Draken Tugela GMT Hands-On Review

Draken Watches Hands on Watch Reviews

Draken Tugela GMT

There are many GMT watches out there and currently, in the microbrand scene, quite a few brands are releasing GMT movements, with Unimatic selling out 100 in a few short hours. Unlike the Unimatic, the Draken Tugela GMT isn’t made of titanium, it is a solid chunk of blasted stainless steel and somewhat reminds me of microbrands of old like Boschett and Zixen, but has a tapered case design while still a little chunky, is only 42mm wide and has a crown reminiscent of Marathon Watches, not to mention a Sellita SW330-2 GMT movement, all for $999, even less with the code WR10, which will knock the price down to $899.

Draken Tugela GMT

Specifications:

  • 42MM Stainless Steel Case
  • Blasted Case and Bracelet
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • 14mm Thick
  • 48.5mm Lug to Lug
  • 202 Grams in Weight
  • Domed Sapphire Crystal
  • 48-Click Bi-Directional Bezel
  • Aluminum Bezel Insert
  • Sellita SW330-2 Movement
  • 300m Water Resistant

Price $999, USE CODE WR10 TO SAVE 10%

https://www.drakenwatches.com/shop/tugela-gmt/?v=7516fd43adaa

Draken Tugela GMT

One of the first things watch enthusiasts want to know when it comes to a GMT, is how the GMT hand operates. If you are familiar with the ETA 2893, then you should know that the Sellita version is pretty much the same. You set your hour and minute hand as you would on any other watch and then you can set the date or the GMT hand, rotating clockwise for the GMT and counter-clockwise for the date. So, some may be wondering, is this a bad thing? It all depends on how you plan to use your GMT watch. No, it does not have an independent hour hand you can set, as a Rolex GMT does, but they still both complete the same function, allowing you to track two time zones, they just go about it in different ways. The bezel is 48 clicks, has a nice solid feel, and is bi-directional, but you really don’t need to worry about the bezel moving out of place, as it is not sloppy at all. Speaking of the bezel, that insert is anodized aluminum, and those numbers and markers are filled with lume, and you can get a stainless version of this black dial, as well as a blue dial with aluminum and a lume dial, with blue accents.

The case design is what I would call utilitarian. Pretty much every surface of this watch and bracelet is finely bead blasted and as such, this is meant to be used as a tool watch, and with 300m of water resistance and highly legible dial, and the GMT function, this most certainly is a tool watch. But it also has that tool watch look about it, or what many have defined as a tool watch, that rugged and no-nonsense watch, that not only has functions but can take a beating and still keep looking good. It is true that this case and bracelet do not have a hard coating, and yes, bead-blasted watches do scratch and really you can’t buff them out, but you can get the watch re-blasted if you feel it needs it after a lot of wear, but I have found that blasted watches are kind of like a fine leather jacket, the scratches tend to fade after a bit, and the whole thing has what some would call a patina, much better than say a brushed or polished watch after a lot of hard use.

That doesn’t mean the case is perfect though. The look and feel of the Draken Tugela GMT are rugged, though no sharp areas or unfinished areas that I can find, and grip on the bezel, the massive knurled crown is exactly as it should be, easy to grasp and use. The bezel isn’t exactly what I would call a coin edge either, as the cutouts are thin upside-down triangle shapes and they do allow for a great grip and look, and that case, while still on the thick side at 14mm, does have a unique shape and taper, which does make this watch look slimmer than it actually is, but there is one glaring issue-maybe not glaring as the case isn’t reflective, but its the name brand engraved into the case. Some may say I am harping on this, as I mention this in the video as well, and this is an issue that is completely subjective. But I just do not care for this on watches and I never have. It’s like a billboard for the brand on the side of the case, and in general, I am not a big fan of watches plastering their name or logo on every part of the watch either. Draken puts the engraving on every watch they have done, and some may love it, but I am not in that camp. 
Case engraving aside, I do love the overall look of the case shape, not only because it does have a unique look about it, but it feels well, the lugs are not overly long at 48mm, and that allows this 42mm watch with a large protruding crown to wear well on the wrist. Now, as some have said to me over the years, well, you have a big wrist. I believe it is much more average than anything else, but I guess it depends on what size wrist and forearm you have for your stance on that. With a 7 1/2 inch, or for those in the rest of the world, 19.05cm, the Draken Tugela GMT looks and feels great on my wrist, though I will say while the size and length are good, and it sits relatively flat, I do find it to be a little case heavy, which is odd considering the bracelet is pretty chunky.

