A review of two Waldhoff diver watches - Seawolf and Atlas

Published on 5 March 2024 at 21:21
​This time my focus goes to two very interesting watches made by the Manufaktur Waldhoff company. Name of the company suggests it's a German watch company. Well that was true in the first period of the company from years 2015-2022. All their watches produced in that period wear the "Made in Germany" label. In 2022 assembly was moved to Asia, new watches lost the "Made in Germany" label. The whole history of the company can be found on their official web page.
I first noticed this company on the Watches.com web pages and only then decided to check also the official site. That was about one or two years ago. I remember that almost all Waldhoff watches at that period were far away from my taste. Too much skeleton dials, tourbillons, etc. I remembered just one model that was interesting for me - Seawolf. So I marked it as interesting and forgot about it. Until recently when I received a notification that a new, very interesting GMT diver watch - Atlas GMT was released! This notice reminded me about the Waldhoff and the Seawolf.

So, I visited Waldhoff again. I again checked the entire collection and still - nothing except the Seawolf and the new Atlas GMT was interesting for me. I however noticed that there were still some models in the Walhoff shop that had "Made in Germany" label. Presumably an old stock. Even though I desperately tried to find a "Made in Germany" watch that would fit my preferences, I couldn't. Just Seawolf and Atlas remained in my focus, even more, I decided to buy at least one of them.

Both models are available in white and blue dial versions, Atlas also in green and Seawolf in black. It took me a lot of time to decide what to take as I liked both watches! I was sure that this time I would not fall for a blue version of any of them, as I really have too many blue watches. I was also sure that I would not take Atlas in the NATO strap version (all Atlas watches are available with a bracelet or a NATO strap while Seawolf is only available on the bracelet). 

To me the most attractive among all of them was the Atlas white dial model, called Arctic. Yet I somehow could not resist Seawolf as well. And among Seawolf models, the white dial version (called Icefall) was again the best looking to me. A already tough decision what to take was even tougher as I soon realized that both watches have a lot in common but on the other hand they are very different. At the end I - as you can see - decided to go for both of them. I purchased the white Atlas and instead of white I took the black Seawolf (called Blackwater). The reason was just to have as much difference as possible. Maybe I made a mistake not to take both in white version as in fact those two watches are VERY different, there was no need to go for a different dials to emphasize the differences. So, let's check them, step by step.

The most important similarity which is also the reason one would think those watches are "the same'' is the octagonal stainless steel 316L case. 

The Atlas case is indeed just a smaller version (41mm) of the Seawolf case (43mm) in all aspects. Exact copy. The same is true for the (signed and screwed in) crowns. Atlas has just a smaller version of the Seawolf crown but design of the crown is a perfect copy. I must admit that both cases are done very well, no complaints here. I like the fact that they are brushed, not polished.

The crown side of the watches already reveals the first important difference between both of them. Even though both have declared WR of 300m, Seawolf has a Helium Valve while Atlas doesn't. 

But let's go back to the similarities and focus on hands and hour indexes. As you can see, both watches basically use the same hour and minute hands whereas second hands are similar but not identical. Even though the Atlas is a bit smaller, hands were taken from the Seawolf. They were not proportionally shortened as was true for the crown. You can see how minute hands on Atlas goes closer to the edge of the dial than on Seawolf.

Hands are simple yet effective. The main purpose of the hands is well achieved, reading the time is easy. Maybe minute and hour ones just a bit too thick, but nevertheless I like them. Why the second hands are different, I don't know. I can only comment that it is not quite clear, why the Seawolf's second hand has a red needle at the end as there is no red color on this watch at all. On Atlas, this red needle goes together with the GMT red hand and red GMT red colored text on the dial. 

The index markers are in general also of the same design, there are some adjustments made due to date windows which are on different positions and due to power reserve indicator which is placed at the top of the Seawolf's dial. But I need to spend some more time here. Let's take a close look at the hand of the power indicator. You will notice how the hand is placed below the 12 o'clock index. So there is a space between the index and the dial. We can see that in fact the front face has several layers, first is the dial, on the dial a separate narrow minute inner ring is placed, all index markers are placed on that inner ring and there are gaps between index markings and the basic dial. There is no need for such a complicated approach on the Atlas dial, so a standard approach where index marks are just glued to the dial is used.

Even though hands and index marks are grey (I mean the housing, not the luminova), they often look totally black, depends on the lightning conditions. In Atlas I had to check the official pictures as I couldn't be sure, what colors are they. In Seawolf grey is very dominant and black does not appear so often.

Since I've already described some important dial's details, let me continue with dial details. Both dials are metal, both very interesting. Seawolf's dial is decorated by consecutive vertical Geneva stripes pillars which stop at the power indicator edge. Inside the power indicator the dial is smooth. Those Geneva stripe pillars are much more attractive on a white dial version than on a black one...

Even more interesting is the Atlas dial which is full of furrows running from the center towards the outer edge. 

What I like on both watches is the fact that dials are not overcrowded by the text. Just the Waldhoff sign below 12 o'clock and similar "Automatic 300m/1000ft" sign using the same fonts on both watches. And Atlas has GMT label. Date window is placed differently. Date at 3 would not work for Seawolf it is much better that it is placed at 6. Why Atlas did not follow Seawolf in this respect I don't know as it would work well also at 6. But on the other hand Atlas date is better, as it uses better fonts, it is bigger sized and all together gives easier reading of the date.

Ok, let's move to the bezels. Here we have two totally different things in every aspect possible - design, material, purpose. 

Seawolf has a very traditional proper diver's one. With its shape it follows octogonal case's shape. It's made of steel with ceramic implants, with expected diver's markings and with 120 unidirectional clicks. Rotation is quite stiff, together with the shape and smooth lines between the angles it's not the easiest to operate with. For sure and you can't rotate it just by accident. But clicks are very precise, no idling at all.

