The watch world, especially the microbrand watch world, can be very interesting and at times, very complex. The Nomadic Pitch Black, and the entire Maraí 401 watch series, are just that. One of the reasons I wait most times to write these written reviews after I publish the video is because I like to see the feedback and I usually get some insight on what viewers think or have experienced with a watch. What I found out about this watch, was something I was not expecting at all. I knew this watch was very similar looking to a Tudor Black Bay and I had my own issues with the fact that I didn’t feel Nomadic went far enough to change the design and make it their own. But more than a few commenters pointed out that this watch looks a lot like another watch out there, one that is much cheaper than this Pitch Black, and it does change this review, and how I look at the watch. So, that is what we are going to talk about today and all about this new Belfast microbrand.
If you are reading this and have not yet watched the video yet, let’s recap quickly. This Nomadic Pitch Black, or more specifically the Nomadic Maraí 401 Diver, of which there are 5 different color variations, is a watch from a brand out of Belfast, Ireland and the brand name comes from the SS Nomadic, one of the other famous ships built alongside the Titanic. Since 2006 this ship has been back in Belfast, where it was built in 1911, and since then has been restored and transformed into a museum. With all that history, the brand’s marketing and now being assembled and tested in Belfast at the Nomadic Headquarters (as of late 2023, watches are still manufactured in Asia), I expected to see some of that reflected in the watch itself. What I saw instead, was just a Tudor Black Bay homage, with a different handset.
Beyond the yellow second hand on every model of the Nomadic Pitch Black, which signifies the SS Nomadic’s yellow smoke stack and yellow cranes at the shipyards, this watch is clearly meant to copy the Black Bay, though to be clear, not a one of one or replica, as we will discuss. But more importantly, it was pointed out to me in the comment section of the YouTube video, that this is the same exact watch as the San Martin SN008. Now, I am not familiar at all with the San Martin or Aliexpress watches. I posted this in a pinned comment on YouTube as well, but I just do not pay attention, research, or seek out these watches. That said, going over the site and looking at it, and then googling some customer images, it’s either the biggest coincidence in the world, or this is just a rebadged San Martin, with a different handset.
San Martin SN008-G
Now if you are not familiar with this brand or their watches, you may be wondering, why is this such a big deal. Well, that would be the price. From the San Martin website, their version of this watch with the SW200 movement, is $406. As you saw in the specifications, this Nomadic Pitch Black is $1000. $1100 if you choose the date. Now, there are a lot of variables here, and some things to consider. One, I cannot say with 100% certainty they are the same case, dial, crown and bracelet without seeing them in hand. If they in fact are, is the quality control the same? Is Nomadic assembling and testing them in Ireland as they say? Will you get a better warranty or customer service with Nomadic? These are all things I would personally be looking at.
But at the end of the day, the Nomadic Pitch Black, or Maraí 401, whether the same Tudor style case or not as the San Martin, is an homage to the Tudor. Now, I want to be clear, as some have already called it a blatant copy or replica. It is not either of those. The crown is different, the hands are different, and the bracelet is not a black bay bracelet, nor the clasp, so no, I would not consider it a 1:1 copy. I put it more in the same league as I would a Steinhart Ocean One. Similar, but in no way exact, with many differences that can easily be pointed out by one who knows the real deal, or even just sitting them next to each other, anyone with eyes should be able to see they are similar but not the same thing. Now, the price creeps in again though, as most Steinhart watches, with ETA 2824 or Sellita movements, can be bought for around $5-550. Nomadic is charging $1000 for these dive watches.
Beyond all of that, while this is a very attractive watch, much more attractive with its handset and logo to me, than the San Martin with the bad facsimile snowflake hands, it is still very much a Tudor Black Bay homage. And normally, I would be okay with that, but with this price and the fact that nowhere does Nomadic allude to this on their website, social media, or online advertising. No, it is marketed as a Seafaring watch, a rugged diver that can do and take on anything. A perfect design, a watch that harkens to the Belfast shipyards and one that represents the SS Nomadic. Yet it doesn’t. At all.
