Allow me to introduce a new brand and model, the Marin Instruments Skin Diver. I love being able to review new brands such as this, especially when they have hit a home run their first time at bat, which is not easy to do. Marin Instruments has two versions of this model, the Standard shown here and the Polar, a white dial, and both are limited in production, 300 and 200 units respectively. The Skin Diver evokes many different models from the 60s when this style of watch became very popular, and many brands these days are doing their version of this style of watch, and I have reviewed quite a few of them. But this Marin really caught my eye, and this diver took a long time to go from rendering to production, a little over 2 years actually. And as of right now, the Polar model is still delayed, unfortunately. A Sellita SW200-1 is powering the Skin Diver and pricing is not exactly cheap at $1,150.
So, a lot to unpack here with this Marin Instruments Skin Diver. Yes, this is a brand new microbrand on the scene, and this is their first model. And I really don’t know a lot about the owner, Justin, as I only had a few email conversations with him prior to this review, but I can say currently he hails from New Mexico, so the brand is based in the US, but as you see on the bottom of the dial, this watch is Swiss Made. I mention that not because it brings a perceived better quality to the diver, but because it is unusual for a brand in the USA to have a watch Swiss Made, simply because of the cost. And yes, beyond the quality and custom touches of this watch, having it made partially in Switzerland definitely adds to the cost, and as such that cost is passed on to the customer, and now you have this brand new company charging almost $1200 for their first model.
Why am I concentrating so much on price? Well, because you, the consumer, the ones who are reading this, do the same. I think many know at this point, I don’t do reviews where I try and convince you that something is worth the money. We will get to if I think this watch is worth it or high priced shortly, but there are not that many microbrands out there over the $1000 price point. Yes, there are some, but the majority are well under that price point, so it begs the question, why is it so expensive? I can’t answer that definitely of course, but it does appear this is not a catalog case, it is a custom dial, it’s a custom rubber strap, which for those who are not aware, gets quite pricey, and yes, it has a Swiss movement and is marked Swiss Made, and only 500 being produced.
I do have to be upfront though and tell you I am enamored with this watch. It is one of those things that is sometimes hard to explain, but even when I first saw the images almost 3 years ago now, I fell in love with it. I have always had a thing for the skin diver style of case, and then this simple black dial with large, easily readable markers, the funky bezel, and of course, that custom-fit strap, just stuck out to me. You all know that feeling, when you first see something, be it a watch, a suit, a pair of shoes, or a car, you just know you love the look. And because I loved the look, I was hoping the quality was up to par, especially for the price, and I think I can confidently say I wasn’t let down, though there are a few improvements that could be made.
This is a 39mm stainless steel case and I didn’t realize until a few weeks before this was sent for review that this was 39mm, and originally I was a little disappointed that this watch was going to wear incredibly small, especially considering how small the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster wore on me. Fortunately, this is a large 39mm, and I know to some that may sound silly, but it is true. The skin diver case shape, the crown guards, and the bezel that overhangs the case by 1mm, all make this watch look and feel bigger than it is, which for me, is a good thing. The case design is familiar, the case profile doesn’t really have a curve, so this does still kinda flat on the wrist, but still comfortable. A brushed case top, polished sides, drilled lugs, a polished crown, and a polished outer bezel all look nice, but I still would prefer brushed case sides, possibly vertical brushing would look very nice, and hide scratches much better than mirror polishing.
Unfortunately, the crown itself is on the small side, and I find it hard to get a good grip on it, and coupled with the tight crown guards, I find it very difficult to screw and unscrew and set the time. Setting the time and winding the crown is smooth, but I just have a hard time getting my fingers on the crown and screwing it out or in.
