Established in 2011 in Stockholm, Sweden, Nezumi Studios is a design house whose first product wasn’t actually outdoor kit but instead a pair of limited-edition selvedge jeans. After that came a capsule collection of leather goods, accessories and then in 2015, watches.
Today, the brand’s range of timepieces encompasses a range of colourful chronographs, with racing, rally and aviation influences. But there’s one model that is a little different, and it particularly stood out for us here at Outdoors Magic. The watch in question is called the Baleine. Fans of Jacques Cousteau will probably recall than baleine is French for ‘whale’, and appropriately Nezumi’s Baleine is a vintage-styled dive watch, reminiscent of the slim, stylish ‘skindiver’ watches from the 1950s and ‘60s.
As well as its handsome and striking looks, it boasts some impressive specs, with 200m of water resistance and a shock-resistant workhorse automatic movement made by Seiko housed in a 316L marine-grade stainless steel case. The face has a highly scratch-resistant double domed sapphire crystal, creating a vintage aesthetic that is also pretty damn tough.
Who is the Nezumi Baleine Dive Watch For?
We’d say this is a watch for style-conscious types who love classic outdoor gear, particularly the stuff made by another Scandinavian brand that we love. Basically, this is the perfect watch to complement your Fjallraven Greenland jacket and really nail the ‘old-school adventurer’ look.
As intimated above however, the Nezumi Baleine isn’t all style over substance. It ought to be a capable aquatic companion, so outdoor swimmers, kayakers and even proper divers needn’t worry about wearing it in the water. But we reckon it’s more likely that most people will use this watch strictly as a desk diver, and so do the brand, we suspect – hence the fact it comes on a stylish hand-made tanned leather strap rather than something a bit more waterproof. If you do want to get it wet, it’s probably worth swapping it onto a nylon NATO or a rubber diver strap.
On land, the watch’s all stainless-steel case, screw-down crown and caseback, and virtually scratch-proof sapphire crystal (as well as the shock-protected movement inside) all point to the fact that this watch is capable of handling a little rough treatment. The legible dial and classic timing bezel add tool watch functionality, so it’s a decent choice for daily wear from working week to weekend adventures.
316L stainless steel is a marine-grade steel used in the majority of dive watches. It’s very strong and highly resistant to corrosion. Our test sample, the Baleine BA2.202, had a finely brushed finish, but its sister model, the BA2.101, has a polished finish. Obviously, the choice is yours, but if you’re after an outdoor or daily wear watch, we’d always go with brushed steel, which looks and feels a bit less dressy and more purposeful, and won’t show up odd hairline scratches as much.
It is a very handsome case, with elegant angles and some great design details such as an undercut ‘saucer’ bezel with coin-edge knurling and a signed screw-down crown. But the most striking elements are the twisted lugs – or bombé lugs, in watchmaking parlance, which are borrowed from another Nezumi watch, the Voiture racing chronograph. It’s also a design trait of some iconic watches, including the Omega Speedmaster, and though it’s rarely seen on dive watches, it works well here.
There’s a 120-click unidirectional aluminium bezel insert finished in satin black, which stays true to the design aesthetic of vintage dive watches. This also has an attractive lume pip at 12 o’clock, plus crisp 60-minute markings and 15-minute hashing.
You also get a double domed genuine sapphire crystal with an inner AR (anti-reflective) coating. The AR occasionally shows a blue tinge at the very edges of the crystal, but in general it ensures excellent dial legibility. Speaking of which, the granite black dial has ‘gilt’ printing and aged C1 luminova luminescence, with polished steel syringe-style hour and minute hands. The running seconds hand is a simple, precise needle with a painted tip free of too much adornment – perfect for a tool watch.
The case is 40mm wide and 47mm from lug-to-lug, ensuring it is a very wearable size that should suit most wrists. At 13mm thick, 1.2mm of which is the domed crystal, it also has a fairly thin profile, especially for a dive watch, again enhancing wearability. On the wrist it feels reasonably light and very comfortable. The slim proportions mean the Baleine feels just like a classic mid-century vintage ‘skindiver’ watch, albeit with a slightly larger case size that is more suited to modern tastes.
As a straightforward tool watch, the Baleine is a fairly simple beast. However, the dive bezel is an undeniably practical feature that comes in handy for a multitude of tasks. If you’re camping, for example, it’s useful for boiling water or food prep (maybe it’s just us, but waiting 12 minutes for that freeze-dried backpacking meal to cook through is made much easier when you’ve got a nice watch to count down the minutes). The knurled bezel is easy to grip and turns smoothly through 120 unidirectional clicks. Alignment is pleasingly crisp and precise, with very little play.
The black dial has nicely printed markers and text, and the aged-effect lume is decent enough, though a little low-light performance has obviously been sacrificed in the name of vintage style. The hands and bezel pip are easy to discern though, glowing a pleasant green even in a darkened tent.
Flipping the watch over reveals a solid screwed-down caseback. This is deeply engraved with the watch specifications, the stylised Nezumi ‘N’ logo with two little nods to the brand’s origins – est. 2011 in Stockholm, Sweden – and lastly, some text that reads: ‘creating bonds’. We appreciate that sentiment. Over time, you forge bonds with favourite bits of outdoor kit. They become tried and tested adventure companions, and we like the idea that you’ll do the same with this watch too.