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A Desert Road Test For The Geckota S-01 Diver

Category: Articles | Date: November 28, 2018

From 40 degree heat exposure, to crystal clear sea water find out what happens when the S-01 Diver is put through it's paces...

I have been lucky this month to test drive serial number 0055 of Geckota’s S-01 Vintage Diver in Marine Blue. In a devious plan conceived by Tim and Ben, I had instructions to give the watch a thorough assessment during a November trip to Abu Dhabi which would ideally involve performance analysis in extreme heat, under salt water, against abrasion of the desert sands and of course looking smart in my favourite bar with a Mojito. I was given the watch two weeks prior to travel and wore it every day to really get under the skin of the S-01. It was presented to me on a soft Dusty Black leather strap along with an additional collection of 22mm ZULUDIVER NATOs for more adventurous moments.

Aesthetically the S-01 has much to commend it. The Marine Blue, Grey and Teal are by far my favourite colours and all perfectly reflect the colours of the ocean and aquatic heritage of a 300m water resistant watch. There has always been a bit of a trend to manufacture diving watches in black and white which works for legibility but also gets rather repetitive. It’s fair to say that even up to the early 2000s the watch community was playing catch up with Rolex’s diving and professional watches and that is one of the reasons I found myself leaning towards Breitling as their models, such as the original Superocean, were much more unique.

It is exciting that the S-01 is also not trying to look like anything else. It is a very individual style yet it is clearly a thoroughbred diver’s watch; without compromise in external design. Before wearing the watch I could see that Geckota have achieved a critical and major objective, that of supreme legibility in all light levels. The watch has a clear and uncomplicated dial for day use and a soft blue hue in Superluminova for night.

The offset crown of the S-01 is a fine asset. The more traditional central right placement is a constant irk on so many watches with big crowns which dig into the top of your left hand. The Geckota is not light at 108g (on a NATO) but when deployed on a quality ZULUDIVER NATO the weight is well distributed and it is easy to wear all day. In short, it is a watch that is very easy to get accustomed to quickly; a fact often overlooked as not all watches are easy to live with.

For example, I recently sold an IWC Aquatimer Galapagos Edition. After a short period of time, I realised unfortunately that the heavy watch was not particularly comfortable to wear and the unique strap meant that no other could be fitted. I found the vulcanized rubber coating always looked dirty and the multi-coloured lume really was too much of an acquired taste. The watch simply had to go, and it took remarkably little time to discover these quirks. I could imagine no such issues on the S-01.

The S-01 operates with a tried and tested ETA 2824-2 movement. There is some online analysis available regarding the virtues of both the industry benchmark ETA 2982 and 2824 but surprisingly there seems to be no real preference towards either; other than how much the OEM wants to sell the watch for; hence derivatives of the 2982 appearing in the 90s and 00s Omega Seamasters and Breitling Superoceans. The 2892 is 1mm thinner than the 2824 and offers a COSC certified spec but if you want to pitch your final product at a certain market those considerations are largely irrelevant.

Studying testing reports online the 2824 seems to wind easier and there are less reported problems with it compared to the 2892. In short, when you hold watches with both movements side by side (I have done a direct comparison with my 2005 Omega Seamaster 300m) even the keenest human eye can see little or no difference in the sweep and ultimately that’s what we, as owners, like to look at. I surmise that Geckota has made a smart move fitting the bulletproof 2824 as it keeps the watch robust, reliable and reasonably priced.

Travel day is here and I am wearing the S-01 on the Grey and Blue Iridescent ZULUDIVER NATO for comfort. It looks good and I feel well prepared! Next stop will be the United Arab Emirates and a thorough testing of the Geckota in the harshest environments I can find. Lots of images will be taken and notes will be made. Game on….

As anyone who has worked in the Middle East knows there are many considerations for equipment which you may have to rely on. The principal concerns are how will the kit deal with excessive heat and fine sand? I have seen allegedly robust military equipment simply seize up when exposed to these elements, therefore, any tool that successfully handles it deserves serious consideration and respect.

