What an exciting day at Timeless–we’ve been waiting on these DK10s and DK11s for what seems like forever and they’re finally here. These two watches were the launch vehicle for Damasko’s first in house movement, the A35, and represent the flagship of the young watch company. Together, they represent the best Damasko can offer. We’re fortunate to have both in stock for testing, and the black dialed DK10 also has the optional black Damest coating, making for a terrific contrast. Read on and check out how these watches looked up close and personal.
On our left, we have the black dialed DK10 and on our right the white (luminescent) dialed DK11. Our particular DK10 has the optional black Damest coating, but you can actually have almost any Damasko with or without the coating, so if you like the black dial but not the coating, or the white dial but would prefer it with the coating, you can order it that way.
These watches are the creme de la creme of Damasko, the absolute best that they can do, and therefore, in my opinion, the best tool watches out of Germany and probably the world. The DK10 and DK11 take all the amazing technologies that come on any Damasko and add their tremendous high-tech A35 movement. These were the first watches of their high-end DK line and were chosen as the vessel of their first in house movement.
The DK line includes three different models–the DK10 and 11 we have here, the DK12 and 13 (AKA 100 and 101), their dressy hand wound watches, and the DK14 and 15, the most hardcore of the group, which I’ve reviewed before. But of the different models, the 10 and 11 are the most Damasko-esque–the dial design is highly reminiscent of their most popular model, the DA36. There’s a good deal of variety in the DK line which should attract people from all over the watch world, but for the Damasko faithful, I think these two are the way to go–it stays truest to the designs that made them famous.
The unifying feature of the DK line is that it’s the exclusive venue for Damasko’s in house movements, both the A35 featured here and the H35 in the DK12/13. This beautiful movement can go toe to toe with any other movement in the industry when it comes to high-tech features–in fact, I’d argue that it’s the most technologically advanced production movement in Germany. Naturally, we’ll be going in depth with these movements later in the review.
The face of the watch is highly reminiscent of the super popular DA46–the bidirectional rotating bezel, the bold Arabic numerals, the colorful seconds hand–these DKs are basically the DA46 taken to the extreme. It’s bigger, bolder and and more technologically advanced.
Of course, this DK11 has more in common with the white dialed DA47, but unlike that watch, this has bold colored accents.
Those red accents are three-fold: the red seconds hand, the large Si logo in the Southwest quadrant, and the red pip on the bezel. The goal, I suspect, was to make the watch a little louder than other Damaskos–to let collectors know, at a glance, that they’re dealing with something special.
And bold it is–the Si, the symbol of silicon, represents the silicon hairspring inside, an extremely rare component in the watch industry–it’s easy to see why they’d be proud of it and want it on the dial.
Personally, I like it–I like a little color on my watches. It has proven to be a bit divisive among Damasko fans, however, as they are accustomed to ultra-spartan German design. But it’s a little playful, and watches as serious as Damaskos can use a little whimsy–so it gets the thumbs up from me.
That said, I will opine that the red accents work better on a white dial. It’s a very dark red, which works great on the seconds hand, but the Si logo just doesn’t have quite as much contrast on the matte black trial. I would suggest to Damasko that they see what the DK10 would look like with the yellow accents of the DK46–I think that would look amazing.
The dials, as are all Damasko dials aside from the DK12/13, are matte. The DK10, of course, is matte black and the DK11 matte white. Matte white is unusual in the watch industry, but it makes sense when you consider that the entire dial is coated in luminescent paint.
I normally don’t like matte black dials–they’ve always looked kind of cheap to me. Matte dials are often accomplished in watches by using a kind of rough surface under heavy magnification. Damasko’s black dials are more of a satin finish–they appear to be perfectly smooth but simply reflect no light. Now, it should be noted that the crystal on black dials will always have more glare than white dials, all things being equal. Damasko mitigates this with a double sided anti-reflective coating, so the glare is quite minimal. I’ve always preferred single sided (on the inside) applications, but I have to admit, it is quite effective at making the difference in glare between the DK10 and DK11 quite small.
