The Draken Bengula is a “tool watch” through and through: Technical modern design, easy to read at day and night, matte bead-blasted stainless steel, Helium Escape Valve and an overall extremely solid time piece for any adventure. It comes in three dial color options: Navy Blue, Satin Black, and Olive Green and two movement options: Japanese Seiko NH35A and Swiss ETA 2824-2. In this review we will take a closer look on the Benguela Black NH35A. Most important facts of my first impression upfront: Wrist shots are taken on a 18 cm / 7 inch wrist and it appears and wears more like a 41 mm watch than its actual 43 mm in diameter balanced by its lugs, but more on that later. With a weight of 221 grams it is certainly not a light watch, but it underlines its solid tool-watch character very well and when mounted on the natural rubber strap, it wears very balanced. Now we will have a closer look and explore the depths and details together.
Elaborate dial design
Taking a first look on the watch the dial turns out to be a technical masterpiece itself already. First of all it is a double-layered dial, a so called sandwich dial, with luminous paint applied to the bottom layer that increases the lume strength. Indices in different sizes support the readability: Thick “slabs” for the 12,- 3-, 6-, and 9 hour markers and thinner ones for the hours between, covered by slightly domed bead-blasted finished indices above to match the case. Giving a nice contrast to the cold matte steel surroundings the X1-C3 luminous paint comes in a vintage-style creamy beige color. The upper layer of the sandwich dial is actually a ring, with the logo and typography printed on the lower layer. This adds an extra level of depth to the dial and you can study all the details for quite a while.
Taking a much closer look to the dial you can see, that the inner dial is slightly recessed to create further depth in the dial. Furthermore you can see that the minute-track rehaut, or outer ring, has cutout shapes for the hour indices, similar to the Tudor Pelagos, which is another great detail of this complex dial.
The glowing dragon
Keeping symmetry and yet increasing readability even more, the date wheel is luminous again with black numerals printed on it. Only a few watches feature this detail and in the lume shot below you can see how great the watch can be read in the dark, even the date. Taking a night dive is no problem for the Bengula as well; As a true dive watch the 60 minute mark on the bezel is lumed as well. The function is actually quite simple: before a diver’s descent, the 60 minute bezel marker is aligned with the minute hand, allowing the elapsed time, up to 60 minutes, to be read on the bezel. Which is why quite dive watches come with a particularly prominent minute hand, which in the Bengula look like swords to tame the dragon.
But not only the indices, hands and date wheel are lumed, the crown has a lumed Draken logo as well, which is an utterly cool detail as you can see in the lume shot of the logo. The lumed background in form of a knights shield brings the dragon to life!
Details matter, also for tool watches
Another big feature is the Helium Escape Valve, a feature found on extreme diving watches intended for saturation diving using helium based breathing gas. For a watch rated with a water resistance up to 500 meters, it is a must have. Furthermore it has an aluminium ring in a very bright red-orange color, which matches the tip of the second hand, but also brings an extremely nice detail of attention to the case. It’s also fitted very nicely into the bevelled case shape positioned it at 2h o’clock, balancing the crown at 4 o’clock.
Although the curved hooded lugs on the Benguela do make the lug to lug distance appear longer, the actual springbar to springbar distance is relatively short (43.6mm), which makes the rather heavy watch very comfortable wear. It also balances the relatively large case size of 43 mm and makes it feel like a 42 mm watch. It is using the same 22mm bead-blasted bracelet with its untapered style of the Tugela 2.0, but with flat end links to fit the hooded lugs. The bracelet feels solid on the wrist and with its matte bead-blasted finish, it’s also not as flashy as other dive watches with polished bracelets and underlines the tool-watch character. As you can see in the close up, every edge is finished with precision.
Turning the watch around it has not less details than on its front or sides. The case back is elaborately designed and finished with a cool kraken motive and some watch specifications.
The Bengula is fitted with quick-release spring bars on it’s steel bracelet and a vulcanized Natural rubber (and nitrile butadiene rubber, which is in this category) strap and can be easily changed within seconds. The natural rubber strap is based on a tried-and-tested design from dive straps of the ’60s and will be included with every order in addition to the bracelet. If you want to wear it on different colored rubber straps, make sure to check out our variation of WB Original Rubber straps. The strap is large enough to be worn over a wet-suit for diving, as you can see in the gallery picture, but it’s still comfortable on the bare skin and not too large for my 18 cm / 7″ wrist.
- Dial: Steel bead-blasted indices, sandwich with X1-Old Radium Super-LumiNova®.
- Movement: Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic with hacking and hand-winding
- Case: High-grade 316L bead-blasted stainless steel, helium escape valve, punch engraved case back.
- Crystal: Single dome sapphire with inner anti-reflective coating.Bezel: 120-click unidirectional, solid steel.
- Water resistance: 500m
- Strap and bracelet: Tapered 316L bead-blasted bracelet. Natural rubber strap.
- Dimensions: 43mm diameter, 22mm lugs, 15mm thick, 52.3mm lug to lug.
- Weight: 221g
Two different movement options
The Draken Bengula comes with two movement options: Japanese Seiko NH35A and Swiss ETA 2824-2.
The classic Seiko movement is used in many microbrand watches and has turned out to be the workhorse movement of the industry. Furthermore it is affordable and easy to service, which is great for people who are looking for their first automatic watch. The beauty of the NH35A is that it’s super reliable. Its lower beat rate (vibrations per hour) means less wear, and so longer service intervals. It also features a bidirectional rotor, so it will be fully wound faster than some of its peers that don’t have this feature. The NH35A has features that bring it pretty close to the Swiss-made workhorses, such as hand-winding and hacking (stopping the second hand when adjusting the time). It’s harder to adjust the NH35A for accuracy, but that’s offset by its supreme reliability and robustness.
Features: Hours, minutes, sweep seconds, date window
Diameter: 27.40 mm
Height: 5.32 mm
Vibrations per hour: 21,600 (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 41 hours
Country of manufacture: Japan
Bengula price: 750 NZD approx. 540 USD 756
The Benguela will also be available with the Swiss-made ETA 2824-2. This Swiss workhorse is loved and adored in the microbrand watch world as well. The higher beat rate gives the second hand a silky smooth sweep, and its larger balance wheel makes the ETA movement easier to adjust, allowing for higher accuracy with proper regulation. The 2824-2 was based on the Eterna 1247 (first produced in 1955) and has been in production with ETA since 1982. We have secured a small batch of these movements exclusively for the Benguela! This will be the first Swiss-movement watch by Draken, making the ETA version of the Benguela their new flagship model.
Features: Hours, minutes, sweep seconds, date window
Diameter: 25.60 mm
Height: 4.60 mm
Vibrations per hour: 28,800 (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 41 hours
Country of manufacture: Switzerland
There will only be a total of 150 Benguela watches using the 2824-2 movement across all three dial color variations.