Review: Glycine Combat Sub 39

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Many of you will be familiar with the Glycine Combat Sub range. But this year, they launched a 39mm version and I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on one.

This latest version of the Glycine Combat Sub has a lot to offer and I’m excited to share my experience with this enticing timepiece.

Let’s dive into it.

The brand

In general, Glycine is an enthusiast’s brand. However, since I’ve spotted quite a few of them in the wild, I assume it’s more common than you’d think.

When I worked in retail and spotted someone wearing a watch, I enjoyed chit-chatting about horology with them.

This brand has a long history and a number of merits to its name. They created one of the early regular production automatic winding systems in the 1930s. The Airman was a favorite of American pilots in Vietnam, often bought at army post exchanges (PX).

While Glycine is no longer a family-owned independent brand, they’ve remained remarkably their own thing. They’re probably the most thoughtful brand in their price range when it comes to sizes.

The Airman collection has watches sized 36, 40, 42, 43, 44, and 46mm… There’s something for every wrist. Then there’s the Combat and Combat Sub – 36, 39, 42, 43, 46, 48mm. That is the most considerate range of sizes for every wrist that I’ve ever seen.

Speaking of the Combat Sub 39, it feels like Glycine has answered a lot of WIS’ prayers with it.

First impressions

When I worked in watch & jewelry retail, I met some customers who wore Glycine Combat Subs, although it was the 42mm model back then, I haven’t seen the larger versions “in the wild.” I believe it’s this kind of watch that, although heavily influenced by other Submariner-style pieces, stands out enough to get my attention. There’s something about the Combat Sub that, at least to me, stood out before I even saw the brand name.

Sure enough, seeing it through the transparent wrappings gave me the same impression. Once unwrapped, the reaction was a strong “Wow!”.

The watch is really well made, and the first impression is that it’s sturdy, like a dive watch should be. I’m much more impressed with it than with the Combat Sub 42 Bronze I reviewed a while back.

What really contributed to my first impressions was the experience with Glycine’s own webshop for the EU, Glycine Store Europe. Very communicative, thorough, and diligent. I don’t go easy on watches that I review, so another high mark from me here, for their confidence in their product.

It makes a massive difference in how I perceive the product when the company is forthcoming, confident, and caring.

The case

The first thing you should know is that this is not just a Combat Sub 42 scaled down to 39mm. The case has been completely reimagined and re-engineered. Say goodbye to the bubble back, and say hello to a flatter case back and the center of gravity relocated to reduce any potential top-heavy feel.

Dive watches are rarely light unless they’re made of titanium or bronze. Things that seem trivial in lightweight materials actually make a significant difference in steel cases.

I remember most vividly that the Combat Sub 42 was incredibly slender for a dive watch. This case feels chunkier but well-balanced and thoughtfully designed.

I’m not sure how to describe this case in terms of design. Let me try anyway. Tudor Black Bay 58 meets a 1960s delta-lug design along the lines of Omega Geneve or yer token „skindiver.” Not as barrel-shaped as any of them, though, it has some very subtle cutaways to emphasize the round of the case.

A big part of that „wow!” factor is that the case finishing can easily rival watches positioned well above it up the price and prestige ladder. The closest I can think of is the Certina DS Action Diver. The case is fully brushed, except for the edge of the bezel and a polished manta ray relief on the case back. The brushing is of great quality, the edges are crisp.

Case back of the Glycine combat Sub 39mm with a manta
A lovely manta ray relief appears on the back of the case.

The edges of the lug tips add to the interesting appearance of the case.

Oh, kudos to Glycine for giving the Combat Sub 39 drilled lugs. It’s a useful feature and if you like to change straps often, and don’t want to be limited to ones with a quick-release system, this is right on the mark. Using a spring bar tool can wreak havoc on the lugs.

The case has a wonderful brushed finishing and the drilled lugs are a welcome bonus.

The screw-down crown works smoothly, and I’m surprised at how well it’s finished. The grooves are crisp and grippy, and its size makes it incredibly comfortable to use. And then there’s the circular-brushed background with a raised matte Glycine crown logo. Job well done! Bravo, Glycine!

That bezel!

My most vivid memory of the first time I reviewed a Combat Sub was its bezel action. It had no play to it at all. I’ve seen a fair share of wobbly bezels, and they grind my gears. This one feels every bit as good as that of the bronze Combat Sub 42.

