In 2021, it seems the sports watch aesthetic is having a moment. British brand Christopher Ward finally moved into the sports arena with the release of its C63 Sealander range, while the ever-increasing popularity of Tudor's Black Bay collection has been largely driven by its Black Bay 58 line, which ports its diver aesthetics down into a crowd-pleasing 39mm case size and with a bracelet for its new Bronze Boutique edition that takes it straight into sporty territory. Recent launches from Seiko – including the much-loved SPB143, or 1965 Diver's Re-interpration – are doing the same. If what the people want is sports and dive watches that are elegant, unassuming and effortless on the wrist, these brands are giving it to them.
And it seems to be happening at the affordable end of the market, too – at least if a recent release by British brand Spinnaker is to be believed. It's notable because Spinnaker is a brand that, until now, has worn its diving credentials on its sleeve, with chunky bezels and inspiration taken straight from explorers of the oceans from years gone by, evident in the lauded Fleuss line.
That release is the Croft Mid-Size, or SP-5100-11, and given the above, it seems notable: looking at the watch, it's essentially a sports watch with a diver's bezel, rather than a dive watch on a bracelet – and although it's a slight step outside of Spinnaker's natural territory, it's a doozy even leaving aside that sub-£300 price point.
The Croft Mid-Size is essentially a sports watch with a diver's bezel, rather than a dive watch on a bracelet
The Croft Mid-Size comes in a variety of dial and bezel colourways, some on a bracelet and some on a leather strap, but always at that comfortable and inconspicuous 40mm case size. We got a close look at the Elemental – with blue on the top half of the dial and red down below, it's a highly affordable alternative to the much-loved 'Pepsi' colourways of the Rolex GMT-Master II or the Tudor Black Bay GMT, and it also shares with the former the use of the 'Cyclops'-style bubble over the date window to increase legibility underwater.
Under the case, it's powered by the rugged and utilitarian Japan NH35 TMI Automatic movement, with no exhibition caseback, and the bracelet feels reliable, looks great and, crucially, doesn't feel loose or jangly (something that's occasionally dogged competitors at this price point), and it delivers a decent 150m of water resistance, too – commensurate for something that's a dive watch, but an inexpensive dive watch. Hardcore divers looking for something to take underwater might prefer one of Spinnaker's other models, but in my opinion, for an everyday wearer who likes a dive watch that leans sporty, or vice versa, it's a no-brainer.