The Evolution of the Field Watch - The Nite Atlas

The Evolution of the Field Watch - The Nite Atlas

Richard Brown



At WatchGecko, we have never shied away from our love of field watches

After all, every field watch that we hold today has within it DNA from some of the greatest outdoor and military watches of all time. Classic field watches follow certain design parameters, so it is always exciting when someone manages to stick to those guides and evolve the watch to a new level.

We've been fortunate to have a great relationship with Nite Watches for some time, even working on some collaborative straps. Luckily this means when there is a new product launch, we generally get hands-on quickly, such as the Nite Atlas.

Nite AtlasNite Atlas - Credit WatchGecko

Nite Watches – British Design

Nite was created back in 2003 by Roger Green after he was impressed with the performance of US tritium illumination watches and realized that enthusiasts and professional users would appreciate a UK-based, well-engineered watch that utilized the same technology. You can see our fascinating 2-part video interview with Roger on the YouTube Channel

Today, Nite is still based in the South coast of England, where they design all their watches, run an in-house service centre, and dispatch every order by hand.

In addition to the Atlas, they have three families of watch: the AlphaHawk, and MX10, the latter of which was in service with the UK Special Air Service. We have already published a review of the Alpha and Hawk.

Nite goes Global with the Atlas – What you Need to Know.

The Atlas is a pure field watch; whatever modern technology lurks within, it harbors many of the hallmarks of a future classic. A 40mm 316L brushed steel case with a smooth unadorned bezel, large numerals, a clean three-hand dial, and well-protected crown. Also, the 100m water-resistant case has perpendicular walls between the lugs, which shows the watch has been designed to be worn efficiently with a military nylon strap. Available in five dial colours, blue, green, grey and two black the colour palates of the Atlas range reflect the natural world.

Nite AtlasNite Atlas - Credit WatchGecko

To separate the Swiss-made Atlas from the crowd, the watch has been fitted with a modified Selitta SW200-1 movement which sports the Nite three-beam logo on the rotor. You can enjoy looking at this every day thanks to the inclusion of a smart crystal display back. The SW200-1 is the watch producers go-to as ETAs are shut off to the majority. It is a capable movement adjusted in two positions with an accuracy of +/-12 s/day up to +/- 30 s/day. It has a 38-hour power reserve, shock resistance, and beats at 28,800 mph.

Through the sapphire crystal with triple anti-reflective coating, the coloured dials on the Atlas range are beautiful. They have a subtle texturing that is especially visible on the darker models, and draw inspiration from natural terrains. Each dial is equipped with 12 hour and 24 hour numerals and a highly militaristic style minute track around the outer edge. The date wheel is black with white numerals on all watches except for the blue dial, which has a white date wheel with black numerals. On the grey dial watch, we had the black date wheel looks smart and compliments the black numerals and black hands.

On the desert Black Watch which we were also testing, the black date wheel is, of course, almost invisible against the dial, so one could argue the date probably looks best on the two black dial options. Although the two dials on our test watches were identical in design, they look very different. The grey watch has a color palette which resembles light grey slate. The desert black dial was arguably the favorite of all of the WatchGecko staff because it has a vintage look, and the desert color is carried across the numerals, the text on the dial, and the hands themselves. Both are a very strong look.

Brilliant Illumination

Nite Atlas
Nite Atlas - Credit WatchGecko

Lastly, as the star of the show, Nite has equipped the Atlas with full-power tritium vials. We’ve written extensively about this light source in numerous other features but suffice to say the T-100 strength of the Atlas is excellent. There is a reduced-size tube at every hour marker and a double tube arrangement at the 12 to allow for accurate orientation at night. The hands are mountain cut with generous-sized tritium tubes. The second hand has a tiny tritium vial at its leading end, which sweeps gracefully by the minute track.

We all appreciate the performance benefits of tritium in low light, but what is most striking about the Atlas, arguably its strongest feature, is outstanding legibility in daylight.

This is not something we normally talk about with tritium watches because tritium does very little in daylight. However, Nite explained to us that the specific compound used in the Atlas meant that during sunlight, the tritium has a phosphorescent quality giving a brilliantly clear picture during the day. Very handy if you want to use it as a solar compass.

How does it wear?

Nite Atlas
Nite Atlas on a ZULUDIVER Rubber Camo - Credit WatchGecko

The Atlas comes as standard on a capable if a little thin, leather polymer hybrid strap. The watch wears very well because of its compact dimensions. The case is 40 millimeters wide with an overall height of 11 millimeters, so the Atlas is never going to dominate your wrist. And coming in at only 82 grams, it will wear light during your adventures.

The only operator tool is the crown which is non-screw. There is definitely a knack to popping it out, which it took me a couple of attempts to master, but once you learn to deploy a fingernail, it is perfectly operational. Perhaps when the watch evolves into the Atlas Gen 2, this could be upgraded?

Circumnavigating to a Conclusion with the Atlas

As I have said in other reviews, when you come across a good field watch, it is a thing of beauty. Not everyone sees this because they regard them as simple, dare I say, basic watches. To me, field watches represent something pure, not pretending to be anything else, and I see that as their greatest strength.

The Nite Atlas is, in every measurable way, a superior field watch. It delivers in every department and elevates the genre to a new level with tritium and a dial design that speaks of nature. Yet somehow, it still captures that military genealogy we love to see in field watches.

Nite AtlasNite Atlas - Credit WatchGecko

At £795, the Atlas is not cheap, especially when you compare it to the icon that is the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical (although their prices seem to be creeping up). If the Atlas had a basic automatic movement and normal lume, I might be tempted to think that it was on the expensive side, however, given the quality Sellita automatic movement and T100 tritium performance, I would unquestionably recommend the Atlas if you're looking for a Tier 1 field watch.

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Richard Brown

About the Author: Richard Brown

About the Author: Richard Brown

I truly believe one of the best partners in exploration and adventure is a fine watch. Over 30 years of collecting, my fascination with the technical capabilities of both vintage and modern timepieces has never abated and it is a privilege to be able to share this passion through writing.

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