Hands-On Ianos Mihanikos Dive Watch

The Skinny

  • 43mm diameter, 50.84mm lug to lug, 15.75mm tall
  • 300m water resistance
  • Sellita SW360-1
  • 1550 CHF

Dive Watches as History Lessons

Jacob Hatzidimitriou wants us to know about the history of Greek diving, and he uses his watch brand, Ianos, to teach us. Specifically, Hatzidimitriou takes sponge diving as his subject, a harvesting practice that dates back millennia in Greece. With Ianos’ first dive watch, the Abyssos, we learned about the lifestyle and perils of unaided diving. With the Mihanikos dive watch, we learn about the industrialization of sponge diving, made no less perilous in 1860 when the first diving suit, called a scaphandre, arrived in Greece. You can read more about that history here.

The Mihanikos is deeply laced with that history. The date at the 12-noon emphasizes the importance of tracking the passing days when spending months at sea away from home. The definitively separate sections of the case and bezel assembly (think Bremont) are reminiscent of the scaphandre. The rough, blasted steel surfaces remind us of the textured metals of early industrialization. An old song is engraved in Greek around the rehaut (much the way Rolex engraves the brand name on some models), but – importantly – isn’t immediately visible.

This watch runs the risk of letting its elaborate narrative steer it straight into the proverbial overbranded iceberg, but – thankfully – Ianos has steered entirely clear. The Mihanikos really holds together as a watch. This is super important, because, as interesting as the history of Greek sponge diving is, as an object in our daily lives we just need the watch to be great. Below I explain why I find the Mihanikos succeeds as a watch, even when one tunes out the history lesson.

This Watch Wears So Easily

First of all, this watch looks pretty small on my rather small wrist. This appearance of smallness is due to the small dial, which is just 28mm across. If you’ve ever worn a Doxa 300, you’ll have a very good sense of how a small dial makes the entire watch appear smaller. It helps, too, that the markers on the Mihanikos are situated toward the center of the dial, their crisp white color and soft shape drawing the eye inward.

The watch fits very snugly. This is aided by a channel in the case-back through which the various included one-piece straps pass, creating a flat wearing experience. This channel appears on the Abyssos, too, and it’s a brilliant bit of technical design that, I’ve said before, should have independent brands asking themselves where their innovations and risks are at – because most don’t dare enough.

I really want to emphasize how well the Mihanikos wears, because today’s negative attitudes toward larger watches are getting a bit dogmatic. Yes, this watch measures 43mm, but it wears far better than the 39mm Tudor Black Bay, which is a slab-sided puck of awkwardness on my wrist (and those of a few other reasonably sized people I know). Again, Doxa may be instructive, as the 42mm Doxa 300 wears tiny compared to most 42mm watches. If you want to hear me go on about why watch diameter doesn’t matter so much, you can listen to this episode of the podcast.

Not that my assessment is going to drive away the mounting dogma against larger watches, of course, but if you’re looking to get clear on how this watch wears, you may have to shake off any preconceptions you have about a 43mm watch inherently wearing large. The Mihakinos looks and wears small, which was a wonderful surprise.

Technically Speaking

This watch is every bit as good as a Tudor, and a heck of a lot less money. Consider the Sellita SW360-1 movement, giving you the fully swiss performance with date and sub-seconds. This grade of Swiss movement dominated Tudor divers for years, and no one complained. You can get this Sellita movement serviced or even replaced for not much money when the time comes.

The 300m of water resistance is pretty common today, but when I look at the design of this watch I am impressed. That channel in the case-back indicates that the waterproof chamber inside is actually quite small, and there’s some thoughtful engineering needed to achieve that.

Like an Aquadive, this watch has a smart bezel design that’s going to stand up to a ton of abuse. These best-in-class bezels come down to three things: 1) by not overhanging the case, the bezel can’t get caught on anything and torn off; 2) by being slightly conical (sloping upward) the bezel will slide across anything it bangs into; 3) by creating sharp angles in the knurling (unlike Seiko’s rounded and polished knurls) there is excellent grip. For a watch meant to teach us the history of industrialized sponge diving, this bezel is a hearty footnote that further clarifies the topic of utilitarian mechanical design.

A Final Note on Greek History

Yes, this watch sets out to teach us about Greek sponge diving during the industrial era, but I want everyone who has made it this far to understand that you can – if you so desire – entirely tune out the history teacher and just vibe on the Mihanikos as a cool dive watch. In this era of horological boomtimes, it seems everyone and their cousin is starting a watch brand that celebrates regional narratives (see Haven Watches, Tockr Watches, AnOrdain, Ming, Semper & Adhuc, etc…). The stand-out brands will be those who don’t depend on that narrative, but who manage to sink the story deeper into the design of the watch in meaningful but subtle ways. Even more so than with the Abyssos, Ianos has done just that with the Mihanikos. Well done.