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Stuhrling Original is a company that has produced a bit of controversy in the watch world. Founded with a goal to produce luxury-looking watches that are affordable for everybody, they’ve also made a lot of people angry by blatantly copying designs from high-end Swiss brands.
I’m a little unclear on Stuhrlings history. Several places, including Wikipedia, state that the company was founded in 1999 in New York City. The companies own about page implies that they were founded in Switzerland (or after a trip to Switzerland?) sometime after 2003.
Stuhrling heavily claim ‘Swiss quality’ in their marketing, but don’t state anywhere on their site where the watches are actually manufactured. From what I understand they are all produced in China. It doesn’t bother me that the watches are produced in China as many brands, even high-quality micro-boutiques, are having the Chinese do the manufacturing. I think Stuhrling could be a bit more transparent about their history and current processes though.
Enough about the company though, let’s get to the actual watch I’ve got here – the Aquadiver Regatta Champion.
Stuhrling Aquadiver Regatta Champion Specifications
The Stuhrling Aquadiver Regatta Champion comes in 5 different color variations:
|Accent Colors||White & Silver||Orange & White||Green & White||White & Rose||White & Silver|
The watch I’m reviewing here is ref. 395.33U16, with a blue dial & bezel. Isn’t it pretty?
I’m sure the other variations should be equal in manufacturing quality to the watch I have here, so if you’re looking to buy one this review should still give you an idea of what to expect from any of the different models.
I like to divide my reviews into close-up inspections of each part of the watch, and then give my overall impression.
The Aquadiver Regatta Champion comes in a glossy black box with the Stuhrling logo printed in gold color. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking here:
Nice little orange micro-fiber cloth for cleaning the watch.
The whole watch comes shrink wrapped in clear plastic, front and back.
The case of the Stuhrling Aquadiver Regatta Champion (phew that’s quite the name isn’t it?) is built out of polished stainless steel. As seems to be pretty standard procedure among different watch brands, the sides of the case are polished to a near mirror finish while the tops of the lugs are left less reflective, with a more brushed steel look.
The case is very simply shaped and highly angular. On the right side are two short crown guards, which protrude smoothly from the side. They slope slightly downwards from near the bezel, with the bottom hanging just below the rest of the case. The ends are smoothly rounded.
The left side is plain and featureless. The side of the case is a smooth cylindrical wall, extending from where it meets the bezel to the case back. I had thought my Casio MDV106 had a featureless case, but comparing the two it’s easy to see the Casio has much more shaping worked into it.
The lugs extend out from the top and bottom of the case, with many sharp corners. They slope down a significant amount, ending below the case bottom. This should allow the Aquadiver to sit comfortably even on smaller wrists.
The spring bars are small and of poor quality. I actually had one break on me when first taking off the bracelet, it just shot apart into multiple pieces once removed from the case.
There’s also not enough clearance between the case and where the spring bar sits to install thicker bars. Even as it is with the thin ones it’s very difficult to route a NATO strap through the gap. When changing straps out I’ve actually been pre-routing the strap and putting in the spring bar behind it, which is quite the hassle.
The flat screw-down case back is… disappointing. Instead of engraving a design directly into the steel they’ve simply printed it on in white via some method. While so far it’s held up to my light wear, I’m sure over a year or two of use the design would eventually wear off.
Which might not be a bad thing. I find the design uninspired and busy personally. Text detailing the specifications circles around the outer edge. Then they have the brand name on the top, with the S logo centered on the back. I can only imagine that the squiggly lines are supposed to be waves.
Like most inexpensive watches I’ve come across there’s been no attempt to align the case back with the overall orientation of the watch. In the picture above 2 o’clock is sitting at the top on the dial side.
The water tight, stainless steel screw-down crown is a good size and easy to grip. It’s protected on the top and bottom by the cases crown guards, but is still easy to get fingers on to unscrew. The light engraved coin edging provides decent friction for the fingers.
The crown has two positions that it can be pulled to: the first stop allows you to quickly advance the date. It’s easy to miss this first setting and skip straight to the second setting which is used for setting the hands.
When all the way unscrewed and pulled out to it’s farthest position the crown has a slight wobble to it, but not too bad.
The end of the crown has a small ‘S’ surrounded by an oval logo. I’m glad they took the time to decorate the crown at least – it’s a small touch but adds a little bit of much needed detail to the watch.
