Wearing a $20,000 watch with a white strap onboard a Great Lakes wreck diving charter is inviting ridicule. St. Tropez, maybe; the North Shore of Lake Superior, not so much. Here, grizzled cold-water diving veterans wear battered Citizens, if any watch at all, in addition to bulky dive computers. But duty called, and I strapped the Linde Werdelin Oktopus MoonLite ($20,000, limited to 59 pieces) over my drysuit cuff, clipped on the Reef digital dive module and waddled to the back of the boat. Drysuit diving requires wearing a lot of weight in order to counteract the suit’s buoyancy, so in addition to my two air tanks, I was also wearing 30 pounds of lead in my belt. And 2.2 ounces on my left wrist.
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The MoonLite is the latest addition to Linde Werdelin’s Oktopus dive watch series, and its name makes its most important feature clear. Its 23-jewel self-winding movement features an in-house developed complication that displays the phases of the moon via a rotating disc visible through an aperture in the open-worked dial. Moonphase complications are quaintly nostalgic and nothing new, typically found on complicated dress watches. Linde Werdelin likes to say that its inclusion on a dive watch helps its owner determine tides and best times of the month to see whale sharks or sea turtle hatches — but let’s face it, for most it’s just a cool novelty. In this case, that novelty is made extra cool by the photorealistic moon phases printed on the disc (which are read via the + and – days indicator along the bottom). Instead of little moon slivers that look right out of a Victorian-era children’s book, those on the MoonLite are incredibly detailed, showing the Sea of Tranquility and the Ocean of Storms. At night, these are spectacularly illuminated, as if living up to the watch’s name. But that’s not what the “Lite” in MoonLite is all about.
Calibre: LW calibre with in-house complication
Frequency: 28,800vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 44 hours
Hours, minutes, seconds
Material: Alloy Linde Werdelin (ALW)
Case Back: Screw-in ALW
Water Resistance: 30 ATM (300 meters)
5-layer open-worked with applied hour markers and moonphase aperture
Lumed hands, hour markers and photorealistic moonphase disc
White rubber with pin buckle
Linde Werdelin is known for its expertise in designing and building cases — angular, avant-garde ones. All the company’s watches are designed to be docking ports for the Reef and Rock modules for diving and mountaineering. They’ve made their cases from titanium, steel and rose gold, some even fully “tattooed”, but the MoonLite’s case is built entirely from a new material called “Alloy Linde Werdelin”, or ALW. Advances in ultra-hard, ultra-light materials have trickled down from aerospace to sports equipment to the wristwatch in recent years, and watch companies are getting as innovative with their cases as they used to be with movements. ALW is the perfect example, twice as hard as stainless steel and half as light as titanium. Our unscientific testing of its hardness — knocks on equipment, rusted wrecks and dive boat ladders — confirmed ALW’s scratch resistance. And while its near weightlessness was not a factor underwater, the watch wore like a plastic sports watch during topside surface intervals, in a good way, virtually disappearing from the wrist.
The other interesting thing about ALW is its odd color, or rather lack of color. In some light, it looks grey; from other angles, almost white. Combined with the supple white strap, which attaches to the case with two hex head screws through the top of the case, the look is light and summery but not feminine by any means, thanks to just enough visual heft, angles and exposed screw heads. (Which is not to say a woman wouldn’t wear this one well).
While the Oktopus is Linde Werdelin’s dive watch line, the brand makes it clear that for modern divers, a digital computer is the best way to track dive times and depths. Thus, the only important traits the Oktopus MoonLite must possess are good water resistance (300 meters) and a secure dock for the digital Reef dive computer, both criteria it meets. The watch itself lacks a rotating bezel, and its hands don’t provide enough contrast against the skeletonized dial to be useful underwater, anyway. Still, it’s a perfectly adequate and versatile sports watch, able to withstand knocks and water pressure, all the while letting you know when the moon is waxing or waning.
As it happens, the watch did not elicit sneers of derision from my diving buddies, but rather genuine curiosity. The MoonLite is a conversation starter. It looks truly unique. It’s a dive watch without a rotating bezel, a moonphase that’s not a dress watch, big yet colorless and feather-light. In other words, this is a sports watch in a category by itself.