When asked if I was interested in reviewing the Emile Chouriet Challenger Deep, I had the fairly rare experience of having never heard so much as a whisper of the brand or watch. And so, off to Google I went. Starting with a little background, Emile Chouriet is a Swiss manufacturer founded in 1998 by Jean Depéry, a watch industry pro formerly involved in the manufacture of movement components. Named after a 17th century watchmaker for whom Depéry’s ancestor produced components, Emile Chouriet has typically been concerned with more elegant upscale aesthetics than rugged utility. Therefore, the Challenger Deep represents Emile Chouriet’s first outing in a sports watch. So, let’s back roll off this introductory boat and into the Challenger Deep itself.
The dial on the Emile Chouriet Challenger Deep is inky gloss black, giving stark contrast to the thin, surprisingly long, lumed hour markers, which are applied directly onto the dial without any rim or outlining. At twelve, three, six, and nine o’clock, the stick hour markers are doubled up to orient the watch in low light situations. Syringe hands, also in white and coated in Super-LumiNova (I think), compliment the long and narrow theme, and give the watch a well integrated design sense. For me, it almost looks like they designed this watch with tritium tubes in mind, so prevalent is the use of tube shaped elements on the Challenger Deep dial.
At six o’clock, a freaking anchor, stylized to complement the hour markers, holds court on the dial and provides a focal point you just don’t see every day. An anchor on a watch dial, or really anything else graphical, is pretty rare these days unless you’re into Vostok or maybe my much beloved Doxa. Much to the chagrin of the OCD set, dial text is mismatched, with the maker’s name at twelve in a faux old-timey font, contrasting the words Geneve, Challenger Deep, and the depth rating, which are printed in fairly straightforward block text. A red tipped seconds hand, also sporting a tiny helping of lume, and a fairly traditional black-on-white date wheel at three round out a reasonably interesting dial design.
Thinking of Emile Chouriet as mostly a dress watch maker, helps to make sense of the Challenger Deep’s tastefully sized 42mm wide, 49mm high, and 13mm thick stainless steel case. What we have here is exactly what happens when a brand focused on refinement toes the line of watch utility and ends up somewhere between the two. With that in mind, elegantly sculpted, Art Deco-inspired, stepped lugs and a highly polished case make sense in a watch genre where you don’t typically encounter this kind of design language. Crown guards which remind me of an old Monnin-made Heuer 844 provide protection for the somewhat small 6mm signed crown, which also features a red stripe to match the second hand.
I am a sucker for caseback engravings and here the Challenger Deep presents a huge, highly polished, fouled anchor set against a matte finish background, cementing the nautical theme into the front and back of the watch. For those with interest in nautical lore, the fouled anchor is a symbol used by the US Navy as a rank insignia for Chief Petty Officers, and which generally stands for the trials and tribulations Chiefs face in enlisted leadership. On the Challenger Deep, the fouled anchor is presumably used because it looks badass, and they will be receiving no argument from me on the matter.
I enjoyed the well executed, sixty click, coin edged bezel with a ceramic insert and lumed twin-stick twelve o’clock markers. The bezel has an excellent feel to it, lines up perfectly (this is important), and has absolutely no play, which seems to be surprisingly hard for watch manufacturers to nail. My only issue with the otherwise excellent bezel is some unevenly applied lume on the twelve o’clock position, which can make it look a little bit cheap when you’re checking the glow. However, with that being said, this watch and bezel would be absolutely adequate for diving.
Finally, a very slightly domed sapphire crystal keeps things feeling fancy and contributes to the dive watch durability argument. This whole dress diver concept makes for an interesting piece in that it might make a watch which suits a more professional environment while also maintaining sufficient sportiness (and a 300m depth rating) for all but the most intrepid water-man. The reasonable case size makes for easy wear on the majority of wrists, though I found the watch to “look” slightly larger than the dimensions suggest. Part of that is no doubt due to my 6.25” wrists. All this seafaring design stuff, of course, depends on a capable motor to keep things running.
The Emile Chouriet Challenger Deep relies, as you could probably guess, on the near-ubiquitous ETA 2824-2, this time renamed (without any modification) the EC9316. While I won’t go into extreme detail, the ETA 2824-2 is one of the most common Swiss movement choices for dive watches because of its reputation for durability and capable timekeeping. Frankly, the inclusion of this caliber makes perfect sense for the Challenger Deep. Also, the 25 jewel ETA movement is easily serviced if need be and can be regulated to keep extremely good time. The Challenger Deep provided has been keeping perfectly reasonable time on the wrist at only a few seconds slow per day.
When I looked at the Emile Chouriet website for information about the Challenger Deep, I was pleased to find it was available both on a rubber strap with a signed deployant clasp in addition to a stainless steel bracelet option. I foolishly assumed, given the price point of the Challenger Deep at about fifteen hundred dollars, the rubber strap would be of the natural rubber variety, like other watches in this price range. However, to my dismay, it looks, feels, and acts like silicone, despite the brand’s assurance of its natural rubber construction. Without shouting too loudly from my soapbox, I consider silicone to be a cheaper choice in both feel and cost, making it an inappropriate choice for a watch like the Challenger Deep, especially given its price.
