Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! This Sunday, I’ll be reviewing the Arcturus Sovereignty (prototype), due to launch on Kickstarter March 6th.
Update: After some delays, the Arcturus Sovereignty is now live on Kickstarter here!
Arcturus made a huge splash on Kickstarter last year, with their debut model (the LC-1) surpassing its funding goal by a fair margin. It is still, till date, one of my favourite Kickstarter watches that I’ve handled. How does Arcturus’ sophomore attempt -a dive watch this time- fare? Let’s find out.
Arcturus – the Brand
I previously covered Arcturus as a brand in my review of the Arcturus LC-1 here. For those interested in reading about Alexander’s (founder of Arcturus) watch journey, do give the article a read!
Arcturus Sovereignty – Build Quality
Alexander is a true watch connoisseur – in case you didn’t read the aforementioned article, Alexander started out his watch journey by first modding watches, then building them from scratch thereafter. As such, it’s no surprise that the Sovereignty possesses rock solid build quality!
Firstly, the Arcturus Sovereignty utilses a double-domed sapphire crystal to protect its watch face. Compared to flat or single-domed sapphire, a double-domed sapphire is stronger, and possess less optical distortion (especially when you look at it from the side). From a cost perspective, it also tends to be more expensive! As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to their inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. Furthermore, the underside of the sapphire crystal is AR-coated, preventing the bulk of any possible nasty reflections. In addition, the Sovereignty boasts 300M of WR rating, which is pretty impressive given the fact that it has an exhibition caseback! No problems wearing this out to the pool, or the sea.
Secondly, the Sellita SW200-1 movement powers the Sovereignty. For those unfamiliar with watch movements, the Sellita SW200 is basically a ETA 2824 clone, with some small improvements. It’s nothing to be scorned at – several well-established luxury brands such as Oris, Raymond Weil, and Montblanc use Sellita SW200 base movements in their watches. These watches are triple/quadruple the price of the Sovereignty – this is a quality movement. For more information regarding the Sellita SW200 VS ETA 2824 debate, Watch Flipr has an article on it here. Some basic specs: the Sellita SW200-1 beats at 4Hz per hour (contributing to the smooth sweep of the second hand), has 38 hours power reserve, 26 Jewels, and is hacking with quick date function. Most sub-$500 USD microbrand watches uses a Miyota/Seiko movement, so the presence of a established Swiss movement here is a pleasant sight.
An integrated Kevlar sailcloth strap is the default option on the Sovereignty. On paper, it is enticing – Kevlar sailcloth sounds much more exotic than the usual rubber/leather strap. Unfortunately, I don’t think it works that well in practice. The sailcloth strap is quite thin, and lacks substance when worn. When paired with the 13.8mm thick Sovereignty, it just doesn’t feel substantial enough. I think the Sovereignty would look, and feel, better on just about any other strap – leather for a desk diver look, rubber for a tool watch look, and perhaps even on a bracelet for an added edge! Hopefully, there will be additional unlockable strap options as stretch goals during the Kickstarter campaign.
However, the lume on the Sovereignty is pretty good! The watch uses Swiss BGW9 Superluminova, with the lume equally strong on the indices, hands, and even the bezel! I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by the consistency of the lume shown here.
Overall, I would say that the build quality of the Sovereignty is pretty good! The AR-coated double domed sapphire crystal is great for durability, the 300M WR rating is terrific for a diver with an exhibition caseback, and a reputable Swiss movement in the Sellita SW200-1 keeps the watch ticking smoothly. The only weak area is the default Kelvar sailcloth strap, which can be easily remedied by getting a third-party option.
Arcturus Sovereignty – Design
Arcturus’ debut model, the LC-1, was one of the best designed watches that I’ve ever reviewed. The Sovereignty isn’t as intricate as the LC-1, but its design remains thoughtful and continues to draw inspiration from Singapore’s heritage.
To kick things off, we get a sunburst black dial here. The sunburst pattern is quite subtle though – in fact, it often looks matte more often than not until it’s looked at closely. There are numerous colourways of the Sovereignty – this sunburst black variant, a sunburst blue variant, a meteorite dial variant, and three special “bicentennial” editions in red, blue, and grey. Between the six, my pick would definitely be the meteorite dial for its uniqueness. If meteorite isn’t your cup of tea, I would say that the various “bicentennial” colourways -which feature wave monograms on the dials- make for great options as well. The sunburst black isn’t bad, and I’m sure there will be those who appreciate its subtle nature. Personally however, I find it a tad too subdued for my tastes.
