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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Pantor Sea Lion Review











The California Sea Lion is an intelligent, agile and versatile creature that has been known to dive to depths exceeding 300m. They have been trained to perform many tasks, from tricks in the circus and aquariums to more serious sub-marine duties in navies. Pantor Watches has released their own Sea Lion dive watch designed to keep up with its namesake. The dive watch aesthetic of the '60s and '70s gives a firm direction to the design as it's blended with the now familiar modern watch making components. In this review we will take a closer look at the follow up release to the Pantor Seahorse from the Asian brand, so grab your bucket of sardines and let's get acquainted with the Sea Lion.





















Specs



From the Pantor Website:

• Movement: Japan Seiko NH35A or Swiss ETA 2824-2
• Date calendar
• Case with high quality finishing
• 42mm case diameter, moderate size fit for men and women
• 300m water resistant professional diver watches
• Sapphire crystal
• Automatic Valve at 9H
• Dial: 1-12H with Swiss C3 Super LumiNova
• Hands: Swiss C3 Super LumiNova
• Two straps: stainless steel and rubber
•Case Material: 316L stainless steel
• Case diameter: 42mm
• Case thickness: 12.6mm
•Dial Open diameter: 29mm
• Dial thickness: 0.6mm








My measurements - not the best calipers so there could be some variance
Case Diameter – 42 mm
Bezel Diameter – 40.5 mm
Crystal Diameter – 30 mm
Lug to Lug Length – 46 mm
Lug Width – 22 mm
Total Height Incl. Crystal –13 mm
Weight – 178 grams with bracelet sized for 7" wrist










Marketing Material From Pantor Website


"The Pantor Sea Lion Series watches:
Pantor Sea Lion Series watches are high quality diving sports watches, with 300 meters’ water resistant technology. At the same time, it can also meet all your daily needs. There are two kinds of movement and three colors of watch for you to choose.
Our professional watch maker partner who with 25 years experience in producing Pantor Sea Lion watches for us, every detail is perfect."














Ordering



The watch was provided for review by Pantor.



There are 3 dial variants – black, blue and green.










Ordering appears straight forward on their website and email communications I had with them were polite, clear and usually responded to within a couple of days.
At the time of writing this review (Feb 2018) on the Pantor website the price is $ 499USD on rubber strap for the Seiko NH35A version and $799 for the ETA 2824-2 version on rubber. The bracelet is available for $39.99 USD extra. There is a discount code of "WUSJ15" for WUS users that should be good across all items as well.
The Sea Lion is also available on Amazon for a more competitive price of $350 USD for the Seiko powered version on rubber.
Shipping was tracked and arrived in about a week to Canada.











Arrival and Unboxing


The Sea Lion was very well packaged for shipping with appropriate cardboard and styrofoam protecting the inner white box liner. Slipping off the white paper liner revealed the leatherette 2 watch zip case.






It is a very nice case that came loaded with the watch head on the bracelet in one compartment and in the other was the rubber strap and a strap tool. Nicely printed instruction and warranty cards were also included.







I never want to pay extra for superfluous packaging and seldom used extras but in this case I enjoyed the presentation of materials as well as the rubber strap and tool. The tool is not the highest quality but the straight pin punch end was very useful for resizing the bracelet. Overall, it’s a nice and thoughtful package that makes you feel like you are getting a quality product.











The Case











The case of the Sea Lion is clearly inspired by the diving tool watches of the '60s and '70s with Aquadive and Doxa coming to mind with their cushion case or turtle shaped design. Made out of 316L stainless steel, the sea lion's case uses the standard material for quality watch case construction these days.







The case is a good moderate modern size at 42mm wide in diameter with a 40.5mm bezel and a short 46mm lug to lug length. These dimensions allow the watch to wear well on a variety of wrist sizes I believe. The just under 13mm height gives it a solid chunky flavour without it seeming too tall or boxy. The short lug to lug length had me intrigued as I have found that lug to lug length and case curvature determines a good fit for me more than the case diameter. That certainly proves true on the sea lion as it seems to wear more like a 40mm watch to me with the narrower inset bezel, but if you are someone who likes over 40mm watches then there is enough metal here to keep you happy too I should think.