As said, Atlas is a totally different story. The bezel iz round shaped with small teeth around. It's again a steel one, however implants here are glass ones, as it is nowadays quite often. And, the bezel has nothing to do with the diver's soul of the watch as it is used for the GMT dial purposes. Therefore it rotates bidirectional with - of course - 60 clicks. It rotates much easier than at Seawolf but not so precise, here you can feel some idling.

All in all even though Seawolf follows tradition and Atlas modernity, for me Seawolf's bezel is way better than that of Atlas. I even wonder if Atlas can still be treated as a diver or it is just a GMT watch with high WR.

Before I go to the backplates I have to comment on the worst part of both watches - the glass placement. Both watches of course have a sapphire glass with AR coating. That is fine. But the glass sticks out of the bezel noticeably. At Seawolf just a bit, let's say for the thickness of a nail above the bezel. At Atlas it is MUCH more than that. As said, I don't like it, it just does not look right. If Seawolf can still pass, Atlas can't.

Backplates again have the same construction - as expected from the cases. Both plates have as the main feature the engraving of the subject which was the inspiration for the watch's name. So Seawolf got its name by the USS Seawolf SSN-21 nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarine.

Atlas seems to have got its name from the Greek God Atlas, by which the Atlantic ocean is named.

Around both figures we can find "standard" basic technical details. The only unusual thing is that instead of "automatic" we can find "rotor winding" text on both watches.

Let me point out that Waldhof on the official web page defines that Seawolf has a quick release spring bars. Photo of the backplate clearly shows that this is not true. Which brings us to the bracelets.

At first both bracelets look the same. However, that is very far from the truth. First difference is a very basic one and derives from the lug size 22 (Seawolf) vs. 20 (Atlas). Then the shape of the links is the same, but how they are connected is different. Atlas uses very simple needles which are extended on one side whereas Seawolf uses pins which are screwed in.

The biggest difference can be seen on the clasps. Again, the first difference - which is the less important -  is the size. On Atlas dimension of the clasp is 20x33mm, on Seawolf the minimal dimension is 22x40mm. The most important difference is the fact, that Seawolf has the true diver's extension which extend the length of the bracelet in five steps from 0 to 14 mm. But this clasp does not have micro adjustments holes. Atlas on the other hand has a standard clasp with one micro adjustment (4mm) hole. Atlas clasp has open release button on just one side, while Seawolf has two sided button. Beside this button a double sided lock button for the extension is also there.

I have seen bracelets similar to Seawolf before (f.e. Edox Skydiver). The clasp seems huge, yet it is very comfortable and efficient. As there are no other micro adjustments I often use first step extension when needed. As the matter of fact another hole on the clasp does exist, at first I used it as a micro adjustment however the link in this case did not fit into the clasp, it was too wide.

On the other hand I have never seen this kind of clasp that Atlas uses, I like this one-sided button design. Very easy to operate.  But again same as for the bezel -  Seawolf  has proper diver's bracelet while Atlas has a good but not true diver's one.

I have no complaints about end links. On both watches they fit into the case perfectly. 

Luminova is excelent on both watches. We can again see the difference between old traditional approach on Seawolf vs. new modern one on Atlas, which is possible with glass bezel. Of course Atlas is more attractive but I must again prioritize Seawolf from the point of functionality as luminova on Seawolf last longer and offer better visibility and readability of the time. The only complain that I have is that I don't see the real need for the luminated power indicator hand on Seawolf, a bit questionable is also the need for luminated GMT hand on Atlas. If you check carefully, GMT is luminated in different color than basic hands and index marks. However after few hours this distinction is poor and as GMT hand goes directly over the index markings, the GMT hand is hardly noticeable. 

It's finally time to say something about the movements. There is not much to say about Atlas. Very standard working horse Seiko NH35 family movement with GMT complication called Seiko NH34 is inside. It runs within expected tolerance. I measured positional errors and results were from -10s to -25s daily. On the wrist the average -13s was achieved. Seawolf has a bit more interesting movement Miyota 9130, which belongs to the premium range of Miyota movements, It has 26 jewels, runs on 28800 bph. I am positively surprised about the accuracy. On four positions the results were +2s to +5s, in one position -7s and in one position -3s. I wore watch constantly for 5 days and on the wrist the result was +3s daily. Since movement offers also the power indicator I was also able to see that powering is fast, no much hand movement is needed. So all in all I am quite impressed with the results.

Ready for some wrist shots? I really enjoy wearing both of them, both feels good on my wrist.

Both watches arrived in identical packages. All well. I just don't quite understand the purpose of the "drawer". It is empty, I use it for saving the spare links. 

Official prices for the Seawolf in the EU is 740 EUR, for the Atlas on the bracelet 520 EUR and on the NATO strap 420 EUR. In the USA watches.com sells it for 700 USD (Seawolf),  470 USD (Atlas/bracelet), at the time being they don't sell Atlas/Nato combinations. I can add that Waldhoff official store offered a special discount of 100 EUR for Seawolf and 60 EUR for Atlas in February, and that Watches.com often offers up to 20% discounts. So you can get those two watches for a very decent price. You can hardly get better Seiko powered or any other watch with GMT complication for the price of Atlas. Seawolf is by my opinion priced even better. I can only recommend both watches, but you probably noticed that after having and trying both of them my personal favorite is Seawolf. If I were to choose now just one of those two - Seawolf would be a winner.

As a rubber strap lovers my only suggestion to Waldhoff is - why don't you fill the empty drawer with some additional rubber strap and make the watch even better?

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