I’ll just say first off that I really like the dial of the Regatta Champion. It’s minimalistic but with several good looking, high quality design cues.
The only text on the dial is the brand name center top, ‘PROFESSIONAL DIVER 200 METERS center bottom, and ‘SWISS QUARTZ’ split by the 6 o’clock marker. I like watches with only a small amount of text, whenever a designer tries to fit a lot of information on the bezel it just ends up looking busy.
The applied markers are white with chrome trim around the edge. 12, 3, 6, and 9 are represented with the arabic numerals. The other hours are marked out by nearly rectangular trapezoids and the minutes with small bars (minutes are printed directly to the dial instead of being applied). The markers look really good, and go a long ways toward making this look more like a high-end watch.
The blue background of the dial has a wonderful two-tone pattern in the light. It usually looks dark blue, but theres always a reflected pattern of light blue that moves around depending on the angle of the watch to the light source. It really is quite pretty, but maybe I’m just a fan of blue dials.
The Stuhrling Aquadiver Regatta Champion lacks a chapter ring however, which would have upped the appearance quite a bit, adding some ‘depth’ to the watch.
The date window is the only blight on the otherwise beautiful dial:
The window is a small circle that sits at about 4:30. The date is printed in thin black arabic numerals.
Why do I say it’s a blight? The circle is so small that the numbers only barely fit inside it, and the edge usually shadows the date.
This makes it quite difficult to read, and I think they should have just left the window out.
The hands are sword shaped and done in a reflective chrome. The ends of the hour and minute hand are filled with white lume, with each having a different pattern. Nearer the base is a stamped out hole that matches the pattern of the lume. Overall I like the hour and minute hands, they fit in with the rest of the dial very nicely.
The seconds hand is very simple. It’s just a straight needle extending out to the minute markers. There isn’t any kind of lume marking on the hand, which is a little disappointing.
Generally on a dive watch you want some lume on the seconds hand, so you can quickly tell whether the watch is still running in the dark.
The unidirectional timing bezel is done in a dark blue, to match the dial.
The bezel has a thin coin edge for grip. Usually this type of edge is hard to get a good hand on, but the Regatta Champions bezel turns easily, perhaps too easily. I’ve looked down at the watch a few times now and have noticed that the bezel turned by accident, just by brushing against something.
It also has quite the ‘jiggle’ or sloppiness to it. Not only does it move back and forth a bit when pushing on it, it’s also possible to rock the whole bezel by pushing down on it.
It also lacks any sort of lume application, without even a small pip at the zero marker. This makes the bezel completely useless in the dark.
The bracelet is low quality and I honestly never bothered sizing it for my wrist, as I didn’t have the right size screw driver available to remove the links.
It doesn’t really look bad – it’s shiny stainless steel at least. The links are loosely assembled though, and it just didn’t feel like it would be very comfortable to wear.
I mostly prefer my watches on other kinds of bands and straps though, which I’ll cover next.
I’m mostly worn the Aquadiver on either of the straps that come in this pack: Ritche Leather and Black NATO
Due to the small space between the spring bars and case, I’m not sure how many other aftermarket bands would fit on the Stuhrling Aquadiver.
I’d like to try it with a nice vented rubber band, like this one. I’ll do more experimenting as I collect more straps and bands.
So, can the Stuhrling Aquadiver Regatta Champion actually handle diving duty?
It sure can. I’ve taken the Regatta Champion on a few somewhat deep dives (80-100ft) now and it’s still working perfectly.
The bezel is easy to turn with dive gloves on (like I said above, maybe too easy to turn) and the face of the watch is easy to read underwater.
My main complaint is in regards to the lume, which is poor on the dial and completely absent on the bezel. I wouldn’t recommend wearing it for night or low visibility diving.
Pro’s & Con’s
- Beautiful dial background color
- Quality applied markers
- Pretty handset
- Low quality, lume-less bezel
- Bad springbars, hard to route straps
- Disappointing bracelet
The Stuhrling Aquadiver Regatta Champion is a good looking watch that’s built cheaply. If you have less than $100 to spend and you like the look it’s worth picking up. It’s one of the least expensive 200 meter rated divers available, but should be able to handle some use and abuse.