In August of 2003 Timefactors released the PRS-2 Dreadnought. The price was 450 UK pounds (around 720 US Dollars using the exchange rate at that time) and it was considered exceptional value for money given the specifications and build quality of the watch. Just how good the value was at the time has been demonstrated on several occasions with several of the watches being sold on for prices in excess of 1,500 US Dollars. Number 23 actually made $2,061 at auction in June 2004. Remarkably, all 200 sold out before they were even finished being manufactured. Quite an achievement for a watch from a relatively unknown watch company which did no marketing other than word of mouth and postings on several watch forums. The Dreadnought had arrived and unfortunately, except for the 200 lucky owners, very few people will ever know what it is like to own one.
I would just like to point out here that this review borrows heavily from the comparison review I did of the Dreadnought against the Doxa SUB 300T Reissue. That review can be found here.
Because Timefactor's operation is purely internet based, the Dreadnought arrived by post. Getting to the watch meant unwrapping several layers and was a similar experience to disassembling a Russian Doll. The first part of the PRS-2 presentation package was a plain white box with a Dreadnought logo on the top. Next came a polished wooden box. This was quite large (21cms long by 13cms wide by 8cms high) and hinged.
Opening the box revealed the watch sitting on a black velvet cushion. It was indeed quite an eye opener. The watch is big and in the case of #143/200, it is polished. It must be noted that the Dreadnought was originally released totally bead blasted except for the bezel, the outer bezel with the minute chapter and the caseback, which was brushed. This one was totally polished by the previous owner and is believed to be one of only two totally polished Dreadnoughts in existence. It has not been altered mechanically and functionally, just cosmetically. Interestingly enough Eddie Platts did have a sample of a polished case during pre-production but decided to go for the bead blasted finish.
The Dreadnought has a rounded lug design which doesn't extend beyond the depth of the caseback. The Dreadnought sits flat on the wrist like most other dive watches, but it does sit high. It is unquestionably a big watch. It is 53mm from lug to lug, 49mm wide including the crown and 16mm high. The sapphire crystal is 3mm thick and sits proud of the bezel and has an antireflective coating on the inside of the crystal. My own preference is for a flat crystal as I think it is slightly less prone to scratches, but it must be remembered that sapphire crystal is extremely hard and less susceptible to scratches anyway.
The Dreadnought is one of the heaviest watches I have ever owned. Actually it is one of the heaviest watches I have ever seen. The head alone weighs around 145 grams and sized for my wrist it tips the scales at 235 grams. The Dreadnought was originally sold with 7 links either side of the clasp. It would easily fit 7.5 inch and larger wrists. With all the links attached the watch weighs in at around 265 grams. The bracelet is almost 4mm thick and 22mm wide. The width is constant along the whole length. The PRS-2 has the word Dreadnought stamped into the clasp. Thanks to the constant width, the bracelet distributes the weight of the whole watch fairly evenly over the wearer's wrist. In the case of the Dreadnought reviewed here, the highly polished bracelet is very similar to that supplied by Breitling. It is a double locking flip lock design, and has a divers extension, which is hidden in the clasp and easy to operate. The bracelet is secured to the case by huge solid end pieces and screwed pins and all but 4 links also have screwed pins rather than the more normal split pins. There are definite pros and cons about the use of screwed pins for both the lugs and the individual links. They certainly have come under criticism because at times they can be really difficult to undo. Many manufactures use loctite to bind the threads and this can make it difficult to unscrew the caps. Personally I prefer them to the ubiquitous pressure fit split pin and the increasingly common pin and collar arrangement on the Seiko SKX781 and Doxa SUB 600T.
Timefactors included a Rhino strap with the Dreadnought when it was shipped. Unfortunately the previous owner didn't include it with the watch, so I can't say what it is like to wear the Dreadnought with a strap. There are photos of the combination in the images section. I do have a Rhino strap I have used on another watch and it is virtually indestructible and fairly comfortable. I'm just not a strap kind of guy. I prefer bracelets.
