The Phoibos Apollo is the brand’s latest dive offering, and the only one to be made out of titanium. Titanium dive watches aren’t exactly uncommon in today’s market, but they remain relatively rare at the sub-S$500 price point. Let’s see if the affordable Apollo is any good!
Phoibos Apollo – Video Review
For those interested in seeing some hands-on footage of the watch, do check out my Youtube review of the Phoibos Apollo below:
Phoibos – The Brand
Phoibos is a brand that I’m familiar with, having reviewed multiple of its watches in the past. I’ve previously covered Phoibos’ brand story in my review of its Eagle Ray. I also reviewed the Great Wall here, the Proteus here, the Voyager here, the Leviathan here, the Eagle Ray Compressor here, and the Nebula here. I’ve been generally impressed with the dive watches that I’ve reviewed from Phoibos – they are some of the best offerings in the affordable dive watch segment.
Phoibos Apollo – Build Quality
As expected from Phoibos, the specifications of the Apollo punch above its price point.
Firstly, the Phoibos Apollo uses a flat sapphire crystal. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to its 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. The sapphire crystal is also coated with 3 layers of AR coating, so you don’t have to worry about getting nasty reflections on the Apollo. Being a bonafide dive watch with a screw-down crown and caseback, the Apollo has a water resistance rating of 200m – you can swim/dive with it without worry.
The Phoibos Apollo is powered by the ubiquitous Seiko NH35A movement. 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-$500 price point, the Seiko NH35 movement is definitely the best bet.
Of course, a key draw of the Apollo is its titanium case and bracelet. The case, bracelet, bezel, crown and buckle of the watch are all crafted from aerospace-grade titanium, which is treated with an HV800 anti-scratch coating. The result is a watch that’s 30% lighter and five times as hard as regular 316L stainless steel. In other words, it’s an immensely robust watch.
Although light due to its titanium composition, the bracelet still feels solid and well made. It uses a pretty standard single fold over clasp deployant buckle, but one that fastens securely in place. There are also three micro-adjustment slots for the wearer to achieve a perfect fit.
The lume on the Apollo is also incredibly strong – this thing lights up like a beacon in the dark. That’s due to the 15 layers Super-LumiNova BGW9 and Old Radium used, which also gives it a cool two-tone look, with the BGW9 lume having a slightly more bluish hue. If you’re a lume head, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
All in all, the Phoibos Apollo has great specifications for the price. For less than S$500, you get sapphire crystal (with triple AR coating), 200m of WR rating, a workhorse Seiko NH35 movement, a full titanium case and bracelet with anti-scratch coating applied, as well as two types of lume. What’s not to like?
Phoibos Apollo – Design
Admittedly, the design of the Apollo is more unconventional. Like its name suggests, the design elements heavily reference space exploration.
The Apollo features a sandwiched dial, with rocket-shaped indices and hands. The tip of the “rocket” indices and the 12, 6 and 9 o’clock indices are sunken in, making it effectively a sandwich dial, resulting in more depth. The minute hand is skeletonised too, providing a nice juxtaposition to the hour hand. However, I suspect the faux-patina – used in abundance here – would likely be a deal-breaker to some.
Up close, the dial has a granular texture that is reminiscent of the moon’s surface. All in all, the dial of the Apollo possesses both depth and texture, though I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the heavy-handed references to space exploration.
The references continue at the back, where the screw-down caseback features a simple artwork of what seems to be an astronaut strapped onto a rocket. It’s a cute touch, but one that may seem a bit too much, all things considered.
Being a dive watch, the Apollo features a 120-click unidirectional bezel with a brushed DLC titanium insert. The bezel is easy to rotate, and has little play.
With a diameter of 42mm and a lug-to-lug length of 48mm, the Apollo wears well on my 7-inch wrist. It’s not petite by any means, but not overly large either. It’s also fairly slim for a dive watch at just 12.5mm thick. In many senses, it’s the Goldilocks of dive watch sizing.
Overall, I would say that the Phoibos Apollo has a “love it or hate it” design. If you’re a fan of space exploration, you might appreciate the various space-themed design elements. However, the watch may be too quirky for those with more conventional tastes.
Shootout – Phoibos Apollo vs Zelos Swordfish Titanium
If you’re searching for an affordable titanium dive watch, another strong contender is the Swordfish from Singaporean watch microbrand, Zelos.
In terms of specifications, both watches are practically identical. Both the Zelos Swordfish and the Phoibos Apollo feature sapphire crystal, the Seiko NH35 movement, titanium case and bracelet, and dual types of Superluminova. Even the dimensions are the same at 42mm in diameter and 48mm lug-to-lug.
The similarities continue with the design. Both the Apollo and the Swordfish have sandwich dials, feature heavy faux patina, and possess granular dial textures. However, the Swordfish is more conventional in its styling, while the Apollo is somewhat of a statement. Design is subjective – personally, the Swordfish appeals more to my aesthetic tastes, though those looking for something different may prefer the Apollo.
However, what cannot be denied is that the Phoibos Apollo is the better value proposition. Despite having near-identical specifications, the Apollo is 20% (~S$120) cheaper than the Zelos Swordfish. That’s a substantial price difference – those looking to make the most out of their buck may be better off with the Apollo.
Conclusion – so the Phoibos Apollo “shiok” or not?
The Phoibos Apollo is a specs monster for its price. And while its unconventional design may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I must applaud Phoibos for trying to offer a different look – most microbrand dive watches at this price point appear to be crafted out of the same design mould (i.e Submariner homages). Phoibos took the road less taken here, and that is admirable. For those looking for even quirkier designs, the Apollo actually comes in multiple colourways, with some (like the baby blue dial variant below) looking like great fun on the wrist. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a robust titanium everyday beater watch for less than S$500, the Phoibos Apollo is pretty hard to beat.
Those interested in purchasing the Apollo can use the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy 10% off all products from Phoibos’ web-store. After the promo code, the Phoibos Apollo would cost just US$360/~S$485 – relatively little money for a lot of watch.
Dial: Sandwich Matte Black
Caliber No.: NH 35
Case Material: Titanium with Anti-Scratch coating
Case Size: 42mm X 48mm, thickness 12.5 mm
Band: 22mm titanium bracelet with Anti-Scratch coating
Glass: Flat Sapphire Crystal with 3 layers anti reflective coating inside
Water Resistance: 200M(20ATM)
Bezel: 120-click unidirectional rotated bezel with DLC titanium insert ring.
Crown: Screw-Down crown
Lume: 15 layers Super-LumiNova BGW9 and Old Radium on inner ring and lower dial; Old Radium on upper dial indices, hands and bezel markings.
Caseback: Titanium case back with etching logo
Warranty: 2 years
Origin: Made in Hong Kong
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah So Shiok 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.