Where the Sovereignty shines is in its Singapore inspired design. According to Alexander, the watch is inspired by the design of the RSN’s (Republic of Singapore Navy) stealth navy interceptor craft, specifically the SMC Type-II. Firstly, the applied 3D (individually crafted) indices are modeled after the shape of abovementioned stealth frigate. Look closely, and the resemblance is clear – the indices look like a battleship! Yet, upon first glance, perhaps the second, and even the third, the nautical inspiration of the indices is not evident – until it is pointed out to you, then it all clicks into place. I love such subtlety! Being individually crafted, the applied indices appears complex, possessing multiple faceted angles, and polished to a gleam. It’s not exactly Grand Seiko level, but I see the horological tribute here as well. In addition, the primary hands of the Sovereignty are actually inspired by the Italian Oto Melara Hitrole weapons system on board the stealth frigate! The hands are really unique – I have not seen these hands on dive watches, or watches in general, before. Meanwhile, the second hand is modelled after the long barrel of the Singapore Technologies Kinetics (CIS) 50MG Heavy Machine Gun. Alexander shared with me that he was a weapons technician during his time in the military – I certainly see evidence of Alexander’s personal experiences and personality in this watch. In an age where dive watches mostly look the same, the design influences of the Sovereignty sets it apart from the crowd.
The LC-1 was chock-full of depth, and it’s a pleasure for me to report that the Sovereignty brings more of the same! The aforementioned applied indices (and they are thick indices) adds depth, as does the railway minute track that is printed a layer above, reinforced by an added minute track on top. On this note, one can argue that a railway minute track (most commonly seen on dress watches) look out of place on a dive watch, but I personally think that it is integrated well here. Alexander revealed to me that the railway minute track is going to be a trademark of Arcturus watches – all Arcturus watches, past present and future, will feature a railway minute track. In addition, I appreciated the utilitarian feel of the black and white colour scheme – it certainly captures the effective and efficient nature of the RSN, and its naval vessels!
If you’re think Arcturus is done with the nautical inspiration in the Sovereignty, you’re wrong. Even the case of the watch is modelled after the shape of the RSN stealth frigate! Certainly, I will say that the side profile of the Sovereignty is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on dive watches. According to Alexander, he “studied the radar cross section reduction design that went into the ship building of the Formidable-class frigate and incorporated it into the case design whilst still retaining Arcturus’ brand DNA.” In the metal, that effort pays off and it makes for an absolutely striking side profile. In particular, I like the polished strip that runs through the middle – it provides a nice contrast in texture to the otherwise brushed case.
Aside from possessing gorgeous curves (just look at the photo above!), the Sovereignty also has a signed crown. It is nicely sized, and grooved, thus making hand winding the watch an ease. If I have a knock though, it would be the simplistic signing of the crown – given Arcturus’ design impetus in other areas of their watches, the bold “A” seems a tad too simplistic.
The bezel on the Sovereignty is made of ceramic, specifically of Zirconium Oxide which boasts a 1500 Vickers hardness rating. As compared to aluminium (what most bezels are typically made of), ceramic is considered to be scratch-proof, and should not show any signs of wearing even after years of use. The bezel on this prototype is brushed – on production models, it will be polished, which should make the bezel pop more. There should also be additional contrast created between the polished bezel, and the brushed case. The 120 clicks unidirectional bezel is easy to rotate, with little play. I like the minimalist design of the bezel, which gels well with the overall design of the watch. However, it still possesses some nuances – for example, a hexagon is used at the 12 o’clock, as compared to circular markers at 3, 6 and 9. Realising these little design details is probably my favourite part of interacting with Arcturus’ watches!
Lastly, the Sovereignty comes with an exhibition caseback -unusual for a dive watch- for you to see the Swiss Sellita SW200-1 movement within. As this is a prototype, the rotor isn’t signed, though Alexander assured me that the movement will be spruced up in the production models. I think the screwed down caseback is done rather nicely as well – the various information are displayed elegantly. In particular, I like that “Singapore” is engraved on the caseback – Arcturus is really owning its Singaporean roots here.
I have a smaller wrist, but I would say that the Sovereignty actually wears smaller than its 43mm wide specification might suggest! This is probably a result of its short lugs, making the watch wearable even on smaller wrists. In addition, the Sovereignty also wears thinner than its 13.8mm thick specification might indicate. Dive watches are often seen as bulky, a chunk of metal on the wrist (the Zelos Abyss, for instance) – that’s certainly not the case (no pun intended) here!
Overall, the Sovereignty is another strong effort from Arcturus. The design isn’t exactly jaw dropping like the LC-1 was, but it too possesses its own nuances and little details – much like a Grand Seiko actually, in many ways! I love the RSN inspired design as well – it separates this watch from the plethora of affordable dive watches out there.
That being said, this sunburst black variant is a tad too subdued for my liking, though I imagine it probably appeals more to those who prefer a stealthier aesthetic. The meteorite dial option (pictured above) is definitely the one I would gun for – the dial texture is simply amazing.
