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I have to say, when I first saw the Pantor Sealion go up for preorder, I was a little befuddled. Not because I thought the watch was unattractive or overpriced, but because I felt the design has been done many times before. Let’s face it, this case design or very similar has been used by iconic brands such as Eterna, Aquadive and many microbrands the past few years. It is that cushion style case with short lugs and a thick, easy to grip dive bezel. So why would Pantor come out with what many say is an overused design? Well, we can say the same about Rolex sub homages as well, which never seem to stop. ( I currently have one in the air on its way for review). Putting all that aside, I do feel the Pantor Sealion is worth grabbing, even if it is not something new, provided you like the style that is.
Currently the Pantor Sealion is up for preorder, and their are two versions as I posted in the specs. You get a choice of movement, either the NH35, or an ETA 2824. This is something you rarely see. Actually, there are a few things you rarely see. The use of the ETA 2824 by a microbrand is far from the norm these days, nor is giving the customer the choice of movements. The pricing is also very competitive, as for just $549 you get a 300 meter water resistant diver with the tried and true Swiss Movement. That is something many watch enthusiasts will find very appealing.
As you may have surmised, the model I have in hand is a prototype, and after having the Pantor Sealion in hand and looking at the website renders, the biggest difference I can see is that this prototype has a black date wheel to match the dial, where the renderings show white date wheels on all colors. I am hoping that the date wheels match the color of the dials, at least for the black as it just looks so much better in my opinion. One other thing of note is that I have the Seiko NH35 variant, but it is not marked as such on the case back. I am told the production versions will have it engraved on the back which movement you have.
The dial is listed as black, but as you can see in my photos it is more of dark grey, and this is exaggerated because it is a sunray dial which will appear lighter or darker depending on the light. Personally, I prefer the dark grey dial as it is one of my favorites when it comes to dial colors. The issue with it though, is if you order expecting black and this color arrives, you might be disappointed, or even angry, depending on your temperament. With this being a prototype I am guessing the dial did not get produced in the right shade and that it will be corrected come production.
As I have already touched on, the value here is really in the ETA 2824 variant. Not that there is anything wrong with the NH35, but to grab a dive watch with the ETA movement for $549 is a good deal, and well worth it. It helps that the watch itself is aesthetically pleasing as well, as I am not saying to buy a watch just for the movement. I normally say the absolute opposite of that. There are a few reasons I feel this way. The Pantor Sealion comes with an aluminum bezel insert. Now, companies have been using aluminum for decades and nothing wrong with it, but we also know many microbrands use ceramic or sapphire covered bezel inserts these days providing much more scratch resistance.
The other notable issue is the use of the silicone rubber strap, which I discuss in the video. Visually the strap is appealing, and is also very comfortable, especially with how the buckle is made to fit into the strap sections. It allows the buckle to lay flush and somewhat lock into place. As most know, the problem with silicone is that it looks like crap within 10 minutes of wearing it. It catches every bit of lint, dirt, fuzz from your shirt etc. It annoys me greatly, especially when the case head is so nice looking and well built. I did not want to take it off the strap in the time I had it, as I said I found it attractive and comfortable. I did find myself using compressed air on it every few hours to clean it off though.
Getting back to why I think the ETA version is the better value, it comes down to what you are getting for the price. Of course if you are on a budget, $329 is a lot more appealing. Or maybe you have a set limit of what you will spend on a micro and $549 is over that. If these things do not apply to you, even with the aluminum bezel and the silicone strap, the ETA version of the Sealion gives you that “Swissness” that so many desire. Now, I am not necessarily speaking for myself, but in more of a generalization of what I see said countless times on Facebook groups, watch forums, Reddit and elsewhere. The Swiss ETA 2824 while not the end all be all watch movement, is still highly regarded and some people still want a Swiss movement in their watch regardless. So, coming from that perspective and the $549 price, the ETA version is where it is at.
Any watch I review here, I can really only base my findings on the watch I have in hand. When it is a prototype, that becomes difficult. I have had watches with issues and I always say that it might just be my particular example, as I don’t know if the other 300 watches have the same issues or not. It works the same for the opposite, as when I get a great example and then someone will comment theirs is running fast, or the bezel is loose. In the case of this Pantor Sealion prototype, functionally it is sound. I did find the bezel to be a little on the firm side, but again, prototype. The crown action is solid and smooth, no issues there. Lume is nice and bright as well, as you can see below.
As we all know, there are countless options when it comes to watches these days, from mainstream to micro. Dive watches are one of the biggest markets for watches, so it is inevitable that there will be many that are similar, straight up lookalikes, etc. As a reviewer, I see many of these watches, and at times it is hard to wow me. It is a safe offering of sorts, because it is that vintage style case design many love. It isn’t bringing anything new to this design either, it is a pretty straightforward offering and similar are available from other brands as well. The pricing is very good though and that is what it comes down to for me. The Pantor Sealion is an attractive, well recognized dive watch design with a price tag that makes it even more appealing, especially for the Swiss ETA version. If you like this design, I don’t think you would be disappointed if you picked one up. Just have another 22mm strap ready to roll if you dislike silicone as much as I do.
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 also have a Sealion prototype, but with a Chinese ETA clone movement. It has been running less than 2 seconds a day fast, COSC performance. Why are they not using this movement in production pieces?
I can not answer that, as far as I know they went with actual ETA and NH35 movements for production models.