Dive watches have been around for half a century. They’re now almost synonymous with luxury watches. Are you sitting down? I have never had one on my wrist until I was sent the Stührling Original Cobia 966B Diver from TTAW central . . .
Divers always seemed both too sporty and too serious for me. These pressure/liquid-resistant vessels are meant, at least originally, for perilous underwater pursuits that I don’t perform on a daily basis. And then there’s the financial aspect. Dive watches, unlike dive bars, tend to come at a premium cost.
But this is a Stührling quartz, as was last week’s Tukegee Aviator. Expect some similarities, starting with the box they come in. I still think the Halloween Harley-Davidson black and orange packaging starts things off with a good first impression.
More features, more money. Adding the obligatory specs and features means that the Cobia Diver costs 45% more at $145. Déjà vu, the MSRP is a remarkably consistent fivefold value of $725. The anchor pricing seems more suitable for the nautical watch though.
I was dismayed to see the Cobia arrive ticking with no bitsy plastic tag keeping the crown open. I was unable to pull the crown out because I’m unfamiliar with screw-in crowns, but I quickly wised up. The feel to find the date position on the stem was better than the utterly numb Timex Easy Reader, but not a crisp detent.
The crown had a blue vinyl protector film dot that would not come off cleanly. I wore it as an ersatz cabochon until it finally gave way. It protects the embossed “S” which I think is upside down, if you bother looking or caring.
The case sides are well polished while the top is brushed, but the crotch between the lugs is less finished still. The time at the buffing wheel here was either severely rushed or overlooked altogether, because what look to be tool mark artifacts are present. As the spring bars are low on the case, you get a good view of this unpolished crotch.
The dial is the standard dive watch luminous hour index arrangement: triangle at the top, rectangle at other quadrants, and the rest circular. Except the date window is at 3 o’clock, but is silver framed white, so it fits in during daylight. The 6 o’clock bar is horizontal instead of radial, as if it’s sleeping on the job.
Per unwritten law, the bottom half is printed with “PROFESSIONAL DIVER/200M” even though I am not even amateur. It’s the watch’s job, not mine. For a dive watch, the fine dial print was restrained. Company policy seems to be to avoid overt mention of the quartz movement on the dial.
As I didn’t mention with the Aviator, the black dial is not the blackest black. It definitely pales in comparison to the black bezel. This may be an effect from the Krysterna crystal, their proprietary treatment (that may essentially be Hardlex). But Stührling says it comes from the eyewear industry, so it shouldn’t cause color distortion.
The hands are black too, less the luminescent parts. This is an odd choice, to say the least. The seconds hand appears only as a tiny orbiting pip. Only after over 48 hours of wear did I realize that the back of the seconds hand featured a little hoop.
In another bizarre decision, the hour hand is half skeletonized, meaning half invisible. This means scanning the dial to find the visible end, which takes longer than just tracing from near center. At least the minute hand is a straightforward baton with no skimping on lume paint. Stührling says these are plongeur hands. Not plunger, plongeur. French for, wait for it, diver, and slang for dishwasher.
The polished case back is engraved with some anchor or something, and encircled with various credentials. As with the Aviator, there is a group of mystery letters: here GLLB (LNH on the Aviator). The NATO band hides this lovely finishing touch, such that I realized there was still an unremoved clear vinyl protector on there after four days. You usually don’t get an exhibitionist back with a quartz movement, so this adds some sense of luxury for the price.
Giving the 120 click unidirectional bezel its first whirl, would it feel like opening a stuck jar or entering the combination on a worn locker? The wheel of fortune delivered the Goldilocks answer: just right. The coin edge offers good grip and the resistance is firm without being too stiff. There was no perceptible play in the plaything. The ratchet chatter* was crisp and uniform.
The black inlaid bezel has numeral hour markers, where I believe minute markings are more common. Presumably this is a concession to general time telling as opposed to the pretense of dive time monitoring. The one and eleven in sans-serif font can resemble tick marks on first glance, not that it matters. The 12 o’clock luminous pip is raised. It may just be a dab of paint, and I seem to have scuffed the middle of it a bit.
The luminescence performed just as well as on the other Stührling, lasting satisfactorily all night with no deliberate light saturation beforehand. The shortchanging on the amount of lume paint on the hour hand is equally irritating in the dark.
The supplied black nylon 22mm NATO band is worthwhile, substantial but not stiff. It’s stitched, not heat fused, if you care about that sort of thing. The hardware is all brushed steel to spare the bling, including that same branded buckle I admired when polished on the Aviator.
I’m so over NATO straps though. Those three metal bars add physical and visual bulk. Excess strap length is already an issue with my skinny wrist and the NATO exacerbates the issue. On the plus side, I wasn’t on the first hole, but the sixth. The unlucky thirteen holes should accommodate any wrist from 5.25″ to 8.5″ around. The Cobia is a bit tall for me, and stacking it on two layers of webbing doesn’t help.
At first I thought there was something about the size or shape of the watch that made it not so secure on the wrist. It would slide past the wrist bone, and the fluted crown would rub the back of the hand.
Switching to a perlonband instantly alleviated all ills. It sat unflappably flat and comfortable where it belonged. The accompanying minor drop in height was an appreciated improvement as well.
That said, the Stührling Original Cobia does look like the business. It’s a no-nonsense design in basic black. All that divey stuff like the graduated bezel and assorted luminous geometry on the dial exudes purposefulness. So do the NATO geegaws, even if the non-enthusiast couldn’t actually explain any of it. None of this James Bond functionality really sees much use, but we’re talking image here. And it could deliver if called upon.
The Stührling Original Cobia is the most serious adult watch I’ve regularly worn lately. David Brooks mentions in Bobos In Paradise how the bourgeois bohemians demonstrate their superior education/intellect with every possession, leading to much inessential professional grade performance item flexing.
I caught myself drinking this Flavor Aid, believing that I was projecting more authority and capability since I had on a frogman watch with a spinny bezel. Of course nobody seemed to notice it at all, but that’s beside the point. It gave a minor confidence boost. Yet another reason I avoid truly expensive watches, lest I get all Gob Bluth.
In closing, I found nothing about the Stührling Original Cobia that truly stood out. It’s handsome, follows the general dive watch formula, and has no immediate quality concerns. It would make a fine daily wear item for people in this price range, as would any number of cheaper competitors. And there’s the rub. From osmosis I know of the Casio Duro and Invicta Pro Diver. I don’t know if they come in fancy gift boxes though.
Model: Stührling Original Cobia 966B Quartz 42mm Diver
Price: $145 (actual, alleged MSRP $745)
Case diameter: 42mm
Case thickness: 11mm
Lug to lug: 50mm
Lug width: 22mm
Case metal: Stainless steel
Band: nylon NATO with brushed stainless hardware
Crown:Screw Down Serrated-Style Crown With Stührling S Logo
Weight: 84g (2.96 oz)
Lume: indices; hour, minute and second hands, bezel pip
Movement: Japanese Quartz
Water Resistance: 200m/660ft
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, day of month
Warranty: 2 years
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * *
Generic dive watch conforming to staid tradition. Nothing objectionable, nothing interesting. But the case back is pretty.
Legibility * *
Half the hour hand is invisible, as is most of the seconds hand. It might be easier to read with lume at night than in daylight.
Comfort * * *
NATO strap means hit or miss as wrist size varies throughout day. Protruding crown has some bite.
Overall * *
Gimmick-free and blandly attractive in an utterly derivative way but so is the less costly competition.
* Fun fact: ratchet and chatter are anagrams!