If that’s outside your budget (the meteorite option is significantly more expensive at $649 USD), the bicentennial editions make for more striking options too. The Bicentennial Editions pays homage to 200 years of modern Singapore -founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles-and feature a wave monogrammed dial to reflect Singapore’s status as the busiest port in the world.
Shootout – Arcturus Sovereignty vs Unimatic U1-E
Like I said, most dive watches on the market today look alike. It would have been a disservice to the Arcturus Sovereignty if I were to merely compare it to a well-built, but overall generic looking, diver. I racked my brains on microbrand divers I felt looked iconic, and the first watch that came into my mind was the Unimatic U1-E.
In terms of build quality, I have to give the edge to the Sovereignty. While both watches uses a double domed sapphire crystal and has a 300M WR rating, the Sovereignty boasts a high beat Swiss Sellita SW200-1 movement as its beating heart – in contrast, the U1-E uses the reliable, but unspectacular, Seiko NH35A movement. In addition, the BGW9 lume on the Sovereignty should, on paper at least, be brighter than the C1 white lume used on the U1-E. As such, I think the Sovereignty bags the win from a specifications standpoint.
From a design perspective, I think both watches are tooth and nail. In my opinion, the Unimatic U1-E is one of the best looking divers out there – I love its minimalist black and white styling, as well as its play on shapes. It’s also quintessentially Unimatic – one look at the watch, and it’s unmistakable for anything else. That being said, the dial is rather flat and lacks depth. In addition, while the empty bezel looks great aesthetically, it decreases the utility of the watch as a diver, essentially rendering the bezel useless. On the other hand, the Sovereignty combines both form and function. Its dial possesses depth, and the bezel is actually practical! The Singapore naval frigate inspired design shines too, in the hands, indices, and case profile of the watch. It’s certainly no slouch itself in the design department! If I had to choose, I would probably go with the Sovereignty – it has both style and substance.
Where the Sovereignty has the U1-E beat is in the price. Despite having the better specifications, as well as better practicality as a dive watch, it is actually over $200 USD cheaper than the Unimatic U1-E! As such, whilst the Unimatic U1-E is a beautiful watch in its own right, I have to declare the Sovereignty the winner of this shootout.
Conclusion – so the Arcturus Sovereignty “shiok” or not?
Definitely. It’s a lot of watch for the $499 USD asking price – one gets a double domed sapphire crystal, bright BGW9 lume, and a Swiss Sellita SW200-1 movement. I’m not a fan of the Kevlar Sailcloth strap, but that’s an easy fix. The design doesn’t exactly get my pulse racing the same way the LC-1 did, but as far dive watches goes, it’s definitely one of the more intriguing and intricate ones. As a Singaporean who has served in the military (just ORD-ed a year ago, actually), I appreciate the RSN stealth frigate inspired design – it’s certainly something unique that I’ve not seen before! One of my favourite things about Arcturus as a brand is its commitment to drawing design inspiration from Singapore. I love the little nuances of the Sovereignty, and found myself liking it the more I wore it, something that can’t be said for all watches!
That being said, I have seen all three dial variants of the Sovereignty in the flesh, and I have to say that the meteorite option is the most stunning out of the three – the texture of the dial is amazing, and pairs well with the design of the watch. If you’re looking to back the Sovereignty on Kickstarter, that will certainly be the option I’ll recommend!
If not, the Bicentennial Editions are great options as well! While the meteorite variant is stunning, it is also slightly pricey at $649 USD. In contrast, the Bicentennial Editions share the same MSRP -$499 USD- as the regular sunburst variants. The wave monogrammed dials of the Bicentennial editions remind me of the Hokusai Great Wave for some reason – and I love it.
For those interested in backing the Sovereignty, mark the 6th of March down on your calendar! I’ll update this article when the Sovereignty launches. Kudos to Arcturus for diversifying and trying something new – the LC-1 is one of my favourite dress watches, and the Sovereignty is currently one of my favourite dive watches as well, alongside the BOLDR Voyager. Alexander seems to hit it out of the park with each of his watch designs – can’t wait to see what he conjures up next!
Update: The Arcturus Sovereignty is now live here.
Size: 43mm Diameter. 13.8mm Height. 48.5mm Lug to Lug
Water Resistance: 300m.
Watch case: 316L Stainless steel case
Ceramic Bezel: Zirconium Oxide 1500 Vickers hardness.
Movement: Swiss Sellita SW200-1.
Crystal: Double Domed Sapphire Crystal with inner AR coating. Sapphire crystal caseback.
Dial: 3D individually crafted indices filled with BG-W9 Swiss Superluminova.
Dial options: Sunburst blue, sunburst black, meteorite
Strap: 22mm integrated Kevlar Sail Cloth strap
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!