When I came across this brand and specifically this watch it was love at first sight! While they are totally different watches, the Tugela in general reminded me of one of my former watches, the Orsa Sea Viper. Both watches just have a vibe, something I cannot specifically put words to, but that I am drawn toward. If I had to end the review here, I’d simply say, go get one before they are sold out. (more on that later)
Draken is a New Zealand based Microbrand. The founder and designer is Michael Blythe. Draken gets it’s name from the Drakensberg, meaning mountain of dragons, of South Africa. Michael states that he didn’t want Draken to be another homage watch company but rather to walk a fresh new path with distinct original designs. It is the opinion of this reviewer, that he has succeeded in this with the offerings presented so far.
The Tugela’s tapering shape is said to mirror the that of the Protea flower, wider at the bezel and flowing seamlessly to the case back at it’s narrowest point. The case kind of reminds me of a crown but the Protea flower makes for a better story and fits within the South African roots of the brand. At the bezel the measurement is 42mm and as stated the bead blasted case tapers down to where it rests nicely on the wrist. The non crown side of the case is engraved with the brand name in fairly bold lettering. Some find this too much, however, I don’t mind it one bit. In all reality it’s something you’re rarely going to see when the watch is on the wrist. The angular lugs of the Tugela taper away from the case itself and have a nice chamfer on them to add a nice detail. Lug to lug measures in at 48mm while the lug width comes in at 22mm. As was mentioned the case is fully bead blasted for improved scratch resistance and durability.
The 120-click unidirectional bezel is really grippy. Being the widest point of the watch, there is nothing else to hold when you need to turn the bezel. I find it to have a good balance between grip and aesthetic. The ‘click’ while turning is firm and there is almost no back play in the movement of the bezel. The Shaka version of this watch has a black aluminum bezel insert with generous amounts of lume in the indicators as well as the numbers. Bezel alignment and overall quality control on this watch appears to be top notch. The bezel flows into a single-domed sapphire crystal which has anti-reflective coating on the inside.
The 3 o’clock crown is not only signed with the brand logo, it’s also lumed which I think is an outstanding touch at the price you pay for entry.
The angular crown guards maintain the overall design of the watch with the chamfered edges and the relatively short protrusion from the case. This makes operation of the crown very very easy, especially with the hefty knurling on the crown. Most watches I need to remove the watch in order to change time, date etc. On this watch if desired, it’s possible to make adjustments while it’s still on the wrist.
The case back continues with the bead blasted finish. It has a nice stamped design on it but I’m not 100% sure what the design is. I haven’t reached out for an explanation of it and I didn’t find any on their website either. The outer ring on the back includes standard information about the watch, crystal, watch name, material type, depth rating and on this watch a serial number of #868 is also included.
The stark white dial of the Shaka edition is all the more impressive when you discover that not only is it super white, it is also a fully lumed dial. There is a very subtle texture to the dial that is not only difficult to see but also difficult to photograph. The printing on the dial is pretty crisp, on the sections of text you can start to see the hint of the texture of the white dial. The black indices are also well executed and I like the variety of triangles and other shapes that make up each marker. Below the 12 o’clock position is the Draken logo and above the 6 o’clock index is the watch name in orange and the word automatic in black.
The seconds, minute and hour hands also compliment the design of the watch. The tip of the seconds hand has another orange accent and a lume filled diamond shape. The hour hand is also chock-full of lume as is the minute hand. Both hands are designed in a way that maximizes the amount of lume with very minimal ‘hand’ in comparison with the lumed section. The hour hand is plain silver while the minute hand has been painted orange. I wouldn’t have minded seeing the hour hand be a little bit longer but that’s a nitpick. Overall the handset really goes well with the design.
This watch features a Seiko NH35A movement. This is a hacking and hand-winding movement and features a date complication. Speaking of the date, I really enjoyed not only seeing it at the 6 o’clock spot but the date wheel is also lumed and there’s another subtle orange accent around the date window as well as the line for th3 6 o’clock indication. A perfect execution in my opinion.
Features as Reviewed:
Case: 42mm (bezel), 14mm thickness, 48.5mm lug-to-lug, High-grade 316L bead-blasted stainless steel, punch engraved case back
Bezel: Aluminum, unidirectional, lumed
Crystal: Single-dome sapphire, internal anti-reflective coating
Crown: 3 o’clock, signed, lumed, screw-down
Dial: White (lumed), Logo @12, Date and Name @6 (Also available in black with varying bezel options)
Case back: punch engraved
Movement: Seiko NH35A
Price: NZ$ 580 / $410USD – Available from watchgauge.com exclusively.
On the Wrist
For me, this size is right in my sweet spot. I have a bit larger wrist at 7.75″ and while I will wear smaller watches, they tend to feel and look a little small. The 42mm case size and 48mm lug length really balances well in my opinion. In the following images I’ve paired it with two different straps, the Lakewood Seatbelt and the Hoquiam Standard Nylon.
Would I buy this watch again? Yes I absolutely would, especially in the Shaka configuration. Would I recommend this watch to a friend? Yes. I have no hesitation recommending this piece to any watch fan, but especially a fan of microbrands. To me this watch is everything you want in a microbrand. A unique design that utilizes a lot of features you’d expect on higher priced watches. While the movement is what I would consider entry-level the hacking and hand winding makes it acceptable to me. I’d love to see this watch with a slightly higher quality movement and a slightly higher price. That to me would really set it apart. What do you think of this review? Do you own this watch? Let me know in the comments below.
Be sure to check out Draken Watches and WatchGague.com for more on this and the other offerings from Draken.