With the Squale Sub-39 GMT the Swiss manufacturer created a watch that offers all essential functions of a GMT- with the specs of a dive watch. With this time piece they are picking up their subdued design language from the 1950s and 60s, highlighting the historical significance of Squale SA. It is one of the few independent and family-run manufacturers on the market, clearly focussing on functional- and quality tool- and no hype watches.
Whilst Squale is famous for its Squale 1521 “50 Atmos” dive watch, the new Sub-39 collection offer the same functionality and quality that you are used from Squale, but with the certain vintage style that you might miss at the other, rather technically designed collections. Let’s take a closer look on the most desired complication of the Sub-39 collection: The GMT.
Squale Sub-39 GMT on the wrist
The watch wears comfortably and flat on the wrist with desirable diameter of 39mm and a height of only 13mm, even though the lugs are longer than those of the of the 1521 and the case is overall differently shaped than the famous “von-buren case”. Case and domed sapphire crystal protect the watch with water resistance up to 30 ATM / 300 meters, yet featuring a full GMT complication, that can show you a second time zone with a greatly visible red 24h-hand and mineral -bezel.
But the cases of the Sub-39 and the 1521 do have more in common than just its designer, who was also the founder of Squale, Charles von Büren: As you can see is the bezel slightly coned-shaped and the corrugated outer ring of the bezel has a larger diameter than the whole watch.
Designed this way, the bezel protects the watch of possible hits. The legibility due to the contrast of the dark dial and the yellowish “old-radium” luminous mass is fantastic and the red GMT hand allows you to check the GMT- or set second time zone at a glance.
The case is polished all over (except of the brushed side of the bezel and case back), which gives the watch not only an elegant shine, but also makes it appear “lighter” as it’s reflecting its close surroundings, e.g. your wrist and clothes, so the surrounding colors merge on the watch a little. Overall the watch does not only look-, but also wear light.
The beautiful details of vintage design
The retro aesthetic in the Squale Sub-39 GMT is with no doubt a great tribute to the manufacturers rich and illustrious heritage. As luminous mass they decided to use “Old-Radium”-SuperLuminova (faux patina) on indices and hands, as well as on the bezel inlay. The bezel inlay is covered with K1 hardened mineral glass and beautifully edged in polished stainless steel, that gives the whole watch an extra retro-feel.
An important vintage design element that may not be immediately obvious, as it lies outside of the visible functions of the complications, but which is equally important, is the crown. It is a large and cone shaped screw-down crown with large milled serrations that provides extra grip and an easy un- and down screwing.
Unique in the history of the manufacturer, they have chosen to put their famous Squale shark logo on the case back. Even Blancpain used it on the dial of their dive watches during the 1970’s as a signature of case quality made by Squale, for example the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Squale ref. Y1545.
Instead they simply wrote the most important specifications of the watch on the shark-logo’s position: “GMT 30 ATM”. Unlike other brands, Squale is holding the wording on the dial to an absolute minimum, which creates a great legibility.
The watch comes with an Italian leather strap and embossed stainless-steel buckle. The vintage design of the watch makes it very versatile for different types of bracelets; Either you leave it on a vintage style leather strap or you swap it for a more diving watch functional rubber strap, or even a NATO strap for a more “militare” look.
Squale Sub-39 GMT vs. Rolex GMT-Master II
Almost every watch has its master to measure itself against. Most often that master is Rolex, as they invented many complications. This sets the bar high, but it also offers some opportunities: Can it offer the same function and a similar quality and is there anything that can be improved? – Yes, yes and yes.
The Squale Sub-39 GMT is by no means a cheap watch at a price point of 1.467€ / $1,731, but when you compare it to the current secondary-market selling prices of a Rolex GMT it is miles apart from them. (as the current hype and artificial shortage makes it almost impossible to purchase a new Rolex GMT and the, similar to the Squale, black version 116710LN is discontinued)
While costing just a friction of a Rolex GMT, the Squale GMT offers a great alternative, without being too much of an homage watch. With a reliable high quality Swiss Sellita SW300-1 GMT movement, outstanding built quality and last but not least great heritage, the Squale GMT can take on its siblings of giant Swiss manufacturers, who lack of the contemporary vintage design of the Squale GMT.
Can Squale improve the perfection of a Rolex?
Yes, the Squale Sub-39 GMT definitely can in terms of readability. In contrast to the Rolex, the second time zone of the Squale can also be read in the dark, as the bezel-indices are applied with SuperLuminova as well.
The Sellita SW300-1 GMT movement
Under the perfectly adjusted and engraved screw down case back works the Sellita SW300-1 GMT, an automatic movement renowned for its robustness and reliability. Regulated and tested by the Squale watchmakers, it operates at 28,800 vibrations per hour and delivers a power reserve of approximately 50 hours.
Since my first impression and after this in-depth review of the watch, my personal conclusion is simple: It’s the perfect-modern vintage watch including my favorite complication and a water resistance of 30 ATM. It can be the perfect daily companion used in two very distinct environments. With a top-notch built quality, precise and reliable Sellita movement, made by an independent Swiss watch manufacturer with great heritage. What could go possibly wrong with such a watch?
Furthermore it offers a great alternative to the over-hyped and over-priced watches from other well known Swiss manufacturers, without being too much of an homage to them. The Squale Sub-39 GMT offers a great and independent design. (Using a distinctive colored fourth 24h-hand to show the second time zone does almost every other manufacturers.) If you are looking for a global travel watch that you can dive with on your adventures, the Squale Sub-39 GMT should be under your serious consideration.
If you are looking for a watch that is more of an homage to the Rolex GMT Master II, then you should check out the Squale 1545 GMT 30 ATM, which is no less impressive than the watch we have looked at here.