24 Apr McDowell Time Tidewater Watch Review
You would think that it gets harder to review a wrist watch the more you review watches. I actually think the opposite is true; the more watches I come in contact with, the easier it is to formulate an opinion, get the facts and really do a fair evaluation. One reason that it gets easier is because once you’ve handled a bunch of crappy watches, the good ones are easier to spot and the great ones really stand out.
Reviewing watches is more of a hobby, and I only put words to paper on a few watches. Mainly because many of the watches I am sent for my Instagram account are ‘just OK’ and there are already a bunch of reviews out there. So, if you need to figure out if you should buy something, it shouldn’t be too hard to find out.
However, for a watch to actually make it to my blog, it has to be something special, have a unique perspective, be an amazing value, or really stand out from the crowd because of design or specifications.
That’s where we are in today’s review of the McDowell Time Tidewater. My admiration for the Tidewater started right from my initial opening of the box. It’s always refreshing, and a little exciting, to see a watch that’s original, and I was extremely pleased with the originality of the Tidewater.
It’s not just another micro-brand diver with Seiko guts (the Tidewater has a Sellita SW200 inside, more on that later), it’s actually a watch with an original look and a timepiece that seems to have been thought out ahead of production.
Part of the joy of a new watch is seeing it and immediately wanting to wear it.
Another way a watch gets extra points with me is if it’s something I will actually wear. I have definitely received a few watches that I didn’t initially love, but did grow to appreciate after some solid wrist time. To me, however, part of the joy of a new watch is seeing it and immediately wanting to wear it. That’s not always a sure sign of a winner, but it’s usually a good indicator. I have definitely seen what I thought was cool online, only to be severely underwhelmed in person. A perfect example is my NTH Nacken, an outrageously expensive watch for something so run of the mill. However, I knew at first glance that I wanted a Tidewater on the wrist!
As we dig into the core of the Tidewater, I can tell you it’s definitely a watch worthy of buying. If you just needed some reassurance, now you have it and you and you can click over to their site and pull the trigger. If you want to know my reasons and get into some of what I consider important details, you can read on.
Let’s start with my one and only complaint….no drilled lugs. For a watch that checks so many boxes when it comes to specs and build quality, I can’t understand why the lugs weren’t drilled.I used to think maybe I was making too big of a deal about this small detail.
That being said, I have recently changed my mind and now realize it’s actually an important aspect of a diver. At a certain price point and feature set, details like drilled lugs can set you apart from the rest of the field. Still, the Tidewater is a fierce competitor at the $500 and under price point.
The Tidewater is a fierce competitor at the $500 and under price point.
So, why should you listen to me? You certainly don’t have to. And I believe you should definitely read a few reviews and watch a couple of videos for any item you plan on buying. In my case, I like to think that my outlook on the value vs. feature aspect is a little more unique. I am not one to buy a watch because of the history of the brand or because of its product placement in a movie; I’m not even one who falls for all the cult classics. I want a good looking watch which I believe deserves my hard-earned money.
In addition to money well spent, I want a watch that makes me happy when I look down to see what time it is. Perhaps a ridiculous statement, but it helps frame my reference point when I review a watch. Lastly, since writing these reviews is more for fun, I feel I have more freedom to do an honest assessment of whatever I am reviewing. I say all of this so you can understand why I am about to give such accolades to the Tidewater.
The heart of the Tidewater has to be the choice to go with the Sellita SW200 movement inside.
Right off the bat, you know you have something special here. Perhaps because I love watches without a date complication, perhaps it was the clean dial, but the Tidewater has struck a chord with me.
When you think about it, it has to be extremely tough to design a watch that doesn’t look like other watches considering they all do the same thing….spin some hands in a circle to tell the time! Your canvas is already laid out, so when a watch company can actually deliver something unique, it’s worth taking note.
The heart of the Tidewater has to be the choice to go with the Sellita SW200 movement inside. If you asked me a few years ago about jewels (a durable bearing used in fine timepieces and other delicate instruments – fyi) and beat rate of watches, I would have no idea of what you were talking about or why I should care.
It’s only as your affection grows for watches do these things matter. In the case of the Tidewater, those jewels and 28,000 beats per minute give the seconds hand that beautiful sweep around the dial! Some even say the SW200 is even more reliable than the venerable ETA 2824-2 that the SW200 is cloned after.
