When it comes to Scandinavian design and aesthetics, one could easily go straight to thinking about IKEA or Fjällräven, but what about a watch brand? Simplicity, functionality, and minimalism are at the core of Scandinavian design, which tends to lend itself to watch design. Scandinavian watch companies have been slowly making their way into the microbrand segment by introducing exemplary offerings with a very high-value proposition. E.C. Andersson, or E.C.A. for short, has released its second watch, the Denise diver, and it deserves some attention, as it checks off a lot of boxes when it comes to being a solid dive watch and a tool watch with all the Scandinavian details you would expect from an independent microbrand.
E.C.A came on the microbrand scene back in 2016 with its first watch, the North Sea, followed by the North Sea II and Calypso, all in multiple case and dial color variants. For 2019, the brand has released a dive/tool watch called the Denise, named after the submarine that was carried on board Jacques Cousteau’s oceanographic vessel. They haven’t said which Denise, specifically, but I’m going to take a guess and say it’s the SP-350 Denise “Diving Saucer” since both the watch and submarine have a saucer-like profile.
When I took delivery of the Denise, the first thing that came to my mind was, ”That’s smaller than I expected,” but that’s usually a good thing coming from me. I’m partial to smaller-cased watches because I have a small wrist and because proportions tend to be more harmonious.
The Denise is just tall enough to feel solid and balanced, while at the same time short enough to fit under most shirt cuffs comfortably at 15mm. It’s not a thin watch, but it feels slimmer than its dimensions would suggest due to its rectangular 70’s-esque top and profile geometry. The lugs ends do curve slightly downward to help with fit, but the horns aren’t long enough to reach below the casebacks protrusion. The overall feel of the watch as it sits on your wrist is flat and planted, without feeling too top heavy.
Dimensions on the website are pretty true to size as a 40mm width without screw-down crown. With the screw-down crown, I found the watch to measure in at 42.6mm, and it wears just like its measurements. The crown’s shallow coin finish knurling leaves a bit to be desired, as it can be difficult to get a good grip when screwing it down. If I may make this comparison, the sizing and dimensions of this watch are very similar to a Rolex Oyster Perpetual case in that the dimensions don’t do justice to the real-life watch presence on the wrist.
The profile view of the watch is of a flattened saucer with the crystal height being just about double the caseback’s height. The flat stainless steel sandwich case looks very balanced and properly finished. The faceting and varied metal finishes cause the light to dance off each part of the watch, adding a bit of luxury and sparkle to an otherwise highly functional diver/tool watch. I also mentioned downturned lug horns, which make the broadside of the watch case look like the hull of a Viking ship when the watch is face down. I guess it could also look like an elongated viking hat with horns as well?
I was fortunate to be able to review two versions of the Denise, the black dial and the blue-to-black circular gradient dial. Both versions are appointed a unidirectional bezel with a dual-purpose countdown and compass function ceramic inserts and a sub-style bezel edge. The spring tension on the bezel is just the right amount and provides 120 positive tactile clicks without much backlash.
I frequently use the dive bezel as a countdown timer for things under 15 minutes or as a stopwatch to time the duration of various activities, Unfortunately, I have yet to test the compass function, as I’ve been fortunate enough not to get lost …yet.
The double-stick markers at 12 o’clock with single stick markers at 3-6-9 make the watch face highly legible in bright-to-low-light situations, even before the lume kicks in, and they’re very vertically pronounced on the dial. All the markers and the hands are bordered by a mirror finish and lumed, adding to the contrast and quick-glance functionality that every field and dive watch needs. Orange accents are tastefully done and the verbiage on the dial face is minimal. Another nod to Rolex is the laser-etched rehaut with the E.C.A logo mirrored and repeated.
The dial is smartly laid out, and there’s very little printed text except for the brand name, city of company origin, depth rating, and the Swedish word for “automatic” (automatisk) — all of which makes it obvious that this isn’t a Swiss brand, and if you haven’t already noticed , it doesn’t say “Swiss Made,” and that’s because the Denise is powered by the Seiko NE57, rebranded and in-house precision-certified as the ECANE01.
The movement is regulated to -1, +4 per 24 hours and is also regulated in five positions with the regulation bias set towards the crown up position. This is thought to be the usual resting position for rubber-strapped watches with deployment clasps, outside of being in a watch winder or pillowed watch case.
This Seiko movement offers a centrally located power reserve module that requires the watch to stack all four hands in the middle, giving the watch great depth. Having the power reserve centrally located adds symmetry to the dial and reduces visual clutter. I did notice, however, that the power reserve hand stopped at different points on the scale on the two separate watches when fully wound or when empty. This may have been due to the different manufacturing times of the watches where the decision of the resting position of the hands could have changed or because one of my review watches was a demo and the other a production model.
The lume quality is exceptionally bright and mostly even throughout its dial application. The color consistency is spot on from the dial to the ceramic bezel insert, which can be challenging for small-batch manufacturers. The “+” side of the power reserve is accented with orange as well but isn’t lumed. Interestingly, the “-” side of the power reserve is lumed; I suppose it’s more important to know if you’re running low on power, in the dark. The blue dialed watch is lumed slightly different with the power reserve being outlined without one side being lume filled. (The thin dashes of lume between the dial markers and bezel markers are reflections off the crystal, which is why they are inconsistent in the picture.)
Although the sapphire crystal is said to be AR-coated, there are some weird refractions and reflections happening between the dial face and the underside of the crystal. When looking at the watch from certain angles, you can actually see a ghosting effect where the reflections of the mirror-finished edges of the markers hover over the dial.
Rubber straps are pretty typical for dive watches, and the Denise is no exception. The Italian rubber is comfortable, but firm enough to keep the watch in its place and has a diamond texture on top and a flat surface on the underside. It does require you to cut it to fitment, but that’s usually par for the course. E.C.A. recently announced that they’ll be making stainless steel jubilee bracelets available starting immediately for all watches as an option. The timing wasn’t right for me to review the bracelet, but I expect it to have the same fit and finish as the watches and really add that extra bit of pop to the overall look of the watch.
The deployant clasp is designed well and its looks complement the watch head very nicely. The clasp is one of the best features of the watch, as a whole, and uses a very simple but effective mechanism that allows you to make five micro-adjustments amounting to 8.5mm of dive extension or retraction. I’ve never gone for a dive in a wetsuit, so I can’t say if the expansion is enough to fit comfortably over a wetsuit, but it definitely works when my wrists swell up in the morning. Its water resistance is rated to 200m, which, as a side, note is 200m shy of what the actual Denise submarine was capable of.
I’ll go out on a plank and say that, if Jacques Cousteau were still alive with us today, he might have worn an E.C.A. Denise. Possibly just for the novelty of having a watch that was named after one of his submarines, but also because he was thought to have worn Rolex, Blancpain, Doxa and Omega. The Denise borrows style, iconography, and function from these watch brands and produces an attractive timepiece that is functional and robust while also being of high quality.
I know you were all thinking it. “When is John going to make a viking reference?” A “viking” is someone who goes on an expedition. I think it’s fitting that a Scandinavian watch brand from Gothenberg, a city rooted in sailing, is endeavoring to create watches for tool and dive enthusiasts that are capable of these duties on a daily basis, while looking great, when all you’re doing is navigating through the daily grind.
E.C.A. produces its watches in limited batches of no more than 250 pieces. As of this writing, there are still 15 pieces left of the black-dialed version and about 30 pieces left of the blue-black gradient dial, and you can pre-order the Arctic Sport version with a white dial and white ceramic insert, each starting at €891.