Like the rest of the Dreadnought the caseback is substantial. It is 3mm thick but looks thicker because of the sharply sloping edges. For me the caseback doesn't just hold in the movement, it is somewhere that the manufacturer can decorate the watch which doesn't affect the look of it that people initially see or its ability it tell the time. The caseback on the Dreadnought is a work of art. Along with the words PRS-2, serial number (XXX/200), Water Resistant 500 Metres, Anti-Magnetic 30,000 A/m and Certified Chronometer, it has a beautiful Dreadnought logo. As can be seen from the photo above. It shows an armoured hand rising out of the sea clutching a key with a crown at the top and the word DREADNOUGHT under it. It is acid etched, deep and really finishes off the watch to perfection. The logo is in fact the official insignia of the British nuclear submarine HMS Dreadnought (S101). She was launched in 1960 and served in the British Navy until 1981. In 1971 she became the first British submarine to surface at the North Pole. More information can be found in the history section. Somehow, I think it is fitting that a dive watch should be associated with a submarine. I like the idea that there is a story behind a watch. The Dreadnought has the HMS Dreadnought history behind it. I like being able to tell people about the watch as well as show it off.
The Dreadnought uses the conventional 60 minute gradation markers and has a 60 click rotation. The bezel is actually a 2 piece arrangement, but only the outer numbered part rotates. The Dreadnought bezel also has a luminous 12 o'clock marker which is an insert rather than being painted on. I have a thick pair of gloves I use for my 'bezel grab and turn test' and using them I found the Dreadnought bezel just a little difficult to turn because the outer edge of the case sits beyond the bezel edge and makes it a little more difficult to grab. The same is true for bare fingers, however, this is not to say that it is a problem, it's not. It is just for comparison sake with several of my other dive watches.
The dial on the Dreadnought is 28mm diameter but looks smaller because of the position of the luminous dots. The dial has minimal lettering. The words Dreadnought and made in Germany are all that appear. The hands seem to have been inspired by the Omega 'Ploprof' (PLOngeuer PROFessionel) diver. The minute hand is oversized and uses two different colours of luminous material. The hour hand is much smaller than the minute hand. The rational being that divers are more interested in the amount of minutes they have been down or have left rather than hours and a small hour hand makes it less likely to make a mistake. The Dreadnought sweep hand is exactly the same colour as the face. This gives the effect of the marker just floating around the dial and is a nice touch. The Dreadnought uses the date facility of the ETA 2824-2 but uses a black wheel with white numbers. This is the first watch I have owned with the latter combination and while I think it makes the dial look more complete, it may take a while before I get used to it as it is definitely a bit harder to read the date as quickly as a watch with the more traditional black lettering on white background.
I tested the luminosity of the Dreadnought by charging it under a fluorescent lamp for 30 seconds and leaving it in a dark room overnight. I included the Seiko SKX781 in the test because it is my 'gold standard' for luminosity. The first photo shows the two watches immediately after charging. Dreadnought on the right. The extra luminous material in the Dreadnought minute hand really lights up and also noticeable is the more greeny coloured brightness of the 12 o'clock marker. The second photo shows them seven hours later. The Dreadnought uses Superluminova while the Seiko uses Lumibrite. By this time both watches were pretty dim but still readable.
The Dreadnought uses the ETA 2824-2. It is a solid workhorse movement which is hacking, quick set, automatic, runs at 28,800bph and uses 25 jewels. The details of the mechanism can be found on the movement page. The Dreadnought uses the higher grade Chronometer version of the ETA 2824-2. This is evident in timings done over a 36 hour period where the Dreadnought only gained 5 seconds which is pretty impressive. The Dreadnought is easily the most accurate watch I have. The above photo (supplied by Timefactors) shows a prototype Dreadnought. The movement is the non Chronometer version used in testing. What is interesting to note is the iron plate which acts as a magnetic field inhibitor and gives the watch its 30,000 A/m rating. Probably of more interest to the majority of people reading this review is the double o-ring arrangement. This helps the Dreadnought achieve a 500 Metre depth rating. It would be my guess that the Dreadnought could go much deeper.
