I’ll jump straight into it: the Vaer D5 and D7 automatic dive watches are very nice watches. And they are interesting additions to the sub-$1000 dive watch category. They offer classic styling, modern technology, and attractive features in a well-priced package. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a pre-ordered Vaer D5 Atlantic USA Diver to review. While I really like many things about the watch, there are a few issues that may be a deal-breaker for some.
Introducing the Vaer D5 and D7 dive watches
Los Angeles-based Vaer has been making affordable, well-made field watches since 2017. Founded by two outdoor enthusiasts, the brand aims to offer timepieces that combine style, durability, and functionality. As a result, they design their watches for everyday use on land and in the water. Towards the end of 2020, Vaer finally launched the automatic D5 and D7—its first dive watches.
Though it may be easy to assume that the Vaer D5 and D7 are a pair of watches, they aren’t. They are actually a collection of 200m dive watches crafted around a single case and bezel style. The collection offers variety through different dial variations. Some have dates, some have faux-aged lume, and each takes design cues from a different dive watch style. And Vaer offers two movement options: a Japanese Miyota 9015 in the American assembled D5 USA Divers and a Swiss ETA 2824 in the D7 Swiss watches, assembled in Switzerland.
The Vaer D5 and D7 case
The 316L stainless steel case of the Vaer D5 and D7 is 39mm wide with a 40mm bezel. The case has a length of 48mm lug-to-lug, a thickness of 11.6mm, and a lug width of 20mm. With the domed sapphire crystal, the watch has a total thickness of 13.7mm. The watch feels thin, considering the more noticeable part—the case—is under 12mm in height.
In fact, the watch wears very well. 39mm to 40mm is a sweet spot for dive watches. It’s right around where you’ll find venerable models like the Tudor Black Bay 58 and Rolex Submariner. The case borrows the twisted lug style found on the Omega Seamaster and Speedmaster. It’s a respectable source of inspiration that adds a touch of class. The lugs curve downward and hug the wrist, making the watch feel a bit shorter than its 48mm length. These watches should be comfortable to wear, and look great, on any-sized wrists.
The entire case has a brushed satin finish, which is fitting for a tool watch designed for active use. It’s nicely done, though not as refined as the satin finishes that I’ve seen on some other, more expensive watches. The all-brushed surfaces work for the Vaer D5 and D7, providing a subtle texture to help hide the scratches and dings the watches will pick up over years of active use.
The case sides are sleek and smooth, and there are no crown guards to add to the width or visual presence of the watch. The screw-down crown is easy to grab ahold of and use. An engraved Vaer logo and stepped edge add a touch of style. Screwing down the crown isn’t as buttery smooth as other crowns that I’ve used, however. It felt more like an Orient than an Oris, or even a Seiko. But it works. And Vaer seems to trust it: the company guarantees that their watches are waterproof.
The bezel and crystal
Each D5 and D7 Vaer dive watch sports a double-domed sapphire crystal with an internal anti-reflective coating. And they all feature the same steel bezel with a modern, glossy black ceramic insert. The bezel slopes upward to meet the crystal, forming a smooth arc from one scalloped edge of the bezel to the other. There are a lot of reflective surfaces to catch the light and make the watch shine. Legibility can take a bit of penalty at certain angles, however. It’s somewhat noticeable, but not what I would call a hindrance.
The bezel has a lumed Super Lumi-Nova marker at 12:00 and at the alternating stick indices. The lumed markers combined with a ceramic bezel are very nice features on the Vaer D5 and D7. It’s touches like these that help take the watches up a notch.
The unidirectional bezel action is smooth, with a positive, satisfying sound at each of the 120 clicks. The bezel is easy to turn without being too loose or having any noticeable play. And the crisp, scalloped steel bezel edge makes it very grip-able. I can imagine that even with gloves on, this thing would be easy to get ahold of and turn without trouble.
But that is the trouble, actually, and the most significant flaw that I found with the Vaer D5 dive watch. The bezel is sharp. It isn’t uncomfortable to grip, though I can imagine it scratching a knuckle if you catch the edge wrong. But it didn’t take very long for me to find wearing the watch with long sleeves to be a grating experience.
My loose-fitting shirt cuffs had little trouble sliding over the thin case, sloped ceramic bezel insert, and smooth dome of the crystal. But my sleeve constantly scraped along the scalloped steel edge of the bezel. The steel felt rough, with each tiny, sharp edge grabbing and snagging my shirt sleeve as I wore it. It was a sensation that I could feel and hear with every move.
If I had reviewed the watch while wearing short-sleeves, I likely would not have noticed the snagging effect. The sharpness of the Vaer D5 bezel edge fits the tool watch nature of the watch—I’m sure that it would be very easy to grip while wearing gloves or when wet. And I’ve heard that some Rolex dive watch models have sharp bezel edges as well, so perhaps Vaer is in good company here. But I think that it’s something Vaer could smooth out just a little in future production runs.
The D5 Atlantic Diver dial and hands
When selecting a Vaer for myself, I chose the D5 Atlantic USA Diver. To be honest, I like the look of the Arctic White dial and sword hands the best. But I wanted to check out the American assembled models, and of those, the Atlantic appealed to me the most.