November daytime air temperatures hover around 34 degrees in UAE. Summer temperatures peak at a wilting 50. Air temperature in the shade and sun are actually the same, it’s just that in the sun you are exposed to solar radiation which increases the “felt” temperature. The S-01 was exposed to air temperatures between 30 and 35 degrees every day without issue. And it’s not just the heat which can affect a watch in UAE. Indoor space is ferociously air-conditioned and the instant drop in temperature when you enter a building can be severe and plays havoc with rubber seals in watches.

One day we headed out of the city seeking the dunes of the Empty Quarter. The SUV thermometer began to rise and as my friend and I started to climb a Star Wars sand dune our Nissan Patrol V8 warned us it was 38 degrees. I knew that would mean the outside temperature would be well in excess of 40. With the S-01 on a Desert Sand Swiss Style NATO strapped to my wrist, we hiked across the dunes, relishing the amazing views, and snapping a few images of the Geckota mid-journey.

By the time two explorers returned to the vehicle the S-01 metal and glass were extremely hot to touch and every join and seal was filled with ultra-fine sand. Rather than brush down and preserve the machine I revolved the bezel several times just to see if it clogged or jammed. It did not; nor did the excessive heat affect the watch in any way. A tough test passed!


Equally important as the hot desert test was exposure to salt water. We had made a plan to get into the Persian Gulf most days for snorkelling if possible. As our accommodation had private ocean access it proved easy to get the S-01 underwater every day. In truth, as the watch is advertised as 300m capable, I did not expect any sub-aqua problems and I am happy to report that it performed admirably. The legibility of the watch underwater is excellent and I should report that the anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal added to the clarity of the watch in all conditions. I have an old habit of checking my screw down crown before I enter the water.

The S-01 has a long screw thread; noticeably longer than my Rolex for example. I like this feature as you really do get the sensation of closing a tiny submarine hatch against the elements. It’s reassuring. I would speculate also this means that in the rare event of the crown accidentally coming undone half a turn it is still a long way from popping open. As with all diving equipment I rinsed the watch thoroughly in fresh water after each excursion and after two weeks there were absolutely no signs of corrosion.

I did find that the standard nylon used on the Swiss Style ZULUDIVER strap dried quicker on my wrist in the sun than the iridescent style and underwater the nylon also seemed to hold the watch more firmly in position, perhaps as it has marginally more abrasion on the wrist. But in a typical watch dilemma, I have to admit I actually preferred the Iridescent NATO strap for daily use. It is very soft and feels luxurious and the watch simply looks great on it! Indeed I now wear my Omega Speedmaster permanently on a ZD Blue Iridescent.

The last and perhaps most strenuous test of the S-01’s odyssey was how smart it would look on an evening out. Abu Dhabi is a very stylish city full of beautiful people, super-cars and stunning buildings. It also has a prolific watch culture and a walk through the impressive Yas Mall near the F1 track will leave any watch fan breathless at the huge boutiques which Breitling, Rolex, IWC and Omega inhabit. Every possible model is available from elegantly simple Oysters to ultra-limited Portofinos.

However, by this stage in our trip, I had become much attached to my S-01 so it was with some pride that I ordered my long anticipated Mojito leaning against my favourite bar amongst the illustrious chrono-company. The watch had many more nights out and it looked elegant and sophisticated on any strap. One evening, high up on the hotel balcony, I captured a nice image of the watch with the city in the background and its blue lume shining brightly.

The S-01 seems to be saying “I am at home here.” If you only want to buy one watch then the S-01 is a fine choice. It is equally at home resisting blistering heat in the desert, or underwater, or looking smart in an evening.

My test was short but intense and I know I exposed the watch to elements it would never see in the UK. Wherever your voyages take you the Geckota S-01 will be an excellent travel companion…

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