Reviewing Boldr's ultimate Field Watch inspired by the Empty Quarter
The Rub' Al Khali, which literally translates to “Empty Quarter", is the largest area of continuous desert sand in the world. It stretches across four countries with a footprint of around 250,000 square miles encompassing parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, The Sultanate of Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
With less than 35mm of rain per year and a typical daytime temperature of 45+ degrees it is unsurprisingly one of the driest regions in the world and primarily uninhabited. Vast reserves of petroleum and gas are present beneath its sands and operations to capture these necessitate work in the harshest of environments. The beauty and majesty of The Empty Quarter is simply breathtaking; I have been lucky to explore the periphery of it, and it is one of the places on the Earth that simply must be seen to be fully appreciated.
You don't need to have read the works of Wilfred Thesiger to realise that you need professional equipment to safely spend even a day in this sort of environment. Sadly, too often people still go missing in this hostile terrain primarily due to a lack of preparation and good equipment. Every so often the local newspapers of Abu Dhabi or Muscat carry a story about an expat family out for a weekend wadi-bash in their new Range Rover which ends in them being rescued by a SAR helicopter.
Consequently, a desert survival kit should be of the highest quality and well tested. Which leads us nicely to the latest professional outdoor field watch from the Singapore based Boldr Supply Company - the aptly named Expedition I Rub' Al Khali.
The re-issued and updated Expedition I range shares many of the technical characteristics with the existing Expedition II collection which we reviewed recently, but the overall package is more of a classic Field Watch design rather than the more hybrid-style approach of the Expedition II.
There are just three watches in the new range, and all are named after famous deserts. There is the Karakum (located in Turkmenistan) which is available in a black dial military look, the aforementioned Rub' al-Khali which is desert tan and the White Sands (in New Mexico) which has an ivory dial perfectly mirroring the stark look of the sands at the US National Park. Each edition is limited to 300 units.
We are focusing on the Rub' Al Khali. While the Expedition II range brought a mix of Field and Diver, the “Empty Quarter" is a pure outdoor watch. It delivers archetypal Field Watch design, unchanged over decades, in a purposeful 316L bead-blasted 41mm round case. The Rub' Al Khali's flat dark earth dial has a real navigational instrument quality, with bold black numerals and a bi-directional elapsed time and compass bezel which is operated via a separate crown. The watch comes as standard with a quality canvas strap which is robust and designed to withstand considerable punishment.
As the numerals and indices are black, to stand out against the tan dial, they are not luminous, but the entire dial is coated with Swiss Super-Luminova old-radium so the watch face glows reassuringly green as you hike through the cooler nights in the Arabian desert. Traditionally full lume dials do not have the longevity of standard lume so Boldr has independently coated the hands with BGW9 to allow them to stand out against the bright dial and last longer as the dial begins to fade. Legibility is good as the gloss black markings stand out exceptionally well against the arid dial. The only additional colour accent is orange for the hour hand which is very useful if you intended to use the watch as a solar compass. The cardinal markings on the inner rotating bezel greatly increase the ability of the watch to double as a navigational aid. The orange carries through to a band on the compass crown to differentiate it from the time adjusting crown. Both are screw-down which aids the Expedition's 200m water resistance rating.
Powering the Expedition I is the venerable 26 jewel Sellita SW200. A decent automatic calibre, widely considered to be the principal competitor to the now difficult to source ETA 2824. With a diameter of 25.6mm and a thickness of 4.6mm, the SW200 is not large, which permits the neat dimensions of the Expedition I. The movement features a 38-hour power reserve with a vph of around 28,800. Expect accuracy of +/- 12 seconds per day.
The movement is visible via the crystal back which has been subjected to Boldr's unique design flair with signature map contour artwork across the glass. As we have said so often, every Boldr watch seems to be designed without compromise and the Expedition I is no exception.
All variants of the Expedition I are well made and rugged Field Watches which really bring something to the genre rather than being just another Hamilton clone. Boldr, are once again at the top of its game when designing outdoor and survival watches.
If you are tempted by a Rub' Al Khalis for your next outdoor watch, then you will want to follow the exploits of Boldr Ambassador Jukka Viljanen who will be undertaking an expedition on foot across the Rub' Al Khali in early 2023. Of course, he will be wearing an Expedition I Empty Quarter for the journey. At WatchGecko Magazine we will try to bring you updates and images when Jukka's amazing trek begins.