Long Term Watch Review: The Szanto Icon Shane Dorian Diver
Today, I’m capping off my long-term review of the Szanto Icon Shane Dorian diver. If you want to get right down to business and find out why this watch is worthy of your hard-earned money, you can jump ahead to the review portion. If you want to know why I think Szanto is such a cool watch company, you can read the back story below on how the Shane Dorian came across my desk.
First let me say, I prefer a good quartz watch over a mechanical any day! I get the whole mechanical watch thing, I really do, and I have more than my fair share of mechanical watches. However, you really can’t beat the reliability and accuracy of an excellent quartz watch. They handle abuse much better and, in general, are less of a pain to use. If you’re like me, and wear a few different watches during the week, you never have to worry about picking up a quartz watch to reset the date and time if you’ve put it down for a few days. While this may sound petty, it’s still a pain to me. Now, as with all things, when it comes to quartz watches, all are not equal. Finding a great one can be hard to do, and that’s exactly how I stumbled across Szanto watches. I was on the hunt for the ultimate quartz diving watch and I found their Hawaiian Lifeguard Watch, a real diver with screw down crown, amazing lume, solid case and all the toughness you could want from a legitimate diving watch.
If you haven’t heard about Szanto Timepieces, you’ve really missed out! They certainly have some watch industry chops behind them. Time Concepts, the parent company of Szanto, was started by Barry Cohen who was one of the original founders of Luminox Watches. After many years at Luminox, Barry decided to take his in-depth industry knowledge in a different direction and built watches for several other widely recognized brands under his manufacturing company. In the last several years, he has been producing some really amazing watches at Szanto. From vintage inspired chronographs, to some heavy duty field watches, they have a wide catalog of watches.
”The most impressive tidbit of all of it was this: not one Szanto watch has suffered a failure to water intrusion in the last seven years! Regardless of your watch snobbery, that’s mighty impressive!”
I was fortunate enough to speak to Barry about the watch I am reviewing today, the Shane Dorian diver, as well as his experiences in the industry, other watches in the design phase and the genesis of the Szanto Icon collection that this watch is a part of. I’m not a total watch nerd and some of the significance of his amazing stories I’m sure were lost on me, but I feel like I was given a mini-education on how a watch goes from an idea to being strapped to your wrist. The most impressive tidbit of all of it was this: only one Szanto watch has suffered a failure to water intrusion in the last five years! Regardless of your watch snobbery, that’s mighty impressive!
This is the second release of the Icon collection, an offering of watches inspired by real life heroes, personalities and craftsman. The first was the Danny Sullivan Chronograph, which is a real beauty. The second release, the Shane Dorian, is crafted in collaboration with world renowned professional surfer, Shane Dorian. It’s built to be a rugged watch that is at home in the deep as well as way out in the wilderness. Now, I know some folks roll their eyes when companies come out with any type of product collaborations, perhaps thinking that it’s opportunistic or that a name is just slapped on something from the warehouse. I can attest that this diver had more than just some input from Shane; he was directly involved in the design concept, style, details and development. It was even his idea to have the horizontal baffles in the strap to ensure that water was drained away quickly. Talking with Barry, I was able to be led through all the little details that went into the watch to make it unique.
As I mentioned above, I found Szanto over two years ago when hunting for a beast of a quartz diver. Their HLA diver, built for the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, was just what I was looking for! If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve assuredly seen many pictures of it! When Szanto reached out to me to see if I would like a chance to review the Shane Dorian, of course I said yes.
I may not be a watch nerd, but I still have my standards in what I expect in a watch, and the Shane Dorian did not disappoint. Made from solid 316L stainless steel with a screw down crown, the watch feels super solid in hand. When it comes to a watch, I’m a big one on first impressions and put a lot of credence into my initial reaction. I totally understand that moment when something you ordered on the internet arrives, only to be disappointed when opening the box. It’s either lackluster, feels cheap, wrong size or any other litany of things that make you question why you spent your money! Besides the Shane Dorian coming in a nice box, the initial impression is outstanding. You know you have some serious gear in hand as soon as you open it up. At a retail of $275, you know instantly you got a good deal. The build quality alone makes it feel like a more expensive watch.
The size of the watch is right in that “just perfect” range of 42mm; it’s not a giant that looks crazy and it’s not so small to look out of place. With the thinner style bezel and upright case design, the watch actually wears much smaller than the 42mm would lead you to believe. With a shorter lug to lug length and lugs that curve slightly downward, the watch hugs your wrist and sits extremely well. I’ll mention here that the watch also has a fantastic bezel action, nice tight clicks with just a hair of side to side play. There is absolutely no play or movement when your press down on the bezel (some dive watches have a feel of the bezel is floating above the case). All in all, the watch feels well done in both fit and finish.