The Dreadnought screwed crown has the initials PRS in it. PRS apparently stands for Eddie Platts surname, wife's maiden name and mother's maiden name. It takes just over 2 and a 1/2 turns to screw in the crown with the threads engaging cleanly and easily. It is just a little difficult to engage the threads on the Dreadnought crown because the massive crown guards make it a little less easy to get a good grip on the crown. One thing I noticed on the PRS-2 is that when the crown is fully pulled out the stem does tend to move and 'flex' a little bit. I was a little concerned at first but the condition is in fact quite normal for movements with a de-coupled crown and is the exact design used in the Muhle Glashutte SAR watch, costing twice as much. The interesting thing about a decoupling mechanism built into the crown is that when you screw it down or unscrew it, it is not connected to the barrel and thus you're not winding the watch at the same time. You can certainly feel the change in resistance between bolting the crown and winding. This means that the Dreadnought really has four crown positions - neutral (i.e. during screwdown and unscrewing when the crown is de-coupled from the movement - which also helps to isolate the movement from the case for shock protection), winding, date set and time set.
As already mentioned, the Dreadnought comes in an impressive package. Along with the polished wooden box, Eddie supplied copies of the design drawings, the history of HMS Dreadnought, the Chronometer Certificate, a very cool Timefactors dogtag, the manual, a set of screwdrivers, a Rhino strap and extra pins for the bracelet. The screwdrivers and some of the documentation were also not included by the original owner when I bought the watch but in the course of writing this review I contacted Eddie to ask what the complete package contained and when he found out I was missing bits he very generously send me the items to complete the package. You just cannot fail to be impressed by that kind of service and Timefactors have to be held up as an example of companies who try very hard to listen to what their customers want and try to do whatever they can to keep that customer happy. Eddie's service is head and shoulders above the normal service and response given by most watch companies. It just makes owning the watch all the more special.
With the majority of watches I have, I tend to wear them a little loose. I found out very quickly that I just couldn't do that with the Dreadnought. The mass of the head is just too much and it tends to move a lot and rubs against the ulnar styloid on my wrist (boney bump on the medial aspect of the wrist). The first time I wore the watch loose I found it was quite uncomfortable. However, once I tightened up the band this became much less of a problem. After owning the watch for several weeks and wearing it almost every day, I can say that it doesn't feel heavy at all. It sits perfectly on my wrist and I'm happy with the perception that I have a watch on my wrist. The funny thing about the PRS-2 Dreadnought is that after you have worn it and got used to it, watches that you considered heavy are amazingly light if you put them on after taking the Dreadnought off. Even with the extra weight the Dreadnought is an absolute joy to have and wear. It is eyecatching and gets comments all the time. It is distinct because it is big and bold and in the case of the polished one, very eyecatching.
There really isn't much more I can say about the watch. The longer I have it and compare it with other dive watches, the more I begin to appreciate just what Eddie Platts achieved in bringing his dream to fruition. Although there was only 200 made and that's all there ever will be made (sorry to disappoint you, guys, but there will not be a "second edition"), Eddie still gets several emails a week asking if he has any more to sell or will he be making any more. I honestly think that few people really believed that he could pull off what he promised and in fact, I would say that everyone who has owned a Dreadnought would agree that he delivered even more than he promised. For me it is a once in a lifetime watch and I count myself very lucky to have got one after I missed out when they were introduced. In my mind, the Dreadnought will take its place in dive watch history along with the 'classics' such as the Doxa SUB 300T, the Omega Seamaster and the Rolex Seadweller. The difference is that basically a lot of these watches were made and anyone with the money can have one. The same can't be said for the Dreadnought. I have every intention to passing my Dreadnought on to my son. That, however, leaves me with a problem. Where am I going to get another for myself?
A Flying Doctor Production
Dr. Peter McClean Millar