Like many of our readers, I have a sweet spot for small, independent brands— the watch startups of today pushing the market in new ways the big players not always can. It’s part of the reason I think I like RGM and the 151-COE piece we covered last week so much, but it’s also the reason I’m actively searching out small brands— especially those with vintage influences— on a daily basis.
One of these brands is Nezumi Studios, a brand we covered a few months ago with their first watch and chronograph, the Voiture. This watch drew the attention of many publications with its fascinating combination of different vintage inspirations, which include the Universal Genève Tricompax, Omega Speedmaster, and Tudor Montecarlo, among others. These are details the brand took, reorganized, and modified into a modern piece that both pays homage and holds its weight to gain the popularity it enjoys within horological circles today. Now the brand is back with its second watch — this one a diver, called the Baliene.
Where voiture in French means “car,” baliene means “whale,” a name perfectly appropriate to the diving spirit the piece works to channel. Influenced in part by the Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538 369 Explorer dial, vintage Tudor Rangers, and the Omega Seamaster Ref. 135004, among a few other historical sports watches, the Baliene is distinctly more modern than the Voiture yet still manages to place a few key historical nuances within its design.
With a 40-mm steel case, waterproof to 200 meters, the Baliene uses the same case as the Voiture, now adjusted for diving with an enlarged screw-down crown and unidirectional outer bezel. Also unlike the Voiture, which is only available in a brushed and polished finishing, the Baliene will be available in brushed and polished, brushed alone, or with a black DLC coating. On its dial, you’ll notice the printed, enlarged quarter hours markers with trapezoidal non-quarter markers, the outer minute ring with small hour markers from 13 to 24, and a subtle date window at the 4:30 position. The hour and minute hands are in a syringe style possibly inspired by those of the vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph, while the seconds hand is the same style as on the Voiture — an inspiration drawn from mid-century Omega watches like the Speedmaster and Seamaster. Within the center of the dial is the Baliene name, dive rating, and Nezumi logo; however, I should mention that the watch is currently a prototype and the final version will have a smaller logo, as seen in the concept illustration above.
Within the timepiece is the automatic Seiko Caliber NH35, capable of a 41-hour power reserve; this movement is one very popular among smaller brands and known for its impressive durability. It should be noted also that this is the first fully mechanical movement Nezumi has used — the Voiture uses a reliable Seiko VK63 Mecha-Quartz movement— making it the first of what the brand has said will be a larger expansion of mechanical movements in its watches in the future. The watch is currently on pre-order for $395, excluding European VAT, and $438 with the added tax; however it will retail around $650 once it begins to ship starting in September.
Of its historical inspirations, most noticeable are the dial and hour markers; the quarter numerals clearly draw my mind to vintage Tudor Rangers and the Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538 369 Explorer dial, while the non-quarter markers seem to be influenced by the Omega Seamaster Ref. 135004. Also of note is the enlarged crown, another similarity to the Rolex Sub Ref. 6538 — a watch often called the “Big Crown” — and the Baliene’s hands, which I’ve previously mentioned draw designs parallels to vintage Seamasters and Jaeger-LeCoultre divers.
Modernl touches to the watch include its case, bezel, and date window. More notably, and a factor that is becoming a hallmark of the Nezumi brand, is how the design of the watch takes a variety of historical influences and goes on to mix, match, and modify them to produce a distinctly modern piece. While many historical influences can be identified, the brand has worked hard not to re-create or pay homage to any specific vintage watch, and thus has produced something that is both historical and contemporary — a timepiece that can appeal to both vintage enthusiasts and the modern aficionado.
As the second watch within its growing collection, Nezumi hopes the Baliene will display the longevity of the brand’s unique style of watchmaking. Coming on the heels of the widely popular Voiture, the brand’s first piece, this one differentiates itself in style with a more modern appeal.
Looking past the Baliene, in the coming months the brand looks to release even more pieces. Planned pieces include ta GMT, a mechanical Voiture, and other tool watches — all designs I look forward to seeing as this brand continues to grow and develop its historically influenced style.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.