With the DS PH200M, Certina raises one of its early divers’ watches up to the surface. Not only is the design authentic, the construction is, too. We give it an in-depth look in this review from our May-June 2019 issue.
A black dial with a red crosshair and the double-C logo, luminous white displays and a broad black bezel with continuous minutes subdivisions: this is what Certina’s DS PH200M divers’ watch looked like in 1967 and what the new version looks like today. The curved crystal is still made of acrylic, which further accentuates the watch’s retro styling. Only the red seconds hand doesn’t match the one on the vintage model, but it creates an appealing and contrasting-colored accent that harmonizes with the intersecting red crosshair on the dial.
The DS PH200M’s similarities to its predecessor not only apply to its design but also continue into its interior. As in the original construction, the movement is borne atop a thick rubber ring that cushions it against shocks. Just like the version from the ’60s, Certina leaves a narrow gap between the case and the dial, which is connected to the movement, to provide space for the slight motions permitted by the elastic rubber ring. Since 1959, along with an Incabloc shock-protection system, the elastically suspended movement has been part of Certina’s DS (Double Safety) concept, hence the two letters that serve as the name for the brand’s extensive DS collection. An extra-thick acrylic crystal and a reinforced, fully threaded, screw-in back are two elements in the design that enhanced the security of the original model and reappear in the contemporary DS PH200M, our test watch.
Watch movements today are so sturdy and cases are of such high quality that they make the historical DS principles unnecessary. Modern sapphire crystals, for example, are so shatter-resistant that they can easily outperform acrylic crystals, while requiring much less material thickness. But design considerations and the desire for authenticity prompted Certina to use an acrylic crystal in its stylish new divers’ watch, where the crystal’s high curvature and large material thickness are two inarguable bonuses. Furthermore, an acrylic crystal costs less than a sapphire one. This cost saving, along with other factors such as synergies within the Swatch Group, enable Certina to offer the DS PH200M at a price of just $780. In return for this low price, the owner must accept the fact that the scale of the unidirectional rotatable divers’ bezel is made of aluminum rather than scratch-resistant ceramic. However, the lightweight metal is an improvement over the bezel on the original model, which had a calibrated insert made of relatively brittle Bakelite plastic.
Mechanical Added Value
Despite its low price, the new watch’s long-lasting power reserve is one characteristic that surpasses the performance of other watches in this price class. Movement manufacturer ETA, which belongs to the Swatch Group, supplies the Powermatic 80.111 caliber, which continues to run for 80 hours after having been fully wound. This assures that this self-winding watch will keep ticking even if it languishes motionless and unworn throughout an entire weekend.
A few years ago, ETA achieved this increase in performance compared to its basic caliber, the well-known ETA 2824 with a 38-hour power reserve, by reducing the balance’s frequency by 25 percent to 21,600 vibrations per hour and by making the barrel’s shaft slimmer, thus freeing space inside the barrel to accommodate a longer mainspring. As a further improvement, ETA eliminated the regulator with adjusting screw and installed a freely oscillating balance with two variable weights. This solution is more elegant and shows greater technical sophistication.
The exterior finishing of the DS PH200M is just as convincing as its mechanical inner life. The case is neatly polished and satin finished. The engraved turtle emblem, which is typical of DS models, looks three-dimensional on the case’s massive, solid back. The velvety calfskin strap ends in a neatly polished buckle with a tang that’s milled rather than merely bent into shape.
People who want to wear this wristwatch while playing sports or diving can temporarily swap the leather wristband for a textile strap with black and blue stripes that comes with the watch. Thanks to spring bars with integrated sliders, no tools are needed to change the straps. The textile strap has leather-edged holes and a complexly styled large-format buckle with a milled tang.
