Review: Glycine Combat Sub 42 Bronze
I’ve never been into bronze watches. However, they seem to be enjoying massive popularity lately.
To be honest, I can’t put a finger on when the bronze trend started. You’ll see it all across the price spectrum, from microbrands up to the “big guys” like IWC or Panerai.
So, when I got the opportunity to wear one and review it, this just wasn’t an opportunity I’d miss.
Combat Sub 42 Bronze GL0242
ETA 2824-2 (aka Glycine GL224) – power reserve 38h, 25 jewels, automatic (bidirectional rotor), hack feature, quickset date
Crown guards, screw-down crown.
Bronze with aluminum insert, 120-click, unidirectional
Lug to lug
Water resistance rating
$590 (at Gnomon Watches in the US)
About the brand
Glycine was founded in 1914, by Eugene Meylan – of the Meylan family, a well-known name in watchmaking, both back then and today. Back in the day, Glycine had a record of innovations. The first notable one was one of the first bumper automatic movements to enter mass production, patented in 1930. The next groundbreaking watch was the purpose-built Airman, created in 1953, which became Glycine’s key line of watches for decades to come.
Three years ago, Glycine was bought by the Invicta Watch Group, which raised questions about the brand’s future in terms of design and quality. So far, neither appears to have worsened.
To be honest, Glycine had some very polarizing designs in their line-up years before the change in ownership. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like Glycine is headed in the same direction as the other brands of the holding. “Invictizing” Glycine would be counterproductive.
The Combat Sub, in spite of its name, has relatively little to do with the Submariner. I definitely wouldn’t call it a Submariner-ish watch, let alone a homage. It really is its own thing.
This version has a brown bezel with gilt numerals, combined with a blue dial and a blue strap. There’s a lot happening here.
There’s the two-tone blue dial, getting darker from top to bottom. There’s a gilt minute track, Glycine font and 24h scale in off-white, a silver applied logo, and the gold hands and frames of the indexes. It might be slightly too much for me.
Then again, if you’d prefer a more uniform color scheme, Glycine also has an all-blue (GL0174) and all-brown (GL0188) version in the line-up.
The case and the bezel
I was a bit skeptical about the case and its material. I’m not a fan of large sports watches. Bronze is also not the most durable material and is a reactive alloy.
First, a bit about the size. My main concern was that the watch would feel simply too bulky. However…that’s not the case at all. The watch is only 10.6 mm thick. As a comparison, my Dan Henry 1970 40mm is almost 14.8 mm thick.
As for the bronze. I’ve heard some concerns about bronze cases before. Allergic reactions included. Some people find the reactivity of bronze an attractive feature. Depending on what it’s exposed to, the bronze will develop a lighter or heavier patina. This patina will be different for various specimens of the same watch.
This particular case has developed a typical green-ish blue residue. Looks aside, that’s not convenient. Especially with the recent wave of heat going through Eastern Europe. 32 degrees Celsius in the shadow. I won’t even mention trams without air conditioning.
It takes just light sweating of the wrist for the “patina” to become a drag. The case has been consistently staining my wrist blue. Don’t worry, it easily washes off with water but it’s annoying. Imagine that you’re wearing a nice, white shirt. You fail to notice the mark of the “patina” on your wrist. And there, you’ve got that nice shirt stained with green-ish blue filth.
It’s hard to put a finger on how to call the surface finishing on the case of the Combat Sub Bronze. It’s not brushing, but it’s not polished either. I suppose that the best term is “matte.”
The bezel is an aluminum insert. It has a nice, warm appearance to it.
Unfortunately, like in all other Combat Subs, only the first 15 minutes are indexed. If you do any amateur or pro SCUBA diving, it won’t be useful. Well, unless you take two dive computers, and you wear the watch as decoration or a lucky charm.
One thing I really appreciate in that bezel, is how it operates. There is no play to it whatsoever, and it doesn’t turn too easily. There’s a small chance that you’ll turn it accidentally. It’s surprisingly well made.
Nothing special here. Pancake-flat sapphire.
Oddly enough, that’s the one part of this watch I have some doubts about. Glycine’s tech specs don’t mention any ARC on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.