As I mentioned, even the white dialed DK11 is matte finished. In just the right light, you can actually see a sort of grid, which I suppose relates to how the dial was printed. The application of lume is perfectly distributed so the telltale grid is probably a byproduct of that process. Being that the visible dial is actually made of luminescent paint, it’s not precisely white–it’s ever so slightly off. This is, I think, the result of the lume giving off a slight amount of green light and it gives the dial interesting dynamicism as the day goes on. Basically, the brighter the environment, the whiter the dial is–as it gets darker it actually seems to get more off white and when it’s actually getting dark, it’s glowing bright green.
The sword hands that Damasko uses for virtually all of their watches are, of course, present in their flagship models here. In the case of this DK11, they’re completely matte black and utterly non-reflective. The contrast is extremely high and keeps the watch super legible. The red seconds hand is especially appreciated on the white dial.
As you have come to expect from Damasko, the black dialed DK10 has the opposite hands–essentially, the dial and hands are simply the inverse of the DK11. Here’s a tip for budding Damasko collectors–you can easily remember which Damasko has a black dial because the second number in the name will always be even and for white dials, the second number will always be odd. The only break of this pattern is currently the DK13, but that’s because a white dialed version of that model doesn’t exist.
The hands aren’t exactly the opposite, however. As with other Damaskos, the first millimeter or so is actually matte black. I really like how this looks because the hands sort of appear to be floating–the matte hands perfectly match the matte black so you can’t see where they start, just where they’re pointing to.
All DK models, aside from their dressier DK12 and DK13, feature a bidirectional rotating bezel. The DK10 and DK11, however, all the only ones to receive a red pip.
The bezel is available with markings either in minutes or hours. In our case, both of these watches were selected with the hour scale, which is my preference. Depending on what you’re doing, however, you might actually find one better than another. For instance, if timing an event, usually the minute markers will be more useful, whereas if you’re tracking a second time zone, the hour markers would be preferable. Other than the writing, however, there is no difference in the bezel choices, and if you decide to order any Damasko with the rotating bezel, you can pick the one you like.
Damasko really does make some of the best bidirectional bezels out there. They use ceramic ball detents which are extremely hard and tough. Damasko seems to have the exact correct action in the bezels–you won’t ever accidentally knock it out of where you left it, but it doesn’t require too much force either. Each click is very solid and distinct, yet moving between between detents is smooth.
Another important effect of the bezel is that it actually makes the watch appear a little smaller than it is. Seasoned watch collectors discovered long ago that our perceptions of the size of a watch is primarily based on the size of the dial, not the actual size of the watch. Don’t get me wrong, these are full sized watches, but they wear a little smaller than you would expect.
The biggest difference between these two watches is their dial, and therefore, their lume–as you can see, the white dialed DK11 is fully luminescent, compared to the more traditional DK10.
While the DK10’s lume is more than adequate, it really is no comparison to the DK11. Fans of lume simply must get a white dialed Damasko.
The DK11 is a torch. It’s one of the only watches where almost everything is perfectly legible–the numerals, the hands, including the seconds hand, even the Damasko and Si logos.
The only caveat with the DK11’s lume is that, in real life (without any camera night mode magic) the day and date windows are black squares, which looks a little odd. As I’ve mentioned before, this was a missed opportunity by Damasko to use a lumed date wheel as well–that would have been cool. But, as it stands, it’s still brilliant and really eye catching. When people see your new Damasko, they will think it has something like Timex’s Indiglo electric lighting–it’s that bright.
Here’s a family shot with the other two DK sport watches, the DK14 and DK15. This is a good example of the red pip in action. It is luminescent and very cool. But as can be seen here, it simply isn’t as bright as the green lume elsewhere–or you can compare it directly to the green pips in the DK14 and DK15.
So while all Damaskos have solid lume, if lume is important to you, opt for the white dial. It’s very impressive in person.
Damasko may now be a cutting edge movement manufacture, but that’s not what made them famous–what did that was their cases.
Damasko’s entire line, not just their highest end watches like these DKs, use a special steel alloy in their cases and crowns. That alloy is then heat treated to be extremely hard.
