MICRO MONDAYS: Marin Instruments create a skin diver for the 21st century MICRO MONDAYS: Marin Instruments create a skin diver for the 21st century

MICRO MONDAYS: Marin Instruments create a skin diver for the 21st century


For those who were into scuba diving in the 1960s/70s and did not care for the professional-grade dive watches from Rolex and Blancpain, skin divers offered a more wearable and equally cool horological experience. Skin divers got their name from the fact that they were meant to be worn directly on the skin and not over a wetsuit, indicating they were not meant for deep underwater exploration. Traditionally, they came with 100 to 150 metres of water resistance and a thinner case profile. Unlike their distant cousins the Submariner, Fifty Fathoms, and even the Doxa SUB 300, skin divers were supposed to be more versatile and easy to wear on land in everyday life situations. 

If I was into scuba-diving during that time period, I would have opted for a skin-diver over a Rolex or Blancpain. I would have found them to be robust enough for everyday living and for the recreational diving that I am (now) into. Skin divers have received a sort of revival as of late and today we’ll take a look at a modern and rather unique interpretation of this genre of watches: the Marin Instruments Skin Diver. Marin Instruments is a relatively new brand founded by Justin Walters, an experienced watchmaker and US Government employee based in New Mexico. The Skin Diver is not Justin’s first idea for a watch, however it is the first model he has released to date. 

The case

The Skin Diver has a flat and geometrical case. It is reminiscent of skin divers of yesteryear, although it comes with a unique personality due to having an overall elongated appearance with a slab-sided profile and lugs. It measures 39mm in diameter, 48mm lug-to-lug, 11.5mm thick and has a 20mm lug width. Looking at its dimensions and shape, it commands a certain wrist presence whilst not being overwhelming. This is mostly due to the fact that the case is flat. The Skin Diver’s profile is accentuated by the satin brushed surfaces and polished sides, and a thin bezel that slopes down toward the case. The latter is PVD coated for extra resistance to scratches, fully lumed, and comes with 60 clicks and a buttery smooth action. Note the unusual markings on the bezel from 0 to 15 minutes.

The crown is protected by large, angular crown guards and is of the screw-down variety. Combined with a utilitarian screw-down case-back, the Skin Diver comes with 200 metres of water resistance. It is, therefore, more than capable of handling the types of dives that 99.9% of us humans partake in, that is, not deeper than 40 metres. To make swapping straps a process that feels like second nature, the Skin Diver comes with drilled lugs. Given the case design and finish, it is clear that Justin was intent on making a purposeful diver and, as Justin explains on his website, not one that puts more emphasis on looks over functionality. The Skin Diver is all about being practical and easy to use, and these two qualities might resonate with many of you. 

The dial

Whether you look at the Standard (black) or Polar (white) variant, the Skin Diver has a legible dial. Again, Justin emphasised the utilitarian aspect of tool watches, steering clear of making them ornate wrist jewellery. The dial showcases a combination of circular, rectangular, and triangular hour markers to aid in reading the time quickly and in night-time orientation. The triangular marker can be found at 12 o’clock, the rectangular ones at the 6 and 9 positions, while the circular markers are everywhere else. At the 3 we find a date aperture whose size is congruent with that of the hour markers, creating visual harmony. In both versions, the date disc is white and the numerals are printed in black for maximum legibility. I particularly appreciate the following detail: the markers at the 6 and 9 have a thin line to differentiate them from the rectangular date aperture. 

Being a purpose-driven watch, the Skin Diver comes with a generous application of lume. There is so much of it, actually, that the centre portion of each hour marker is raised from the dial. The lume compound makes up for that thickness and each marker is delineated by a painted surround (in white on the Standard and black on the Polar). Moreover, the wide markers contrast nicely with the thinner handset, providing visual balance. The pencil-style hour and minute hands have white surrounds and a black base on the Standard, and a black surround on the Polar. The seconds hand is painted white or black, respectively, and comes with a lollipop element. Either colourway comes with a matte dial that absorbs light, which combined with a flat sapphire crystal, makes the Skin Diver a legible timepiece. 

The straps

If it hasn’t yet come across, the Skin Diver is a tool watch. The case design and dial layout are clear indicators that Justin went for superlative legibility and functionality. The same attention to detail was put in choosing the straps that would accompany the Skin Diver. First, a uniquely shaped rubber strap that flares out from the lug and tapers down dramatically toward the well-machined, signed buckle. The rubber strap comes with many adjustment holes to find the perfect fit for your wrist. Second, the Skin Diver also comes with a Zulu Maratac NATO with laser cut holes and two brushed stainless loops to secure the watch on the wrist. Both options are excellent and well-made, and will make the Skin Diver comfortable to wear in all of your adventures. 

The movement

To complete the theme of purposefulness and robustness, the Skin Diver is equipped with a Swiss made Sellita SW200-1 caliber that beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 38 hours of power reserve. It is the type of movement that can last a lifetime and be serviced by any decent watchmaker anywhere in the world—whether you are at home in New York City or diving in the warm waters of Mexico. Although it should be noted that Marin Instruments does not regulate the movements, both versions I tested kept very good time. (Roughly + 5 seconds/day.) 

Marin Instruments Skin Diver pricing & availability

The Skin Diver Standard and Polar are readily available on the brand’s website and retails for $1,150 USD ($1,722 AUS.) 

Brand Marin Instruments 
Model Skin Diver 
Case Dimensions  39 x 48 x 11.5mm
Case Material  Stainless Steel 
Water Resistance  200m / 300m
Crystal(s) Sapphire 
Dial Black or White 
Lug Width  20mm
Strap  Quick-release Marin rubber + Maratac Zulu NATO 
Movement  Sellita SW200-1
Power Reserve  38 hours 
Availability  Available on brand’s website 
Price  US$1,150