I’ve had a few really great watches come across my desk in the last few months, one of which is the Phoibos Great Wall. I first saw pictures of the Great Wall back in December 2018 when Phoibos posted some marketing stuff on their Instagram account. You could tell from the first glance that they had created something original and were further carving out their niche in the Microbrand market. When I first got into watches, I wasn’t really a dive watch/sports watch guy. I really only bought field style watches and digital watches for running. It wasn’t until I kept seeing some cool watches on Instagram that I really started expanding my tastes and started to get interested in dive-style watches.
Like a lot of watch folks, I picked up some of the entry level divers to try them out. Well, one thing led to another and I had a chance to wear a few more and after two years of watch trading, you are just as likely to find a steel bracelet watch on my hand as a nylon strapped field watch. I went through the normal progression I think: an Invicata Pro, Casio Duro, Citizen Promaster and a few others. Then I picked up an Orient Mako and that was the game changer for me. I was hooked. This is not my first brush with Phoibos; I had the opportunity to pick up a PX002 Swiss Quartz Diver. I was impressed with that watch for what it was and still wear it now on a regular basis, almost two years later.
A diver is just a nice, practical watch that can be used for a multitude of situations. Now, I don’t have a bunch of hard and fast watch rules about when you can wear a watch and when you shouldn’t. If you like a watch, you should wear it! And that’s exactly where the Phoibos Great Wall comes in. It has a unique and original design and from that very first Instagram pic, I knew I wanted to see one in person.
There is no mistaking what’s on your wrist when you look down. From the bold markings, neat dial details, tough looking bezel and overall wrist presence, it’s the total package.
I was fortunate enough to have a chance to check out the Great Wall when Phoibos sent me one this past May and I’ve been wearing it quite a bit for the last six weeks. It’s been on two long road trips with me as well as being worn in both business and casual situations, and even just working around the house. I have spent enough time with the watch to answer the ultimate question (and the point of all my reviews) …This is a watch worth buying!
The watch comes in a very nice zippered case and includes an extra rubber strap that can be swapped on in place of the bracelet. I haven’t done this because I love the steel bracelet, but you can check out The OFD Watch Channel on Youtube. Aaron does a great job and he really likes the rubber strap Phoibos sends along. It’s definitely worth seeing his video review here. If family opinions are any indication, almost everyone in my house thought the Great Wall was very cool, especially my boys. That’s because it doesn’t look like all the other dive watches I have. You can tell from a few feet away that something special is on your arm.
First off, the Great Wall has great dimensions and askews current trends in the size department. Coming it at only 42mm wide, this guy will fit a lot of wrists. Adding to the wearability, the lug to lug is 48mm (and I think one of the reasons why I like it so much.) It has an awesome wrist presence, and a really solid feel, but it’s not like you’re wearing a giant hulk of metal on your wrist. And I appreciate that. The lug wings (or whatever the actual term is) help the watch to sit perfectly balanced on your wrist. The lug wings have a slight curve downward that keep the watch tight and secure. Now, it’s not giant, but it still has some heft to it, in a solid, “I got my money’s worth” type of way.
Talking about specs and sizes, I want to highlight the water resistance on the Great Wall. It has 500 meter rating (pretty substantial) and goes to show the quality build of the piece. The watch was also finished very well; the brushing is consistent, all the cuts into the 316L stainless steel were clean, the crown has a nice action as well as the bezel. The bezel is 120 clicks and is firm, but easy to turn and has virtually no play in it. It walks that fine line of being just secure enough to withstand a bump without being knocked out of place verses too tight to turn with gloves on. Adding to all the neat touches, the bezel, like the crystal, is also sapphire and the markings have a very cool submersed look to them.
The watch also has a screw-down caseback that is embossed with an awesome rendering of the Great Wall of China… which leads to the name of the watch itself. Not only is it called the Great Wall, it has several styling cues from the actual wall. First, and most apparent, is the dial. It’s textured in such a way to resemble a brick wall and in certain lighting the design really pops out at you and the cuts are very defined. I love that styling. To me, the bezel knurling itself is cut to resemble the crenulations of the wall and turrets. In reading about the Great Wall and how it was defended, I saw a similar design in the shield markings at 12, 3, and 9 with that of the Shang Dynasty soldiers. This was not confirmed to me, but the resemblance is uncanny.
Since we’re talking about the dial, I’m sure you’re just waiting to hear about the lume! Well, in no way does it disappoint! It’s insane, in fact, and with so much on the dial, it really puts on a show. The bezel is also lumed and is very defined, another detail that racks up all the value this watch has. Since it seems everyone is lumed obsessed (or is that just me?) you’ll be happy to know it has 15 layers of X1 grade Super LumiNova C3, which at least sounds as impressive as it is bright. It also passed my home-grown test of lasting more than 7 hours after being charged up on the nightstand. You can read more about my lume test in my SWCUSA Dark Night review.
The heart of the watch is powered by a Swiss ETA 2824-2 movement. Still, not one of my favorites because I never see the power reserve claims in the real world, but nonetheless, it’s an above average offering that has hacking and hand winding. Despite my quips, you can’t deny that the movement has the ability to run without issue for years and is beyond reliable. Again, if you wear your watch everyday, the power reserve really is never an issue.
The watch comes with what I believe to be an above-average bracelet, even at this price point. It has a folded clasp with laser etching of the logo, micro adjustments, and a really nice quick-release slide divers extension. It’s very comfortable to wear and is quiet, barely a jingle to be had. The links are adjusted with dual allen screws and Phoibos includes two allen wrenches in the case. To adjust the links, you use one allen key to hold a screw on one side and twist the opposite side to loosen the pin. It takes a little patience at first, but it becomes pretty easy to swap an extra link in or out. Also, the dive extension has four positions, so expanding the bracelet in a pinch is definitely easy and painless. The bracelet does not taper and carries the 22mm lug width all the way to the clasp, something I like on a bigger watch like this. I will note here also, that the lugs are not drilled (why, on a $500 watch, is beyond me!) Keeping up with some trends, there’s also a helium release valve on the opposite side of the case from the crown. I’ll let you judge the value of that.
The watch lists for $500 and, at this price, it is firmly planted against some stiff competition when it comes to a dive watch, microbrand or not. In this range, it’s up against Hamilton, Glycine, Squale, and Steinhart to name a few. Price is always a point of contention when it comes to watches. Lets just all agree, nobody needs a $500 watch; spending that much is a choice and if you choose to spend it on the Great Wall, I doubt you will be disappointed.
There are plenty of watches out there with very similar specs in the same dollar range and many with more history and heritage behind the brand. So this leads you to ask, why buy the Great Wall?
That answer is easy, it’s a tremendous all-around watch! What edges it out to be a pack leader is the original design. There is no mistaking what’s on your wrist when you look down. From the bold markings, neat dial details, tough looking bezel and overall wrist presence, it’s the total package. It’s so easy for companies to produce a dive watch and add one or two little cues to make it their own, but it’s quite another to combine so many unique elements and come up with a completely original design. And original is what we have here with the Great Wall. So, for that reason, along with several above-average specs (such as the C3 Lume, Sapphire Bezel and higher water resistance) I say this is a watch worth buying.
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 client’s websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.