RaceR88 beat me to it: a review of a discontinued watch whose unconventional design inspired a horological hunt and kill. His G-SHOCK Cube dates back to 2007. My EBEL Sportwave Diver entered production in 2005. His Casio was cheap to buy back in the day, a pricey piece today. My EBEL was expensive at launch, not so much now. Both watches share one major characteristic . . .
A funky bracelet.
Highlighting a watch’s bracelet before discussing the timepiece’s provenance, dial design or movement is like starting a car review focusing on the stereo system. Which you might well do if the automaker equipped the car with towering Martin Logan Renaissance speakers. Yup, the EBEL Sportwave Diver’s bracelet is that brash.
Casting his eyes on the Sportwave’s stainless steel attachment, one of my cigar amigos wondered if it had fallen out of the ugly tree, hitting every branch on the way down. I asked if he was an H.R. Giger fan; the links resemble nothing so much as the alien’s skull in Alien. Nope. He wasn’t enamored by the Sportwave’s bracelet or the Swiss artist’s internecivus raptus.
The EBEL Sportwave Diver’s bracelet is an over-the-top, immaculately crafted, silky, hefty version of the brand’s elegantly demure trademark “small wave” bracelet. A style statement that adorned Don Johnson throughout Miami Vice. The 80’s belonged to Crockett and Tubbs. EBEL rode shotgun.
EBEL survived the quartz crisis by making high priced mechanical and quartz watches blessed with high quality in-house movements. They thrived into the early 90’s, well known as a major sponsor of professional tennis (e.g., the Davis Cup), with world famous players (e.g., Boris Becker) sporting EBEL watches in front of millions .
In 1994, things went seriously south. EBEL owner Pierre-Alain Blum (above), the over-leveraged grandson of the brand’s husband-and-wife founders, got shoved aside by Investcorp. The Bahrain-based private equity firm immediately unloaded EBEL on LVMH. The French luxury Group did nothing much with the brand before selling it to Movado Group for $62.2m.
From 2004 onwards, Movado tried – and failed – to reinvigorate EBEL. They introduced several new lines that never caught fire, that all but completely fizzled during the 2007 financial crisis. The New Jersey-based watchmaking group busied themselves cranking-up production of their “entry-level” brands, selling hundreds of thousands of Movado, Concord, ESQ, Coach and Tommy Hilfiger watches in American malls, at bargain basement prices.
Movado pumped EBELs through these branded outlet stores, also at huge discounts. “Any competitor’s watch that retails at $2000 cannot even begin to touch the quality of an EBEL that retails at $4500 – $7500 but has been discounted below $2000,” TrovStar.com opines.
Designed before the Movado takeover, the EBEL Sportwave Diver’s last known retail price was $2350. I bought the new old stock model reviewed here for a grand, plus UK taxes and shipping. TrovStar’s spot-on: the quality is nuts.
I’ll shut up about the Sportwave’s brushed steel bracelet’s beauty and haptic happiness – except to say the links flow into the brushed steel case and around the screw-down crown like a gentle river flowing over smooth stones, rather than a wave crashing onto the shore.
Thanks to its 3.6mm thick EBEL Cal. 120 movement (ETA 2892-A2 base), the 43mm EBEL Sportwave Diver is thin for a standard dress watch – never mind a dive watch with a 200m water resistance rating.
The Timegrapher rates its accuracy at +5 to +8 seconds per day – a reasonable result for a hardy automatic engine. The Sportwave’s 120-click black and silver PVD bezel is stiffer than James Bond’s martini, but then so is my back on any given morning. No prizes for guessing which one will loosen-up over time.
Meanwhile, the EBEL Sportwave Diver’s dial is nothing special – and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Legibility takes precedence over style; the rectangular hands and indices wouldn’t look out of place on a Timex.
The Sportwave’s red seconds hand and the red markers on its steeply sloped inner flange are the only splashes of color. It’s an excellent example of discretion being the better part of horological valor. The typography is equally handsome, equally discreet, as is the perfectly placed, sized and colored date window.
