Héron & Spinnaker

Héron & Spinnaker: Indy Alternatives To The Blancpain X Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms

With the Swatch Group’s latest collab shining a light on fun, affordable dive watches, let’s also explore options from microbrands Spinnaker and Héron.

By Rhonda Riche

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is one of the all-time great underwater watches. It’s beloved for its technical proficiency, but its archetypical design made the timepiece a must-have for desk divers as well. So we were thrilled when Blancpain collaborated with Swatch to release a cheeky and inexpensive collection based on the codes of the Fifty Fathoms in September.

All of the attention has got us intrigued by independent alternatives to this tribute. Microbrands like Spinnaker and Héron have recently announced new launches that have made a big splash on the dive scene – especially for those who want to invest in the start-ups.

Spinnaker and Seconde/Seconde/ Fleuss Automatic

In its short history, Spinnaker has been making waves in the watch world with its nautical collections. Now the British watchmaker has joined up with irreverent designer Romaric André of seconde/seconde/ to create a customized version of the brand’s signature Fleuss diver.

With its black dial and bezel, the Fleuss is the young brand’s homage to the Blancpain classic. It is also a tribute to Henry Fleuss, the engineer who invented the first reliable breathing apparatus in 1878.

Haunting Glow

Dubbed the Fifty Phantoms, this watch’s dial is decorated with 50 mini-ghosts of varying sizes, all filled with Super-LumiNova to give off a haunting glow.

Markings on the fixed bezel and leather strap also emit an eerie effect, while the rotor of the automatic Seiko NH38 is decorated with a wee glowing ghostie. The 43mm by 12mm steel case is big, but doesn’t feel too chonky. And this magical watch is also practical – its water resistant to 150 meters.

Limited to just 670 pieces, this otherworldly watch launched on October 27, 2023, and sold out in seconds, proving that there's a strong appetite for independents operating without big marketing budgets. Check out more alternative options on the brand’s website.

Héron Marinor

Montreal-based Héron was born during the pandemic, when its founders (an actuary, an artist, and a real-estate guy) found themselves with a lot of time to dream about creating high-quality watches that could survive anything that life can throw at you (like a pandemic). Their first watch was a successfully Kickstarter-funded diver called the Gladiateur. Now the Héron team is back with the Marinor.

Announced at the end of October, Marinor is a hardened steel dive watch that explores the language of watches like the Fifty Fathoms, but uniquely and distinctively. This scratch-resistant attracts many compliments for its mid-century modern sensibility.

Premium Details

The gradient dial and lume-filled North Star at 12 o’clock are especially attractive. The domed box sapphire crystal is an au courant touch. Other premium details include a 120-click, unidirectional domed sapphire bezel with coin-edge knurling. A fun retro detail is the image of an old sea captain smoking a clay pipe, embossed on the caseback.

Both the case and bracelet have also been coated in a “hardening treatment” which increases the anti-scratch and anti-corrosive properties to 1200hv on the Vickers scale. This material also helps protect the Marinor’s engine – the workhorse Miyota 9039 24-jewel movement with a power reserve of up to 42 hours and a water resistance rating of 300 meters.

The Marinor is available in three colorways. You can sign up for the Kickstarter campaign here. Or visit Héron’s website for a look at equally enticing past collections.

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