Draken Tugela GMT

While there are other colors of this GMT available, I went with the black bezel and the black dial, which yes, because of the black dial and the orange GMT hand, will remind some of a Rolex Explorer II, but black and orange have really become synonymous with GMT watches over the decades and I would say the stainless bezel version would be more similar than this one, but only because of the steel and the orange, that is where the similarities end. The bezel on this one is anodized aluminum as I mentioned earlier and yes, some would prefer ceramic, but I really enjoy the look of the aluminum these days, especially on a watch such as this where everything is matte and more subdued. The dial is matte as well, the funky indices, the hands, and the rehuat are all bead blasted, to keep down the glare, and for what I consider, a fun aesthetic, and keep things cohesive and for more pops of color, the model name, second-hand tip and the date surround is orange, and that date is down there at the 6, where it should be.😉

The bracelet of the Draken Tugela GMT is engineer style, thick and chunky, but all the edges are well finished, with no rough or sharp edges this bracelet fits the style of this watch well, and it has all you expect these days of a bracelet with screws in the links, solid end links, a slim but generous clasp with 6 sizing holes and is all blasted to match the bracelet. The one downsized I noticed is this bracelet tends to kink up a lot, and when it does, those blasted links are rubbing against each other, which is not ideal. Now, this seemed to happen a lot when I was constantly moving it around and positioning it for photography and video, and not so much when I was wearing it, but because of this, make sure you size it for a proper fit, as I feel if you keep it on the looser side of things, you might notice kinking with the links.

As discussed earlier in the article, this uses the SW330-2 GMT movement and as far as I can tell and see, this is pretty much the clone of the ETA 2893, as a lot of Sellita movements can be swapped for an ETA and vice versa, and that is fine by me, and Sellita is a proven manufacture at this point being used by countless brands large and small. The case back is again, all blasted and stamped with the Drakensburg mountains, with the Tugela River in the foreground, a nice nod to the inspiration and naming of not only the brand but the model and I am just a sucker for a stamped case back, and this one is no different.  I will mention though, because of the blasting, if you lay the watch down as I do in the photo above, that clasp will scratch against the blasted back and yes, you can see scratches. They don’t bother me at all but will bother some, so be aware. Keep it always on a watch pillow when not being worn, and you shouldn’t have any issues.

Draken Tugela GMT

Some would say I saved the best for last, and that is because they are lume junkies, and if you are one of them, this watch will put a smile on your face for sure. X1 C3 Superluminova is used, with I believe BGW9 for the GMT hand, and this thing just glows and glows. It is lumed pretty much everywhere, including the logo on the crown and it is not only bright but also long-lasting, with an easy 4-5 hours of readability, possibly more in complete darkness.

Draken Tugela GMT

Yes, the Draken Tugela GMT offers a lot of watches for the money, and the rugged look, while still refined, is probably going to appeal to a lot of people, I know it does for me, but I definitely prefer less flashy pieces these days. The looks are there, the quality is there, and so is that brand name on the case side. That would be the one thing I would remove, but otherwise, I truly enjoy this piece from the New Zealand brand, and even though I didn’t mention it, a standard purchase gets you the Molle pouch and nato style strap and for $26 more you can add a heavy duty canvas strap, that comes with a chunky blasted buckle as well. If you are interested, WR10 does save you 10%, which is a good chunk of change at $100, and of course, cheaper is always better and makes it even more appealing, but remember, I  get nothing out of it whether you buy or not, it was just a nice gesture for our readers from Michael at Draken Watches. Hopefully, I can get my hands on a few more pieces from this brand to review, I really like the look and style and the Kruger Chronograph has my eye, and is a much more budget-oriented model with a price that starts at $450 USD.
Thanks for reading, make sure to check out the video and of course, follow on social media to stay up to date with all things Watch Report.

I've been an avid watch lover since the age of 7. Watches are not only my hobby but a passion. My favorite style used to be dive watches, but field or non bezel watches have been growing on me. When I'm not reviewing watches I am either cooking or with family and friends.

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