In the case of the Tidewater, those jewels and 28,000 beats per minute give the seconds hand that beautiful sweep around the dial!
Some even say the SW200 is even more reliable than the venerable ETA 2824-2 that the SW200 is cloned after.
Additionally, the Tidewater gets the better version of the Sellita with the SW200-1 being installed inside. There is a great article over on Caliber Corner that gives some detail, but the big evolution of the movement is in the changing of gears and strengthening of the teeth, making the movement more shock resistant. This is definitely a good thing and adds to the feeling that you have a solid watch on your wrist that can take a beating.
The SW200-1 inside also has another benefit and that’s awesome crown action.
The SW200-1 inside also has another benefit and that’s awesome crown action. The signed crown sits ‘just right’ between the guards and has a noticeable pop when you unscrew it.
Personal opinion: I think the crown could be a tad bigger, not because it’s hard to actuate, but more for ascetics. Although when looking at the case from the side, I am sure a few will disagree with me.
Each McDowell Time watch is hand assembled here in the United States. This is definitely a nice touch, and helps you look at the Tidewater a little more closely to appreciate all the little details. One of those details is the bracelet, which is fantastic! Solid end links, screw-in pins, a full-milled clasp, micro adjustments, and a fold-over closure.
What more can you ask for? The bracelet is also not the run-of-the-mill oyster style you see slapped on every micro brand today. It’s a unique, multi-piece, ‘hex head’ bracelet. Besides the good looks, the bracelet is extremely comfortable on the wrist.
The case is solid 316L stainless steel with a brushed finish. Now, all brushing is not created equal; sometimes it’s not done in all the same direction or you can see too many machine marks, etc. However, the finish here on the Tidewater is exceptional! As you can see from the pics, the side of the case has some angle cuts and the brushing meets the lines perfectly. They really did a beautiful job here.
It’s nice to see this extra attention to design execution observed.
As mentioned, the dial is very clean and well laid out. The applied indices carry C3 Lume as well as the hands and bezel….and yes, it has a fully- lumed ceramic bezel. One detail that really caught my eye is the coin edge on the bezel. The cuts into the bezel are clean and crisp and give it an expensive feel.
Some watches have sloppy cuts in the bezel or the plating, or coating can be overapplied giving it a ‘cheap toy’ feel. It’s nice to see this extra attention to design execution observed.
The bezel also has beautiful action to it. It takes just the right amount of pressure to turn it. Additionally, it doesn’t overhang in a weird way so I doubt you would accidentally move it out of position in a real diving situation.
There is a little back play to the bezel that I didn’t expect, but not enough to hold it against the watch. I have definitely seen worse on more expensive pieces.
They’ve really created a good looking beast!
The lume is decent, C3 certainly isn’t going to win any prizes in the “last the longest” category, but it does glow bright for more than just a few hours. Thankfully, McDowell Time didn’t overload the dial with a bunch of useless other markings or extreme logo placement. At 12 o’clock is their logo and down at six o’clock the watch name, Tidewater, is spelled out with the water resistant rating directly underneath.
I believe that by keeping the writing to a minimum, they’ve really created a good looking beast; it also makes their white dial version a real beauty!
I’m sure watch manufacturers hate it when a reviewer compares their product to another brand, but I think it helps to have something to compare things to that are well known. In the case of the Tidewater, the watch bears a slight resemblance to a Seiko Samurai, and it does this in a good way. If you like wearing a Samurai, I think you will like the Tidewater even more. With a lower overall height and more pronounced curved lugs, this watch really hugs your wrist. It’s a hefty watch so you feel you got your money’s worth and the case design keeps the weight low so you don’t feel like you’re wearing something too top heavy.
Overall, the Tidewater is a watch that exceeds the sum of all it’s details.
Overall, the Tidewater is a watch that exceeds the sum of all it’s details. Meaning that, for the price, you are getting way more watch than you’re paying for. You really don’t see such an elevated level of finishing and thoughtful design at this price point. It’s a well crafted, original looking and high value diver that is sure to see a lot of use.
As of this writing, the Tidewater is listed on McDowell Time’s website for $475. At that price, the watch is a steal, with features and specs offered on watches costing double and more. I would love to see McDowell Time make a field watch!
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.