Watch design has clearly taken a turn toward vintage-inspired design. More often than not, we’re seeing derivative designs, the use of creamy lume, and dial designs that look towards the past, rather than the present or future. Don’t take that the wrong way, I’m a fan of vintage design with modern construction. As the proud owner of a Doxa Sub 200 that gets a ton of wrist time, I have no issues with a modern reissue of an obscure reference, loaded with creamy fauxtina. It’s just nice to see a newer watch brand take a different direction and release a clean, modern watch that’s not like something you’ve already seen.
Today, we’re looking at Dryden’s dive watch, the Pathfinder. At its core, the Pathfinder is still a dive watch, so it’s not a completely new design. There’s still a unidirectional rotating bezel, a set of large legible hands, a healthy application of luminous paint, and a water resistance rating of 200m. Dryden’s approach to design is clean, modern, and functional with just enough flair in the areas that warrant it. Let’s take a closer look at the Pathfinder from Dryden Watch Co. — a US-assembled dive watch. First up, some specs:
Hands-On: Dryden Pathfinder Dive Watch
Sunburst Blue, Gloss Black, or Arctic White
Quick Release Bracelet or nylon
Double and triple checking the spec sheet confirms that the Pathfinder does measure in at 41mm wide. I just didn’t believe it, since the watch wears much smaller than the measurements imply. A millimeter or two in a product description is enough to turn people off from a watch, and the numbers don’t always tell the whole story. That’s the case here, as the 41mm housing of the Pathfinder wears much smaller on the wrist, and a lot of that is thanks to the 47mm lug-to-lug measurement and 11.8mm overall thickness (and that includes the sapphire glass).
The most surprising of the measurements is the thickness, or in this case, I’ll refer to it as thinness. Under 12mm for a 200m dive watch is quite the achievement, resulting in a very capable watch that’s also great as a daily wearer. It’s not just the 11.8mm that makes the watch feel so thin, it’s how the case is broken up between crystal, bezel, mid case, and case back that makes all the difference.
In profile, the most impressive thing about the Pathfinder’s case is the breakdown between crustal, bezel, mid case, and back. The domed sapphire crystal up top is very slightly domed. There’s no big vintage-style bubble going on, which keeps the overall thickness down. You can also see the slope of the ceramic bezel and where it meets the side surface of the steel portion of the bezel. While the cuts in the bezel are deep, they’re few and far between. Turning the bezel is a bit hard due to the lack of grip paired with the firmer action.
Just under the bezel is the mid case. It starts with a generous polished chamfer that transitions into the vertical brushed mid case with a sharp edge between the two finishes. The mid case itself is only a few millimeters tall, sloping downwards at the drilled lugs. The bottom of the mid case takes an angle inward to the case back in the form of another polished chamfer. Finally, the case back hangs slightly underneath the case, making up the remainder of the 11.8mm of watch. The proportions between each of these elements are balanced just right, while the mix of brushing and polished surfaces visually break up the case. It’s a clean design that wears well on the wrist.
At 3 o’clock, you’ll find a matte finished crown with a small design on the flat surface. The crown is a little bit small for a dive watch, and would benefit from a slight bump up in size. Matte finishing is a bit of an odd choice as well, since the crown is the only place it’s seen on the watch. The case design and finishing are very impressive, especially given the price range.
Dial & Hands
Moving onto the dial where we had the pleasure of checking out the black glossy dial and the blue sunburst dial for this review. Both are the same layout, save for a date feature at 6 o’clock on the black dialed-model. We’re presented with a clean, modern dive-style dial with applied indices. At 12 o’clock, a sharp, multi-faceted triangle rests at the top of the dial, followed by rectangular bars filled with lume for each hour. In between, you’ll find a tasteful slim hash mark for each minute. Around the outermost edge of the dial you’ll see a series of very small, closely packed hash marks. They’re too small and too close to be functional, but they do add a little something to an otherwise clean and straightforward dial.
Dryden’s text-based logo rests just below 12, balanced out at 6 by the word “AUTOMATIC” and the depth rating rendered in smaller text underneath. The word “AUTOMATIC” is printed in an accent color, giving it a little bit of extra pop against the base color of the dial. The black version of the watch is deep, rich black with a glossy finish. The red accents look great paired with the white print featured prominently throughout the rest of the dial. For the blue version, the Pathfinder ditches the glossy finish in favor of a matte sunburst finish. The sunburst brushing in the dial is subtle and tasteful. It plays with the light as you turn your wrist, creating an entertaining and handsome visual effect.