No play whatsoever here. It doesn’t turn lightly, much like the bezel on newer HydroConquests. I like that – you cannot turn it accidentally.

The insert is aluminum, with a really nice finishing somewhere between semi-gloss and circular brushing, which complements the dial finishing. Numerals and straight minute indexes are crisp, finished in a red-ish yellow gold tone of all the other gold-color features on this piece.

Unlike the Combat Sub 42 and 46, this one has a fine coin-edge grip surface and does not have the characteristic protrusion at the 0/60 marker.

Since the lume pip is set quite deep and therefore securely, I highly doubt that it’ll fall out.

One major change, as opposed to the larger versions, is a lack of the triangular marker at 0/60. I’m not sure if I’d prefer having a triangular marker there. As it is, this bezel looks very clean, and that little change further breaks away from it being just a downsized version.

The star of the show

Or should I say “stars?” The dial and the hands. It’s hard to tell if this dial has a sunray or matte finish. I’d call it radial black satin.

Glycine calls it a sunray finish, and that’s exactly what it is. I love how it’s not so obvious, and how it can appear black or anthracite/charcoal at different angles.

The minute track appears to be…recessed into the dial’s surface in some photos, making me wonder if it’s painted or galvanic gilt. I took a loupe, and…I still can’t tell.

It certainly looks a lot like galvanic gilt, which is high praise. The 24h scale, Glycine logo, and text are definitely painted/printed. The print is bold and crisp. To me, this dial oozes quality.

Speaking of the 24h scale, that’s another standard feature of Combat Subs. Since it’s mostly based on American milwatches from the Vietnam era, it brings some of that cool field/milwatch aesthetic to the design. It has something of a „Fortunate Son” vibe to it.

Glycine’s choice for the minute track design is excellent. It very much reminds me of the Longines Spirit. It’s a hallmark of several models in the Glycine Combat and Combat Sub collections, and it makes the dial stand out from the multitude of dive watches similar in style. After all, it’s not that common on dive watches. With this level of attention to detail and finishing, it makes for a really elegant and fascinating cue here.

The applied hour markers and the hands have a brushed finish. This greatly contributes to the legibility – polished hands and applied features are known to disappear into the dial at certain angles. I’m glad that Glycine went with the more practical choice.

The combination of black and gilt on the dial and the handset truly pops.

I like how the hands aren’t the usual Mercedes-pencil-lollipop combination. The rectangular lume plot on the seconds hand really helps when reading the watch at a glance, especially at night. This handset is yet another hallmark of the Combat Sub collection. It has been tested by me while driving my trusty rust bucket at night on the highway and has proved to be more than adequate.

The dial matches the bezel insert beautifully in terms of color and finishing. This colorway isn’t always easy to get right, and Glycine did a stellar job of it!

Black/gilt combination is one of these incredibly versatile combinations that just are never out of place or out of style. It’s the perfect thing for a hot summer day, or to bring a little warmth to a rainy day.

Glycine also made a good choice by placing the date window at 6 o’clock. This keeps the dial design symmetrical. It’s a simple, frameless aperture, but the edges of it are finished well. It sort of doubles as an additional hour marker.

What’s under the hood?

The Glycine Combat Sub 39 is powered by the GL 224, which used to be ETA 2824, now it’s the Sellita SW200-1. It’s basically the same thing, but the SW-200 has an extra bearing jewel, giving it a total count of 26 jewels.

I believe Glycine uses the Premium grade from Sellita – Glycine watches with an open case back clearly show that the movement has Incabloc shock protection. Incabloc is available in the Premium and Chronometer grades of the SW-200. Lower grades use the Novodiac device. Given that this isn’t a certified chronometer, it’s most likely Premium grade.

I like that this watch has a closed case back. Even though the GL 224 has a custom-decorated rotor and an overall nice finishing, a closed back matches the character of this piece much better.

Like the 2824, Sellita SW-200 beats at a frequency of 28800 A/h, or 4Hz. This makes it highly adjustable. Much more so than, say, an NH35 or an ETA Powermatic 80. The power reserve is 38 hours.

Glycine did an excellent job adjusting it. Using the hack feature to synchronize with my laptop’s system time, this particular GL 224 scored roughly +6/+7 seconds per day. Not bad at all. Mind you, this is not a COSC-certified chronometer, so don’t expect chronometer accuracy.