Still, if it’s there, it’s not doing a very good job.
Dial, hands, and lume
Except for perhaps the lack of the triangular marker at 12, the dial is somewhat Submariner-ish. So are the hour and minute hands. They only have been “de-Rolexed” by not adding the “Mercedes” feature to the hour hand.
The seconds hand is a typical late 1960s-early 1970s design with a rectangular lume plot. This dial design is not featured in any steel version of the watch (the hands are, though).
The lume is generously applied, and it glows like a torch. It only takes a very short exposure to sunlight to emit a bright glow that lasts long. It might be just the best lume I’ve ever seen. I wish that there wasn’t a green-ish tint to the material itself. With the busy design and color scheme, I’m not sure if it’s not too much already.
Even the frame around the date window is lumed. That’s thoughtful. At least in the dark there’s no big patch of nothing around three o’clock.
The date wheel itself has white printing on a black background, which makes it blend in more into the darker portion of the dial.
The finishing of the dial and hands is impressive. Only, as I’ve mentioned earlier, there’s a lot going on here. If that’s your thing, you’ll like it a lot. If not… well, it either won’t do much for you, or you just won’t like it.
Nothing spectacular. It’s the good, old ETA 2824, which Glycine calls the GL224.
Personally, I don’t like it when manufacturers assign their own calibre number to generic movements. Then again, this practice is widespread and it’s just how it is.
It’s simply a reliable, “workhorse” movement. 38h power reserve, bidirectional winding, 25 jewels, quickset date, hack feature, beats at a frequency of 28 800 A/h.
I’m glad that Glycine didn’t have the idea to use a display back. The 2824 isn’t a bad-looking movement, but then again, it’s no looker either.
Bronze Glycine Combat Subs come on a leather strap with an embossed textile pattern. It’s relatively supple.
Most importantly, the free loop is well-made and doesn’t tend to fly around. Still, should you not really like it, the lug width is an even 22mm.
This means a lot of options for an aftermarket band. Frankly, I would only advise against choosing a NATO. It might make this one feel a bit top-heavy.
How does it wear?
Not bad, not bad at all. I can’t resist comparing it to the Dan Henry 1970.
In theory, the numbers suggest that the Glycine should wear better. However, for me. the DH feels more comfortable.
This has to do with the case back design. In the Glycine, the case back is stepped/domed, effectively shifting the centre of gravity up, and reducing the surface area resting against the wrist.
It’s not a heavy watch, and it doesn’t feel out of balance. Still, just a small redesign of the case back would distribute the weight of the watch far better. What really saves this one from being uncomfortable to wear is a thickness of only 10.6mm. Pair that case back with a case thicker by 2mm, and all day long I wouldn’t dream of anything else than finally taking it off.
All in all…
I think it’s a really decent watch. If you like bronze watches, you’ll probably really like it. If you don’t, and you’re simply after a 40-42mm diver-style watch, the Glycine Combat Sub 42 will still be a good choice. After all, there’s a number of versions in steel available.
The matter of pricing and availability is quite an important one here. Outside the US, the Glycine retailers often sell these watches at MSRP, which is $1150 or an equivalent in the local currency. In my book, that’s just too much for this piece.
In the US, online stores like Gnomon Watches offer the Combat Sub at roughly $590, occasionally with even deeper discounts. Drop (once known as Massdrop) had the steel versions on sale for as little as $370. So, ordering one from the US is actually a much better deal than buying from the local Glycine retailer. Even with the VAT and import duty, your expenses will still remain well below the MSRP.
I saw the Combat Subs offered at a discount within the EU for an equivalent of $790. It’s not as much of a daylight robbery as the MSRP is. Still, buying it for $370 from a discount store in the US will be cheaper. With shipping costs of around $80, and total import charges of 30%, that’d still be circa $585.
Last, but not least… Would I buy one? Steel, yes. Bronze, no. Bronze just isn’t my style, and I can’t get past its tendency to stain the wrist. However, the steel versions could be interesting.
Big thanks to Chuck, the owner of this watch, for letting me review it.