Hello everyone, and welcome to another of my reviews. In this article, I’ll be reviewing the new Narwhal from Hong Kong watch label Phoibos.
The Narwhal is Phoibos’ latest dive watch, and one of its most retro-styled offerings to date. Let’s see if it’s any good.
Phoibos Narwhal – Video Review
For those interested in viewing some hands-on footage of the Phoibos Narwhal, do check out my Youtube review 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, the Nebula here, the Apollo here, and most recently the Kraken 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 Narwhal – Build Quality
As typical of Phoibos’ watches, the build quality of the Narwhal punches above its price point.
Firstly, the Narwhal uses a double-domed 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 unwanted reflections on the Narwhal. And due to its screw-down crown and caseback, the Narwhal boasts 300m of water resistance, making it a bonafide dive watch.
Powering the Narwhal is the Miyota 9015 movement, which is a significant upgrade from the Seiko NH35s that powered Phoibos’ earlier watches. A more affordable alternative to the ETA 2824, it beats at the same 4Hz frequency as its Swiss counterpart, which translates to a smoother sweep of the second hand. It also features 42 hours of power reserve, 24 Jewels, and hacking seconds. If you would like to know more about the movement, A Blog to Watch did an in-depth article about the Miyota 9000 series here.
The Narwhal comes fitted with a vintage-styled beads-of-rice-esque bracelet, and I have to say it’s probably the best-built bracelet that I’ve experienced on a Phoibos watch. The centre links are polished, which provides a nice juxtaposition to the otherwise brushed bracelet. The push-button deployant buckle also snaps securely in place with a reassuring click, and features nice satin-brushing as well as chamfering on the edges.
And like a bonafide dive watch, the Narwhal is packed with lume – 15 layers in fact. BGW9 can be found on the hands, indices and bezel markings, while Old Radium Superluminova is applied on the second hand and hour dots for slight contrast. It’s one of the brightest lume I’ve seen, so lume heads certainly won’t be disappointed here.
All in all, the Phoibos Narwhal has rock-solid specifications. It has a double-domed sapphire crystal with triple anti-reflective coating, 300M of water resistance, a Miyota 9015 movement, a beautifully crafted bracelet, and strong Swiss Superluminova. It ticks every box, and then some.
Phoibos Narwhal – Design
Its design isn’t shabby by any means either.
The Narwhal has a retro-looking case that reminds me of another neo-vintage watch I recently reviewed, the GANE Type C. Brushed on the front but with polished chamfered edges running along its flanks, the case feels well-finished and made with quality.
The dial is striking too. For one, it has a gradient texture where it’s greyish in the centre, but gradually darkens towards black at the edges. There’s some slight brushing on the dial too, though it isn’t as obvious as the renders on Phoibos’ website. Applied indices gives the dial depth, and I like how the date window – which is also framed for more depth – is positioned at 6 o’clock, thus preserving the dial symmetry. My only knock is the use of faux patina hour dots, which can be a polarising look. However, given that the watch is vintage-inspired, I’ll give it a pass here.
The Narwhal comes equipped with a 120-click unidirectional ceramic bezel, which is a nice surprise. Ceramic bezels are loved for their scratch resistance, and are often only seen on higher-end watches like the Rolex Daytona. It’s pretty impressive for Phoibos to feature a ceramic bezel in a sub-US$500 watch. However, due to the boxy shape of the case I did find it a tad hard to rotate the bezel.
The caseback features a simple relief artwork of the narwhal, which is known for its long tusk that protrudes out of its head. It’s nothing elaborate, but still a nice touch.
With a diameter of 41mm and a lug-to-lug of just 50mm (relatively short, due to the integrated lugs), the Narwhal wears well on my 7-inch wrist. I’m glad to see dive watches shrinking in size in recent years – the era of 44-46mm sports watch seems to be dead and buried, and I’m all for it. It’s a tad chunky at 13mm thick, but still manages to squeeze underneath my shirt cuff.
Overall, I appreciated the retro styling of the Narwhal, which sets it apart from other Phoibos watches. The dial is interesting, and the watch comes across as well-finished in general – it looks and feels good on the wrist.
Shootout – Phoibos Narwhal vs Baltic Aquascaphe
If you’re in the market for a vintage-inspired dive watch, then one of your best options would be the Baltic Aquascaphe.
In terms of specifications, both watches are almost identical. Both the Baltic Aquascaphe and the Phoibos Narwhal use double-domed sapphire crystals, Swiss Superluminova, and are powered by the Miyota 9 series movement. The Aquascaphe features a sapphire bezel, while the Narwhal possesses a ceramic bezel. The Narwhal does have a slighter higher water-resistance rating (300M to 200M), but unless you’re looking for sunken treasure it’s unlikely to make a difference in everyday usage.
From an aesthetic standpoint, both watches are similarly retro-inspired, but with different approaches. The Narwhal’s angular case is reminiscent of skin divers from the 1970s, while the Aquascaphe’s sandblasted sandwich dial evokes the quintessential dive watches of the same era, such as the early Omega Seamasters. Both watches are liberal in their use of faux patina as well. Between the two, my pick would go towards the Aquascaphe – I just think it conveys stronger vintage vibes due to its domed sapphire crystal and beads-of-rice bracelet.
Where the Narwhal trumps the Aquascaphe is in its value. Despite having similar specifications, the Phoibos is almost half the price of its Baltic counterpart – it’s definitely the better bang-for-buck. If you’re searching for an affordable option, then the Narwhal would definitely fit the bill better.
Conclusion – so the Phoibos Narwhal “shiok” or not?
Once again, Phoibos has a strong value proposition in its hands. Despite costing less than US$500, the Narwhal has strong specifications that rivals watches twice its price. It also has a retro look due to its angular case, but modern proportions that don’t feel overly large. The grey dial variant I reviewed is probably the most muted iteration of the Narwhal – those looking for something more striking should consider the red colourway, which would be my pick out of the lot. All in all, the Narwhal is a very competent diver that packs a punch while costing little.
Those interested in purchasing the Narwhal can use the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy 10% off all products from Phoibos’ web-store. After the promo code, the Narwhal can be had only US$432/~S$580, making it solid value.
Dial: Black to gray with vintage texture
Caliber No.: Miyota 9015
Case Material: 316L Stainless Steel
Case Size: 41mm X 50mm, 13mm thickness
Band: 22mm 316L Stainless Steel
Clasp: Three-fold clasp with push button release
Glass: Double domed sapphire crystal with 3 layers anti reflective coating inside
Water Resistance: 300M (990FT)
Bezel: 120-click unidirectional rotating ceramic bezel
Crown: Screw-Down crown
Lume: 15 layers Super-LumiNova BGW9 on Hr&Min hands, indices and bezel markings; 15 layers Super-LumiNova Old Radium on Sec hand and dots
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.P.P.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.