On the wrist today is a truly amazing watch for so many reasons, the Ginault Ocean Rover is, hands-down, a stellar timepiece. I normally don’t give that much praise for a watch, but in the case of the Ocean Rover it is definitely warranted. As always with all my reviews, I attempt to determine if I think a watch is worth your money and in the case of the Ocean Rover the answer is an easy yes. So if you just wanted some reassurances about dropping $1,299 on a watch, you have them and you can skip the rest. If on the other hand, you want to know why the watch is so solid and worthy of your money, you can keep reading.
First, if you want to fully understand why the Ocean Rover is so great, you need to have a few reference points about what it’s meant to be. The title of my review is The Ultimate Rolex Submariner Homage, but that does this watch an injustice for a few reasons. One, this is not in my opinion, an homage in the traditional sense, but rather a re-imagining of what a Rolex MilSub would be if it was to be manufactured today. Two, Ginault set out to build a watch that pays tribute to one of the most iconic watches of all time and a watch that most of us could only ever dream of owning, the Rolex Military Submariner.
This is a watch that the more you wear it, the more you can appreciate it. It’s a pleasure on the wrist and really captures your eye, but I had to ask myself, do we really need another Submariner homage. In this case, the answer is a definite yes! Just like a great cover band, who can take a classic and put it’s own spin on a song to make it better, that is exactly what Ginault has done, they have built the ultimate tribute to the Rolex MilSub. No small feat considering the original is so iconic.
My own little backstory with the MilSub is worth mentioning here. I’m not one to obsess over a watch and don’t even have a “grail watch” so to speak, but I have fallen hard for the vintage MilSub’s from Rolex and the Tudor variations. I originally became star struck with the MilSub a few years ago when I came across an article on Gear Patrol about the history of the Rolex Military Submariner and of course, I became hooked.
Up until that point, I really thought a Rolex was a watch for an old man and my understanding of Rolex’s importance in the horological world was weak at best. I had no idea about elite military forces getting their own special Submariner, nor did I know at the time how much those MilSub’s, as they are called, are worth today. I never really fancied owning a Rolex Submariner, but that Gear Patrol article did change my outlook about how cool those old watches are.
If you want to delve further into the history of the MilSub, there are several great articles to read. Of course, the Gear Patrol is on the list, but also there are well-done posts from Worn and Wound, Hodinkee, and Bob’s Watches to name a few.
It wasn’t until I unboxed the Ocean Rover that I really understood what the draw is to these Ginault pieces. By far, it is one of the most well-done watches that I have handled and honestly rivals the fit and finish of an actual Rolex Submariner. This is one of the key reasons I think this watch goes beyond the homage classification, Ginault set out to build a watch here in the United States that is equal to Rolex in its quality and craftsmanship. That mission was accomplished.
Hand-Built In The USA
I have been fortunate to have many correspondences with John McMurtry, one of the principals of Ginault, and really get some insight into what goes into each Ginault timepiece as well as his passion for fine watchmaking. I think knowing these details raises the bar in my mind of the caliber watch that is at hand. When you look down on your wrist and know all the time, effort and passion that went into producing such a watch, you really can’t help but to be enamored.
Besides the overall quality of the Ocean Rover, one of my favorite traits is that the watch is hand-built right here in the U.S. It’s probably more “American Made” than many Swiss Watches are Swiss Watches. I own a slew of watches that are manufactured all over the world and that never influences me as a buying decision. However, you can’t deny the cool factor knowing that the watch is mainly produced from components sourced and manufactured right here in the States. The case, caseback, bezel assembly, insert, and crown are all CNCed and finished here domestically. All of this contributes to the level of finishing the watch has and the tight tolerances and solid feel when it’s in your hand.
A Closer Look At The Details
Let’s dive into the details of the watch and see exactly why you should buy one if you too are looking for the ultimate Rolex MilSub alternative….
Keeping with a more vintage vibe, the dimensions of the Ocean Rover are a definite throwback from the glut of dive watches produced today. The case measures in at 40mm with a lug to lug of 47mm, so if you want a watch that’s going to fit well and you have medium to small wrists, then this guy is for you. The lug width is 20mm and the overall height is 13.5mm, so all in all, it has some classic measurements. The case, caseback and bracelet are all crafted out of 316L stainless steel. This gives the watch a very solid feel, but it’s not a clunker when wearing. This is where the finishing really comes into play, Ginault really did an excellent job with the polishing and brushing.
The dial is another high point and is a beauty. Its layout is definitely reminiscent of a Submariner and strays from the printed markers on the original MilSub, but to me, it’s a change for the better as the applied indices are very well done. While the indices have changed, the traditional sword hands are still there, a trait I really like as I am one of the few who can’t stand a set of mercedes hands on a watch, especially a diver or a tool watch. The addition of the red second’s hand is a nice touch and a very cool nod to England’s Ministry of Defense standards from the 1960’s. Capping off the dial is a domed piece of sapphire that is raised a tad above the bezel in traditional vintage fashion.