The steel in a Damasko case is as hard as a premium blade steel–or about 4 times the hardness of an ordinary case. All other hardened case watches use various technologies that make the outermost layer of the watch extremely tough. But if that layer is ever penetrated, the metal underneath is as soft as any other watch. Furthermore, watches that use those technologies are difficult, or perhaps impossible, to polish because you can remove the hard layer. Damasko’s cases, however, are hard all the way through. In my view, this is the superior approach.
These are among the largest Damaskos coming in at 42mm and being slightly thicker than their ETA 2836 entry level models. The entire case is bead blasted to give it a satin look. It actually comes out looking like a dark titanium gray. One advantage of this is that it’s difficult to leave a fingerprint on.
This particular DK10 uses Damasko’s optional black hard coating, Damest. Damest is supposed to be even tougher than their steel.
Remember, however, that a black Damest coating is available on any Damasko other than the DK12/DK13–so if you want the white dial with the black coating, or the black dial with no coating, you’re free to choose.
Interestingly, the Damest coated watches are shinier than the steel. It actually looks really cool, especially on the black dialed models.
Actually, there is a little Damest on any Damasko with a rotating bezel–that’s what coats the insert.
The crown on all Damaskos is made from the same super hard alloy as the rest of the watch. Like almost all Damaskos, these crowns screw down for 100 meter water resistance.
The signed crowns offer some advantages as well. For one, they have a lubrication cell inside that keeps everything running smooth. In addition to being hardened, the crowns also decouple when screwing down. That means that unlike almost all other watches, you’re not winding the watch while screwing the crown in, which decreases resistance and makes for a much smoother experience.
The entire case is secured by super chemically resistant Viton seals.
The case back is great insofar as, unlike almost all other Damaskos, it gets out of the way and lets us look at that beautiful A35 movement.
I mentioned before that Damasko doesn’t skimp on their more affordable models–the same hardened cases, the same Viton seals, the same decoupling crown system. Why pay so much more for a DK model? Because they house the awesome A35 movement.
As you may know already, Damasko is one of very few brands to manufacture a movement in house. Unlike most watch companies, even the escapement, balance wheel and hairspring are in house as well. Being made in house is itself a triumph, but there’s so much more to the A35 than simply its origin.
This is an extraordinarily sophisticated movement. Let’s start with the balance wheel. This is a free sprung balance, which means it lacks a regulator. This is a characteristic of most high-end chronometers. For instance, all modern Rolexes and almost all modern Omegas are free sprung–the same could be said for brands like Patek and AP. But why? What is the advantage, and how does it work?
In order to explain that, let’s talk about the main competing design in contemporary watch making, the smooth balance with regulator. Virtually all modern watches use this system–even many high end watches. The advantage of having a regulator is that regulating the watch is extremely easy. The style of regulation may change, from Etachron, to swan neck to Triovis, but the way it works is basically the same–by turning a screw or moving an index, you adjust the effective length of the hairspring, which in turn, changes the rate of the watch. Thus, by simply turning a single screw in an Etachron fine adjustment mechanism, you can make the watch run faster or slower. So why would you want to get rid of something that’s so useful?
Well, it turns out that for any given hairspring, there is a particular correct length. That is to say, by changing the effective length of the hairspring by means of a regulator, you change the overall shape of the spring–you make it less optimally concentric. This distortion in shape causes the spring to “breathe” imperfectly. The result is inferior positional performance–the rate changes more than it has to when the watch is in different places relative to the earth (to gravity). Thus, all things being equal, a smooth balance watch will see a greater difference in rate between the crown up position and the dial up position than a free sprung alternative. Furthermore, regulating mechanisms are more susceptible to long term changes in accuracy due to shock and vibration. Basically, the regulator can be knocked around incredibly tiny amounts with any given bump. The small bumps and bruises of day to day life are unlikely to have a catastrophic effect, but over the course of years, the smooth balance watch will drift more than the free sprung balance counterpart and will therefore need correction more frequently.