A pair of heavily brushed pencil hands point to the time. The inside of the hands are treated with Swiss Super LumiNova BGW9 to glow bright after exposure to light. Each end of the hands terminates in a point, giving them a little bit of added visual appeal. For the seconds, a slim, diamond-tipped hand is sent cruising around the dial by the automatic movement inside. On the black version, the diamond is highlighted in red paint, while the blue version features a vibrant orange accent. The handset is clean, legible, and filled with lume — just like it should be on a dive watch.
Inside the Pathfinder, you’ll find the Miyota 9015 automatic movement keeping the time. The movement is commonly seen in watches at this price point and have proven their reliability since its introduction in 2009. Beating at 28,800bph, the movement sends the seconds hand around the dial with a smooth sweep. Inside the movement itself, 24 jewels keep the mechanical pieces lubricated and running with minimal resistance. Dryden opted for a date display at 6 o’clock, with white numerals printed on a black date wheel. When fully wound, the movement will run for 42 hours. Convenient features like the ability to hand wind the movement and hack the seconds hand for precision time setting help differentiate it from the lower end Miyota and SII movements also used frequently by smaller brands.
Strap & Wearability
Dryden’s Pathfinder ships on a stainless steel bracelet with quick release end links. The three link bracelet starts at 20mm at the lugs, and tapers 2mm to 18mm at the clasp. I love a good tapered bracelet, as 2mm at the clasp goes a long way in wearability. The folding style clasp is sturdy, and has a signed security flip lock that ensures the bracelet stays on. There are four micro adjust holes in the clasp so you can really dial in your fit. The bracelet itself adjusts by way of screw-in pins. The standout feature of the bracelet for me is the end links. They marry perfectly to the case and blend in seamlessly with the overall design of the watch.
On watches in this price range, the end links are usually hit or miss. It’s clear that Dryden designed something that not only fits perfectly, but also looks great. Removing the bracelet for some strap swapping is a quick and easy affair, thanks to the quick release bars integrated into the solid end links. A quick pinch and pull, and the bracelet is free. Both versions of the watch look great on the bracelet or on a myriad of straps, thanks to the overall clean design and conservative use of color.
On the wrist is where the Pathfinder really shines. It’s one of the most comfortable dive watches I’ve had the pleasure of wearing. As mentioned above, the case elements combine to make up the 11.8mm overall thickness of the watch. It’s not just the sub-12mm measurement that makes it work so well, it’s the balance and curvature of the case too. When wearing the watch, one look at the side tells the whole story on how it wears. The casebook nestles into my wrist quite well, while the lugs hug the contours. It’s slim, comfortable, and effortless to wear. For a 41mm dive watch, I’m pleasantly surprised at how svelte it is on wrist. Since it’s so thin and comfortable, it makes the watch ideal for wearing on a nylon strap, which usually add another millimeter or so of thickness. The Pathfinder has room to spare, so strap lovers will still get to enjoy the thinness of the watch while rocking their favorite straps.
I’ll admit, when I first saw the Pathfinder, it looked like many other modern dive watches. It’s when I put it on, that everything changed. If you’re someone who’s tired of the vintage-leaning trend, but want to take advantage of the smaller cases seen in this style, the Pathfinder is a watch that should be on your radar. A solid set of specs, including a generous application of lume, a ceramic bezel, sapphire crystal, and 200m of water resistance are more than what you’d expect out of a $ 500 dive watch. For a 41mm watch, the Pathfinder has to be one of the best-wearing watches in this size range that I’ve had the pleasure of wearing.
There are also some fun options that you can customize the watch with. While we only had the ceramic bezel models, you can choose from a stainless steel 12-hour or Dive-style bezel on the product page. These bezel options change up the look of the watch quite dramatically while giving you a few more options to make the watch yours. The value is there, as the materials, finishing, and design choices justify the price tag. The $ 500-$ 1000 range of watches is becoming more competitive than ever, but the Pathfinder is definitely worth a harder look. More from Dryden.