The Aries Gold Black Sea is the brand’s maiden dive watch, one which I’ve been told took over 6 months of R&D and prototyping to come to fruition. Given the popularity of dive watches in the current watch market, I’m actually a tad surprised that it took Aries Gold this long to come up with one. Better late than never, I suppose.
Let’s see if the Black Sea is any good!
Aries Gold – the Brand
Many of us Singaporeans should be familiar with the brand Aries Gold – we see Aries Gold watches stocked in watch retailer H2 Hub (with over 10 locations in Singapore) across the island. What many Singaporeans may not know is that Aries Gold watches are actually “Made in Singapore” – the brand possess their own manufacturing and assembly facilities and team of watchmakers right here on our little red dot! If you would like to details of Aries Gold’s brand story, do read my review of the Aries Gold Jolter (one of my personal favourites) here, in which I covered Aries Gold as a brand in detail. I also previously reviewed the Aries Gold Cruiser here, the Aries Gold Roadster here, the Aries Gold El Toro here, and the Aries Gold Vanguard here. In addition, I did a feature article on why I believe Aries Gold to be the best watch brand under S$200, which can be read here.
Aries Gold Black Sea – Youtube Video
For those who would like to see some hands-on footage of the watch, do check out my Youtube review of the Aries Gold Black Sea below!
Aries Gold Black Sea – Build Quality
Like most Aries Gold watches, the Black Sea features great specifications for the price.
Unlike most of the previous Aries Gold watches I reviewed, the Black Sea uses a boxed mineral crystal instead of sapphire crystal. I suspect the choice here was either to have a flat sapphire crystal or a boxed mineral one, with the brand opting for the latter option for a more vintage look. While I understand that having a domed sapphire crystal would likely be too cost-prohibitive at this ~S$240 price point, I personally would be willing to pay a tad more for enhanced durability. As it stands, one must be careful not to be too rough with the Black Sea, which unfortunately undercuts its status as a tool or sports watch. However, it does possess a WR rating of 200M, meaning that you should have no issues wearing the Black Sea in the pool or the shower.
The ubiquitous Seiko NH35A movement powers the Aries Gold Black Sea. Some quick specs: the movement beats at 21600 vibrations per hour, has 42 hours of power reserve, contains 24 jewels, and is hacking. I’m a fan of the Seiko NH35 movement, and greatly prefer it to the Miyota 8 series movement (which is the alternative movement commonly seen with microbrand watches). This is due to the fact that unlike the NH35, the Miyota 8 series movements are non-hacking, suffer from a stuttering second hand (some models), and in my own experience with the Miyota movements, are also more prone to accuracy problems. In contrast, the Seiko NH35 is a movement that is as reliable as they come. At this sub-S$300 price point, the Seiko NH35 movement is definitely the best bet.
The Black Sea comes on Aries Gold’s new “Italian Genuine Leather Strap”, and I must say I found it to be significantly better than the straps from on Aries Gold’s older models. The Italian leather strap feels more premium to the touch, and it’s definitely much more comfortable on the wrist. There’s a nice suede-like texture to the strap, which enhances the rustic feel of the watch. It’s nicely finished too with edge dye and stitched strap loops, and features quick-release spring bars to facilitate easy strap changing. The buckle is etched with Aries Gold’s branding, which is a nice detail. I would say it’s on par with the S$30+ straps one might get from Nomadwatchworks or Straposphere.
In another first, the Black Sea features Swiss Superluminova, which is a major upgrade from the “Asian lume” found on Aries Gold’s previous watches. The brand does not specify which type of Superluminova it is, but it looks to be C3. As expected from Swiss C3 Superluminova, the lume glows brightly in the dark, and lasts for a substantial amount of time. If you’re a lume head, you won’t be disappointed.
All in all, the Aries Gold Black Sea possesses decent specifications for the price. It is powered by the reliable Seiko NH35A automatic movement, has a nice strap, and even comes with Swiss Superluminova. My only knock is the boxed mineral crystal used, although I concede that having a domed sapphire crystal would likely have pushed the price of the Black Sea closer to the S$300 mark. At its current ~S$240 pricing, I would say that the usage of a boxed mineral crystal is an acceptable tradeoff.
Aries Gold Black Sea – Design
While the Black Sea has solid specifications, it also has a rather intriguing design.
The main attraction of the Aries Gold Black Sea is undeniably its corroded dial. I’ve reviewed quite a few dive watches till date, and have never seen such a dial – which is saying something, considering that I’ve reviewed a ton of dive watches over the years. The brand tells me that they use specific chemicals to corrode the dial, resulting in a texture that mimics the bottom of a sea bed. I appreciate the innovation that Aries Gold has endeavoured here, which sets the Black Sea apart from the plethora of affordable dive watches in the microbrand market. Visually, the corroded dial of the Black Sea is reminiscent of a meteorite dial, though with a coarser and rugged texture. It plays wonderfully in the light too, and is a wonder to behold in the flesh.
As aforementioned earlier, the Black Sea possesses a vintage feel. A key aspect that contributes to its vintage charm is the Black Bay-esque applied indices. I like it – I personally own a Tudor Black Bay Dark, and the applied indices have always been one of my favourite aspects of the watch. However, Aries Gold smartly ditches the snowflake hands of the Black Bay in favour of a rather intriguing set of striking semi-skeletonised hands. Overall, I find the dial to be well-composed. My only dislike would be the white date window. A black date wheel would have made the date window less obtrusive.