Thus, many high end brands use free sprung balances to avoid this problem–currently, these Damaskos are one of the most affordable ways to get one of these balances in a new watch. But not all free sprung balances are, apparently, created equal. The ultimate style of variable inertia balance is usually considered to be the Patek Gyromax balance, which is also used by Audemars Piguet–and Damasko. The difference in this balance as compared to say an Omega 8500 is that instead of timing screws, tiny adjustable weights are found on top of the balance. The weights themselves are unbalanced, which is to say they have a heavy side and a light side. By rotating these weights, called collets, two at a time, a skilled watchmaker can change the rate of the watch without need of a regulator. The advantage of this style is that there are no screws sticking out of the balance wheel, making it more compact, and ultimately allowing the use of a larger balance wheel in the same space. These days, timing screws on Omegas and Rolexes are actually on the inside of the balance wheel, making this less of an issue, but there is yet another advantage to the Gyromax style: aerodynamics. Due to their shape and location, the weights are less likely to cause drag compared to timing screws, making for a more efficient system, but also reducing the effect of changes in the viscosity of air due to the temperature. Ultimately, therefore, free sprung balances are, at least, on paper more stable than regulated balances, and Gyromax style balances more efficient and perhaps even more stable than non-Gyromax style variable inertia balances.
Most brands would be very proud to make a Gyromax style free sprung watch and would call it a day there. But not Damasko. They continued innovating with their own proprietary silicon hairspring, called the EPS spring. As you may already know, currently only elite makers have access to silicon hairsprings–Patek, Breguet, Omega, Ulysse Nardin and recently Rolex. I have become fairly convinced that silicon hairsprings are the future due to the advantages they offer. First and most obvious is their anti-magnetic properties. Unlike their metallic counterparts, they are immune to magnetism, and given that the hairspring is the weakest link in antimagnetic watches, this should actually have real world benefits. Second, silicon is lighter than the Nivarox it replaces, meaning that gravity and shock will have less of an effect on time keeping. Finally, and most crucially, the actual manufacturing process that creates the hairspring gives movement designers much more control over the actual shape of the hairspring. The ability to perfectly reproduce specific shapes and thicknesses along the hairspring ultimately allows for a more stable design.
But Damasko didn’t stop there. They added a silicon escape wheel just to round it out. Silicon escape wheels are even rarer than free sprung balances and silicon hairsprings–I can think of only a few companies that use them, Ulysse Nardin and Patek being the two big proponents, although recently Zenith has made this part available in some high-end models. The upcoming Maurice Lacroix Gravity made news simply by announcing it’d be using an all-silicon escapement, which shows just how impressive this part is. You can actually see the escape wheel here because it’s an oddly bright green. Why should you care? Well, silicon components are both lighter and create less friction than metallic components. Consequently, less energy is required to drive the escapement, which in itself creates a smaller impact, and due to the decreased amount of friction in the interface between the rubies on the pallet fork and the wheel, there will be less wear. Ultimately, this means that lubrication becomes less important and as the properties and amount of lubrication change over the years, there will be less damage to components and a smaller change in time keeping. It still needs service like any other watch, but this component should be longer lasting than a pure metallic version.
Returning to balance wheels for a moment, you may remember that in my DK14 and DK15 review, one watch had a black balance wheel and the other had the “gold” balance. I e-mailed Damasko trying to figure out why that was–apparently, moving forward, Damasko will be switching away from the black coated balance wheels. No explanation was given as to any performance advantage or disadvantage to the coating or lack thereof; in my testing I have two Damaskos with black balance wheels, one of them is the least accurate, and the other is the most accurate with the new gold balance wheels falling in between–so there is no consistent performance trend on my end that would suggestion that one is better than the other. Regardless, both of these new Damaskos had the gold balance wheel, although outside of aesthetics, I don’t believe a Damasko collector should have a preference for one or the other. It is likely that, underneath the coating, the balance wheels are identical. Very few companies coat their balance wheels anyway, the one major exception being the Omega 8500 and 9300 movements.