EBEL discontinued the EBEL Sportwave Diver in 2008. They’re still out there, somewhere. There’s nothing like the Sportwave in the company’s current model range.
There are some tasty small wave-braceleted minimalist pieces, such as the $2950 EBEL Sport Classic Titanium automatic above. EBEL’s website offers more than a few wonderfully wavy quartz watches for around $1.5k – which may or may not see the light of day (marked “coming soon”).
The EBEL brand is another storied Swiss watchmaker that almost fell by the wayside, got “rescued” and passed around like, well, you know, and hangs on by the skin of their proverbial teeth (and the Chinese market, presumably). Starved of marketing money (no videos since 2018), EBEL’s gradually fading from consumer consciousness.
For many years, EBEL successfully sold itself as “The Architects of Time.” If you’re looking to build your watch collection with a high quality, pre-owned, outside-the-mainstream timepiece with an easily serviced automatic movement, the Sportwave Diver proves that EBEL is worth your time.
MODEL: EBEL Sportwave Diver
Price paid: $1200
Case: Satin-finished stainless steel, black PVD 120-click rotating bezel
Caseback: Screw-down, engraved EBEL
Crown: Screw-down, hacking seconds
Movement: EBEL Cal. 120 movement (ETA 2892-A2 base)
Functions: Hour, minute, sweep seconds, date
Water resistance: 200m
Weight: 6.2 ounces
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * * * *
A Giger-esque interpretation of the EBEL wave bracelet defines the piece. Either you love or hate it.
Legibility * * * * *
Unexciting in a perfectly legible sort of way.
Comfort * * * * *
Wearing the wave bracelet is like slipping into a warm bath.
Overall * * * * *
An acquired taste for some, but distinctive, accurate and beautifully built.
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I think the bracelet is cool! I like it much more than the newer “wave” bracelets. Nice watch.
Is it 12 mm thick, not 22? Presumably the reason more aren’t making distinctive bracelets is that it ain’t easy. And timidity. Something about the crown and guards shape makes it all look longer and pointier than seems right to me.
What is with that insistence of using lower case sans serif A’s in the word ‘automatic’ with large T’s so it looks to read ‘OUTOMATIC’ at first glance?
Damn you’re picky. Which is one reason I love your writing.
Ha! Now that I’m looking at the crown and guards… I can’t un-see the “pointiness.”
I see that RF is a lefty (non-political). I wonder if that pointy crown would be “pokey” to us normal people who wear the watch on our non-dominant wrist?
This may have been n attempt to mimic the sinusoidal wave shape. From a functionality standpoint, this unconventional crown and guard arrangement doesn’t look to make much sense otherwise.
My dad had an Ebel for a long time, but the best part about that watch was that he bought it on the street in Hong Kong in the ’80s for cheap. When he went to go get it fixed, he thought it would wind up being fake, it turned out to be real (18K gold and all). He would always say, never pass up a street fair in Hong Kong, because so much is stolen there, it’s worth taking the risk for this reason.
Another Giger-esque bracelet can be found on this Seiko Kinetic. Came across it last night, made me want to watch Aliens. I applaud these designers for taking risks, but man these are ugly. Not for me.
Ebel always had this signature bracelet through his activity as a watchmaker. But I see it becoming trendy – sort-of. Check the Moser & Cie chronograph’s bracelet that has won some prize during last GPHG
I bought my first Ebel (Sport Classic Chrono 134) in Hong Kong back in the early ‘90s. The Le Modulor was already available, but I wanted the El Primero heart. Investment-wise, I should have paid a couple of hundred more and bought a Rolex Daytona. Hell, I should have bought 10… The decision taught me something about watches: if you want quality for your buck – and your not about the bling of over-hyped brands, you will be hard pressed to find a better choice than the watches Ebel produced between 1985 and 2010. I have over 50 and will continue to add to my collection as long as people fail to recognise just how dann good these timepieces are…
PS. I have the watch you reviewed in white. Picked it up for 250 USD at auction. He he….
I meant: you’re not your…