Inside, it has a venerable Miyota quartz movement that should run without issue for a very long time. I think, here again, the choice in materials and components highlights the value of the watch; it would have been very easy to put a lesser caliber of quartz movement inside. A nice touch here also, is that the second hand lines up perfectly with the chapter ring markings and there is no bounce when the hand ticks over (something many companies seem to have a problem achieving).
The dial layout is clean and crisp with even-hour numerals and hash marks for odd-hours. One area the Shane Dorian really shines is in the lume department. A very generous helping of Swiss SuperLuminova Lume was applied to the markings, dial pip, and even outlined around the date window. The lume easily passed my nightstand test of still being visible after eight hours. I think it would’ve been a nice touch to have the bezel markings lumed, but to be fair, it would probably be a little much for most people if you’re not a lume junkie.
I mentioned the watch strap above and its unique design, but, as an additional design element, the watch comes with quick release pins built in. Now, if you haven’t experienced the convenience of a quick release watch strap, you just haven’t lived! Szanto offers several color options in their own straps and the internet is filled with a lot of really great quick release straps. The straps have a little pin built into the side of the spring bars that allow you to remove and install the straps without tools. The Szanto straps are NBR Rubber, a synthetic compound which is super flexible and, in my experience, does not collect lint. The quick release pins make it painless when you want to change up the look of your watch from rubber, leather and even canvas. I’ve become partial to the quick release straps from Ritche, and you can find tons of colors on their website or Amazon.
The watch version I was sent has a black ion plated case, black dial and optional green strap. I was a little concerned that the black case would show some signs of use if I wasn’t careful, but I certainly did not spare the watch when called into action. After over three months of daily wear and tear, the finish has held up perfectly showing no scuffs or nicks. I’ve done yard work with it, a few beach adventures, projects around the house and wore it as if it was a beater…the watch definitely can be used in the real world and has been flawless so far.
After talking to Barry and learning more about Szanto and what went into the production of this watch, my expectations were definitely raised. In our conversation, Barry was eager to stress the conditions that the watch (as with all Szanto watches) is built under: a temperature controlled, clean-room environment. He attributes this as one of the reasons the watches are so reliable and trouble free. Now, I’m not sure how the average person thinks a watch is manufactured, but today, many of your mainstream watches are not assembled in a real, clean-room environment with all the checks and balances of a science lab. Knowing all this made me scrutinize the watch even more. I looked over the finishing a little closer, checked how even the lume was and, all in all, held the watch to a higher standard.
”Now, I’m not sure how the average person thinks a watch is manufactured, but today, many of your mainstream watches are not assembled in a real, clean-room environment with all the checks and balances of a science lab.”
It’s easy to see, I like the watch and it’s one that will definitely be staying in my collection. Let’s look at what we’re getting for our money: a screw-down crown and caseback, K1 mineral crystal, super luminova, 200m water resistance, reliable movement, nice strap option, and a great look and design…all this for $275! So that leads us to the obvious question of value; is the Shane Dorian diver worthy of the asking price? The short answer is yes, not only because of the features your get, but because the history and the folks behind it show that the watch actually has some modern heritage. Add that to the effort by Shane Dorian himself, and what you have is a rugged, good-looking, and highly functional watch that will serve you well.
The longer answer to the question above is: this watch lands right in the middle of a whole sea of micro-brand divers and watches in the $250 – $300 category. It’s an extremely competitive price point and you have to know your stuff to get the best value. For less than $300, I think Szanto has a winner on their hands. The watch is original enough in design to not look like “just another diver,” it has meaningful features and the specs are right in line for the price. I know some folks might think the crystal should be sapphire, but the K1 has a long history of being very scratch resistant. I have only two complaints after wearing the watch for a good deal of time. As I mentioned above, I wish the whole bezel was lumed. Secondly, (a gripe I have a lot of watches) I wish it had drilled lugs. That’s a minor complaint I think, considering the watch comes with a quick release strap, but I’ve had it on some natos already and the drilled lugs would be so much more convenient
I want to mention a quick story here about the watch. Before speaking with Szanto, I didn’t know who Shane Dorian was (forgive me, I don’t surf!) What I learned was that he’s not just a famous big wave surfer, but also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. You can see further design cues in the watch to match his style and personality, hence some of the green dial options. I was out to dinner with friends shortly after getting the watch and my friend commented on how awesome it looked. When I told him the watch’s name, the Shane Dorian diver, he freaked and started to tell me all about Mr. Dorian: the movies and documentaries he was in and some of his amazing surfing accomplishments including the “ride-of-the-year” 57-foot wave he tackled! Knowing all that certainly makes me enjoy wearing the watch even more!
As I sit and finish writing this, I have the diver on my desk. There is no denying the watch’s good looks and after above average use, I can say that this watch is definitely worth buying. It hits a sweet spot for me in the value vs. specs intersection. As far as high quality, legitimate quartz divers go, you won’t be disappointed with this one.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.