“Warning: Pretentious, Ponderous Philosophy Ahead.” Thus reads the intro to my review of the Invicta Pro Diver 9204OB, a $50 quartz watch with $5,000 branding. It’s a small, shouty timepiece desperate to convince you of its status as a luxury item. But just how good (or bad) is it, really? I embarked on mental quest to answer this very question. And, quite frankly, part of me wishes I hadn’t.
“A simulation is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a representation of the genuine article… But, a simulacra is a representation of something that either had no reality to begin with, or something whose original doesn’t exist anymore.”
That’s from their review of a 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser (Skip to 4:05), a car they labeled as a “criticism of American excess, aimed at serving up a better version of something North America didn’t really need in the first place.” These guys are making top-flight videos, and I’d strongly recommend checking out their channel.
How does this relate to the Invicta Pro Diver? Easy – It’s a rip-off of the Rolex Submariner. Now, I’m no lover of Rolex. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m in the camp of function-over-form, which puts an $8,000 watch doing the same work as a $10 Casio pretty well out of my range. But if there’s something I do appreciate about high-end watches, it’s their excellent fit, finish, and materials. Mastery is something to be respected, even if it’s not to my particular taste.
So, part of this review will be dedicated to discovering the Invicta Pro’s underlying ethos. Is it a simulation – a poorly realized signified to the Rolex’s signifier (Oh, no – Semiotics!) – or a simulacra – something new that harkens back to the original Submariner’s sign?
Ow, my brain. Let’s move on before I embarrass myself any further.
Let’s see if we can cushion the blow. Instead of leaping right into the negative, I’m going to start each section with something I like about this watch. First up, of course, is Form.
Something good, something good… Aha! I like the size. At 38-milimeters (which I believe is a vintage Submariner size), this is the smallest “diver” I’ve owned. Why the quotes, you ask? Oh, we’ll get back to it. The bezel is also quite good, with a satisfying 120-click, unidirectional action. The color is nice, too, though I’m not convinced as to its longevity.
But the devil’s in the details, and there’s a whole bunch of Beelzebubbin’ going on here. Let’s start with the bracelet. It rides comfortably enough on the wrist, but its deployment is the dirt worst. It’s literally two pieces of pinched metal that snap against each other. You have to dig your fingernail underneath and pry them up in order to take the watch on and off. If it takes more than a few months for the steel to bend out, I’d be shocked.
Then there’s the dial. Each of the indices appears to be applied, and there’s an infusion of weak-level lume. The color is pleasing, but the mineral crystal takes smudges like no watch I’ve ever worn. This makes it difficult to appreciate whatever effort went into the face work, especially when trying to peer through its crookedly-aligned, fish-eyed date window.
The steel on the case is fine. It’ll scratch up pretty readily but, at this price point, I’m relatively unconcerned. The dial, however, clearly states that this is a 200-meter water resistant watch. I find this difficult to believe, given that the crown doesn’t screw into the frame.
Speaking of the frame, look at that large bit of branding on the side. It’s one of six logos or names contained on this single piece. What are we doing here, folks? It’s not as if I can put on the watch, look in the mirror, shout “Invicta!” six times, and gasp as it transforms into a luxury piece.
I know these photos look alright but, trust me, it’s much rougher in person. Each time I snap those sharp clasps into place, I feel like I’m wearing a piece of costume store jewelry on my wrist. If the bracelet worked, this would earn an average score. But the impending failure of its retention mechanism and all-around lackluster construction makes for a cringe-inducing experience.
1.5 stars out of 5
This watch keeps decent time. There, I said something positive.
“Decent,” however, is not “great.” Invicta’s quartz mystery movement loses about three seconds per week, which I find incredibly annoying. If a watch is going to stray, I’d far prefer it run a few seconds ahead. This is why I don’t have much of an issue with my mechanical Orient Mako 2, despite the fact that it needs correction every few days. All I have to do is pull out the crown, wait a few moments, and it’s perfectly back on track. With the Invicta, you need to wait for the second hand to run its entire circuit, stop on zero, and wait for the right time to push in the crown.
Speaking of that second hand, it falls prey to a common budget watch bugaboo – Its ticks don’t line up with the markers. I could live with this if it was consistently off. But, if you’re looking for innovation, Invicta’s got a doozy for you. Somehow, some way, they’ve created a movement that lands perfectly on some indices, feebly lurches toward the next, and then practically skips two spots. This is absolutely maddening, and I’ll try to capture it in the video below.
Then there’s the domed date window. Frankly, it makes reading the numerals more difficult than if they’d simply left the crystal blank. This is absolutely unacceptable, and I’d remove it if I wasn’t already planning to deep-six this Diver.
1.5 stars out of 5
Okay. My favorite thing about this watch going forward is that it’ll be doing so without me. I can’t wait to send this thing on to someone else, though I’m not sure who’ll be willing to take it.
Invicta does offer a three year warranty on all timepieces, though shopping at one of their stores nets you an “exclusive platinum warranty [which] provides extra coverage for 5 years from the purchase date.” And trust me, you’re probably going to need it. The bracelet’s pinch/clamp closure will probably require replacement by then, and who knows how long that movement can sputter along.
I may be being overly critical here. But what about that water resistance? Do you trust a non-screwed crown to stand up to its 200-meter claim? I certainly don’t.
2 stars out of 5
There are worse ways to spend $50, I suppose. Like illicit drugs, or Mad Dog 20/20. But in the end, I’m annoyed that I wasted money, philosophy, and valuable time on this watch. It’s been compelling in that car-crash/rubbernecking sort of way, but I would by no means recommend the Invicta Pro Diver.
Move along. Nothing else to see here.
1 stars out of 5
I hate this watch. It’s a strong word, sure, but hear me out.
I hate what it represents. I hate its costume-jewelry effect. And I hate its insidiously modern message of “branding” in which, if you claim something to be good and true loudly and often enough, perception becomes reality. And I hate its hollow, inept insistence on form over function. If I had a choice to wear this watch or none at all, I think I’d opt for a bare wrist. I’d take a simple, honest Casio F91W over this in the time it takes for the Invicta’s second hand to stumble from one crooked index to the next.
On the other end of the spectrum, I hate how far up my own ass this watch reveals me to be. Just look at the intro! I’m quoting philosophical giants and other creatives to point out the flaws of a watch that 95% of the American population would look at and say, “Wow, that’s just fine.” Sure, I’m a pretentious jackass. But unlike this Invicta, at least I know that’s what I am.
What it comes down to is this: The Invicta Pro Driver – devoid of original thought or any attempt to transform its source material – is more simulation than simulacra. And I’m not willing to pay for a cheap imitation. Being a pretentious tool is bad. But being a blatant knock-off of one is worse.
Where to Buy
Seriously, I’m not going to tell you.