The bezel action on the other hand is very good, with that coin edge bezel and it overhanging the case, it is easy to grip and turn on this Marin Instruments Skin Diver. One thing to note, this is a 60-click bezel, and if you are not familiar the feel is a little different, but still very smooth. That insert though, well the insert is one of the things that sets this watch apart, mostly because of the design and that 15-minute timer line on the bezel, opposed to traditional lume pip triangle and numbers. I personally love the look but have already seen some comments from others who think it is awful, and that’s the fun of this hobby, everyone likes something different. I have no idea how useful it would be to time while diving, but this is rated 200m water resistant, and I think it would be fine for recreational diving. The bezel insert is PVD-coated steel and fully lumed, and I know at this price many would prefer ceramic or sapphire, but even brushed ceramic has a sheen to it, and I think this black PVD compliments the rest of the watch, especially the dial.
Beyond the bezel, Marin Instruments states this is a dive watch meant for function over fashion, a true tool watch, and that is definitely reflected in the dial. This is not a flashy piece, the dial is black matte, with printed indices topped with large lume plots, a date wheel, and some text of different fonts, but everything works well together, it is very cohesive and most important, easy to read at a glance. It is pretty much everything one looks for in a true dive watch, nothing less and nothing more.
And speaking of easy-to-read, the Marin Instruments Skin Diver is also easy to read in the dark. C3 Superluminova is used here and the hands, indices, and bezel have been slathered in the lume compound it not only looks great in the dark, but this watch just wants to glow all the time. If you love lume, this will live up to your expectations.
Function over fashion is applied to the case back as well. This is a flat, no-frills case back, and really there is nothing more to say about it, that is exactly what it is. They probably could have done a nice etching of the logo possibly, but they went as minimalist as they could, again, very similar to the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster I just reviewed. Underneath beating away is the Sellita SW200, a copy of the ETA 2824, and for the most part, a very reliable movement, though some still complain about winding with this movement.
When it comes to how it looks and wears on the wrist, as I stated, this wears larger than you would think, and beyond that, this is a very comfortable piece as well, and part of that is due to this custom rubber strap. This is natural rubber, smooth and soft, pliable but not too pliable, and yes, it has that Bell & Ross style where the strap flares out under the lugs and gives you that wide (24mm) look but then tapers to 16mm. Overall I really like the way this looks on the wrist, and feels, and more importantly, it fits my 7 1/2 inch (19.05cm) wrist with ease, and still, a few holes in the strap left.
I say this a lot, but I always try to balance these reviews. Yes, the Marin Instruments Skin Diver price is on the high side, but it does also have a lot to offer in the way of a custom case, dial, and strap, a funky yet still traditional look, and even at 39mm, a great size for both small and larger wrists, as shown above. Being Swiss Made is still something looked at as prestigious by many, and there are many collectors who will not buy a watch unless it is Swiss Made. That is not something I honestly care about one way or another, and my only issues with this piece are the polished case sides, which is a real nitpick on my part, and purely subjective, and more importantly, the small crown and tight crown guards which made it hard for me to grip.
Marin already has another design in the works, the Fieldmaster, which looks really compelling as well, so I can’t wait to see that one in the flesh when it is finally produced. Marin Instruments may be new, but they seem to have the plan to make their mark in the mircrobrand world and this Skin Diver was a damn good first offering.
For more, go to the Marin Instruments Website HERE
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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I purchased the Skin Diver long before it was released. I love the look and feel of the watch. While it doesn’t compare to the Tag Carrera that I own, it was a third of the price. I would agree with the author of this piece that the crown is too small and not easy to control. I also find it difficult to pop it out to the different stages for adjusting purposes. Especially the last setting to adjust the time. I further find that although I wear the watch from morning til night, it doesn’t store more than about 10 hours of self-power once it is taken off. Having said that, it is a sharp looking piece, it has a presence on the wrist and it is extremely easy to read. Taking the good with the bad, I am happy with the purchase. Also, I am Canadian, so I paid the exchange rate, plus import taxes to get it.
Hello J, thanks for your feedback as an owner of a Marin! Yes, the crown is on the small side, really was one of my only gripes, but I have to say I did not have the issue with power reserve. It’s an SW200, so should get about 37-38 hours of power reserve, which isn’t phenomenal but pretty standard for these more base movements. I would possibly get in touch with Marin or maybe take to a watch shop to check the movement out, might need to be regulated or having something repaired.