It may seem odd to name a fake watch after a leaky balsa wood raft, or even the Inca sun god, but regardless, the Kon-Tiki has become a well known and much loved staple in Eterna's catalog since the 1950s. The fake watch family was inspired by the 1947 expedition mounted by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his crew when they sailed East to West across the Pacific on a hand-built wooden raft, wearing Eterna wristwatches. Since the KonTiki was introduced, it has been Eterna's best known fake watch and over the years has taken myriad forms, including chronographs, GMTs and, beginning in 1962, a capable line of dive replica watches dubbed "Super KonTiki.?/p>
The most famous Super KonTiki was the one released in the early 1970s, which was chosen by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) for use by its Navy divers. The cushion-shaped case, wide bezel and unique handset have made this relatively rare vintage dive fake watch coveted by collectors ?so much so that Eterna capitalized on it by releasing a "Heritage?version a few years ago known as the "Super KonTiki 1973,?which reproduced the original almost exactly. This year at Baselworld, Eterna debuted another new Super KonTiki, this one a chronograph that retains much of the same appeal as its historical forebear while boasting an all-new in-house column wheel flyback movement. I had the chance to spend some extended time with both of the new chronograph versions, blue and black, scuba diving for a week tag heuer replica in the southern Caribbean.
Let's start with the movement in this one, since it represents a big leap forward for Eterna, and a return to prominence for this old brand. First of all, some history. Eterna was founded in 1856 in Grenchen, one of Switzerland's well known fake watch regions and home to other brands such as Breitling, Fortis, and Nivada. From its early days, the company was known for innovation in movement development, becoming the first to serially produce an alarm wristwatch and, in 1948, patenting the ball-bearing-mounted winding rotor, which gave birth to the name "Eterna-matic?and the company's logo, consisting of five ball bearings.ADVERTISEMENT
In the 1930s, Eterna split off its movement-production into a separate company known as ETA, producing wristwatch calibers not only for Eterna watches, but also for other companies. This is the same well known ETA that is now owned by the Swatch Group, providing countless movements to brands big and small for decades, including, ironically, Eterna. (Eterna is now owned by Hong Kong based Citychamp fake watch & Jewellery Group Limited, which readers might know better under the holding company's former name, China Haidian Holdings.)
But after many years of change and uncertainty Eterna is returning to its roots as a movement manufacturer, and the caliber 3916A in the Super Kon-Tiki Chronograph is impressive evidence of this.
The movement is impressive not only for its homegrown origins, but also for its functionality. It is a two-register chronograph with center sweep seconds and a small running seconds at 9:00. At 3:00 the elapsed minutes and hours are combined into one register, with an outer 30-minute scale and an inner hours track, up to 12. If I'm nitpicky, this register is a bit tough to read at a glance, especially between hours, but it is otherwise an elegant display of elapsed time, reminiscent of chronographs from IWC and Patek Philippe.
In addition to this feature, the Super KonTiki is a flyback chronograph, a complication I happen to like a lot. Starting and stopping are actuated by pressing the upper push-piece and reset is the lower pusher, per usual practice. But a click of the lower button, while the chronograph is running, instantly resets and restarts the chronograph from zero, handy for timing back-to-back events or just for the fun of watching all hands snap back and start up again. Chronograph functions are controlled by a column-wheel mechanism that endows it with precise action and the right amount of resistance at the push-piece, unlike the more common coulisse-lever chronos (such as the ETA/Valjoux 7750) that often have stiffer, more jerky starts and stops.ADVERTISEMENT
The caliber 3916A can be hand wound and has a healthy 65-hour power reserve from a single mainspring barrel. Around back, the movement is displayed through a sapphire case back, a practice I'm not usually fond of on tool replica watches (an engraved raft medallion would have been cool to see), but Eterna is rightfully proud of this engine and it is nicely decorated with rhodium plating, Geneva stripes, and a matte-blasted finish on the winding rotor. Eterna says that 70% of the movement parts are manufactured in-house at their factory in Grenchen, with presumably the other percentage made of hairspring and jewels coming from outside sources.
Protecting this movement is a 45-mm, cushion-shaped steel case that sits 16 mm tall. While this sounds like a monster, the case shape wears comfortably on the wrist and, at 50 mm top to bottom, there is little noticeable overhang. This shape has worked well on dive replica watches from Seiko to DOXA among many others, not only wearing well but also minimizing snagging potential that can come from long narrow lugs. Much of the watch's height can be attributed to its tall bezel which has ample chunky fluting, making grip, even while wet, a cinch.ADVERTISEMENT
The crown is screw-down and lacks protective shoulders and is flanked by the two push-pieces, which are old-school plunger stalks with fluting around the top edge. These pushers are not screw-down, making them a potential source of water ingress if actuated at depth, but in normal use they should be fine, since the fake watch is rated to a healthy 20 bar of pressure, equal to roughly 200 meters of depth.