The case sides and lug ends are polished nicely and the case top has radial brushing. The polishing is nicely done and the radial brush suites the case shape, however I think a slightly heavier brushed finish would have looked better. The edge work is good with no sharp edges that I felt and the finishing between the lugs is better than some I have seen at this price point (The amazon $350USD price that is). I like the polished sides as it gives some life and interest to the case as well as tying into the hands, though if Pantor doubled down on the tool look and brushed the whole case I think that would have suited the sea lion too. If there was a bevel on the case edge transition it would have upped the look of the case in my eyes and also slimmed it down in appearance. However as is it suits a simple purposeful look.









The crown is at 3 o'clock and is nestled into a shallow recess in the case side. It keeps the look clean without extra protruding crown guards, yet also adds a little protection and security for the crown. I think it is an appropriate style for this case design.







On the 9 o'clock side is an Automatic Helium Escape Valve. It would automatically vent Helium molecules to prevent the watch from damage during ascent and return to surface pressure after being exposed to living at deep pressure for a long time. I have stated in other reviews that while technologically a cool bit of kit we know that it's highly unlikely anyone who purchases a watch with one will see it in action. It does add some visual interest to the slab case side and is a conversation topic potentially but I would prefer to see a cost savings without an automatic Helium valve in all but the most extreme divers.








The case back is a solid screw down back. It has a low profile that sits well on the wrist. The caseback is engraved with a California sea lion and the usual details. I like solid casebacks on divers to minimize water entry points unless there is a special movement worth seeing. In the case of the NH35 or 2824 that are available in the sea lion I think the solid back is a good choice as neither movement is too exciting under the hood visually. In terms of the engraving the sea lion is cute and fun, but I would have preferred a Steller sea lion, partly because it is what I see on the water locally but also it is a bit stronger and fiercer, resembling a grizzly bear. That said, it is nothing more than a preference as it is usually against my wrist anyhow.








Steller Sea Lion











The Bezel







The bezel is perched on top of the case and in a mm or so from the edge, consistent with the overall case design. It is a 120 click bezel with a painted and engraved metal insert. The bezel insert is PVD Coated aluminum. The bezel action is very good, clicking positively into position. There is very little play if at all and the alignment is perfect. The bezel grip is good, especially when grasped between 12 and 6. I had no problem using it wet or dry. The teeth are nicely beveled on the top edge to create a smooth transition to the bezel top and crystal. The bezel teeth could be a bit sharper but I know some people prefer them not to be too aggressive and sharp.







There is a lumed bezel pip at 12 inset into an engraved triangle. It is hard to capture in pictures but there is a slim polished ring around the pip that looks sharp. The lume pip colour is more yellowish than the dial lume unfortunately but it still glows with the same intensity and colour as the hands and indices.






The black surface is a really nice matte texture that compliments the dial and overall aesthetic of the sea lion. It is nice to see a matte bezel as so many divers have glossy ceramic, sapphire or aluminum inserts these days. I am not sure how the bezel will stand up to daily abuse as the PVD’d aluminum wont be as scratch resistant as ceramic or sapphire, however I am sure it could take a solid blow without structural damage.





The minute marks are engraved and painted a contrasting white for good legibility. The engraving and painting seems clean and even, though perhaps a bit heavy on the font. The pattern of the arabic numerals on the bezel seem a different take with the 15-25-35-45-55 marked out with hash marks in between at 5-10-20-30-40-50. I am sure this pattern has been done before but I cant bring an example to mind. Practically it is just as useful as other bezel layouts using 5 minute intervals however I find it aesthetically unbalanced with a visually weighted line between the 55 and 25 instead of the more typical 60-30. In all honesty it is something that doesn’t bother me on the wrist but more so when evaluating the whole design. I believe it a matter of personal taste and some I am sure some will love it or have no idea what I am talking about!






