Neo-vintage dive watches are incredibly popular right now, both among major brands like Longines, Rolex, and Seiko, and among many smaller start-ups such as Evant, Baltic, and MAEN. One of the newest to the scene is Belgium-based Méraud with their 1960s-inspired Bonaire, a cool steel diver with an impressive value proposition. The watch originally came to the scene as a Kickstarter campaign in October 2018, and through this effort Méraud was able to fully fund the project with the first orders to reach collectors this month.
The new Bonaire uses a 39-mm brushed steel case with a 12.5-mm thickness, giving it a vintage impression on the wrist with an added feeling of sturdiness. The case also features impressively faceted lugs for a Kickstarter brand’s first model, and a slightly domed screw-down crown adding to its 200-m water resistance. Encircling the face is a unidirectional diving bezel with a curved and raised insert, made unique with its small triangle at its top and interesting font for its numerals at each of the quarter positions.
The dial matches the bezel in color and is available in either gloss black, sunburst blue, or sunburst gray, with the two sunburst models using white Super-LumiNova accents for its markers and the gloss black channeling a more vintage styling in using faux-patina coloration. On the dial’s outer edge is a simple minute ring, with applied triangular hour markers for each of the quarter hours besides midnight which uses Arabic numerals, and circular markers filling in the remaining positions. Towards the bottom of the dial is a subtle Bonaire script, while towards the top is Méraud’s slightly tapered logo, and sweeping over them both are two sword hands for the hour and minute and a diamond-tipped seconds indicator.
Inside the new watch is a no-date modified STP1-11 automatic caliber, capable of a 44-hour power reserve and protected by an engraved and numbered case back featuring the image of a vintage scuba diver complete with a harpoon in hand. The Bonaire is available on either a high-quality textured leather strap or a metal riveted bracelet, with each model coming with a complementary NATO-style strap, rubber tropic strap, and strap tool. While the presale with its reduced pricing is now over, the Bonaire is available for purchase through Méraud’s website for 849 euros (859 euros with quick release spring bars), or about $950 and $960 USD, respectively.
While through its construction and design features the watch is easy to identify as a modern creation, the piece clearly has vintage influences, some of which aren’t easily identifiable. At first glance, I immediately saw the allusion to vintage Blancpain watches like the Fifty Fathoms with the raised bezel insert, hands, and hour markers. But in talking with founder Stijn Busschaer, where he acknowledged the Blancpain influence on the design, he further referenced the Rolex 5512, dive watches from Gruen, the Benrus Ultra Deep, the Bulova Devil Diver, and the Zenith S58. Together, these influences tie the watch to a larger 1960s-inspired design, which was Busschaert’s goal as a primarily vintage watch collector himself looking to create something that other vintage-minded collectors would appreciate.
Overall, the piece is produced at an incredibly high quality for its price, especially in the context of it being the brand’s first watch in production. The attention to detail I experienced while handling it is obvious, and Busschaert was keen to point out the extra effort in manufacturing. Through the attractiveness of the various dial colorways, to the high-grade faceting on the lugs, to the curving on the bezel insert — it is quite impressive to see the work the start-up brand was able to foster in the Bonaire. The effort is even seen in the straps of the different models like the rivet-style bracelet, an authentic and comfortable tropic strap, and the high-quality saddle stitched leather straps — together contradicting the trend of straps as an afterthought in a market ripe with aftermarket straps.
With Méraud Watch Co. making such a splash with their first neo-vintage piece, it should come as no surprise the brand is planning more watches in the future. And as the new Bonaire pieces begin to make their ways to buyers in the coming weeks, Méraud is already finalizing the design for their second model describing it as “something special [and] unseen within the microbrand world,” as well as beginning to draft designs for a third piece.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we go hands-on with the Longines Heritage Military Watch and compare it to its historical predecessor, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.