Review: Dan Henry 1970

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This is our first review here at Waha. I decided to write one because of a very special occasion. I bought a Dan Henry 1970!

I’m a vintage watch kind of guy, so this is the first modern watch I’ve bought in years.

Without further ado, let me get to the review itself.

Specs

Case
Stainless steel
Diameter without the crowns
40mm
Lug to lug
46mm (45.7)
Thickness
15mm (14.8)
Movement
Seiko NH35 automatic
Lume
Tan-colored Swiss lume
Crystal
Mineral with a sapphire coating on top and an AR coating on the underside
Water resistance
200 meter/660 ft
Lug width
22mm
Price
$270

The microbrand that no one hates

Dan Henry is something of a cause celebre among microbrands. The brand’s founder, Dan Henry, is an avid vintage watch collector. Now and then, he creates a modern watch based on pieces from his own, massive collection.

The relatively low price point and quality of DH’s watches have attracted many customers. If I may offer an opinion, the well-balanced marketing of the company helps a lot. It’s not over the top, which is both rare and praiseworthy when it comes to affordable microbrands — no claims of being “high-end” or “luxury,” which is most refreshing.

I suppose that’s the reason why Dan Henry doesn’t get a lot of haters – there’s just nothing to hate there.

The background

The Dan Henry 1970 is a reinterpretation of the diver watches with Piquerez (EPSA) Super-Compressor cases from the 1970s. Of an EPSA-cased Exactus diver, to be precise. I wouldn’t blame anyone for mistaking it for an original Super-Compressor. Not even from a short distance.

The 1970 was initially created in a 44mm version, however only a year later they introduced the 40mm. Regarding the design, the two versions only differ in the absence of lume on the internal bezel’s 60-minute marker.

Each size variant is available in either the orange or grey version. Every version of every DH watch is made in a quantity matching the production year of the original watch that inspired it. In this case, every size-color combination was made in a limited amount of 1970 pieces.

The case

The case isn’t a Super-Compressor regarding its structure. However, since most diver watches of today aren’t used for much else than desk diving, that’s no downside. That’s unless you want to beat SCUBA dive depth records. Then, it is. It will withstand sailing and drinking quickly, which is enough for me. With a WR rating of 200m, it’s presumably safe to use on a shallow dive in the Red Sea or the Aegean.

The finishing is quite lovely. The contrast polishing has been done well, with proper attention paid to the edges. Some might say that the lower edge of the flanks is too sharp. However, this edge sits high enough above the wrist not to bother me at all.

The crowns

The crowns are a faithful copy of original cross-hatched EPSA ones. The screw-down crown at 4 o’clock operates the movement, the standard one at 2 – the internal timing bezel.

Some aren’t happy that it only has one screw-down crown. I, for one, see that as a positive thing. I’d hate to screw it in and unscrew it every time that I’m timing the eggs or the pasta.

Besides, original Super-Compressor cases had the bezel crown designed the same way. It is fixed in one position, non-lockable. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, and I’m glad that DH did it this way.

Review Dan Henry 1970

I must confess that the crown used for turning the bezel had me unconvinced in the beginning. I was slightly afraid that it’d operate way too lightly, causing the internal bezel to turn accidentally. Most people wouldn’t bother about that. However, the obsessive-compulsive side of me wouldn’t let that slide.

I wore the watch under a winter jacket with the gloves tucked into the sleeves. This means that the crown had plenty of material to rub against, and to be turned by. Did it turn? No.

The crystal

The crystal is something of an oddball. The bulk of it is mineral, with a sapphire coating on top, and AR coating on the underside. The AR coating performs well. It’s nowhere near as useful as having it on both sides, but at least the crystal won’t get scratched.

The dome of the crystal isn’t high, so the appearance of it is neither vintage nor modern. It’s something in between. While I love domed hesalite crystals, and this one doesn’t give me that feeling, I still like it. If it would’ve been an ordinary flat one, I probably wouldn’t like it as much.

