One of the aspects I like most about the micro brand watch community is the ability to connect one on one with a brand’s owner. Most micro brands are one-man shops. These guys are just like you and me. They’re watch nuts. They just take it a step further and design and sell watches that they themselves would, and do wear. Today we’re taking a look at the new Seals Watch Co. Dark Seal.
I had the privilege of getting to know Michael Seals, founder of Seals Watch Co., at a local Redbar Sacramento get together a couple of months ago. You can read about that GTG here. Michael’s just a normal guy who loves watches. He’s friendly, approachable, and dedicated to making a high quality time piece. His latest offering, the Dark Seal, is a solid no-date three-hander that I was able to spend several days with on the wrist.
Unlike his debut offering, the uniquely shaped Model A said to be inspired by Michael’s love of military tanks, the Dark Seal is a more familiar round-case affair powered by a Miyota 9039 movement. From what I can tell, this is one of the first uses of this movement, at least within the micro brand community. According to miyotamovement.com, the 9039’s hands sit .35mm lower than the 9015’s. While overall movement thickness remains the same, the lower hands would theoretically allow for a less domed crystal and/or a shorter rehaut, helping to shrink the overall thickness of the watch.
At 40mm in diameter, 11.9mm in thickness, and 49mm lug-to-lug, the watch is just about perfect size wise. The stainless steel, square tooth uni-directional bezel is super easy to grip, and offers a satisfying click with very little back play. I really commend the choice of a 12-hour bezel here. As I’m not a diver I find a 12-hour bezel, allowing me to track a second timezone, much more useful than the standard 60 minute timing bezel found on a serious dive watch. While the Dark Seal is water resistant down to 200 meters, it looks and feels more like a field watch than a diver anyway. I almost think a bi-directional friction bezel would have made more sense in this case. [Note: Shortly after writing this review, I was excited to learn from Michael that he’d made the decision to switch to a bi-directional bezel, and that prototyping was already underway.]
Aside from a very thin polished corner chamfer on the minimally curved and drilled lugs, along with the outer edge of the case back (still an unfinished prototype piece), the majority of the watch has a brushed finish appropriate to a field/tool watch. The 6.4mm unsigned, screw-down crown (production model will be signed) is easy to grip. However, because the bezel hangs over the edge of the case sides by just under 1mm, I found that the side of my thumb tended to catch on the sharp edges of the bezel teeth and would actually turn the bezel while hand winding the movement. Michael has assured me that the teeth edges will be smoothed and toned down in the final production model, which should help to alleviate this issue.
While the watch was delivered to me for this review on a leather strap, it will ship with a premium NATO strap along with an extra black rubber strap. After several days on the wrist I found little to nothing to complain about with the Dark Seal. As you can see from the photos, I have a pretty active lifestyle on my little ranch, and the Dark Seal wore extremely comfortably and was very easy to read at a glance during my daily chores and activities. The lume on the hands, applied stainless steel markers, and triangular bezel pip shined brightly at night. Note however that the production model will ship with BGW9 Superluminova, rather than the C1/C3 combo found on the prototype. Using whatever lume a manufacturer happens to have on hand for a prototype piece is not an uncommon practice by the way.
The matte black dial has the Seals Watch Co. logo under the 12 o’clock diamond-shaped index marker, and “Seals Watch Co.” under the logo. That’s it for dial text. Nice and minimal. The dial will also be offered in a matte blue color. The custom designed baton hands reach out to their respective dial tracks and the hollow, hexagonal counterweight on the seconds hand is a nice touch. People will often ask me why a watch costs what it does. While many micro brands will simply use off-the-shelf cases, bezels, hands, and dials, that’s not the case with Seals. Michael goes the extra mile to do custom designs that easily justify the asking prices. The domed crystal is 2.4mm thick sapphire with internal anti-reflective coating.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Dark Seal. It’s important to note that this was a prototype piece, so things like the sharp bezel teeth edges and the slight misalignment of the bezel markers and dial markers will all be worked out prior to production. Michael just returned from a trip to China. I respect that he’s going the extra mile to meet face-to-face with his suppliers. Not many micro brands do this, and it demonstrates his commitment to producing a quality watch at an affordable price. I’ve included some shots of a production Model A on loan to me by another Redbar Sacramento member to visually demonstrate that quality. As it was inspired by a tank, it only makes sense that the thing is built like a tank as well. I expect nothing less from the final production version of the Dark Seal.
Pre-orders for the Dark Seal began on April 2nd and will continue through the end of the month. Pricing is set at $550. If you’re looking for a solid, well built three hander powered by a reliable Japanese movement, it will be tough to go wrong with the Dark Seal. If the Model A is any indication, the Dark Seal will sell well and make many owners very happy. seals-watches.com
- Brand & Model: Seals Watch Co. Dark Seal
- Price: $550
- Who we think it might be for: Anyone looking for a solid three-hand automatic.
- Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen? I would consider it, but prefer the Model A. My wife just bought a Model C. Needless to say, we’re fans of the brand.
- If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: Not much to improve upon here in my opinion. Maybe change to a unidirectional bezel?
- What spoke to me the most about this watch: It’s just a nice, minimalistic “tool” watch that should appeal to all different types of watch afficianados.
Technical Specifications From Seals Watch Co.
- Material: 316L Stainless Steel
- Size: 40mm x 11.9, 49mm lug-to-lug
- Weight: 92 grams (with provided leather strap)
- Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Internal AR Coating
- Case Back: Solid Stainless Steel, Screwed
- Water Resistance: 20 atm/200 meters/666 ft
- Inter-lug Width: 20mm
- Material: 316L Stainless Steel
- 120-click Uni-Directional
- Painted Numbers and 12-Hour Triangular Pip
- MOVEMENT: Miyota 9039, 24 Jewels
- Functions: Hour, Minute, Center Seconds, Hacking, Hand-Winding
- Beats Per Hour: 28,800
- Power Reserve: 42 Hours
- Premium NATO and Black Rubber Included
- Clasp: Bespoke Pin Buckle