From my first diving experience, I’ve observed the powerful connection between divers and conservation. For those who fully immerse themselves in the depths, there is no closer view of the wonders beneath the waves nor of the distressing changes wrought by human intervention. No wonder the dive industry gives rise to many companies prioritizing eco-consciousness and sustainability as integral parts of their business models.
But it isn’t enough to pay lip service to these ideals without actually modifying the production process to embody them or sacrificing the quality of products to shoehorn them into qualifying as eco-friendly.
With their OceanRider Watch collection, SDC aims to strike that delicate balance by providing divers with highly-functional, good-looking timepieces that incorporate sustainable materials into the manufacturing process.
First, the technical specs. The OceanRider watches are depth-rated to 300 m/1000 ft or 30 bar. The movement is an automatic Japanese Seiko NH35, which means there are no electronics to flood and ruin and no need to wind it as the natural movement of your body powers the watch while you wear it.
The dial is fully luminous, and the hands and bezel feature Swiss Super-LumiNova, so the markings you need to track your bottom time remain visible into the darkest depths. The features that appeal most to me are the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal–I’m not the most graceful of divers, and thus a bit hard on my gear–and the “open” style case back, which reveals the inner workings of the watch when you turn the watch over. There’s just something very high-tech feeling about being able to see the gears turn.
Regarding sustainability, it should be noted that the packaging is biodegradable, and even the glue is water-based and vegan-friendly. However, the big star of the OceanRider line is the strap, made of neoprene upcycled from retired wetsuits and stitched into silicone rubber.
While I highly appreciate the cradle-to-grave philosophy of giving new life to old wetsuits, there are a couple of drawbacks to their use in the OceanRider straps. For one, the care instructions recommend minimizing their exposure to sunlight, as UV radiation is famously destructive to neoprene. This limits the practical wearability of the watch in the water, indoors, or at night, which isn’t ideal for multi-sport athletes unless they’re prepared to periodically replace the band (replacement bands available from SDC for $91/£75/€87).
The second issue I had, was that the strap is relatively thick for a watchband, compromising flexibility. The edges are square 90-degree angles that tended to rub uncomfortably against my skin when I bent and flexed my wrist.
When it comes to style, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. As previously mentioned, the open-style case back is extremely cool-looking. The face design is classy and readable and comes in four different colors, each named for one of those most glamorous denizens of the deep, the shark.
Divers have a choice between the Black Tip, Great White, Ocean Blue, and Silky Grey options – the latter being my top pick. The strap is serviceable and even unobtrusive, though it doesn’t quite match up to the sleek industrial look of the case. Overall though, it’s a great-looking watch.
The SDC Watches OceanRider line offers a good-quality product that earnestly endeavors to incorporate sustainability into its manufacturing process – protecting the oceans we all love is high on their priority list.
After diving the watch, I think the strap may benefit from further refinement in its design, which could ease the sticker shock when it comes time for a replacement. The thickness and simplicity of the band are a callback to its previous incarnation as a wetsuit, and I’m excited to see what the next evolution might bring.
The OceanRider watch is a great concept that comes within just a hair of nailing it.
- Automatic (self-winding) Seiko NH35 movement
- Water resistant to 300 meters/1000 feet (or 30 bar)
- Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal
- Unidirectional rotating bezel
- Matte finish Swiss Super-LumiNova luminous dial
- Date functionality
- Upcycled strap made from unwanted wetsuits
- Available in Black Tip, Great White, Ocean Blue, and Silky Grey
$489 USD / £425 GBP / €489 EUR