In 2008, Geneva-based brand Clerc launched a dive watch that was rather different from anything else in the category: The Clerc Hydroscaph introduced, among other features, a unique, octagonal bezel design and an unusual locking mechanism to operate it. It also features an ultra-complex case construction and flexible lugs. Three years later, the increasingly prominent range was extended with an even more complex chronograph version, which we at DiveIntoWatches.com finally had the chance to review.
There are quite a few different versions of the Hydroscaph “Central Chronograph” available and most of them are limited to 500 pieces or less. Pictured here is the CHY 585 with black steel case (DLC) and a proprietary rubber strap which is fitted using two spring bars on each end. Alternatively, you can opt for other versions, with stainless steel (with or without DLC coating), rose gold, or carbon fiber components, and choose from several different dial and strap colors.
In all versions, the Hydroscaph’s lugs are flexible in order to better adjust to different wrist sizes – a good thing, since the chronograph measures at least 44 mm (if you exclude the lateral protector), or nearly 50 mm if you take everything except the crown into account. Thanks to the compact lugs, the Hydroscaph wears smaller than the numbers suggest, but the total size, including the crown, might be a bit too much for smaller wrist sizes.
Should the chronograph turn out to be too large for you, both the Hydroscaph GMT and the standard automatic H1 model offer a very similar look but with a more compact case.
Clerc states that the 500-meter water-resistant case alone is made of 103 components, and if some of them were in fact supposed to act as more conveniently replaceable protectors (e.g., the lateral add-on on the left side) then this would in theory allow an interesting approach as regards durability and, perhaps most of all, maintenance. Nevertheless, the unidirectional bezel, chronograph pushers and crown are probably a lot more likely to attract scratches and bumps, which might neutralize the benefit of removable case parts but still enhance the “technical” appearance of the watch.
At 10 o’clock the Hydroscaph features one of its signature elements: the bezel (120 clicks) can only be operated if the flap is retracted (similar to the screws used for camera plates); you can then either manually rotate the crown (which moves the bezel) or just rotate the bezel counter-clockwise by hand (automatically rotating the crown simultaneously), which offers a nice tactile sensation. As with every bezel-locking mechanism available (such as those on the Omega Ploprof or Hublot Oceanographic), the increased safety comes with a price: it would certainly be a lot more challenging to operate the bezel under water (especially when wearing gloves) than with a standard dive watch, but from an engineering point of view it still offers a very interesting approach without being too visually dominant. Also worth mentioning: the four beveled sections of the bezel offer a surprisingly good grip considering the lack of any additional engravings.
Since the chronograph functions are conveniently located centrally, you could even just use the orange hand (minutes) with the white central hand (seconds) if you are not planning a dive longer than 60 minutes. Otherwise you’d have a perfect way to additionally measure decompression stops. When not in use, the two hands are stacked one atop the other.
At 9 o’clock there’s a 24-hour display with day/night indication; at 3 o’clock, the running seconds hand. Interestingly, in this version only the minute hand seems to be covered with luminescent substance. which is of course the most consequential hand, but this decision doesn’t allow the wearer to make a quick check of the seconds hand in the dark to see if the watch is functioning– or to read the current time outdoors at night. We’re a bit torn, but would have preferred brighter lume in any case.
At least this model’s color scheme helps to better distinguish the white minute hand from the orange hour hand, and other versions seem to have both hands covered in lume.
The Clerc Hydroscaph Chronograph is powered by a C608 automatic movement. We presume it is a modified ETA 2892 caliber equipped with a module. It is partially visible thanks to two small, porthole-like sapphire crystals in the caseback.
In short: if you have always felt that all dive watches look the same, you’d have to admit that Clerc has certainly managed to approach the category differently. Both in terms of look and functions, the Hydroscaph is a refreshing alternative, with a unique look and several interesting design features. And even though its price suggests that it should not be used (abused?) as a tool watch, you certainly feel that it was developed with the diver in mind. Last but not least, with a central chronograph and 24-hour display, the Clerc Hydroscaph even offers some very useful complications for a lot of applications. So if you are looking for a diver that stands out of the crowd, you might want to give the Hydroscaph family a closer look.
What we would have changed:
- A traditional buckle would be a better/more robust match for a dive watch, and a more massive folding clasp a better counterweight
- The luminous material used for the bezel could be stronger and at least applied to the seconds hand at 3 o’clock
What we liked very much:
- Central chronograph functions
- Complex case construction (consisting of 103 parts)
- Well-built quality
What we absolutely loved:
- A unique look
- A fresh and modern approach on how a contemporary dive watch could be engineered
Manufacturer: Clerc Watches
Model: Hydroscaph Central Chronograph Limited Edition (500 pieces)
Reference: CHY 585
Case: 49.6-mm diameter without crown (about 44 mm without the protectors), about 17-mm height; stainless steel case with DLC and screw-down crown; massive caseback; sapphire crystal; unidirectional bezel (120 clicks) with bezel locking mechanism at 10 o’clock; 500 meter water-resistance; flexible lugs
Strap: 21-mm lug size, scented rubber strap with DLC folding clasp
Dial: Black with applied markers
Movement: C608 automatic movement, 51 jewels, about 44-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph
Scroll down for more pictures…