Around that sapphire crystal is a very solid and tactile 120 click uni-directional bezel with a Gold Sand Lume pip. You will notice from the pictures that I choose a no-date and no cyclops version. I can’t stand a cyclops and think it totally ruins the look of any watch. I also love the no-date option, it really makes an automatic watch more into a grab n’ go piece than an auto with a day/date complication. No worries about AM or PM or even the date, unscrew the crown and rotate the hands just a bit and you’re ready to go.
A Modern Interpretation Of A Classic
Talking about the crown, it screws and unscrews nicely, has a modest “pop” when you back it out, but it’s a tad flakey when you pull it out all the way to stop the seconds hand. You really have to make a concerted effort to pull it all the way out if you want to precisely set the time and pause the seconds hand. The crown has nice knurling on it and it’s a decent size so even folks with bigger fingers will find it easy to use. As you would expect on a watch of this caliber, it has a signed crown with the Ginault logo.
Not much to say about the case-back other than its a screw-down back and it to is signed some with writing around the edges stating the model number, etc. It would be cool if Ginault engraved their full logo on the back. Since we are discussing the back of the watch, I will mention that the end-links fold right at the edge of the lugs, making the watch wear extremely well on a variety of wrist sizes.
The lume on the watch is crazy, there is just no other way to put it. The applied indices are filled with what Ginault refers to as Gold Sand Lume and is apparently comparable to straight Superluminova C3. Whatever lume is used, you won’t be disappointed. It easily passed my nightstand test. While we are discussing the dial, this is where we run into my first nitpick, I am not a fan of the four levels of text at the bottom of the dial or the logo, name and writing at the top of the dial. This is solely personal taste and can’t be held against the watch, I just wish it was a little less writing. My complaint is similar to those who don’t like the fact that Squale writes their name and logo on the dial, while others don’t even notice it. You fall into one of two camps here.
I will note here that I am not a Rolex fanatic and can’t spout out different Submariner model numbers or the history behind each generation, etc. In fact, I do lean to the side of the aisle that you are buying heritage of the brand and not really the world’s greatest watch. I bring this up because I know some of you will say that the Ocean Rover is not a MilSub but more of a watch more closely related to the Submariner 16610LN. Maybe that is true, but we should never lose sight of Ginault’s goal, to build a modern interpretation of a MilSub. Victor Marks has a great review on the Ocean Rover and goes into detail about the traits the watch has from various Rolex models. You can read his review here: Wrist Watch Review.
Moving to the watches movement, this is where people have lost their minds over the Ocean Rover. There are some gripes online about what is exactly inside the watch, but if you look at Ginault’s website like a normal functioning adult, you will see Ginault uses their own in-house caliber 7275. I don’t know enough about all the movements out there to make any outlandish claims, but I can tell you my Ocean Rover is amazing and runs two seconds fast per day…what more can you ask for. Ginault has an in-depth page on their website as to the details of their movements and you can see it here.
The bracelet on this piece is another star of the show. It’s tremendous, to say the least, but I still have a complaint. Again, it is cosmetic and open to opinion, but the bracelet tapers too much for my taste. It takes the solid feel of everything else and kind of makes it a little dainty. It’s in keeping with the watches theme, but just a point of contention for me. Other than that, the bracelet is truly well made, it not only has solid end links, but they’re also machined to match the case and lugs, definitely an expensive detail. The bracelet has screw-in pins to hold the links in place and makes it easy to size for your wrist. In addition to the pins, the functional slide lock adds another level to the bracelet’s adjustability. This is my first watch with a slide lock and I am totally hooked. I find myself adjusting the bracelet quite a bit depending on the weather or activity.
The watch comes in a very nice padded faux leather box that is lined inside with a watch pillow to keep it safe. The watch when I got it, was covered in tons of cellophane and is packed very securely. Also included was a screwdriver for adjusting the links as well as all the expected warranty information. All in all, it’s a really nice presentation and if your one to keep the boxes your watch comes in, you will be happy.
My watch is a Ginault is a #181070GSLN, and is one of the first generations of Ocean Rover’s with a no date dial and no cyclops bezel. As I write this review, the Ocean Rover 2 has just been released and has a ceramic bezel and some other subtle differences.
As you can probably tell from my review, this is a great watch. It is built to an amazing level of finishing and every aspect of the watch has a quality feel. It wears well, looks the part and keeps great time for an automatic watch. It most definitely is the ultimate Rolex Submariner alternative, but that title does come at a premium price. If you are just looking for a watch that looks like a Rolex, this watch isn’t for you and you can buy an $80 Invicta and be happy. However, if you have any common sense and what something exquisitely made at a reasonable price, then the Ocean Rover is the watch you should buy. Now, if you desire a vintage Rolex MilSub and don’t have $180K laying around, then even more so this is the watch for you.
My Advice, Buy The Watch
Since picking up the Ocean Rover, I have worn it extensively. From business meetings and dinner dates and everything in between, I’ve gotten to know the watch well. If you’re reading this, you may be seriously considering picking up an Ocean Rover. My advice, buy the watch! What you really are strapping to your wrist is a watch that is arguably an equal in quality and craftsmanship to an actual Submariner. The difference here is your not paying a premium for some ingenious marketing by Rolex. When you consider the specs of the watch and the retail price of $1299 compared to the current prices of Submariners, you really have to think long and hard about forking over your money for the real thing.