The dial and bezel

That’s probably the best side of the Dan Henry 1970. The dial features a deep black finish on its central part. It’s deep enough to make it hard to tell if it’s a beautiful matte or semi-gloss finish.  The sharp orange on the seconds hand and the ring with the minute track certainly give the watch a lively appearance.

Review Dan Henry 1970

The minute track is backlit, which is unusual. Yes, it has lume underneath it, and I find that very practical. Speaking of lume, that’s both a beautiful thing about this watch and a downside at the same time. The tinted lume looks nice. It certainly does its job well aesthetically. However, the brightness leaves a lot to wish for.

The markers glow brightly. Sadly, this can’t be said about the hour and minute hands. The seconds hand is barely visible. And while there’s lume in the 60-minute marker on the internal bezel, it doesn’t glow at all. Frankly, I’d heartlessly trade that “old tritium” tint for a decent glow.

The only real flaw with the finishing that I could spot is an issue with the bezel. The minute markers between the 30 and 40-minute markers aren’t accurately aligned with the markers on the minute track. Not misaligned enough to trigger my OCD, but enough for me to notice that.

The movement

Under the hood of the 1970 ticks the Seiko NH35. It’s an all-time favorite of microbrands, and rightly so.

It’s mostly an unbranded version of the Seiko 4R35, which you can find in most time-only automatic watches in Seiko’s current line-up. Basics? 24 jewels, Seiko’s Diashock device, 41 hours of power reserve, quickset date.

The frequency is 21,600 bph, which might not be a high one, but this gets along well with the design of the entire watch. I got used to the stuttering of the seconds hand on my vintage watches, most of which run at 18 000 bph. 21 600 bph delivers a similar feeling.

I’m glad that Dan Henry decided to use a closed case back. While the NH35 is a reliable workhorse, it’s not pretty. It’s slightly industrial, and that’s not to say “boring.” There’s little sense in showing off what doesn’t need to be shown.

Besides, on a watch with such an intensive vintage appearance, a display back would be nothing short of sacrilege.

All in all, it’s a low-priced, simple, and reliable movement. If you need any replacement parts, don’t worry. They’re cheap and easy to find.

The strap

The DH 1970 is equipped with a soft rubber band in the style of the 1960s/1970s “tropic” straps. With a waffle pattern on the underside and vent holes throughout, it prevents sweating of the wrist rather well.

Its only flaw is the loop. It features a sharp pattern throughout the edges. You’ll get used to it, although it can be annoying. I wouldn’t feel bad about swapping it out for a NATO,  a mesh bracelet…or anything else. It looks nice, but it’s not the height of comfort.

Should you prefer to put the watch on something else, that won’t be a problem. The lug width is an even 22mm, which allows for a lot of strap/bracelet options.

Review Dan Henry 1970

Dimensions and fit

The diameter is – as mentioned – 40mm. If you’re used to modern watches, it’s not going to feel too small or too big. While I usually wear vintage watches sized from 28 to 38mm, I had no problem adjusting to the DH 1970. Afterward, wearing my vintage watches didn’t feel strange either.

The lug to lug distance is circa 46mm, which isn’t little, but it’s nowhere near massive. The case features small “cutaways” by the edge of the case band between the lugs. This way, the lugs could be kept short without using a curved-end strap — another thoughtful touch.

The thickness is about 15mm. The case back is relatively flat, so the weight is evenly distributed with the center of gravity. Translating the physics textbook babble to English, this means that the watch won’t feel top-heavy, and doesn’t tend to move around. So while it’s not a thin watch, it’s unlikely to be uncomfortable.

All in all…

…it’s an excellent watch. It has certain shortcomings, yes. Nothing I couldn’t live with, but the alignment issue should be improved. However, at an MSRP of 270 USD, there’s very little to complain about.

No, it’s not an ISO certified diver, and I don’t think it’d be fair to compare it to one. It’s just a beautiful watch made by a WIS, for the WIS.

If you enjoy the looks of Super-Compressor divers, but can’t muster the money for one, the Dan Henry 1970 is worth checking out. If you want a casual/sports/holiday watch without sacrificing the vintage looks, it’s also a great option.

What do you think of this DH? Let me know in the comments below.

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