The Armand Nicolet JS9 blackened watch hands on
Accessible, yet offering good build quality and details.
Spring is in full bloom and temperatures start to rise. Watch brands are preparing to gradually launch their collections of diving watches on to the market. Some did it already in Geneva, but it was mainly prototypes, because, before spring, they would not have been available at retailers anyway, other brands launched their releases a month ago during Baselworld 2018; for those brands, phase-in times are obviously shorter, since they need to move from pre-series watches to normal production quite quickly, as, in May, orders will start to flock in.
I personally continue to enjoy this winter's tail for as long as I can and I enjoy the Alpine glaciers where you can ski until the beginning of May. It is there, in Gressoney, that I took one of the first prototypes of the new Armand Nicolet JS9 - the 2018 novelty by the brand headquartered in Tramelan. Diving watches can be divided into two categories - tool watches (i.e. the “pure” ones) and those that I call "gentleman's diving’s watches"; a category of non-extreme diving watches that allow you to do everything you want with them, while still not protruding for approximately 20cm in height from your wrist, as it usually is with the first ones.
The base concept of the Armand Nicolet JS9
Armand Nicolet can boast a rather unique characteristic - it couples Italian management with Swiss manufacturing. This is not something new in this field (Eberhard & Co. is another example), but it is a combination that generally works well, because, it is my personal opinion, our creativity and experience in this sector gets happily combined with that natural Swiss expertise in fine mechanics (our domestic market might not set an example when it comes to volumes and values, but we have been, and still are, trend-setters). This product well synthesizes the concept of attention to detail; something Italian customers always look for in a product and so do the more demanding European customers.
The company does this better than its counterparts, where the brand is 100% Swiss and volumes are high. The Armand Nicolet JS9 is no exception to this trend and it confirms those same feelings that I experienced when I first wrote about the Armand Nicolet HS2, but this time there is a sporty nuance to it. The JS9 belongs to the second category I mentioned before - the easy diving’s watches category, those timepieces that have been designed for an intense use in water if needed, but with all those features that make it an all-round watch, rather than a tool for the exclusive use of professionals.
The case, materials and proportions
The case is 44m in size, but you wouldn’t say it is, both because the thickness is not excessive, and because the version you can see on here is perhaps the most aesthetically slim that exists, thanks to the black DLC-treatment it underwent to and that helps to streamline any exuberance. Considering the niche it belongs to, the Armand Nicolet JS9 is actually thin with its 13mm from the glass to the case-back. The bezel is a small masterpiece in itself - ceramic might no longer be a novelty, but the ability to create a bezel that gives you a pleasant feeling when you rotate it is not so obvious and many brands still show too much superficiality when they come up with something similar.
The bezel sports an exaggerated truncated and conic surface and engraved numbers, it has a beautiful touch and feel and, thanks to the width of the ring, it rotates very easily. The knurling used to grasp it is rather small, almost imperceptible. A great job has been done on the quality of the "ratcheting" - that is to say the experience and the sound of the bezel when you rotate it. This is something that for me represents an essential sign of quality and value for the customer. In addition to this, the gilding is a rose gold plating that can also found on the generously sized crown.
The details on the Armand Nicolet JS9 have been thoroughly evaluated - the DLC-treated case (rather than using the cheaper PVD), the bezel, which is well-matched to the case and with no backlash, the double indexes filled with SuperLuminova® on the dial (a reference to diving’s watches from the 70s) and the strap with a printed AN logo. Other details include the beautiful folding clasp with the small engraved AN logo and the crafting of the inside of the rubber strap that has been dug at the bottom in that area that meets the buckle and that has been decorated at the top with a tapisserie motif.
A deployant clasp might not be the ideal solution on a watch like this that would actually deserve a pin buckle, but everything is crafted with the care that you would perhaps find on a watch worth at least € 4,000 rather than on a timepiece, whose retail prices doesn’t exceed €1,700 (1,800 Swiss Francs to be precise). Nothing is obvious on this timepiece, not even the knurling on the case-back and the machine-made - the sum of many small details that count. On the other hand, something that could have been enhanced is the mechanical side of this watch - 36 hours of power reserve are not much and they fall below the threshold of 48 hours that, nowadays, represent the minimum standard on the market.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®