While we’re on the subject of diving, the letters “PH” in this model’s name stand for pression hydrostatique (French for “water pressure”). The case’s pressure resistance to a depth of 200 meters easily meets the needs of recreational divers, while leaving plenty of additional meters of pressure resistance as a safety reserve. Glow-in-the-dark Super-LumiNova shines brightly and is long-lasting, with its characteristic green hue on the hands, the indexes and the dot on the bezel. The legibility is also good during the day, unless sunlight shines directly through the highly curved acrylic crystal and reflects glaringly off the glossy lacquered dial and polished hands.
Light and Shadow
The bezel of the DS PH200M can be rotated quite easily with your bare hands, but it can be difficult to turn while wearing diving gloves. The crown is easy to grasp per se, but your fingers tend to get stuck on the protruding extra-wide bezel. Fortunately, these relatively minor operating deficiencies are the only details to complain about. The rate performance likewise offers no cause for complaint: the average daily gain is small (+4.2 seconds) and the difference among the several positions is an acceptable 9 seconds. Our test watch ran even more accurately on the wrist, where we measured daily deviations between 0 and 2 seconds. Our candidate ably confirmed its manufacturer’s claim of having an 80-hour power reserve. And for good measure, it continued to run a full 91.5 hours before its hands finally stopped moving.
Together with its high degree of wearing comfort, which is even better when the watch is worn on its supple leather strap, this results in a successful retro watch with good features for daily wear. And thanks to its low price, fans of sports and divers’ watches would be well advised to rise to the bait and snap up what Certina has brought to light from the depths of the horological past.
Manufacturer: Certina SA, Mattenstrasse 149, 2503 Bienne, Switzerland
Reference number: C036.407.16.050.00
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Movement: Self-winding ETA Powermatic 80.111, 21,600 vph, 23 jewels, stop-seconds function, rapid-reset mechanism for the date display, fine adjustment via two weights on the balance, Kif shock absorption, 80-hour power reserve, diameter = 25.6 mm, height = 4.6 mm
Case: Stainless steel, bezel can be rotated in only one direction and is inset with a calibrated aluminum scale, curved acrylic crystal with anti-reflective and scratch-resistant coating, fully threaded screw-in back made of stainless steel, water resistant to 200 meters
Strap and clasp: Calfskin strap with tang buckle made of stainless steel, additional textile strap
Rate results (deviation in seconds per 24 hours):
Dial up +4
Dial down +2
Crown up +8
Crown down +4
Crown left +8
Crown right -1
Greatest deviation 9
Average deviation +4.2
Flat positions 328°
Hanging positions 265°
Dimensions: Diameter = 42.8 mm, height = 13.2 mm, weight = 89 grams
Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): The calfskin and textile straps are well made, as are their clasps with milled tangs. Sturdy spring bars with sliders allow the owner to change straps without needing to use a tool. 8
Operation (5): The bezel offers only a moderately good grip and it gets in the way when opening and closing the screw-in crown, which is otherwise easy to use. 3
Case (10): The stainless-steel case is neatly polished and satin finished and is waterproof to 200 meters. The acrylic crystal and the aluminum bezel are not ideal, but they help keep this watch affordably priced. 7
Design (15): Certina has revived an interesting divers’ watch from 1967, but the new version has a slightly wider bezel, which not everyone will like. 12
Legibility (5): The dial is generally easy to read day and night, but the highly curved crystal and the shiny displays can glaringly reflect light if it falls at an unfavorable angle. 4
Wearing comfort (10): The leather strap is even more comfortable than the textile one, but a few extra holes to accommodate slimmer wrists would have been a welcome addition. 9
Movement (20): The ETA Powermatic 80.111 automatic caliber offers twice the autonomy of well-known, standard ETA movements and also boasts a more elegant fine-adjustment system. 13
Rate results (10): The average gain was small (4.2 seconds) and the maximum difference among the several positions remained within acceptable limits (9 seconds). 7
Value (15): Notwithstanding the acrylic crystal and the aluminum bezel, $780 is still a very low price. 14
Total: 77 POINTS