The Black Sea also features a 120-click unidirectional bezel, which rotates smoothly without much play. For those wondering, I believe the bezel to be made out of stainless steel, much like the rest of the case. On the topic of the case, this particular variant comes in an interesting bronze hue. It’s not bronze, so it won’t patina over time, which may actually appeal to some who dislike the natural patina of bronze, or perhaps have sensitive skin. It’s an interesting case colour, one that is fairly uncommon in the market. When paired with the brown bezel and the corroded dial, it’s definitely a conversation starter on the wrist.
The screw-down crown is nicely sized, making hand-winding the watch an ease. It’s also signed with the Aries Gold logo, a detail not always present on watches at this price point. The case itself is industrially brushed, which gives the Black Sea a tool watch feel, though there is some beveled polishing present for some contrast. I appreciate the differing finishing techniques displayed here, which belies the low price tag of the Black Sea.
Being labelled as a dive watch, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Aries Gold Black Sea is rather large. It’s not Panerai big, but it’s definitely on the larger side. On my 7-inch wrist, I find the 43mm diameter of the Black Sea to be at the maximum of what I deem wearable – any larger and the lugs of the watch would be protruding. With a thickness of 15mm, the Black Sea probably won’t fit under a shirt cuff too. Personally, I would have preferred for Aries Gold to have went with slightly smaller dimensions here. The popularity of the Tudor Black Bay 58 proves that there is a growing demand for smaller, slimmer dive watches, and I certainly would have liked the Black Sea more if it was 40-41mm wide instead.
All in all though, I really do like the aesthetics of the Aries Gold Black Sea. In particular, I find its corroded dial to be pretty unique. Most affordable dive watches look like Submariner homages, an accusation that cannot be levelled at the Black Sea here. Furthermore, the Black Bay-esque applied indices, the brown bezel, the bronze-tinted case and the boxed mineral crystal all contribute to the Black Sea having a nice vintage charm. However, it’s not perfect – I wish the date wheel was black (or better yet, omitted entirely), and the watch could have been a tad smaller. But at its price, these are quibbles that I can personally overlook.
Shootout: Aries Gold Black Sea vs Spinnaker Wreck
If you’re looking for a watch with a similar dial, the closest alternative would probably be the newly launched Spinnaker Wreck.
In terms of specifications, both watches are pretty similar. Both are powered by the workhorse Seiko NH35A movement, has 200M of WR rating, and possesses Swiss Superluminova. However, the Spinnaker Wreck does feature a domed sapphire crystal, which is significantly more scratch-resistant as compared to the box mineral crystal of the Black Sea.
From an aesthetic standpoint, both watches are comparable too. In particular, both watches feature an “aged” dial, which gives both watches a vintage, battle-scarred look. However, Spinnaker looks to have taken the aged aesthetic a step further by aging the bezel and the case as well, in a package that is reminiscent of watches from Out-of-Order. Which watch is better for you probably depends on your personal tastes. If the aged, battle-scarred aesthetic appeals to you, then the Spinnaker Wreck would likely be more up your alley. However, if you prefer a more modern aesthetic, then the Aries Gold Black Sea would be the better pick.
When it comes to value, the Aries Gold Black Sea undeniably triumphs over the Spinnaker Wreck. At $180 USD, it is almost half the price of the Spinnaker Wreck, which starts at $315 USD on a leather strap and $350 USD on a bracelet. Given how similar both watches are in terms of specifications and design, the Black Sea is clearly the better value proposition. Granted, the Spinnaker Wreck does have a domed sapphire crystal, but that is not sufficient to make up for the ~$135 USD difference.
Conclusion – so the Aries Gold Black Sea “shiok” or not?
I would say so. As the first dive watch from Aries Gold, it’s a commendable effort. The Black Sea ticks a lot of boxes – it’s automatic, has good lume, a nice leather strap, vintage styling, and most importantly, a unique corroded dial that sets it apart from the tons of affordable well-built dive watches out there in the microbrand market. I would like a future update to come with a few upgrades (in particular, a domed sapphire crystal and a black date window) but as it stands, the Aries Gold Black Sea is one of the best, if not the best dive watch you can find for under $200 USD. Like most Aries Gold watches, the value proposition here is irresistible.
For those interested in the Black Sea, you can use the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy a crazy 50% off all Aries Gold watches online! After the discount, this variant of the Black Sea can be had for only $179.50 USD/ ~S$240, which is an absolute steal. If you’re not a fan of the corroded dial, or have a tighter budget, there’s also a version with a matte black dial priced at $139.50 USD/~S$187, and an interesting blacked out variant with a green dial at $164.50 USD/ ~S$220. For those looking for a well-built, visually intriguing dive watch that won’t burn a hole in the pocket, the Aries Gold Black Sea deserves your attention.
View the Aries Gold Black Sea collection here.
View the entire Aries Gold collection here.
Model: G 9027 CF-BKT2
Case: Solid Stainless Steel
Strap: Genuine Leather
Glass: Boxed Mineral Glass
Water Resistance: 20 ATM
Case Size: 43mm
Functions: 3 Hands and Date
Movement: NH35A Automatic
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned.
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.