Design-wise, the Super KonTiki Chronograph is a handsome brute. The steel case is a nice blend of brushed surfaces with a wide polished bevel. The dial makes use of the Kon-Tiki's famous triangular markers, with a larger one at 12:00 sporting the ball bearing logo. The chronograph registers are nicely spaced on the dial, evidence of proper case-to-movement proportions. The bezel doesn't make use of any exotic ceramics or sapphire but is simply a polished aluminum insert, perfectly in keeping with the watch's vintage styling.
The fake watch comes in blue and black versions, identical besides the dial and bezel color. On the blue, the dial has a sunburst finish that appears alternately almost black or shimmering cerulean depending on the angle of the fake watch and how it catches the light. Both versions are available with either a rubber strap, color matched to the dial and bezel, or an adjustable stainless-steel mesh with push-button deployant clasp. The strap is a high quality supple rubber, plenty long for wear over a 3 mm wetsuit sleeve, depending on your wrist size, and has a massive steel buckle, polished and brushed, with the Eterna logo on it. The mesh is predictably comfortable but the blades of the fold-over clasp are fairly long, making the bracelet stand away from the wrist a bit awkwardly at times.ADVERTISEMENT
Reviewing a dive fake watch in its historically relevant environment is a tricky prospect. The fact is, though I always wear a fake watch when I'm diving, I don't rely on it as my primary bottom timer, as they would have been used until the advent of digital dive computers in the 1990s. Still, a fake watch can be useful for several purposes while diving. Timing swim distances using the bezel can be an aid to underwater navigation, surface intervals between dives are easy to track at a glance, and, should a battery-powered dive computer go black mid-dive, a trusty analog fake watch is an indispensable backup. That said, it doesn't take much to make a good dive watch; or rather, it doesn't take much to make a dive fake watch good. Excellent dial/hand contrast and visibility, a grippy legible bezel, a long strap and good water resistance are pretty much all you need, and most dive fake watch makers mastered those things back in the 1950s. So then it comes down to the small details.
On a night dive in Bonaire, I held an underwater torch to the dial of the Super KonTiki for 30 seconds before descending and it glowed brightly for the entirety of a 45-minute dive in black water. Meanwhile, to illuminate the dial of my Suunto dive computer required pushing a button for three seconds, and then it only stays lit for five seconds. I found it much easier to use the luminous dial on my old Aqua-Lung depth gauge and my Eterna to track depth and time at a glance. Score one for analog.
Underwater, I used the bezel for timing intermediate activities. In Bonaire, where diving is largely done from shore and is self-guided, navigation is most easily done using timed swims. Zero the bezel, swim one direction on the reef until half a tank is empty, note the elapsed time, zero the bezel again and return the way you came for roughly the same amount of time. After dark, add a luminous wrist-mounted compass to the mix and aim for a heading. There's something immensely satisfying, in an age of Google Maps and Siri, about this sort of basic navigating, using mechanical tools.
Though most fake watch enthusiasts are familiar with Eterna for the company's great historical pieces, it isn't a name that comes up often, at least in the U.S. That's because the company hasn't had a presence here in many years and if you saw someone wearing a modern KonTiki, he or she most likely bought it online or secondhand. But with some new movements, new watches, and a growing retailer network in the U.S., it's a brand to pay attention to in the future.
The Super KonTiki Chronograph has a lot going for it. Its innovative and useful in-house movement and on-target retro styling should put it on a short list of dive chronograph contenders, which might include heavy hitters like the Omega Planet Ocean Chronograph and the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph. But what separates the Eterna from the rest is its price. On a rubber strap, this fake watch costs $4,700; on the steel mesh bracelet, $4,900. This is thousands less than comparable competitors. Of course, it may give up a little when it comes to exotic case or bezel materials or an anti-magnetic movement, but for someone who wants a capable and handsome dive chronograph with a bona fide in-house column wheel flyback movement, this KonTiki is, well, Super.
For more information about the Super KonTiki Chronograph visit eterna.com.
All photos by Gishani Ratnayake for HODINKEE. See more of her work at swimpruf.com.
Jason Heaton is a diver, spelunker, mountaineer, and outdoorsman specializing in the more practical side of horology. A long-time contributor to HODINKEE, he also writes regularly for Gear Patrol as well as other fake watch news sources and sites. He's also the co-creator of the popular fake watch and fake watch lifestyle podcast "The Grey Nato."Dive-watch Eterna