Hands-on Review – WMT Royal Marine Subdiver MKII Limited

The Skinny

  • Dimensions: 39.5 x 47 x 14.8mm
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Movement: NH35, Self-winding, Date
  • Strap: Bracelet 20mm to 16mm
  • Price: $550

What Is WMT?

WMT (Watch [Experimental Unit] Mercier Time) is a Hong Kong-based small independent brand that operates under Mercier Time Ltd. Watch Experimental Unit started assembling watches that were somewhat customized by different options presented to the consumer (choice of the bezel, dial color, degree of faux-patina, hands, etc.). WMT does still offer customization but has expanded into pre-designed homage watches.

The WMT Royal Marine Mk II Subdiver
The WMT Royal Marine Mk II is a Rolex 5513 homage. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

WMT appears to have a great pulse on the most desirable homages. WMT watches pay tribute to some of the most expensive and rare vintage watches, primarily Rolexes. WMT seems to have mastered the balance of desirability, respecting the original, and making the watches slightly their own. That’s unusual. 

WMT is also the stock ticker symbol for Walmart. This could be confusing for Wall Street traders, but I guess they aren’t the customer demographic for homages… or so Instagram has me believing. 

The Case

There are plenty of five-digit Submariner homage-cased watches on the market. There are not many good four-digit Submariner homages on the market. The WMT Royal Marine Subdiver’s case resemblance to a Rolex Submariner 5513/1680 is spot on. If the vibe was a contest, WMT won. There are small distinctions in the lugs and crown guards that make the WMT Subdiver distinctly a four-digit Rolex homage. 

The WMT Royal Marine Mk II Subdiver
The “Top Hat” domed mineral crystal Photo: Greg Bedrosian

My biggest issue with the Royal Marine Subdiver MKII’s case was that it looked too new. Too shiny. It wasn’t over the top, but I’m used to seeing 1970s submariners that have aged with decades wrist time. The WMT Subdiver should look a little lived-in to give it some character. Nothing egregious. Just lived in. On the WMT website, you can select “aging” as an add-on to each component under the Customization options. Be aware that faux aging will add about a 25% increase to the cost of the watch. The faux aging option is not available for the WMT Heritage Collection watches. For the Royal Marine Subdiver, you’ll have to age the watch the old-fashioned way.  

The Dial And Bezel

The dial and bezel aesthetic are really what the WMT Royal Marine Subdiver is about. Again, there are many Submariner homages. The Royal Marine MK II’s attention to detail is appreciated. The fauxtina (artificial patina) on the indices is uneven, the way that it naturally should occur. The faux-aged hands do not match the indices, another vintage nuance. If WMT could only get the different levels of fauxtina hands that would be above and beyond. 

WMT Royal Marine MK II Limited SUBDIVER
“SUBDIVER”, the real reason that I bought the watch. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

The artificial aging of the Royal Marine MKII’s hour indices comes at a price as the lume becomes virtually non-existent. That’s not big deal because a forty-year-old watch with applied tritium lume shouldn’t still glow. What bothered me is that the lume on the WMT’s hands was so much stronger than the dial, despite having the fauxtina treatment as well. 

One of the stronger elements of the Royal Marine Mk II that goes unnoticed is the font on the date wheel. The date wheel printing is not as crisp and sharp as a modern Rolex. That’s OK with WMT watches because it plays into the vintage charm.

A surprising feature of the WMT Royal Marine MK II Subdiver was the bi-directional friction bezel. I should have known better as Rolex didn’t introduce uni-directional bezels to the Submariner-date until 1979. Even then, the Submariner (no-date) was fitted with a bi-directional bezel until 1990.  The matte paint on WMT’s aluminum bezel insert has no clear protective coating and is slightly textured to the touch. I expected it to scuff and wear quickly. That’s great because was looking forward to giving the Subdiver some character.  

What is COMEX? / Why Should You Care?

COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises) is a French company that specialized in deep commercial diving in the 1960s and 1970s. Rolex supplied Submariners for the diving company. There are rumored to be about 150 examples for the Rolex Submariner with the COMEX banding on the dial. An authentic COMEX Submariner can easily fetch 10x the price of a normal Submariner. 

Comex Rolex Submainrer Ref 1680
Rolex Comex Submariner Ref 1680, Hammer Price CHF 524,000 Photo: Antiquorum

Double branding is something that is now in Rolex’s rearview. Precious dial space is no longer shared with the logos of corporations such as Coca-Cola, Domino’s, Winn Dixie, Pool Intairdrill, or Tiffany & Co. Comex is a rare relic of Rolex’s past, therefore more desirable. Rolex is a large-scale watch manufacturer. Rolex’s branding heavily relies on a certain look that has a unified brand identity, no matter the era. Deviations from this standard are rare. Red lettering, meters first, or a COMEX logo is a way to stand out in a sea of Rolex collecting homogeneity. If the WMT Royal Marine MK II did not have the white block with SUBDIVER on the dial, I probably would have passed on it. Just being honest. Those tiny distinctions carry so much emotional weight with Rolex fans (like myself). Consider the SUBDIVER text my feeble attempt at adding a sliver of unobtainium to my collection.

The Movement

Nothing is exciting about the Seiko NH35 movement. It’s affordable, reliable, and abundant. This makes the NH35 a common selection for microbrands that serve budget-conscious customers. The other popular choice within this pricepoint is the Miyota 9105, another Japanese (Citizen) manufactured automatic movement.