Now I am not suggesting they should have put shamrocks on the dial (as a sarcastic YouTube subscriber suggested) but maybe change up the dial indices. Maybe make a few of them like the portholes of the SS Nomadic. Maybe put a small illustration of the Nomadic Ship’s wheel on the dial. And more importantly, why not put stamped or engraved case back, with the SS Nomadic image in all its restored glory. Without any of those things I mentioned, if I put this watch in front of someone, even a watch enthusiast, and gave no context about it, they would probably just assume it was a modded Tudor Black Bay 58. They wouldn’t be wrong either, as that’s exactly what it looks like.
One thing I can definitely say is that the Nomadic Pitch Black, whether it is the same watch as the San Martin or not, is a very well-made watch. Compared to many micro brands, the finishing is beautiful, whether I am talking about the sides of the case, the polished chamfers, the finely brushed back side, and case back, or even the bracelet. Until I was pointed towards the San Martin, I just assumed that Nomadic made a very beautiful and well-made (or a factory in China did, which is still true, but they paid for nice high-quality piece) watch. I mean, they did. Or San Martin did. Or another Chinese factory did. Either way, this watch is very well put together, and even at close inspection on the dial, I found no issues, no lint, and no dirt, even the hands look cleaner than a lot of micro brands when you get up close.
The bezel is extremely crisp and satisfying to turn. The crown is not as satisfying, but still very functional and easy to use (though it does have that phantom click, as this is not a no-date movement, it is the standard SW200-1), and as I said, the bracelet, while not the rivet style bracelet (which I actually am glad that it is not), it is a very well made and solid bracelet, with screws in the links, very articulate and just drapes on the wrist. The bracelet is generic, but functional with a few micro-adjustment holes and the end links to attempt to mimic the black bay bracelet. All things considered, it looks and feels like a high-end timepiece.
If you have a much larger wrist than 7 1/2 inches (19.05cm), well, you may want to ask for extra links, as I only had to take two links out to fit my wrist. That said, this is a very comfortable watch, and being only 11.5mm, it makes this a very wearable watch, one I could easily wear every day. If they upgraded the clasp to one with some kind of ratchet extension, it would make it even better, but as is, I had no issues.
And you lume junkies will be happy as well, as this may be one of the best lumed watches I have had in hand for review this year, and that is some stiff competition. Not only is the BGW9 bright and long-lasting, but it is very evenly applied in each indices and hand. The yellow secondhand is not lumed at all, something they could address in future versions.
I have to admit, this watch and this review, have left me very befuddled. The Nomadic brand has been posting on my YouTube video, so head over and see the conversation, but they are saying they were not aware of San Martin watches, and not outright admitting to this being a catalog case and bracelet watch. Look, I understand. The brand needs that back story and the history of the SS Nomadic. They wanted to have some kind of lineage, and not just be another new microbrand on the block. Competition is stiff, and you need to do whatever it takes to stand out. All that said, I just wish they didn’t go for a watch design, that is so easily recognizable and iconic. I mean, Tudor is one of the most popular brands in the watch world today, and this watch has a very similar dial, bezel, and bezel insert, the case of a black baby, similar crown, case back, and bracelet, well, you can’t really camouflage all that with some pencil hour and minute hands and a yellow second hand.
As far as this Nomadic Pitch Black in hand, I cannot say I am disappointed in the quality. If anything I was pleasantly surprised how well made this watch actually is. And, it is a very striking watch, with a crisp dial, and a great-looking bezel and insert. I have no issue wearing it, nor would I moving forward. But that price is something that cannot be ignored, and true watch guys, well, they probably won’t. Hopefully, Nomadic’s second model, (apparently a field-style watch) will have a lot more originality to it, especially if they plan on charging the same price
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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