Damasko Bracelet & DA36 Review

It’s an unusual day where I review a bracelet with the watch as an afterthought, but this is one of those days.  Damasko, the popular German watchmaker known for its super tough tool watches and, more recently, for their high-tech in house movements, has never offered a bracelet, despite the demands of their fans.  Damasko was listening, but was not to be rushed–in typical Damasko fashion, they would not simply be replicating what everyone else in the business was doing, they would take their time and do it their own way.  This is the result.

The Introduction 

We’ve got basically two subjects today:  the ever popular DA36 and the bracelet it is now offered on.  The DA36 is probably the most iconic of all of Damasko’s models and is a familiar face among watch collectors, but the bracelet is brand new for this year, and this is, in fact, the first Damasko bracelet we’ve ever seen.  This DA36 actually came on bracelet, and going forward, you will be able to order many models on the bracelet as opposed to buying it separately.

The DA36 itself is a perfect candidate for the new bracelet review–it is, far and away, the most popular watch Damasko makes and probably the one that most symbolizes the brand.  It has classic pilot’s watch styling with bold Arabic numerals and extremely high legibility, thanks to the white and yellow hands against the matte black dial.  Like all Damaskos, it has a number of features designed to make it tougher than an ordinary watch, the most obvious being the super hard case.

So what’s the big deal?  Everyone already loves the DA36 and the bracelet is, well, just a bracelet.

 

Not so fast.  This isn’t just any old bracelet.  Damasko has refined the conventional bracelet design and made it their own.  The look is all Damasko, the steel is hardened and it uses different screws–there are other subtleties to it as well.  Was it worth the wait?  I think so, but read on to see why.

The Bracelet

We’ll start with what everyone’s talking about:  the new bracelet.  How is it?  In a word, Damasko-y.  You see, the bracelet was created using the same procedures the rest of Damasko’s watches (and movements) are created with–they start with tabula rasa, then they try to figure out what, objectively speaking, the best possible design is.  The result is a bracelet that perfectly compliments the DA36, both in form and function.

We’ll start with the appearance.  It fits Damasko’s styling really well–it’s thick and beefy, and it flows with the simple, utilitarian case design.

The bead blasted finish is shared by virtually all Damaskos (excluding the dressier hand wounds and the black coated watches) so using the same finish for their first bracelet was a no brainer.  It matches the finishing on the case perfectly–it looks like they were designed to be together from Day 1, which is impressive given that the new bracelet is essentially a retrofit.

Also note the precision of the end links–they hug the case and lugs nearly flawlessly and have very little play.

The utilitarian design continues around to the clasp, or visual lack thereof.  The bracelet simply appears to be continuous with no special Damasko logo or polished area, unlike most luxury bracelets.  In fact, the only way you can even see where it opens is that one of the middle links is bisected–everything else looks exactly the same as the rest of the bracelet.

Inside, Damasko relaxes their Germanic restraint a tiny bit and writes their name across the butterfly clasp.

The butterfly clasp is held in place by 8 tiny ceramic ball bearings.  These are pressed into matching detents where they are kept secure by a great deal of friction.  The use of ceramics make the ball bearings last much longer than a steel component would.  Normally, just one detent per link per side is used, so this Damasko is actually using twice as many as most watches for added security and reduced wear.

It works very well–it’s extremely secure.  There is no way the clasp will open accidentally.  In order for it to actually fall off your wrist and be damaged, you would have to have multiple failures in sequence–opening just one side is not enough.  So rest assured, this is up to any activity you would want to pursue.  Conversely, due to the security of the bracelet, it can take quite a bit of effort to open it, but that’s just the tradeoff involved in that design decision.

Another design improvement in the bracelet is the use of Torx screws–I think this is actually one of the best features.  Basically, instead of the ridiculously tiny Phillips screws, which have four points, a Torx screw has 6.  The screws are also much larger than an ordinary bracelet screw.  All told, it creates a much more secure fit for the screw driver and takes no special skill to resize bracelets.  Normally when I’m sizing a bracelet, I will cover the area in clear Scotch tape and poke a hole over the screw.  This makes it virtually impossible to scratch the bracelet when your screwdriver inevitably slips off.  But with the Damasko, this isn’t a concern.  For one, this is a much more secure system and you’re not likely to slip off.  But two, the bracelet is ultra-hard, so you probably wouldn’t scratch it anyway.  This is a real improvement and is currently, in terms of functionality, my favorite approach.

When I learned that Damasko would be using Torx screws, I was also a little bit annoyed–I have a complete set of tools that I used on watches that doesn’t include a Torx bit so now I have to go out and buy yet another tool just for Damasko.  But my fears were not well founded–Damasko sends a very nicely made screwdriver with the watch.  There’s a separate bit for pushing out the friction pins in the back of the tool as well.  I suspect that even the most novice watch collector can painlessly resize their own bracelets with this tool and Damasko’s design.

It even comes in a nice little case.

