ISotopeA hip, small independent watchmaker based in England from designer Jose Miranda. What I like about Isotope is that since its inception, the brand’s products have strived to be original and vibrant in their design. Although some of the shapes and forms of various isotope watches may seem strange at first, it is impossible not to appreciate the serious and challenging drive of designers with high integrity to be as original as possible in their creations. It’s a bit ironic that this particular Isotope Hydrium X “Will Return” watch actually pays homage to another product – the “Return After XX:XX” symbols that businesses sometimes use when they need to temporarily close in the middle of the business day.
It’s true that most of these “please call again,” or “please come again” signs follow a familiar blue, white, and red color theme with a simple but legible font. They are also equipped with a small clock dial and two adjustable hands that allow signals to indicate the exact hour and minute of the business owner’s return. This motif has now been adapted into the watch dial for the Isotope Hydrium Diverse Style watch collection. I think the charm of this watch is that it is a diver’s watch and, at the same time, visually pays faithful homage to the “Will Return” symbol.
As of the writing of this article, the limited edition of 100 pieces of the Isotope Hydrium X Will Return watch has sold out. The good news is that this overall dial design (in other colors) is carried over to at least some of the other limited-edition models produced by the Isotope brand. As of writing, the next limited-edition Hydrium X Blink is being released and it features an interesting blue and pink color combination along with a fully illuminated dial concept.
That’s right, the entire dial, for the most part, is painted in Super-LumiNova material, which gives the Hydrium X a really cool look in the dark, especially with the ultra-legible (and high-contrast) Arabic numeral hour markers as well as the bold, stubby hands. Look between the hands and you will see what a second hand is. It’s more or less shaped like the Isotope brand logo, but if you look closely it’s actually a tiny seconds hand. In the diving watch world, this is actually a thing. Instead of full seconds hands (which some divers find distracting), the seconds hand becomes smaller and is used as a “running indicator” to show that the watch is working (nobody wants to dive underwater with a watch that’s not working).
Looking back at the Hydrium case and the watch as a whole, the Isotope offers a very competent and neo-classic divers watch with a high-design twist. The case is water resistant to 300 meters in sandblasted steel. It measures 40mm-wide, 14.9mm-thick (including the domed AR-coated sapphire crystal) and has a long lug-to-lug distance of 48mm. The uni-directional rotating bezel has a crystal insert. Isotope doesn’t specify what material it is, and given the low price of the product, I’m guessing it’s not sapphire crystal on the dial, but probably a mineral crystal. The bezel is blue, with the “Will Return” symbol, and red to match the hands, a small non-lume mark at 12 o’clock that is the Isotope logo.
The case is cleverly designed with the lugs sitting low allowing the strap to sit very close to your wrist. I found it to be more comfortable with the black sandblasted steel buckle on the supplied vintage-style 22mm wide perforated FKM rubber strap. Through the caseback, you can get a view of the movement – it’s nicely decorated for the price. Less well known is the so-called “Swiss Landeron” automatic movement, which operates at 4Hz with a 40-hour power reserve. I believe these are technically Swiss made (movements, not the entire watch here) but probably from the Far East using a lot of parts. The movement’s value proposition looks good at a low price but lacks chronometer precision. For the money, I think the movement is fine, and the appearance of the movement adorned by the exhibition caseback is an exceptional detail on the Indy Diver watch.
With its charming looks, fun Will Return sign story, and good build and kit for the money, the Isotope Hydrium X “Will Return” is a surprisingly effective “art watch” in both looks and utility. Although this first limited-edition model will all be sold at retail, subsequent Hydrium X models will offer similar looks and value. I also think Isotope is a brand to watch because it’s here to stay and fun things are coming from the mind of Mr. Miranda. Isotope Hydrium X “Will Return” watch price $700 USD. Learn more on the Isotope Watches website here.