Review of Victorinox Divemaster 500 LE

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Model # 241175
 
At a Glance:


Brand/Model:  Victorinox Divemaster Limited Edition
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  black PVD titanium case and bracelet
Complications:  big date display
Price:  MSRP:  $1500 USD (approx.)
 

Plenty of photos follow the review.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.
There certainly has been plenty said about the Victorinox Divemaster series, which, arguably, are value leaders in their respective category of ‘tool’ dive watches.  Available in a wide variety of dial colors, stainless or ‘black ice’ finish cases, rubber strap or stainless steel bracelets, with either quartz or mechanical movements, the Divemaster 500 is simply a great watch, no matter what flavor you get. 
 
I owned a blue dialed Divemaster 500 with quartz movement and stainless steel bracelet for nearly two years and it was the most accurate quartz watch in my collection.  The only reason I sold it was to make room for the subject of this review, the Divemaster 500 LE.  ‘LE’ stands for ‘Limited Edition’ and this watch has been a grail of mine for several years.  How could Victorinox make the already superb Divemaster 500 series even better?  Well, let me tell you.

The Divemaster LE takes the same 43mm Divemaster case, bezel, crown and bracelet and takes it to new heights of cool with all titanium construction finished in black PVD.  You don’t find too many PVD titanium watches, so the LE gets major cool points right there. 

To further entice the tool watch aficionado, Victorinox put what they call an ‘anthracite’ dial with a carbon fiber accent/chapter ring in this watch.  The dial is basically a matte black and truth be told, is really nothing special, but it is easy to read and looks good. 
They also decided to fill in the first 20 minutes of the bezel markers with lume material, although the lume is a sort of faded/aged shade of white which contrasts with the light green lume on the dial.  Either way, the lume is superb and when charged, is the same color on both the dial and bezel.

To finish off the Divemaster LE, Victorinox uses a unique ETA 2896 22-jewel Swiss automatic movement.  I say unique because you don’t see this movement in many other watches and even though it’s three jewels less than the venerable ETA 2824-2, it still hacks, manual winds (totally silently, I might add), has a power reserve of 45 hours and features a big date at the three o’clock position. 

The big date wheels are white on black and extremely legible, no need for the cyclops that Victorinox equips the lesser models of the Divemaster with.  A quick note on the cyclops found on the other Divemaster models, it’s a slick internal cyclops, which does a good job of magnifying the date with no ugly protrusion on the crystal.  Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

The ETA 2896 inside the Divemaster LE is visible through the PVD screw down display back, which is another unusual feature of a 500 meter dive watch.  How many 500 meter dive watches have you seen with a display back?  The movement is beautifully finished, with Geneva stripes on the signed rotor (it would have been nifty if they had made the rotor black to match the rest of the watch), perlage on the plates, a few blued screws here and there, etc.  Overall, a wonderful presentation that runs +10 seconds a day in my possession.

Other key features of the Divemaster LE are the 120-click unidirectional bezel with the previously mentioned infilled lume for the first 20 minutes, black hour, minute and second hands with infill lume, round applied luminous markers with a rectangular applied luminous marker at 6 and 9 and the Victorinox logo in lume at 12, a military time inner track and that wonderful big date display at 3.

The display back has a mineral crystal, the dial is covered with an anti-reflective sapphire crystal.  The solid link titanium bracelet has solid end links, a double locking signed clasp with stamped diver’s extension and a proper machined deployant in black PVD titanium.  Links are secured with standard split pins.  The bracelet is 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 19mm at the clasp.

For a big watch (43mm without the hefty signed and well-knurled screwdown crown, thickness of 14mm and lug width of 22mm) this baby wears very comfortably and extremely light, due to its titanium construction.  For some reason, I believe due to its all-black construction, this watch does not look as big on the wrist as the quartz Divemaster I had, even though they are the exact same size.

And to be sure this watch lives up to its 500 meter water resistance rating and to gain street cred, the Divemaster LE has an automatic helium escape valve (HEV) located on the upper left corner of the case side.

Fit and finish on this piece is commensurate with its exclusivity, which is 900 pieces made for worldwide consumption.  I picked up this piece second hand, as very few if any brand new examples of the LE are still available, so when any example of this watch comes up for sale, you best be putting your hard-earned money down if you want one.  That’s what I did and I am very pleased.

You may see some small scratches on the bracelet links and a bit of wear on the bezel edge in my photos.   This watch was advertised as LNIB, which it clearly was not, but it was not grossly over-graded either.  I would call it 90%.  Problem is, you cannot buff out scratches on a PVD finish, because a scratch will most likely go to the metal below.  Anyways, this is a tool watch and it appears the finish could be a bit more durable, but a few battle scars kind of add to the tool persona. 

Perhaps this is why Victorinox went to their ‘black ice’ greyish PVD coating on various newer models.  The black ice seems less prone to scratches.  If you’re afraid of scratching a PVD finish, perhaps the Divemaster LE isn’t for you, but you could always put in on a leather strap or on a NATO and live more comfortably.

Victorinox presents the Divemaster LE in a box that is worthy of ‘limited edition’ status.  A white two-piece outer cardboard box reveals a sturdy thick-walled composite inner box with an actual engraved metal plate touting the specialness of this timepiece.  A numbered certificate of authenticity verifies the social standing of this watch as well.  Overall, it’s a very nice and appropriate presentation.

The Divemaster LE is a worthy ‘grail’ watch that takes the extremely capable Divemaster 500 watch and amps it up a few notches to really make it something special.  Victorinox hit a big home run with this watch and it’s no wonder that it sold out very quickly when released several years ago.
 
Pros:  black PVD titanium construction, great Swiss automatic movement with big date, nice movement finishing, great lume, 500 meter water resistance

Cons:  PVD finish could be a bit more durable, different color lume on bezel is a bit distracting, maybe a bit too lightweight for some?

Verdict:  superb tool watch with subdued good looks, big date easy to read, great automatic engine, limited edition exclusivity

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.

Excelsior!

-Marc



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