24 Mar Hands On Review: Borealis Estoril 300
The Omega Seamaster 300 is one of the most iconic dive watches in history, and its adoption by the Royal Navy in 1967 secured its place on collectors’ most wanted lists. It hails from a golden age when dive watches were used as crucial tools, and it was imperative that they were up to the task they were built for. Its heritage (especially its military history), combined with its striking looks that Omega are still known for, mean that if you want to own one these today you’ll have to fork out a very large wad of your hard earned cash.
That’s where homage watches come in. They offer the looks of classic pieces that are out of reach of us mere mortals at reasonable prices, without being fakes or direct copies. Portuguese micro-brand Borealis have built up quite the reputation in recent years when it comes to affordable dive watches, and back in 2016 they released their take on the SM300 – the Estoril 300.
Borealis specialise in offering dive watches which combine classic design elements with contemporary twists, to produce something that looks familiar yet isn’t just a direct copy. The Estoril is probably my favourite of their several releases. Aesthetically it is a pretty close match to the Omega, with only minor differences, such as a different font for the numerals and wording, which I believe were changed mostly for copyright reasons.
The Estoril can be found in either blue or black, with the option for a date window, and a choice between either a “big triangle” at the twelve o’clock position or an Arabic numeral. That’s a choice of eight models altogether, which isn’t bad. I opted for the blue Arabic date version myself.
Whilst I’ve had this watch for over a year, for those interested in future purchases from Borealis, I found their delivery times very speedy. It was well packaged and came in a simple box marked “Borealis” on a cushion with a guarantee card. Whilst this is not the most elaborate or luxurious packaging, personally I’d rather $30 (or however much a nice box costs) went towards improving the watch itself than into its packing.
Anyway, without further ado, here is my review of the watch itself…
As is obvious, it’s a pretty close homage of the original Omega Seamaster, so there isn’t much to say about the case design itself, other than it looks as gorgeous as the original! At 41.5x47mm, and 12.5mm thick, its dimensions are very close to the original too, which in my mind is a perfect size and the right choice to make. It’s also on the thin side for a modern dive watch, so it sits nice and close to the wrist, and slips under a cuff easily. As the name “Estoril 300” suggests, the watch is rated water resistant to a depth of 300m. (Interestingly the Omega was rated to only 200m, but Omega claimed it could go down to 300m.) This is more than enough for a quality diver, and it’s nice to see that Borealis put the effort into designing the Estoril to be a true diver.
The one part of the case that I think could be better is the case-back design. It features a laser engraving at its centre, along with the usual inscriptions listing the watches specs. For me the engraving is too shallow – I’d have preferred something deeper to raise the watch above the usual micro-brand fare.
The screw-down crown has a simple but bold “B” engraved onto its head, which adds an extra touch of detail, and is better than leaving it plain. The textured grooves are deeper and more spaced out than on the original, but it’s nice and easy to grip too, so there are no complaints from me.
The 120 click unidirectional bezel is easy to rotate and has very little play. Personally I’d like it if it had a little more resistance, as occasionally it gets knocked, but it’s just a small niggle. Aesthetically I’d say the bezel is perfect. It’s pretty much the same as the original, and is a rich deep blue that perfectly offsets the lumed graduations which glow nicely in the dark. The crystal is double domed sapphire with an internal anti-reflective coating and the bezel insert is sapphire too, so the Estoril can take some rough and tumble without getting scratched.
The dial follows the original layout, and the printing is crisp and clear, making it supremely legible. For reading the time in low light conditions the hour markers and hands have been given a very healthy amount of Superluminova BGW9 lume. In fact when fully charged it glows like a goddamn lamp, as any good homage to a military diver should!
I think one change I’d have like to have seen is for the date window frame to have rounded edges like the original, and for the window itself to have bevelled edges. It’s an extra detail that would have really lifted the design of the watch in my opinion.
The hands are fairly similar to the originals, but all are polished instead of the second hand being white. I think this would have added another flourish of detail to the design, but the hands are well executed despite this, and easy to read.
The watch is powered by the well-regarded Miyota 9015 automatic movement, a firm favourite amongst watch enthusiasts and micro-brands alike. It’s not hard to see why. The twenty-four jewelled movement is slim, thus keeping the case thickness down, has hand winding and hacking seconds features and has a beat rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour which gives the seconds hand a very smooth sweep. Coupled with Miyota’s trusted reputation for quality it’s a winner of a movement. For those interested, the last time I checked mine was running at about +3 seconds per day, which is damn good for an unregulated movement.
The Estoril came with a five-striped black/blue and grey NATO strap. I believe Maria who runs Borealis explained on their forum that this was a decision made to keep costs down, as it would have meant designing a new bracelet to fit onto the case. That said, with the latest limited run for the Divers Watches Facebook Group Borealis now offer a steel bracelet you can buy separately. Also, many owners of the first Estoril have found good aftermarket bracelets from third parties.
Personally I like NATO straps, and I think that the original NATO supplied is of reasonable quality. On the one hand, the nylon is nice and thick and doesn’t move or slip when you are wearing the watch. Plus the brushed metal keepers and buckle are nice and thick with one engraved “Borealis.” However I found that if anything, it is too thick. The weave isn’t tight enough, so the edges of the strap aren’t clean lines, and it frays quite easily at the strap holes. It’s actually so thick that it is a struggle to undo it from the keepers. On the flip side it means if you’re using it as a tool watch, it’s not going anywhere! Plus the lugs are drilled (a nice touch) for those who want to change the strap over. These days I wear it on a blue Phenomenato strap, which is a perfect colour match and an amazing quality strap. (Review to follow!)
Pricing-wise you can pick up an Estoril for between £350-400 on Ebay. That makes this a bargain when it comes to bang for your buck, though as I a fan of the Estoril I may be a tiny bit biased. (Just a bit.) Sure, it’s not the Omega, and some may criticise the fact that it isn’t an original design. However, given the prices of SM300’s and their age, I don’t think anybody can be blamed for liking the Estoril, especially when it nails the looks of the Omega. Furthermore, taking into account the quality of the craftsmanship, the materials used, and the overall look and specs of the watch, I think any critic will be fighting a losing battle by not admitting that it represents excellent value for money. For a 300m WR automatic diver that’s under £500 you simply can’t ask for more, and I think Borealis have done well to produce watch that in my opinion can stand up against more expensive competition.
Long story short, unless you want to be really, really nitpicky (or just a buzzkill) the Estoril’s is a quality timepiece that looks every bit as good as the watch it is based on.
If you’d like to check out Borealis’ current selection of watches, you can visit their website here.