- 100 meters water resistance
- Seiko NH38 mechanical auto-winding (no date)
A 21st Century Affordable Diver
A decade ago, recommending Seiko divers as an affordable mechanical tool watch was my default position. Today, there are so many compelling affordable divers available that recommending one requires a more nuanced understanding of this category. The trick for any brand is to offer a compelling watch at exactly the right price, and in my opinion Nodus has done just that with the Sector 100 Dive Watch. The features-to-price ratio being spot on, let’s look at the watch in a broader context, so that one considering the Sector 100 can understand better what exactly they’re considering.
The Sector 100 Among It’s Brethren
At $475, the Sector 100 offers what I’ll call the standard feature set. If you know affordable dive watches, the following will likely be familiar.
This standard feature set includes a well cut 316L stainless steel case at 38mm, which is a very popular size these days – not too big, not too small, kind of vintage, able to fit on almost anyone. This case provides 100 meters of water resistance, which is more than enough for a dive watch (I’ve taken watches with this rating below 39.5 meters, which is the recreational diving limit, and had no problems). The beads-of-rice style bracelet is very nice on wrist, with screws holding the links together for easier DIY sizing, a locking three-way folding clasp, and a micro-adjustment. No diver extension, but I tend toward rubber straps for diving, so no biggie there. Bezel action is solid, though the grip isn’t great, not unlike the Seiko SKX007 that everyone recommended back in the day. The crown is big, knurled and easy to use. The lume is super. The Seiko NH38 movement is a solid and affordable unit, and the lack of a date is hip.
Considering comparable mechanical dive watches, the Sector 100 is right where it needs to be in terms of price. The Hemel Seadart ($499), The Boldr Five In a Row ($399), Lorier Hydra ($499), Raven Solitude ($450), and so on all present pretty much the same feature set at pretty much the same price. Nodus hit the price-to-feature ratio dead on.
The Sector 100 In Historical Context
One one level, if you like the way the Sector 100 looks, then super; it’s a done deal; easy to recommend. If, like me, you want to know a bit more about the design of the watches you own, then read on.
I don’t know how else to say this: the Sector 100 is a postmodern 21st century watch. By postmodern, I mean that it exists not as result of an earnest striving toward some idealized expression of industrial accomplishment (which is very 20th century), but as an amalgam of historical design features mashed-up into a coherent new whole that seems like it’s from the past, but is nothing like anything from the past, which makes the Sector 100 very much an item of right now, the early decades of the 21st century.
I know that’s heady and long winded, so maybe think of it this way: the Sector 100 is like a song entirely made up of samples from old records. Let’s see how that works here.
Dial – 1930s
Sector dials were popular in the 1930s, and were named for having concentric “sectors” into which the seconds, minutes, and hours were delineated. Today, sector can describe any dial with a central section, even if the time-telling markers aren’t involved, which is the case here. You’ll notice that the center of the dial is slightly lower than the outer circle where the markers are. Dive watches didn’t exist in the 1930s, and sector dials were rarely used on dive watches, so the pomo mash-up must already be apparent.
Auto-Winding Mechanical Movement – 1950s
Autowinders did predate the 1950s, but it was a mandatory feature of early dive watches, which came out commercially in 1953 from Blancpain and Zodiac, followed in 1954 by the venerable Rolex Submariner. Though the technology remained relevant into the 1990s, today a mechanical auto-winding movement harkens back to the hey day of early divers.
Case & Bracelet – 1960s
This case and bracelet style are decidedly 1960s, and fashionably so. Beads-of-rice is actually one of dozens of Cartier fine bracelet designs dating back to the mid 20th century, but dive watch companies like Doxa (who is most famous for using a steel B-o-R bracelet) hijacked the name, so it is now lodged in public consciousness as a style of dive watch bracelet from the 1960s.
Markers – Early 2000s
I’m going to say that these markers are reminiscent of those found on the Seiko Monster, which first appeared in 2000. Seiko has refashioned these trapezoids in different proportions over the years on different models (e.g. Shogun), but as marker sets go, I’m calling these early 21th century Seiko.
Font – Art Deco / Mid-Century Minimalist
The font is reminiscent of some art deco fonts (1920s – 30s), but also has a distinct flavor of the house-numbers created by Richard Neutra in the 1950s for his mid-century modern creations – a font now popular again after a 2002 reboot (thanks Dwell magazine, Design Within Reach and Shake Shack), appearing on more and more houses beyond the borders of its native California.
My point: it’s hard to point down this font, but as far as watches are concerned, this font feels commensurate with the sector dial’s 30s vibes – and, for me, a little mid-century-Cali.
Colorway – 2020s
It’s not entirely true that a rainbow of dial colors didn’t exist before the 2020s, but it is my theory that with watch sales and promotion moving to social media, the need to have constant new releases has led watch brands to proliferate dial colors as an easy and affordable means to always being in the news. I don’t mean that Nodus is guilty of that, but whacky colors like this seafoam green (or Nodus’ Redtide, Corsair, Malibu, and so on) have become increasingly common in the past five years or so. You’d see the occasional yellow or orange dial on a diver back in the 20th century, and seafoam green is pretty 1950s American, but Seafoam on a watch is very early 21st century.
See The Pomo Mash-Up?
See the postmodern mash-up? I do. This kind of pastiche (to use a pomo term) is popular today across many fields, though some traditionally-minded aesthetes still deride this approach for lacking an intellectual basis, a coherent aesthetic ideal, or mere originality. I think those critiques are unfair and, ultimately, lazy.
These critiques may have made some sense a few decades ago, but postmodern modalities that include sampling of various pre-existing materials are well established now in music, fashion, architecture, food, electronics – even in yacht, espresso machine, and motorcycle design (to take three examples I happen to be uniquely aware of). Pastiche is not only the norm of the early 21st century, but must be considered as a valid modality unto itself, one that responds to digital life in which exposure to everything all at once all the time must be reckoned with somehow.
It’s not that using ideas from the past is a new method (Washington DC is identical to ancient Athens, e.g.), but adherence to one style or one historical period is no longer a norm. Adherence to linear timelines and once-unified modes of expression is just one kind of modality, and may itself be the lazier, less original response to designing in the 21st century.
The Nodus Is A 21st Century Diver
For all these reasons, I’ve concluded that the Nodus Sector 100 is essentially a 21st century dive watch, one that will remain indicative of this unique retro-obsessed moment in history in which mechanical watches have – against all odds – become wildly popular. I’ve also concluded that what distinguishes the Nodus Sector 100 from it’s obvious competitors is a rather beautiful pomo design, one that displays balance, symmetry, legibility, comfort, and a pomo-retro-style that’s really quite compelling for the asking price. It’s one of those designs at which, were I to just hear it described, I might balk, but in execution works suprisingly well.