Crystal





A flat sapphire crystal with internal anti-reflective coating tops off the sea lion. It is very clear and often disappears giving a nice clean view of the dial at all angles. Domed crystals are very popular right now but I still like a flat crystal to keep the height down and minimize reflections and distortion. I think it was a good choice for the sea lion













The Dial





The dial of the sea lion is a very nice black sunbrushed colour that has a rich satin semi-matte appearance in direct light and is a rich black in indirect light. I appreciate the subtlety of the brushed sunburst as I can find more dramatic sunbrushed dials sometimes too flashy and distracting. It gives just enough life and interest to the dial to keep my interest. This is probably my favourite feature of the watch.






The hour indices are painted in C3 superluminova, with shields at 12-6-9 and circles at 1-2-4-5-7-8-10-11. It is increasingly difficult to come up with an innovative dive dial design that remains clear and legible. I like the shield indices especially the proportions of the one at 12. I would say the indices are appropriately sized or if anything they could be a little bit larger and still maintain balance.







There is a printed minute mark track around the dial perimeter that is nicely weighted with a slightly thicker marker at the hour indices. It keeps the dial open and legible.







There is a black on white date window at 3 o'clock. The window takes the place of the 3 indice and because of that I prefer the black on white date dial Pantor used. If it was white on black it would blend too much with the dial at a key cardinal position of the dial.







The dial printing is minimal with "PANTOR" below 12 and "300m/990ft AUTOMATIC" above 6. It feels nicely weighted and appropriate.







Overall it is a very legible and clean dial with just enough pleasant interest.













Hands





The sea lion uses large polished and beveled angular hour and minute hands filled with C3 lume. The second hand is polished with a lumed triangle at the tip. The hands are very legible, the polish, bevel and large lume plots make them very visible in all lighting situations. The hand lengths are good with the minute and second hands just overlapping the minute track appropriately. I am not sure if the hour hand is too long by a smidge or not and I go back and forth on it. The hands seem to suit the toolish retro nature of the sea lion. I am not sure where the style originated. It is not a common handset shape but does appear on some other watches such as UTS and Kobold.










Lume







The sea lion uses C3 superluminova which is the brightest available. It has a minty green daylight colour and glows a bright greenish-yellow in the dark.









The lume is very good on the sea lion. The hands with their large plot surface area are very bright, the indices are a little dimmer. It charges quickly and will have an initially bright blaze before dimming to a moderate long term glow. The lume is easily visible in the morning with dark adjusted eyes, aided by the simple layout of the lumed components.















Below is an elapsed time comparison to some other C3 lumed watches. A magrette regatarre, an Omega Seamaster pro, Halios Seaforth, Ventus Mori (vintage tinted c3), Zelos Abyss 2. It will give you a sense how the sea lion holds up with those pieces.
















Crown







The sea lion has a screw down crown to aid in its 300m water resistance. The crown is easily gripped and threads in and out smoothly. It has minimal wobble in the time setting position. I did have some trouble getting the crown to pop back in after hacking and setting the time. It didn’t always start again but with some repeated use and firmly pushing it in it seems to have gotten better and I don’t think I would take notice now. The crown has an engraved polished sea lion on it to match the case back. It is a nice little detail, even if I am indifferent to the actual sea lion design used. If Pantor had a recognizable brand logo that may be a better fit in that location but I don’t believe they have one aside from the "PANTOR" word mark.










Water Resistance





The sea lion has 300m of water resistance.






300m is my ideal sweet spot for water resistance as it is a good reliable amount that doesn’t necessarily boost the case dimensions into unneeded thickness.






300m will of course more than adequately meet the needs of anyone in and around the water and provide good security and peace of mind for all aquatic activities.



















Movement



Powering the sea lion are 2 movement choices, the Seiko NH35A and the ETA 2824-2. The more affordable Seiko NH35A which is in this example for review is an increasingly popular automatic movement. The NH35 should be familiar to most, it is a hacking, handwinding automatic movement that beats at 21,600 Beats per hour. While not an exciting movement it comes from a heritage of strong and stable movements. The lower beat rate in theory should allow for a longer power reserve and a robust long wearing life. These movements generally are less regulated out of the box than a Miyota 9015 or ETA 2824-2 but are certainly capable of excellent timekeeping. The review example was running at near perfect, well within a second or two a day. The stated specs are –20 to +40 Seconds per day with a power reserve of over 41 hours. Other watches I have had with the NH35A have run faster or slower within that range but always been consistent in their daily rates, leading me to believe that it could easily be regulated very tightly if needed.