The D5 Atlantic seemed the most broadly appealing of the options. The all-black dial features applied metal hour markers painted with Super Lumi-Nova lume. There is a circular dot of lume is on top of the minute track at the 2, 4, 8, and 10 o’clock spots on the dial. These dots correspond with the 10, 20, 40, and 50-minute markers on the bezel. I don’t know enough about dive timing to know if these extra markers serve a practical purpose, or if Vaer just added them for aesthetics.
A minute track with long minute markers surrounds the outer perimeter of the dial. Between each minute are smaller hash marks dividing the minutes into quarters. The D5 Atlantic provides a date function, with a metal-framed date window at 6:00. The printed Vaer logo in the upper center and “Automatic 20ATM” printed above the date. There are a lot of elements on the dial, but they are simple and work well together. This cohesive simplicity keeps the dial from feeling cluttered.
Marking the time on the Vaer D5 Atlantic is a set of brushed pencil hands with a strip of lume running down the center. The hands are flat and brushing on the hands is a bit more coarse than the satin finish of the case. The legibility and visual style could have benefitted from wider hands. Beveled and/or polished surfaces on the hands would have been a nice upgrade as well. But the hands are functional and don’t clash with the design of the dial.
The movements: American Assembly vs. Swiss Made
Two distinctions separate the Vaer D5 watches from the Vaer D7 watches— the movements used in each collection, and where each watch is assembled.
Vaer is committed to supporting and growing skilled craftmanship and production in the United States. To help achieve this goal, the company fully assembles its D5 USA dive watches in America. As a matter of pride and distinction, “American Assembly” is printed at the bottom of each D5 dial, and also engraved on the back of each watch case.
Inside the D5 dive watches, you’ll find a reliable Japanese made Miyota 9015 beating away at 28,800 BPH. The Miyota offers standard modern features like a quickset date, hacking seconds, hand winding, and a 40-hour power reserve. The unidirectional Miyota allows the rotor to spin freely when moved in the non-winding direction. Some owners of other watches that use the movement have claimed this makes it noisy. While I could hear the rotor spinning occasionally when I listened closely, it was far from noisy or loud. The Miyota 9015 is a well-regarded movement and allows Vaer to price the D5 watches starting at $499.
The Vaer D7 Swiss dive watches start a little higher at $749, but are assembled in Switzerland and use the popular swiss ETA 2824 automatic movement. The ETA 2824 is a true standard in the watchmaking world, providing reliability and making it easy to have the watch serviced. It also allows the D7 watches to carry the “Swiss Made” designation on the dial and case back. Like the Miyota, the ETA 2824 beats at a smooth 28,800 BPH and provides the same capabilities and 40 hours of power on a full wind.
Both the Vaer D5 and D7 watches feature a sapphire display case back showing off the movement inside. Of the two movement options, the ETA is finished with a bit more detail than the Miyota. Though neither movement is what I would call highly decorated. Still, it’s nice to look at the back of your watch and see the mechanics inside. And a display case back isn’t all that common on 200m dive watches.
Every Vaer D5 USA and D7 Swiss dive watch comes standard on a quick release rubber tropic strap. It’s well made and comfortable and is a fitting match for the vintage-inspired styling of the watches.
And customization options aren’t limited to dial variations. Vaer offers the choice of a second nylon quick release or single-pass Nato included with each watch. For another $50 you can instead add a fitted quick release stainless steel bracelet or unlined Horween leather strap. And for an additional $80, you can opt for a lined Horween leather strap as your second strap.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Vaer has an interesting offering with their D5 USA and D7 Swiss dive watch collections. They are clearly inspired by classic divers but are not an homage to any specific watches in particular. With a range of dial designs, date or no-date styles, multiple strap options, and the choice of two well-regarded automatic movements, the collection offers broad appeal. Not only do the watches look good, but they also deliver a lot of bang for the buck. These watches are well-made, and they wear really well too.
There a few things that I might change about the Vaer dive watches. First, I’d make the hands a bit wider, and either polish them instead of brushing them or bevel them. Or both. I think that would add to the overall legibility of the dial. The wider sword hands-on Arctic Divers seem better suited to the dials overall, so perhaps consider using those instead of the pencil hands. And offer all dials in both the D5 and D7 collections, if possible, rather than limiting certain dials to one collection.
The one larger personal gripe that I found during my time with the Vaer D5 Atlantic USA Diver was with the sharpness of the bezel edge. While extremely easy to grip, the finish felt a little rough, and at time snagged and grated on my clothing while wearing the watch. I haven’t experienced that level of sharpness with another dive bezel. From Orient and Seiko up to Oris and Tudor, and many brands in between, every dive bezel that I’ve come across has had a smoother edge, so perhaps it’s just something that I’ve become accustomed to. It’s a personal thing, and I’m sure there are many who will like, or even need, such a tactile feel.
And while the Vaer D5 and D7 Divers are solid additions to the $500-$900 price category, they face considerable competition in that range. Brands with much more heritage than Vaer, like Seiko, Tissot, Hamilton, and Orient offer great dive watches for the same price or less. Newer brands like Baltic, Raven, Traska, and Steinhart all make well-regarded watches with similar specs (or better) within that range. And for a little more than the price of a D7 you can get a Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro or a Doxa Sub 200. It’s a crowded market for dive watches, but through their dedication to quality, vintage-inspired design, and American assembled approach, Vaer is working to carve out a place for themselves.
Check out Vaer and their complete line of field and dive watches at vaerwatches.com.