Speaking of talking to Damasko, we published a corrected version of my last review in Worn & Wound based on updated data. While there are still many things to recommend about Damasko’s automatic winding system, being bidirectional isn’t one of them. It turns out that, for whatever reason, Damasko has opted out of using its special bidirectional system for this generation of movements in favor of a simpler unidirectional design. I haven’t been able to see the actual design of this winding system, but I would like to, since unidirectional systems are characteristically very small, where on the A35 there is a large housing for the winding components. Switching to (from prototype to production, in this case) unidirectional winding isn’t unheard of in this industry. Jaeger switched to unidirectional for their famous 899 and GP and JeanRichard exclusively use unidirectional winding in their current generation of in house movements (GP being quite proud of this fact). Jaeger and GP have famously defended their move to unidirectional winding systems, going so far as to claim that it’s actually more efficient than bidirectional systems. Certainly there is no shortage of fans of unidirectional winding, primarily two massive movement makers, namely Miyota and Valjoux (made by ETA).
Regardless of your position in the unidirectional vs. bidirectional debate, there are still a lot of things that make this automatic winding system special. First off, just look at that rotor. It’s absolutely stunning. Second, and perhaps more important, is that like a few other elite brands like Omega and Jaeger, the rotor glides on ceramic ball bearings–these are actually Damasko’s special “micro” ball bearings. This creates less drag, which increases efficiency, requires less or no lubrication, and is much more durable.
With the technical side out of the way, let’s get to the bottom line: this is an amazing movement. First, it looks great. Second, it’s incredibly advanced–it is no exaggeration that these technologies are normally not found until you spend 4 times as much. And third, it’s accurate. The DK10 and DK11 each averaged a consistent +3 seconds a day, dial up, off the wrist. In the real world, these will run slower (experiencing other positions, being fully wound more often). We’ve now tested 5 Damasko movements, and while one watch was less accurate another was more accurate, a third was also +3, and the total average was +3–these are good, consistent results. The power reserve is a well above average 52 hours, half a day above the industry standard. If you’re a movement nut, this is the watch for you.
Like the rest of the watch, Damasko sticks to their traditional design for their straps, which is a good thing. As you can see, the straps are almost identical between the two models, but the white dialed DK11 gets a white and red stitch whereas the black dial just gets a red stitch.
Personally, I still prefer the simple red stitch of the DK10 for both models. The white and red accents are a bit too much in my humble opinion.
As is the case with all Damaskos, buckles are the order of the day. Fortunately, they’re very nice with a soft piece of leather that extends under the actual buckle.
The inside of Damasko straps is extremely soft. They’re among the most resilient and comfortable straps. For instance, although these two watches have been in a display and in a watch case wrapped around a pillow, you can’t see any wrinkles on the inside. My only complaint is I’d like at least the option of ordering a deployant. Currently, the bracelet is also unavailable for any in house Damasko, which is a bit disappointing, but I believe this will be remedied in the future. Regardless, they are great straps and despite being a fairly large watch, it’s surprisingly comfortable.
Damasko has three models in their high end DK line, two hardcore tool watches and one dress watch, with two different dials available for each. They’re all great, but if you’re already a fan of Damasko, this is probably the one for you. This is the watch that best incorporates Damasko’s design aesthetic, particularly the DK10, which is basically a high end version of the DA46. I would anticipate that these two watches have the broadest appeal of the entire DK series.
The DK10 and DK11 are the vessels that carry forward the next generation of the company. They are a sign of things to come, with easily one of the most advanced movements in the world at any price.
Basically, these watches bring it all together: the advanced technology that goes into their cases with a movement to match.
And the movements aren’t just good on paper–with the 5 examples we’ve had, they’ve all been impressive, averaging just 3 seconds per day. The cases are already proven and speak for themselves. If you’re looking for a tool watch, particularly a German tool watch, there is arguably nothing better in the world. If I were buying a tool watch, Damasko’s DK line would be without a doubt where I’d go. Great German spartan design, great cases, great movements and an excellent overall value–they’re not for everyone, but if you like a good tough watch, it’s hard to do better.
Check out the DK10 and DK11 in action with our video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXgcnACeGpw&feature=youtu.be