If you’re looking for near-absolute accuracy, Glycine offers the Combat Sub (in the 42mm case size) with a quartz movement. But if you don’t need to time Japanese bullet trains, this is all you could really ask of it. The Combat Sub delivers in the accuracy department.

Although it’s a common workhorse, it’s a very capable movement and is easily serviceable. It’s a reliable, solid choice.

Lume and legibility

The Combat Sub 39 uses Super-LumiNova C3. It isn’t the kind of torch that the CS 42 Bronze was. However, when we speak of torch-like lume, we usually speak of what I call peak performance. That peak performance usually only lasts for a few minutes, after direct exposure to sunlight or a strong source of artificial light, say, a LED lightbulb. Once that peak glow is gone, what the lume is left with is what I refer to as base glow, which – ideally – stays for several hours.

Lume glow
The base glow of the lume.

The Glycine Combat Sub is highly legible in all lighting conditions. I’ve checked it in pitch black in the middle of the night, and behind the wheel at night. When the streetlamp light shines on it, the reflectivity of the white lume works wonders. In the shadow, between the streetlamps, the base glow remained visible.

I really don’t need much more than that from a sports watch.

The bracelet

It’s an Oyster-style three-link with polished center links (PCLs). Solid end links, solid links, connected by cotter (split) pins. A standard in this price segment – quality-wise, the closest match I can think of is the Tissot Seastar 1000. It has similar tolerances between the links, as well.

There were a few comments suggesting that a fully brushed bracelet would be better. Personally, I think the PCLs are great. They play along nicely with the polished steel on the bezel and give the watch a nice, dressy edge.

The clasp on this bracelet is really nice. No, it doesn’t have that dive extension that you’ll never really use. What it does have is micro-adjustment, twin-trigger release, and a thoughtfully designed safety latch. It reminds me of the clasp in my Citizen Promaster Sky. It seems like micro-adjustment is something that’s often ignored these days, and I’m very happy that Glycine hasn’t neglected it.

Comfortable bracelet with a twin-trigger release and safety latch.

I had a negative impression of the Longines HydroConquest’s friction-locked clasp, since the safety latch locks into pressed holes in the outer case of the clasp, leaving deep scratches. Longines appears to have cut corners. Here, the latch has drilled holes that click onto the ends of the spring bar attaching the milled workings of the clasp to the outer cover. No corners were cut.

Some may prefer a milled clasp. However, that would mean extra weight, and you wouldn’t want that. It’s milled where it should be and stamped where it can be to save weight.
Three micro-adjustment positions may not seem like a lot, but they’re pretty standard on clasps of this type. For me, they were sufficient to obtain the right fit.

My first choice was to fit the Combat Sub with a NATO strap, followed by a leather strap. But something about the stock bracelet appealed to me more. Designed and executed well, it wears comfortably and has a secure clasp. There’s no reason to take it off. It’s great exactly as it is.

How it wears

I love how it wears on my wrist. The first thing I said after sizing the bracelet was, “It fits so well!”

I can’t remember the last time I said that about a new watch. The curve of the mid-case and lugs, paired with the bracelet with female end links, just happens to fit my wrist perfectly.

The fit is perfect for my wrist.

One thing to note is that this isn’t a light watch. According to the scale, it weighs 150 grams before sizing. A dive watch of that kind is going to have some weight to it unless it’s made of titanium. It’s simply not possible to make 38-42mm steel dive watches that are light; either you accept that or you don’t.

This watch has a great feel to it. I like the way it fits my wrist and how the weight is distributed. This is exactly what I was looking for.

How you receive it

Glycine’s packaging is really impressive.

The outer cardboard shell reveals a box finished in matte black, with a gloss black Glycine logo. Inside, you’ll find the full kit – instructions manuals, the warranty card, hangtag, branded microfibre cleaning cloth, and – of course – the watch.

G;ycine Combat Sub 39 mm with box and booklets
The packaging in all its glory.

That’s how you make a great first impression!

How does it compare?

I think that the Combat Sub 39 can easily compete with watches priced up to 1000 euros, give or take a hundred. At 545 euros, it’s hard to beat, and I haven’t seen any Swiss dive watch from a major brand available for such a price. Let alone one that offers such a good finishing as Glycine does.

