Right from the start, there was a certain sense of déjà vu. Putting on the latest watch from NTH – the full-lume Näcken (which is pronounced neck-en, after the Swedish class of submarine) – I knew I’d been here before; even though this was the first NTH I had ever worn for any length of time.
And that’s because it instantly reminded me so much of a very cherished watch already in my collection: the TAG Heuer 1000 ‘Night Diver’, which you can read all about right here: https://www.watchgecko.com/blogs/magazine/why-i-love-the-tag-heuer-1000-night-diver.
I’ve had the original ‘Night Diver’ for years, which I bought for the simple reason that I’d never had a white dial watch in my collection before, and I also loved the idea of a full face lume. Its appearance in The Living Daylights on the wrist of Timothy Dalton might have had something to do with it too.
Being a classically 1980s watch, the TAG Heuer is notably smaller than this new NTH, at 38mm as opposed to 40mm (although strangely the TAG Heuer feels a bit smaller than its stated dimensions while the NTH feels bigger). But spiritually, the NTH gives the impression of being much more of a successor to the original TAG Heuer Night Diver than the Aquaracer Night Diver that TAG Heuer came out with as the official modern heir a few years ago.
Night Diver History
First and foremost, there’s the price. Jack Heuer always intended the original Night Diver to be eminently affordable, and while that’s not so much the case now – because these watches have become rarer – they were incredibly popular at the time. This allowed thousands of people to fulfil their James Bond fantasies without investing in a Walther PPK an Aston Martin (although Bond also drives an Audi 200 Quattro in The Living Daylights, before reverting to the V8 Volante, B549 WUU, that miraculously reappeared in the most recent film: No Time to Die). Trainspotter? Me?
Bring in the NTH Vintage White
Following in the footsteps of the original Night Diver, this NTH Näcken can be yours for just £650, either with or without date (although that date is so subtle, there’s not a huge aesthetic difference). For that you get an automatic Miyota movement, which is sure to be just as reliable and efficient as the home-grown quartz unit installed in the TAG-Heuer.
What strikes you most, when you look at the NTH closely, is just what cracking value it offers. You’re getting a huge amount for your money; arguably more so than the equivalent modern TAG Heuer (north of £3000 for a new full lume Aquaracer). Or the Night Diver that’s 35 years old (from around £1000 at auction – if you can find one).
You could also actually go diving with the Näcken if you wanted to, which I certainly wouldn’t recommend with my old TAG Heuer 1000. Because above all, the NTH has been designed with functionality in mind: as a homage to some of the legendary dive watches that shaped horological history. The overall look is certainly familiar, but with the bonus of all the latest modern accoutrements and quite a slim modern profile; certainly compared to the pillbox-chunky silhouette of the TAG Heuer, which is definitely of its time (and therein lies the charm). My unbiased viewpoint? Both are handsome watches, but it's the older one that’s more striking.
Yet neither of these watches are really about the case or the mechanicals. Instead, the star of the show is that lume. I actually prefer the lume on the NTH; and not just because it emits a more vibrant and youthful glow than its older brother. Instead, it’s mainly because of the hands and contrasting luminescent bezel. On most full lume watches, everything is lit up: bezel, dial, numerals, the lot. This can actually make it quite hard to see what time it is at a casual glance. On the Näcken, the hands are in matt black, meaning that their profile is almost silhouetted against the white luminous face. It's a beautiful way to tell the time, but also absolutely intuitive. Those hands are probably what I appreciated most about this watch, along with the Tudor (or Rolex) style looks of course. There’s no shame in admitting that, is there?
On both the watches, I changed the strap. My TAG Heuer Night Diver currently sits on a deep red Radstock leather rally strap, which definitely isn’t what it was born with, but looks excellent: to my mind leagues better than the slightly diminutive and insubstantial metal bracelet it originally came on.
I’ve kept it in my personal cemetery of discarded straps of course, but it’s never been back on the watch since and I’ll be very surprised if it ever does.
The NTH, by contrast, comes on a very nice metal bracelet – but I still personally prefer it on a rubber tropical strap, which somehow makes it look more individual and focussed, as well as being easier to wear. A sailcloth would look good too. Or black leather. Or even a Radstock red rally strap, which would really make it a proper stablemate of my TAG Heuer Night Diver.
Stay classic or go new?
So, all things considered, which do I prefer? That already feels like an unfair question. The TAG Heuer is a piece of history, whereas the NTH is a beautifully invented piece of history – and I mean that as a compliment, because the whole reason that the brand exists is to answer the question: “What if?”
What if the classic generation of post-war dive watches were still being made brand new right now? Chances are they would look something very much like this NTH Näcken, only technically superior to the vastly more expensive period pieces that you can still buy on the second-hand market now.
Yet dive watches are something of a trope in the watch world, which is why ‘night divers’ such as these ones are really worth seeking out, in my book at least. The NTH came with me on an amazing trip to Champagne country in France recently, proving that it's not only bubbles from an aqualung that this watch can artfully navigate. At night in this profoundly rural corner of wine-loving France, the skies are pitch black, so I loved gazing out on the seemingly endless miles of vines after dinner, the vista illuminated only by the moon, the stars, and the lume from my NTH.