Image credit: fratello.com
The Retrospect III measures in at 13mm with the crystal, but wears even thinner due to the polished chamfer on the bottom of the case edge.
The Gruen Ocean Chief and Breitling SuperOcean were released in the mid-1950s. It isn’t clear which came first, but they certainly shared some curious similarities. One of the striking features that they share is the inward-sloping concave bezel. Due to its nebulous history, it is not immediately clear why this was done. However, over time it became apparent that an inward-sloping bezel provided additional scratch protectIion for the bezel markings, as they were not as exposed to impact, thus keeping the markers clear and legible for much longer than other dive watches.
70 years later, many vintage Gruen divers still look to be in relatively good shape.
Another quirk that is curiously shared by two of the three reference watches was the prominent dials that had long or triangular indices. Again, it is unclear why the designers opted to go in this direction, but it gives the watches a unique and aggressive aesthetic.
The essence of this watch is in the shape and size of the bezel in proportion to the dial and case. In order to bring the design up to date, the proportions are made to be less extreme, the lume is brighter and longer-lasting, and the bezel material is greatly improved. Additionally, the bezel action has sharp and snappy clicks, but feels smooth and glidey at the same time, unlike the original friction bezel.
The trapezoidal date window has become a Nodus signature since being first introduced on the Retrospect II in 2019. The lumed frame aids with orientation at night, while the color-matched wheel is pantone-matched with the dial to blend seamlessly into the overall design.
The Retrospect III's trapezoidal date window was the first of its kind. It helps improve orientation in low-light environments.
Unlike the references, which had printed and/or applied indices, the Retrospect III utilizes a sandwich-style construction, which allows more luminous application for dark-environment legibility. We kept the triangle motif, but leaned into the aggressive nature that they exude by making them longer, wider, and sharper.
In previous iterations of the Retrospect, we have used steel and ceramic inserts. For this version, we opted for DLC coated steel inserts for increased durability and a utilitarian appearance. The inserts are blasted before they are coated to give it a flat matte finish. During production of this version, we had a challenge with lume application - more specifically, applying the "4" on the bezel insert was challenging due to lume overflow (see below). In order to solve this problem, we modified the typeface to make it less bold.
The original prototypes had a sloppy "4" engraved into the bezel inserts.
Previous iterations also had a thinner metal rim around the outside edge of the bezel. It was prone to dents, which became extremely noticeable on a polished surface. We enlarged the rim to prevent this issue, which also makes the watch wear slightly smaller.
The bezel mechanism on earlier iterations of the Retrospect has been highly praised in videos like this one and reviews like this one. Unlike the majority of modern dive watches that use click plates due to ease of installation and assembly, the Retrospect uses a finger spring assembly - a mechanism that can be found on many Rolex divers from the 90s and mid-2000s - which is more durable and has a more satisfying action. While earlier iterations may have had teething issues mostly related to the difficulty of assembly - probably why many companies have moved away from using this assembly - we have perfected our production processes and will be using this unique bezel assembly on all future Retrospects.
Similarly to Gruen, we believe that older production methods may still be used if they produce superior results, as is the case with this bezel assembly.
The earlier iterations of the Retrospect had inconsistencies in the indices around the tips of each index, where the cutout was not as clean as we wanted it to be. A sharper tool and a higher-powered, more precise machine enabled us to greatly improve the accuracy and cleanliness on the edges of the indices.
Making a vintage-looking watch is not a particularly hard challenge, as the specifications are easy to replicate - but making a truly vintage-inspired watch requires a deeper understanding of the motivations of the original creators. Without an understanding of its predecessors history, it is difficult to produce a vintage-inspired watch that authentically embodies the “spirit” that Dietrich Gruen frequently alluded to - especially when the company is now defunct and its history is nebulous, at best. In trying to capture this “spirit”, we have filled in the blanks of Gruen’s history with educated guesses and extrapolations, and hope that in doing so, we have created a watch that pays due homage to its inspiration.