Finally, and most importantly, the bracelet is made of the same super hard stainless steel as the rest of the watch, meaning it’s several times more scratch resistant than an ordinary steel bracelet.  This is crucial to me because, at least in my experience, my bracelets receive a lot more abuse than the case of the watch.  This bracelet will still look terrific years down the road.  All in all, the bracelet is a success–it’s an extremely effective and tough design and it is a perfect visual compliment to Damasko’s style.

The Face

The face of the DA36 might as well be the face of Damasko itself.  It reflects the aesthetic the company is so known for–flieger design, extreme legibility, matte dials, day/date complications–it is the essence of the brand.

The Arabic numerals are very bold and legible.  The 12:00 marker has been replaced by triangular lume, typical of pilot’s watch design.

The hour and minute hands are covered nearly entirely in lume, which not only makes it easy to read at night, but also creates incredibly high contrast against the matte black dial.  As if that weren’t intense enough, the seconds hand is a bright yellow.

Like almost all of Damasko’s watches, the DA36 possesses day and date complications.  I’ve always liked Damasko’s off-centered approach to the windows, balanced by the also-off-centered Damasko logo.  The day ring has both English and German settings on every watch.

Another interesting thing about this watch is how little glare it has.  Normally, matte black dials have terrible glare, even ones with an anti-reflective coating.  This watch also has an AR coating on each side, but it seems to outperform other matte black dialed watches I’ve tested.  Of course, that’s in a studio, so you will see some glare in the real world, but it’s very promising.

The DA36 remains easy to read at night as well, but fans of powerful lume would still be better off with the Damasko DA37, which uses an all lume dial.

The Case

It wasn’t flieger design or tough bracelets that made Damasko the company it is today–it’s the cases.  Damasko’s cases display their super tough technology and design.  Most famous is the hardness of the case.  A special kind of steel is used, then heat treated (by ice, apparently) for increased hardness.  Unlike the competition, Damasko’s hardened cases aren’t an outer layer–they’re hardened all the way through, making them not only tougher, but repairable.

The screw down crown, good for 100 meters of water resistance, is also made of the same hardened steel as everything else.  More interesting, however, is the fact that the crown decouples from winding when it’s being screwed down.  On an ordinary watch, you wind the mainspring even as you screw it in.  This requires much more effort and contributes to a rough feeling.  Damasko’s design, along with a special lubricated cell, requires much less effort to screw down and is also much smoother.

The size of the DA36 is just right for a tool watch, I think, at 40mm.  Not small, not huge–perfect.

The watch isn’t particularly thick either, at 12mm, probably owed in small part to the mandatory solid case back.

The case is also secured by Viton gaskets, an ultra-tough synthetic rubber that is more resistant to high temperatures and damaging chemicals.  Ultimately, the DA36’s case is among the most advanced in the world and quite probably the toughest, pound for pound at any rate.

The Video

The Conclusion

You don’t need to hear from me that the DA36 is a great watch for the money–it’s already a huge success and one of the most popular tool watches on the market today.  As much as I love the DA36, I’ve always been partial to the DA35 myself, purely for aesthetic reasons.

It’s an ultra tough tool watch that’ll look brand new for years to come, thanks to its hardened steel.  Its gaskets will likely outlast the competition as well.  The styling is classic flieger all the way, but it’s not over the top–this could easily be worn to the office.

Of course, you know all of that–the real story today is the new bracelet.  Is it up to the standards of the rest of a Damasko watch?

In a word, yes.  It would have been easy to just throw a matching bracelet together and sell it–bracelets (and straps etc.) are basically accessories, and it’s apparent that bracelets don’t especially interest Damasko in that it took 20 years or so to make one.  But they didn’t do that–the bracelet shows just as much thought as their cases and movements.

Of course, the bracelet does look good–at least if you like Damasko’s styling in the first place–but there’s so much more to it than that.  The redundant ball detents in the butterfly clasp and of course, the super hard steel, are welcome features.  But my favorite feature might be the Torx screws.  Working on bracelets with those ridiculously small Phillips screws can be a pain.  There is so little grip that your screw driver can pop out at any moment, and they’re so tiny it’s very hard to manipulate the screws in order to put them back in.  These larger Torx screws are much easier to work on and, thanks to the hardened steel, screw ups are going to be much less traumatic.  The included tool is as nicely made as the rest of the watch, and for the first time, I think pretty much anyone with no experience can immediately start working on their own bracelets without fear.

More simply, the bracelet can keep up with the DA36, which is a great compliment.  Naturally, the DA36 will still be available on leather and rubber, and if you already own a Damasko, inquire with us about getting a bracelet for the watch you have.  I suppose the most concise recommendation that I can give to the bracelet is that if I were buying a DA36, it would certainly be on bracelet.  As per which Damasko I’d get, I think I still am slightly more enamored by the DA35 (excluding the higher-end DK models, of course), but the DA36 is a close second.  Fortunately, the bracelet is available on either.

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