The other option available on the sea lion is the Swiss made ETA 2824-2. After a dry period ETA movements seem to be finding their way back into micro brand watches again, though at perhaps a higher price than before as Seiko and Miyota have filled in at the entry and mid level price points. The swiss label come with more perceived prestige, a higher beat rate, usually a better chance of good accuracy out of the box and a higher price tag. It also is a long standing working movements used across a pantheon of brands. It's biggest knock is a reported susceptibility of damage due to over handwinding.



For the sea lion I personally think that the NH35A is the better movement choice and value as the list price for the ETA version puts it up against some pretty steep swiss powered competition, Steinhart and Christopher Ward for example. The NH35A also suits the tool watch, use and abuse vibe of the sea lion and as my example at the least has shown, good accuracy is certainly possible.













Bracelet





The sea lion is available with an optional bracelet for $39.99 USD. It has a straight endlink and is 22mm and non tapering. The 4mm thick short oyster style links are pin fastened and join into a standard flip lock clasp with 3 micro adjust slots. I like the bracelet and I think it is a worthy upgrade for the sea lion even if it doesn’t boast any remarkable features. It has a lot of presence being non tapering at 22mm but it doesn’t over power the watch head or my wrist and brings a lot of presence especially if you are someone who wants it to wear more like a 42mm or larger watch. It has a brushed finish with polished sides. It was easy to resize with the included tool and I frankly don’t mind pins at all and find them just as convenient as screws. It is easier to potentially bend a pin but it can also be easy to strip a bracelet screw. I am less concerned with a pin working loose but I suppose they may be more prone to total failure over time. I find the bracelet comfortable on the wrist and a nice visual compliment to the watch head. The clasp is nice and firm in its spring action and seems solidly made. I prefer this style of clasp to some of the more exciting adjustable options out there these days. I don’t need to often adjust a bracelet during the day or even the year so I prefer a slimmer shorter clasp without the on the fly adjustment mechanisms. This allows the modest-wristed folks like myself to have more links showing which always looks better in my opinion. Also, I think the bracelet is a better option than the stock rubber strap...






















Straps




A silicon rubber strap is provided standard with the sea lion. The strap is soft, flexible and comfortably conforms to the wrist. Silicone unfortunately is known for its grippy texture to attract dust and lint, the heavy textured surface of the sea lion's strap only exacerbates this characteristic. I am OK with silicone straps and in fact have 2 watches where I actually prefer their stock silicon straps. That is not the case with the sea lion unfortunately. Aside from the silicon itself I don’t like the blocky look of the strap. I had the notion that if I reverse the strap and put the lightly ribbed inside texture on the outside it would look better. I thought it did look better but sadly the blocky outside surface which was now against my wrist was not as comfortable therefore defeating one of the key benefits of a silicon strap. The stock strap is definitely the weak point of the sea lion.


















The strap does have a nice solid machined buckle though. It is a step up from the standard affordable buckle and conforms nicely to the strap and wrist.








The good news is that the sea lion should be able to accommodate a variety of strap styles if you are so inclined. I tried it out on my favourite strap, a Bonetto Cinturini 315. It looked ok but I think was a bit too slim for the sea lion.














The case has a nice notch in it to accommodate fairly thick straps. I think it would look quite good on an Isofrane (or styled) ladder black strap. I didn’t have one to hand so we will just have to imagine it.
















Wearability





The sea lion is a very wearable watch. For reference I have a 6.75"-7" flatish wrist. It feels pretty much the ideal size for me. The very short 46mm lug to lug length, gentle bottom curve and 40/42mm diameter make it very easy to wear. It has a reasonable reassuring heft that I noticed when first handling the sea lion, however I don’t notice undue weight on the wrist in daily wear, but I am not really sensitive to heavy watches. I found it mostly unnoticeable in wear in a good way during a full day, though the 22mm buckle took a bit of getting used to. I prefer my watches to sit just gently snug above my wrist bone, but if the sea lion slid down lower to my wrist it wasn’t as comfortable as a tapered bracelet likely











The under 13mm height and case shape allow it slip easily under shirt cuffs.