It seriously punches above its weight. For the money, you could get a Seiko Turtle, which will offer better lume, but everything else is well below Glycine’s level.

To be clear: I don’t expect miracles. What I expect is good bang for the buck, and at 545 euros this watch delivers all that and even more.

What’s the best thing about it?

The tactile feel of the bezel, the crown, and the clasp as well as the excellent finishing earn the podium here. They beat a number of way more expensive pieces I’ve handled.

I worked in watch retail and handled dozens of watches, plenty of dive ones too. So, take it from me – it’s great.

And what’s the worst about it?

Hmm…let me think…I’d say it’s the lume. That’s not to say it’s bad. It gets the job done. In order to be thorough, I’m just being nitpicky here.

It proved to be very legible behind the wheel at night and let’s face it, are there any more challenging lighting conditions you could put it through in your daily life? In all honesty, I don’t think so.

Who’s it for?

Just about anyone. My wrist measures slightly less than 7 inches in circumference, but this watch will also look good on a larger wrist. Due to the compact lug-to-lug and female bracelet end links, it’ll even fit a smaller wrist.

I let a female friend try it on, and her wrist is quite average, even perhaps slightly below average for a woman standing 1,6-something meters tall. No lug overhang. This means even ladies who like men’s dive watches can easily wear one. As I’ve seen female WIS wearing dive watches sized from 39 to 41mm, it’s definitely a thing.

The Glycine Combat Sub 39 may be the perfect dive watch for you if it fits within your budget and you’re looking for a modern watch with vintage styling.

It’s an excellent sports watch to consider if you’re looking for a watch with a lot of class, one that is rock-solid, and one that isn’t too expensive. Especially since it’s nearly impossible to beat in terms of value for money.

If black and gilt isn’t your style, the Combat Sub 39 is also available with different colored dials and bezels, and even two variations with black PVD cases.

Availability

Previously, the problem with Glycine was…getting one.

Now, Glycine has its own official webshop for Europe, Glycine Store Europe. There, the Combat Sub 39 and other Glycine watches are priced just like they would be at US retailers or US-focused webshops like Singapore’s AD Gnomon Watches. In fact, GSE’s pricing is more favorable to European customers than buying at a huge discount from the US, but with extortionate shipping rates and import charges (import tax and VAT).

Glycine Store Europe has the Combat Sub 39 priced at 545 euros, with free shipping via FedEx. GSE’s communication and shipping are excellent!

Final thoughts

The moment I unpacked this one and had it sized, I fell in love with it. It’s a truly versatile, beautifully finished and well-spec’d watch that happens to tick all the right boxes for me. I still enjoy putting it on in the morning, when I’m getting ready for work.

It’s beautiful. It’s well-made. It’s legible. It wears really comfortably. Simply, it’s all that I could really ask of a daily all-rounder watch. You can wear it with a dress shirt and blazer, as well as with jeans and a shirt. Perfect for any season. It’s elegant where it counts while being durable and sporty at the same time.

I’m as much in love with it now as I was the first time I put it on. In the end, that’s what matters most.

Technical specs

  • Diameter – 39mm
  • Lug to lug – 46mm
  • Lug width – 20mm
  • Thickness – 11.4mm (case back to the top of the crystal)
  • Weight – 150g (on the bracelet, before sizing)
  • Case material – 316L stainless steel
  • Crystal – flat sapphire
  • Anti-reflective coating – 3 layers on the underside
  • Water resistance – 300m/30ATM/30bar
  • Crown – screw-down
  • Movement – GL 224 – Sellita SW-200 – 26 jewels, bidirectional rotor, hand-winding functionality, hack feature, quickset date, 28800 A/h, 38h power reserve, Incabloc shock protection
  • Bracelet – split-end pins, solid links, solid end links, fold-over clasp with a twin-trigger release, safety latch

What do you think of this Glycine Combat Sub 39mm? Let me know in the comments below

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Showing 2 comments
  • BigLoveTravis
    Reply

    Your impressions when you received the watch sold me. I was ready to wait on the blue to become available again but your photos of the gilt had me send for one.

    Scheduled to pick mine up tomorrow.

    Great review and fantastic photos.

    • Michał Kolwas
      Reply

      The blue one is also cool. Wear it in good health.

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