Damasko DA38 Black Review

Damasko’s most popular watch, by far, is their DA36.  It has come to symbolize the brand in the way the Submariner represents Rolex or the Tangente represents Nomos.  It is no surprise, then, that Damasko is attempting to replicate their success by creating a new version alongside it, the DA38.

The Introduction

Damasko, as a brand, has a very strong sense of identity.  They know exactly what they want to be and their watches have a very distinct German tool-watch character.  The most iconic of those watches is certainly the DA36, so when they decided to update their core line of 3 handers, they wisely chose not to mess with success.

The differences in the new DA38, though not subtle, are few–a bright blue seconds hand and blue exposed stitching on the strap replace the yellow/green of the DA36.  The rest of this future-classic has mercifully been left untouched.

The Video

The best way to see the Damasko DA38 is in person, but if you can’t make it out to our store, our high-definition video is the next best thing.

The Dial

The Damasko DA38 quite easily captures a Flieger-inspired design with its matte black dial and bold white Arabic numerals.  Damakso’s watches are about as tool-watch as you can get, placing function above form, and as such, legibility is absolutely excellent.

Believe it or not, the DA38 is only the second black dial in their core “Classic three-hand” collection to receive Arabic numerals.  Like all other Damasko numerals, they’re painted instead of applied and the contrast is absolutely maximized.  Although the numerals are “flat” they really jump off the dial.

The lume is quite good, not far off from a diver, and very evenly applied.  Like the DA36, the numerals aren’t lumed.  This isn’t strictly necessary, given the lumed hour markers, but as I am of the more-is-better variety of lume fans, I see it as a missed opportunity.  Of course, if you are a big lume fan, you should take a look at the DA37 instead, which has a fully luminous white dial.

Continuing with the theme of extreme contrast, the hands are completely coated in the same white lume (green glow) that is used for the indices.  It’s a matte white with no sheen to it at all, solidifying the all-business look.

That brings us to the centerpiece of the DA38, the blue hand.  The hand is not blued, in the sense that it is not heat blued, but not out of any attempt at the cost cutting of so many other brands.  It was clear that heat blueing the hand would never have worked on this black dial–it just would have been too dark to see.  Instead, Damasko used a light blue paint that is easily visible.  The color choice makes it completely clear that this wasn’t an attempt at imitating a blued hand, merely a switch to a new color scheme.  I like it.

Like almost every other 3 hand Damasko it has day and date complications.  The day is available in both English and German (depending on how you set the watch).  What I like about Damasko’s complications on their black dials is how smoothly it fits into the rest of the watch.  From a typical distance, you don’t see the windows at all, it looks like it’s just painted right onto the dial.

The DA38’s dial has only the slightest difference from the DA36, but really, isn’t that what Damasko fans want?  It’s basically offering the DA36 in a new color combination and that’s terrific–the DA36 is a great looking watch.  I’d love to see a red version too.

The Strap

The only other significant change from the DA36 comes in the form of the strap.  Obviously it has a different color than the “green” (I still insist it’s yellow but Damasko disagrees with me) stitching on the 36, but can you spot another subtle difference?

If you guessed that the white and color stitches have switched places you’d be right (and you may also be a genius if you got that out of memory).  That subtle alignment and color variation aside, they’re identical as far as I can tell.  I’ve always liked Damasko’s straps–they sort of defy the tool watch mentality a bit, adding a playful dash of color to the mix, and you’ll be surprised how soft the lining is.  Of course, you can get Damasko’s excellent bracelet as well.

The Case

The case is probably Damasko’s most recognizable attribute–not so much stylistically, but technologically.  Like every other Damasko, it features the brand’s patented ice-hardened case.  This case is so hard it’s comparable to a knife steel and, unlike the competition, it’s hardened all the way through–it’s not just a surface layer.  Despite the surprisingly silver look in this photo, it’s actually also coated with their black Damest ultra-hard material.  Damest is really the gold standard of hard coatings and is celebrated for its scratch resistance and longevity.

The 40mm case is surprisingly thin at just 12.3mm–not an ultra-thin by any means, but in a world where being a tough watch seems to require 14 millimeters or more, the DA38 is refreshingly thin and light.  Stylistically, it may or may not be a watch you’d wear every day, but if you choose not to, it won’t be for comfort reasons.  The signed crown screws down for 100 meters of water resistance and it has a remarkably smooth action to it, likely due to the sealed and lubricated tube.  I also rather like the slight sheen that Damest has to it.  It doesn’t have the “rough” texture you see in many black coated watches.

That brings me to my next point which is a question I often get on Damaskos–are they really anti-magnetic, and how anti-magnetic are they?  I think the confusion understandably comes from Damasko’s own webpage where, under technical information, the movement is listed as anti-magnetic according to DIN 8309.  In fact, the vast majority of modern Swiss movements would meet that standard or the equivalent ISO standard, and so, while good, it’s not necessarily impressive.  However, hidden within the case information, you’ll find that there is an “integrated anti-magnetic inner cage” that secures the movement up to an extremely high 80,000 A/m.  I hesitate to open up a customer’s future watch, but I understand this to mean that Damasko employs something like the Rolex Milgauss’ soft iron core to protect the movement.  The means, however, aren’t especially important–we can say on good authority that Damasko watches are very tough, even against powerful magnetic fields.

The Conclusion

The DA38 Black offers few surprises for Damasko fans but still has a lot to offer.

Sure, it may only be a change of color, but it’s a really good change of color.  I actually prefer it to the DA36’s yellow, and I definitely prefer the blue and white on the strap.  It gives some much needed color variety to Damasko’s lineup and it retains all the great things you know and love about the DA36–super hard steel, an anti-magnetic case, tool watch styling and supreme legibility.

Is it my favorite member of Damasko’s Classic 3 Hand collection?  It’s close–it’s either this or the white dialed, sans-numeral DA35, which I’d also love to see with blue accents.  I suspect this will become one of Damasko’s most popular models, alongside the DA36.

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