The WMT Royal Marine Mk II Subdiver
The packaging resembles a military-issued piece of gear. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

For a microbrand, it comes down to quality control with movements at the NH35 price tier. The spec for Japanese-made (Seiko) NH35 automatic mechanical movement is an average accuracy of -20 / +40 seconds per day. The unknown is the degree of regulation for each movement that will be cased. During one week of continuous wear, the WMT Royal Marine MK II lost a total of 35 seconds. I could care less about COSC accuracy with a fun summer watch.  If I want something chronometer-grade, my collection has plenty of those options. 

The Bracelet 

Drilled lugs add to the vintage tool watch vibe. The spring bar holes do not line up well with modern Rolex. I was looking forward to putting a curved-end rubber strap on the Royal Marine Subdiver MKII. Part of the planned experience was not having to worry about banging the bracelet against a dock or the edge of the pool. This proved to be an exercise in futility. Still, I enjoyed the bracelet on the WMT Subdiver for what it was.

The WMT Royal Marine Mk II Subdiver Bracelet

The irony is that the three-link oyster-style bracelet on the WMT is probably better made than the vintage Rolex 93150 bracelets with 850 hollow endlinks. This is due to better modern manufacturing processes available at present.

The WMT Royal Marine Mk II Subdiver Bracelet and Clasp
Does the WMT clasp look familiar? Photo: Greg Bedrosian

WMT offers three bracelet sizes for customers: 16.5cm (standard), 17.5cm (large), and 18.5cm (x-large). I ordered the standard size option and had to remove one link to fit my 6.75″ wrist.  While trying to service the customer, this seems slightly overkill and adds a needless complexity for back-end fulfillment.

The Issue / Resolution

On the second day of wear, I noticed that the date-magnifier (cyclops) was not aligned properly. Most likely a QC issue when WMT was casing up the Royal Marine MK II. Could my OCD live with such a visible defect? I stared at the watch more and more and then I found something else, a crack in the acrylic crystal, right on the edge of the date magnifier. What were the odds? I was bummed. The Royal Marine was a fighter that got KOed while still in the locker room. 

The WMT Royal Marine Mk II Subdiver
Poor magnification window alignment and crystal cracks beginning. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Something wasn’t right with this Royal Marine. I contacted WMT immediately seeking a resolution. To speed things up I attached detailed pictures and a copy of my receipt. An anonymous customer service representative got back to me less than two days later. After a little back-and-forth, WMT sent me a prepaid shipping label. I bubble wrapped the watch and soon it was on its way back to WMT in Hong Kong. I even included a little watch-related gift to show my appreciation for the prompt support.

About a week after the watch arrived in Hong Kong, I received an email from WMT stating that the repair was complete with a FedEx tracking number. The FedEx package arrived quickly from China to New York and I opened it immediately. The process took about sixteen days door to door.

To my horror inside the bubble wrap was my watch, without a crystal. I thought that my eyes were playing tricks on me. I instinctively moved my index finger closer, and closer until I touched the top of the pinion. My finger should have hit the crystal, but it didn’t. I carefully searched the package and found the crystal wrapped separately in bubble wrap. The new crystal was cracked as well. I also found the thank you gift that I had sent to WMT. They had sent it back. Um, you’re welcome?

Round 2, more cracks. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

I contacted WMT on the same email string adding a few pictures of how I received the watch. I requested to return the watch for a refund or a replacement. The response from WMT was the same generic message as before offering to send a label and have the watch repaired in Hong Kong. I responded again asking WMT to check the thread. Again WMT responded with a generic message about a FedEx label. I responded again asking WMT to check the thread. Again WMT responded with a generic message about a FedEx label. Something is wrong at WMT. At this point, I was done. David Flett ended up installing the crystal for me (properly aligned this time). Within a day, the crystal started to develop more cracks. At this point, I decided to cut my losses and move on. I felt duped and embarrassed by my WMT ownership.

Conclusion

The entire experience really showed me what I didn’t want to admit to myself. The WMT Royal Marine is barely fit for a desk diver. What’s even worse was how WMT handled the situation with the quality issues. Initially, WMT put its best foot forward. I’ll give them that. Where WMT went wrong was not resolving the problem. Many years of experience taught me that how you handle an issue with a customer makes or breaks long-term relationships. If you have a customer with a problem, fix it and make sure that it’s fixed correctly the first time.

I wanted to be excited and let watch enthusiasts know how great the WMT Royal Marine is. But I can’t.  There is very little between the WMT Royal Marine MKII Subdiver and the $100 homage watches that are found on Amazon and eBay. The poor quality and fit of the WMT Royal Marine’s crystal combined with poor customer service experiences was a major letdown. An affordable watch with such a fragile crystal really takes the carefree mental attitude out of summer horological fun. Some watches are better left to Instagram photos and WMT is one of them.

Recomended Alternatives

Yema Pearldiver

The Yema Pearldiver Photo: Yema

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Material: Stainless Steel

Water Resistance: 200m

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Strap: Bracelet 20mm

Price: $749

The Steinhart Ocean Vintage Red Photo: Gnomon Watches

Steinhart Ocean Vintage Red 39

Dimensions: 39 x 47 x 14mm

Material: Stainless Steel

Movement: YEMA2000, Self-winding, Date

Water Resistance: 300m

Strap: Bracelet 20mm

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