Now there are those who say silicone is empirically better, and that it actually scores better in a number of scientific tests when compared to natural rubber. But if silicone simply does not feel as good on the wrist and is constantly dust covered, do scientific tests based on the performance of the material over the course of forty years of immersion in salt water really matter? I think not. Luckily, the actual design of the rubber strap in terms of the mold from which it was cast is great and compliments the watch well. Being a dress watch brand, the deployant is expectedly excellent, if a little finicky to use given the thickness of the rubber strap, especially when adjusted to my spindly wrist.
Though I wore the stainless steel bracelet less, it is of high quality and feels good on the wrist, but suffers from a higher bling factor than I normally go for given its polished center links. However, this being a true dress diver, the polishing makes a certain amount of sense and does compliment the also highly polished, bling-tastic case. Sadly, the bracelet does not feature an extension of any kind, which might make for an issue were a diver to ever want to take the Challenger Deep diving, which I very much doubt. Also of importance is the fact Emile Chouriet went with a 21mm size for their strap and bracelet. So, if neither of these included options works out well for you, you have preciously few other choices. Besides these little issues with the straps, there is a far larger problem which needs addressing.
Emile Chouriet’s Challenger Deep, despite the dress-diver title I’ve given it, is probably a perfectly capable diving watch and, worn on a NATO strap, would probably make a fairly reasonable alternate bottom timer for the extreme few non-watch nerds who actually take their watches diving. So, diving wise, there’s probably nothing terribly wrong with the watch. However, Emile Chouriet elected to call the watch the Challenger Deep, a title with some emotional resonance among watch enthusiasts, and a title which makes absolutely no sense for this watch.
Challenger Deep, in the Marianas Trench, is the name given to the deepest point is the world’s oceans at over 35,000ft or almost 11,000 meters. Amazingly, several human beings have been there. In 1960, the Swiss-designed bathyscaphe Trieste made the trip, manned by Jacques Piccard (the Trieste designer’s son) and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh. Much later, in 2012, film director James Cameron successfully made the dive aboard his purpose built Deepsea Challenger submersible. If you’re a watch person, you’re likely seeing where this is going. These expeditions heavily featured Rolex, who provided watches to be worn both inside and outside the submersibles.
Without starting a Rolex history lesson, they are, in my opinion, the only brand with the “right” to use any verbiage associated with the ocean’s deepest point, because their watches have literally been there on several occasions and with great success. Emile Chouriet’s decision to call their diver the Challenger Deep is a bit like naming a watch the “Everest” without one of their watches having ever been there or indeed, being capable of going there.
At the same time, I have to try and understand where Emile Chouriet is coming from. The dive watch world of the moment is replete with heritage and history. Consider Doxa and their Cousteau connection or Tudor with their former French Navy link. Heritage clearly counts, and it simply looks like EC understand this and just tried to grab some. So even though the Challenger Deep is a fine watch, their model name is a bit off-putting to a diving history and watch nerd like myself.
Viewed as a whole, Emile Chouriet’s Challenger Deep is a reasonably good first attempt at a diver’s watch, especially for a brand with no experience in the genre. Premium features like a sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel insert, and Swiss automatic movement make the watch a fair value while visual elements like the dial anchor and caseback engraving speak to the brand’s attention to detail and willingness to be a little bit funky to stand out. Some little missteps like silicone for the rubber strap, 21mm lug width, and a bit of an unfortunate name, are probably not deal breakers for most, especially given the aforementioned fairly reasonable price point for a Swiss made diver.
On bias, I enjoyed wearing the Challenger Deep, though it’s a bit outside my normal tool watch comfort zone. Wearing a silicone strap, which as I mentioned isn’t my favorite, fails to completely derail the Challenger Deep, which still represents a diver from a dress watch company with some interesting features. For those interested in the dress diver idea or simply those who want a work appropriate watch which can easily handle some water time, the Emile Chouriet would be a more than adequate choice. While there are some even more inexpensive and similarly featured Swiss divers out there like the Glycine Combat Sub or the Alpina Seastrong series, the Emile Chouriet Challenger Deep provides some refinement and uniqueness in an industry where a lot of people are essentially making and remaking the same thing. The Emile Chouriet Challenger Deep retails for $1,370 on the rubber strap or $1,450 on the stainless steel bracelet. emilechouriet.ch
>Brand: Emile Chouriet
>Model: Challenger Deep
>Price: $1,370 on rubber strap or $1,450 on bracelet
>Size: 42mm wide at the bezel
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Friend who is mostly interested in luxury or dress watches but wants to add a sportier watch with water resistance to their collection.
>Best characteristic of watch: The dial is different, interesting, and uses some design elements you don’t see over and over.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Strap and bracelet have room for improvement. 21mm is an unnecessary and limiting lug width. Silicone shouldn’t be utilized at this price point and the bracelet should have an extension of some kind if it’s being called a diver’s watch.