I think it looks best on the bracelet but if you can find the right rubber, canvas, or leather strap it should suite a variety of looks and tastes.







It is certainly a casual tool dive watch but especially on the bracelet I feel that it can dress up a little bit with the polished case sides, hands and sunbrushed dial. I could see myself wearing it daily as a work watch just as I did for this review.















Conclusion





Nature's sea lion is at home in the water but also on land and I think the same can be said for Pantor's take. The Pantor Sea Lion knows that first and foremost it is most at ease and belongs in the water as a retro cased tool diver, but it can also stretch itself a little, much like a sea lion can lounge or gather steam and speed on a beach. To me, in the end it feels more like the strong, powerful and capable Steller Sea Lion familiar to my local waters than its more flamboyant cousin, the clever and playful California Sea Lion. It is comfortable and easy to wear and has an unassuming air that draws little attention. If you want an understated diver with quality components and its style speaks to you, this could be your watch. The build quality in all key areas appears good with the exception of the replaceable strap, but again I am knocking that mostly on aesthetics. I believe the value is on point and competitive for the Seiko NH35A version at or around the Amazon price of $350.












Thank you to Pantor for providing the watch for review and thanks to you for taking the time to read it. Please let me know if you have any feedback or questions and I would be happy to help.
Cheers!

Boatswain


















 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks guys. Here’s a couple pictures I think I forgot on the cutting room floor















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Absolutely FIRST CLASS review - A+!

My comments on the watch (read: disappointments):

- Lack of a No Date variant=personal "deal breaker" for ME...
- While I agree with you that the bracelet is the best option, *I* would prefer a bracelet w/at least SOME taper; it does not appear to have any...
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the passing grade Ganzman!

You are right, the bracelet doesn’t taper. It was actually my first experience with a non tapering bracelet of that size. It worked well enough but I think a 22/20 version would have been fine too.


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Now that's a review! |> |> |>

Not particularly a fan of the watch, but after looking at all your photos OP I swear I was almost ready to buy one!! Love the photos.......
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks redhead and hornet. Appreciate the comments.

I try to be thorough when I do a review and convey all the info I would want to hear and see as a buyer of a watch.

I have benefitted so much here at WUS by pestering others with my questions about lume, wrist size, bezel action etc... that I hope I can give something back in these reviews.

I have learned how much effort it takes now and I am better at squeezing the review work in around family and job.


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I heard that boatswain did a review on a pair of binoculars that was SO good that Stevie Wonder not only bought a pair for himself, but two weeks later he brought his friend Ray Charles by to get a pair too!
 

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Great review and pics. Thank you.

I don't dislike date windows (actually usually prefer them) however something is a bit off about this one. The lack of taper in the bracelet is a bit of a let down as well.
 
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It may be that there are no angular right angles on the hour indices, so it doesn't flow with the other shapes perhaps?

I suppose with its suitability to straight end links ,retro fitting a bracelet would be any easy option for someone wanting a taper.



Great review and pics. Thank you.

I don't dislike date windows (actually usually prefer them) however something is a bit off about this one. The lack of taper in the bracelet is a bit of a let down as well.
 

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I heard that boatswain did a review on a pair of binoculars that was SO good that Stevie Wonder not only bought a pair for himself, but two weeks later he brought his friend Ray Charles by to get a pair too!
Haha!

That's fantastic. The most creative compliment i could receive i reckon, I tip my cap to you!

I will have to quote it if i am ever asked about my watch review credentials by a company!
 

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Excellent review! That's a good looking watch - it sort of makes me think of a cross between the Eterna Kontiki 1973 and a Seiko Turtle (or something like that).
 
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I had to look up the eternal you mentioned. Very neat piece.

Yup there is definitely a similarity with the case and hands (somewhat).

I like the dial and bezel more on the eterna, however the diminished hour hand and all polished case aren't quite my cuppa.



Also thank you for the kind words!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Main review post has been edited to state that the bezel insert is PVD coated aluminum.


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