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The latest project watch from the Watchuseek F71 affordable watch forum is the Emperor Diver. The watch is named after the Emperor penguin, which is also the subject of the laser etching on the watch's case back. I was lucky enough to be sent a prototype for my thoughts and to publish on my blog, but it is only right and proper that I first share them here on Watchuseek.

The usual caveats apply: it’s my opinion only and your mileage may vary.

The Emperor Diver has a strong set of specifications. If you’re not familiar with the subforum project watches, the way it works is that the concept’s design elements are all voted on by members of the community as it is developed.

The Emperor Diver is powered by a Seiko NH35 movement with or without a 6 O'clock date function (with in blue dial, without in brown and black dial). The watch is housed in a 40mm 316L stainless steel case with a domed sapphire crystal. It is water resistant to 200 metres and features a full-lumed diver's bezel. The bezel has a nice positive action, and the green lume looks amazing in the dark (and in low-light too). The screw-down crown (which will be etched with a penguin logo in the production run) has no crown guards, for an authentic vintage look, and the drilled lug holes make strap changes simple.

It's a really nicely built watch: everything is finished well with no sharp edges. There are no chamfered edges between the brushed top and polished sides, but the lines between the two finishes are still very crisp. I particularly liked the way the case is designed to give the illusion that the watch is far thinner than it is. It's a similar technique to that of most dive watches, many of which base their looks on the Rolex submariner's thick case back and relatively thin sides.

The Emperor diver watch case actually narrows a couple of millimetres before the case back starts. Together with the 40mm case diameter it makes the watch feel really slim and very comfortable to wear. It's a nice change from the modern tendency of ever-bigger tool dive watches. They all say it, but this watch would genuinely work under a shirt-sleeve as well as under the sea.

Dial and Hands
The Emperor Diver has understated hands, which will please those for whom Mercedes hands are too fussy, and want something that is legible underwater. The simple pointed hands are lumed in a lovely vintage cream to match the large indices, which take the form of truncated triangles.

Black, blue and brown dials have been produced, with this brown model probably being my least favourite. That's not to say there is anything wrong with it, but I think that it falls somewhere between the ultra-clarity of white hands on a black dial and the "pop" of blue. On the other hand, this model is the only one with the vintage lume, which I think looks amazing. If I had to pick a fault, it would be the fact that the bezel is lumed in white and glows green. In both light and dark it it does not match the colour of the indices.

Bracelet and Clasp
The bracelet is a real stand-out feature of the Emperor Diver. It was the first thing I noticed about the watch. Most dive watches in this price range have something like the Rolex jubilee bracelet or a simple rubber strap. Each link is a seven-piece "beads of rice" design. The removable links are properly screwed, not fitted with split pins, which is unusual for an affordable watch. Needless to say, the whole thing looks and feels amazing.

The only bad point for me about the Emperor Diver bracelet was the clasp. It's perfectly functional but is a design I have seen in many other microbrand watches. It only has three micro-adjustments and so I found it hard to get a perfect fit. My wrist size hovers right between one size at maximum extension and the minimum setting with a link added! Something like the Rolex glide lock would have been fantastic, or even a diver's extension to make it easier to adjust in daily use. The sample watch had a plain clasp but the finished model will be engraved with a penguin logo.

What I Liked
• The case is brilliant - just the right size and height, and the design makes it feel even slimmer
• The bracelet is really comfortable and well-built - and it matches the watch perfectly
• The lumed bezel looks great in low-light, the whole watch glows beautifully

What I didn't Like
• The lume on the hands is vintage, but the bezel lume is white - it would have been nice for both to match (which they do on the other colours)
• It is on the small side for a dive watch, and those who prefer "tool watches" will be a little underwhelmed
• The clasp is functional but not quite adjustable enough for me

The verdict?
Overall this is a really nice watch. I love the styling, and I would be tempted by the blue model. For the money ($350), you are getting a lot of watch - and a unique one at that. It gets the thumbs up from me. In fact, it gets more than a thumbs up, as I put my money where my mouth is and ordered one in blue!

So where can I get one?
You can keep track of the progress of the watch and order one through the F71 Affordable Watches sub-forum.
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