Owners Review – Ianos Avyssos

For Zeus’ sake, this is Ianos’ first watch! Are you kidding me? Listen up, you indie hipster watch designers: this is the bar over which you now must hurdle.

The Skinny

  • pronounced: i-a-nos¬†ah-bee-sos
  • 44mm, but wears like a 40mm because the caseback is so well thought out
  • Sellita SW216-1¬†Mechanical Manual Movement (unless you’re a professional diver, why would you complain?)
  • $1250 CHF

I Already Reviewed This Watch

I wrote this watch up for Worn & Wound a while back, along with my esteemed colleagues Jason Heaton at Hodinkee, Adam Craniotis at Revolution, as well as a smattering of others who were fortunate enough to get an early example. Since then, the watch has gained new color ways and a bunch of new owners, myself included.

I’m going to forego the history of this watch, it’s incredible backstory, it’s amazingly layered narrative, because we professional dive watch writers have already told that story elsewhere (Heaton’s take was better than mine, so Google it). Instead, I want to share what it’s like to have this watch in my collection.

Indie Brands Listen Up

I’m all for diversity of options, and I’d never want to deter the efforts of my fellow humans to create that which they feel needs to exist. However, if you’re going to go through the incredible effort of making a watch and selling it to watch nerds, I’m often a bit stumped by the lack of creativity exhibited in these efforts. It’s not that I don’t like a crap-ton of indie brand offerings – including some rather prosaic homages – but when it comes to actually owning an indie watch, I need it to leap out of my collection and do things that no other watch can do.

…if you’re going to go through the incredible effort of making a watch and selling it to watch nerds, I’m often a bit stumped by the lack of creativity exhibited in these efforts

What do watches really need to do to make it into my collection? They either need to offer pure subjective phenomenological joy, or they need to remind me of something special, or they need to have a great story. The Ianos Avyssos does all three, and that’s why other indie brands need to listen up.

For Zeus’ sake, this is Ianos’ first watch! Are you kidding me? Listen up, you indie hipster watch designers: this is the bar over which you now must hurdle.

A Very Personal Connection

For me, there are so many ways that this Abyssos speaks to me. For one, it’s a dive watch and I dive. That connection should be baked into any dive watch, it seems, and yet it is not. That’s because so many dive watches don’t subjectively connect me to diving. 

Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms 1970s Jour-Date.

A great example is the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms 1970s Jour Date, which is simply one of the most amazing watches I’ve ever had the pleasure or diving in, and yet that watch connected me far more to the glamour of sipping expensive scotch in a high end beach side restaurant that to diving. Blancpain’s narrative is more about design, legacy, elegance, and mechanical prowess. 

Compare that to the Abyssos, which is all about (a) an ancient mechanism from Greece that was basically a mechanical computer tracking the stars and planets discovered underwater by (b) Greek sponge divers who risk their lives to make a living. The narrative of the Abyssos gets me straight to real diving, and that makes my heart sing songs of adventure and risk and baddassery.

And then there’s Greece. Ah Greece. I was there in 1996 for an extended stay on the (then) remote island of Sifnos. Saw my first octopus in the wild, and regularly dined on its cousins whom I saw old women beating against rocks and then hanging on clothes lines to sunbathe. Tender? Fuck yes, and perfectly grilled and $3.00 a serving. The same old ladies laughed at me as I picked out a fish for my dinner; I later learned my proclivity for the largest fish was misguided, as the fresher and tastier fish were often middle sized. I had no idea. 

Ferry workers went on strike, extending my stay indefinitely, so I decided to read everything Hemingway wrote in an effort to reduce flab in my prose (it kind of worked). And the smell of sage across the island in May (the green season in Greece) was intoxicating, as was the endless Ouzo and Camel Lights I devoured until sunrise reading Papa’s athletic prose.

I had just finished my masters degree and was wondering what the hell I should do next. Greece convinced me that because academia was a divisive and unprofitable endeavor, I’d be better off outdoors, active, and adventurous. So I deferred entrance into NYU’s Anthro doctoral program, sold my motorcycle, and used that money to start racing bicycles. I never returned to academia. So there it is: my connection to this watch is nestled deep in my past, in an experience in Greece that changed my life’s trajectory for good and for the better.

The Cool Thing Is…

…that this watch fascinates horological civilians, too. It’s got such a rich story, and its design and colors are so visually compelling and so well connected to that story that when I show it to people who really don’t give a shit about watches, they kind of perk up. I’ve come to recognize the difference between friends humoring their watch geek friend and actually giving a tiny shit for a moment, and those moments can sometimes turn a civilian into a geek. But even if they remain civilians, I adore this rich moment – however fleeting – in which my friends can actually understand why I devour watches the way they devour, say, operas or novels.

I’ve come to recognize the difference between friends humoring their watch geek friend and actually giving a tiny shit for a moment, and those small moments can sometimes turn a civilian into a geek.

So of course I went with the Greek blue. Olive green is rad, and there’s certainly a lot of Greek olives around, but in Greece – and especially on the islands – the blue and white colors travel on the wavelengths of Greekness. And that color helps civilians grok the watch’s connection to Greece.

A Concave Horological Experience

As I look at my watch boxes, the Abyssos leaps out with its bright blue dial, and when it’s on my wrist it leaps out as a unique timepiece. The Abyssos doesn’t assert itself vis-a-vis other watches. There’s no Seiko or Rolex DNA to be detected, and no one is going to say, “That reminds me of such-n-such,” unless they think, like, hands and round dials are derivative.

Instead, the Abyssos invites us into its own world and its rich narrative. I call this a concave horological experience, one that invites us into a new and wonderful world. This stands in opposition to a convex horological experience, one which comes out at us with something to say (think Tony Soprano’s Solid Gold Rolex Day-Date). Of course, a flat horological experience does nothing (think: all the watches you’ve never cared about).

I like concave horological experiences. I like to be brought into a rich phenomenological experience during which my mind wanders into the unknown and rounds new corners to discover new things. This is exactly why I love SCUBA diving, and it’s exactly why I have such a huge open space in my heart for the Abyssos.