unique military style roll up case which houses the watch and all the accessories. It includes a wide set of accessories like an extra butterfly clasp, two additional leather straps, and tools to change the strap and size the bracelet. All of the accessories, warranty card, and spare links can fit in the roll up case and are secured by a leather strap. The watch comes with a lot of accessories and this is a nice and accessible way to store them.
A word of advice: the watch I received had never had the bracelet removed, and I must admit that I snapped a lug screw clean out of the fitting when trying to remove it. After speaking directly with Steve at Benarus, I learned that a defect at the factory left some of the watches with loc-tite on the lug screws. This is an unfortunate way to get a watch — second-hand deal not-withstanding. Steve was kind enough to send a set of lug screws via mail, and in the process, portrayed one of the best reasons to consider a good boutique brand for your next watch: top notch customer service. A couple of emails and what could have been a nightmare for a buyer new to the brand turned into an opportunity for a repeat purchase.
Once the new lug bars were installed, I quickly removed the bracelet and tried out the included leather straps. My set came with a thick high tan leather (almost a suede finish), and a classy black alligator strap. Both are very nice, but this watch is best on the bracelet. It is fantastically well built: a 5 link screwed in design that is quiet and has yet to pull any hairs.
I also tried the watch on a run down Hirsch Liberty (likely the best leather sport strap under $30), and a Maratac Elite composite strap. The Benarus Moray seems to look good on anything. After many changes (the new screws are holding up brilliantly), I have settled on the bracelet; it is one of the few examples that would be comparable to the bracelet on the Seiko Monster (SKX779) and thanks to screwed links (not collar pins), the Benarus bracelet is far easier to size.
The case is likely my favorite part of this watch; nothing I have ever had compares to the shape and finish of the Moray case. The sides are beautifully sculpted and the lugs extend from the bottom of the case in a way that compliments almost any strap, or the bracelet. The design is very fluid, and it sits perfectly on my wrist. It is solid, smooth, and has a very vintage feel to it. The crown is a lovely size and features the Benarus three dolphin logo on its edge. The bezel is a simple 120 click dive timer that fits the case perfectly with no play, wiggle or flex. The appeal of any case is in its details which is where the Moray excels. Its retro design seamlessly integrates with the solid end links of the bracelet.
The dial is quite unique as well; it is a very dark grey/black with a slightly tactile metallic tone — not glossy or smooth. It's very hard to describe, and I have attempted to capture it in the photos. The markers and numbers on the dial are not inlaid but appear to be made of painted on C3 luminous paint. The lume is first rate; it charges quickly and lasted well into the night or through a movie. The hour and second hand have metallic edges while the minute hand has orange edges that cause it to stand out. This is my only issue with the Moray: I'm not a big fan of the continuity of the orange hand. It's not bad, but it really stands out. (The Ocean7 LM-2 has a similar orange minute hand, but it matches the orange accents on the reflector, second hand, and logo.)
The dial is almost sterile, only indicating the brand, the automatic movement, and the water resistance. The date window is small and unobtrusive with white text on a black wheel located between the 4 and 5 markers. The dial design is very similar to that found on Panerai watches, but the hands, date window, and paint application has little in common with Panerai. The sterile dial with its very legible hands and large numerals is fantastic to use, and a breeze to read in low light conditions. There is no chapter ring — just a stainless steel space between the dial and domed sapphire crystal.
The crystal features an internal anti-reflective coating that does successfully lessen the effects of glare. The domed shape of the crystal meets flush against the bezel and, while it is a small detail, the tight fit will prevent nicks in the edge of the crystal and lint or dust from taking up residence in the space.
The Moray is powered by the excellent Miyota 8215 automatic movement seen in many Citizen automatics and it gives the Moray a 45 hour power reserve and handwind capability. On my wrist after a few weeks of wear, the watch was running just about 5-7 seconds fast over a given day, spending its nights in a display case facing dial up. This is very close to COSC timing and is very similar to the Halios Holotype which uses the same movement. I wore the Moray exclusively for weeks and can attest that it is very
accurate, sturdy, and fits easily under all of my sleeves (including a
suit). The Moray does exhibit the same rotor noise found in almost all
Miyota based watches (when you move your wrist fast enough, you will
likely hear the rotor spinning inside the case).
The Benarus Moray is nearly sold out in all configurations; only the PVD with the British Racing Green (BRG) dial is left, and it is selling for $550 USD. It has been an big success for Benarus, and is well regarded on many collectors forums. The rare mix of vintage style, simplicity, 500m water resistance, and a great price point made the Moray a fast seller.
The Moray has quickly become one of my favorite watches. Benarus customer service has been great and subjectively the styling is nearly perfect for my taste in watches. After about a month of ownership, I have no complaints or warnings with the Benarus Moray; it is a solid timekeeper, very robust, and beautifully built.
By James Stacey