With the Hydrium collection, Isotope has achieved something they can be particularly proud of – especially as a small brand – it has created a new flavor for diving watches. With its sturdy yet compact case, prominent bezel, cleverly placed crown, short lugs and smooth case face, the Hydrium stands out from all other dive watches.

Since this is still one of the busiest categories in the industry, that’s quite an achievement. Clever design allowed the brand to build a collection that offers Hydrium in a surprising variety of flavors, from collaborations with NASA to fun homages to Exit signs in buildings. With the new Hydraulic California, it explores another aspect of the universe and delves into history.

This watch is an ode to the so-called California dial, which combines Arabic and Roman numerals. Initially, this type of dial was called a ‘error-free’ dial because it made it easier for divers to read the time accurately in extreme conditions because the numerals were not interchangeable. Rolex patented this design on July 15, 1942, but it also became a prominent feature on some of Panerai’s earliest models. These watches are tool watches in their purest form and very few are produced. When the renaissance of mechanical watchmaking began in the 1980s, watches with these rare dials were in huge demand, causing some shady dealers to rework the dials to accommodate. demand. Clearly, the best business to do this work is in California. As experts tried to identify these fake dials, they quickly started calling them ‘California’ dials, which stuck and became the name for dials that combine Roman and Arabic numerals .

Jose Miranda is the founder and current CEO of Isotope, and an avid watch enthusiast. He was longing to add an original ‘California’ dial watch to his personal collection, but he lacked the funds to purchase one. Now, he has fulfilled this wish with his own brand and the results are satisfying to say the least.

The base remains the same as previous versions, the large 40mm case is made from sandblasted 316L stainless steel, but a few twists create a profound difference from previous Hydraum models. Of course, this starts with the dial. Its grainy texture gives it a vintage feel, and Miranda avoids the temptation to make the numerals too large. Instead, they are very balanced with other elements on the dial, including the hands. These deserve more credit, not only because the beautiful finish shows off a lot of light, but also because they are all the correct length for once. I hope other brands will take note of this work.

The Isotope name is printed in bold white lettering on the dial, further adding to the feeling that you are wearing a handsome tool watch. The name Hydrium is printed in red, with the letters CA., and a red star next to it, as an homage to the State of California. Even the bezel insert has been redesigned, now with a more classic, glow-in-the-dark layout.

As for the rest of the watch, this Hydrium retains its natural beauty, with the Landeron automatic movement being able to be admired through the display back. It runs at a frequency of 28,800 VpH and has a power reserve of 40 hours. The finishing of the movement is solid and at a price comparable to the California Hydrium, perhaps even more surprising, with screws, blued perlage and Côtes de Genève.

The quick-release FKM strap showcases the classic feel of this watch, while the well-made buckle enhances wearing comfort. Isotope can also supply the Hydrium California with a tan suede strap, which is not waterproof but looks great. I have to say that I also think a brown alligator leather strap would look great on this Isotope.

As always for Isotope, this Hydrium version is limited edition. Only 200 pieces will be produced at a price of $1,146

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