This is a pretty exciting day as I got my hands on a very cool Armand Nicolet dive watch called JS9. I have been known with this brand for some time and I don’t know why, but I always thought they were more expensive watches, the name and the logo just suggest that, but they are quite accessible. The brand itself has a long going history going back to 1875 so it makes it one of the oldest watchmaking companies in the world together with some other very big names like Patek Philippe, Vacheron etc.
I’m gonna start the review with a little history lesson about the brand and then we will take a look at the JS9 diver! So the Armand Nicolet is a Swiss luxury watch manufacturer located in Tramelan, a mountain village in the Bernese Jura. Its history dates to its foundation in 1875. Armand Nicolet, son of a watchmaker, after a brilliant apprenticeship set up his “Atelier d’Horlogerie”.
By 1902, the Atelier was producing pocket watches with grand complications, such as a piece that consisted of a guilloché rose gold case, enamel dial, mono-pusher chronograph, complete calendar (date, day, month and moon phase indication), repeating hours, quarter hours and minutes. Examples of these historically significant pieces can be seen in the Armand Nicolet museum located in Tramelan.
Armand Nicolet died in 1939 and his son, Willy Nicolet, took control of the company. Under Willy’s control, Armand Nicolet was developed into the largest T1 watchmaker
Between the 30’s and the 70’s Armand Nicolet had one of the most specialised ateliers in the T1 process (the finishing, assembling and fine setting of all these parts to create a perfectly working mechanical movement). During the 1970s and 1980s, the entire Swiss watch industry entered difficult times, due to the influx of quartz timekeeping, a period known as the quartz crisis. Throughout these years, many storied Swiss watchmakers closed their doors, and the industry dramatically shrunk in size, due to its reliance on mechanical movements and its slow adoption of quartz technology. Armand Nicolet did not fold during these difficult times, and kept the doors open by working with some of the most important companies in the industry, thanks to the reputation they had built up as an excellent watchmaker. However, they were left with a large stock of mechanical movements and no one to assemble them for. In 1987, Willy met Rolando Braga, an Italian watch enthusiast working in the watchmaking industry, and this started a new direction for Armand Nicolet.
In 1987, Willy met Rolando Braga, an Italian watch enthusiast working in the watchmaking industry, and this started a new direction for Armand Nicolet. The new management saw the huge potential in the old movements that they had laying around from past and decided to rescue, maintain and continuously develop the company’s know-how by working on these old movements (such as UNITAS, Venus, ETA, Peseux, FHF etc…) and bringing them back to a new life. So here comes the O.H.M. (Original Historical Movements) Series. Basically, they take all the beautiful and extraordinary movements from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. They are finely redecorated and tuned by Armand Nicolet’s master watchmakers so that they can build the O.H.M. watches. Besides that, they also have other pretty great watches in their collections now from classic looking pieces to rugged yet elegant divers.
Now let’s get to the review of the watch. When the watch arrived, I got a feeling like I was unboxing something from a high-end luxury brand. The watch itself arrived in a separate cardboard box where it was nicely sealed with tons of plastic stickers and everything. I have seen something like that only in Patek Philippe unboxing videos where the watch comes separate from the main box. The main box itself is really well made. Inside you will find a very thick instructions box in almost every language that is in the world. I was really blown away with the unboxing experience. The first impressions of the watch also were great. I really like that thin profile it has, I rarely see dive watches that are pretty thin. I was also surprised by how small it wears despite its big size. I’ve read other reviews of this watch and thought that 44mm size will wear very big, but it wears more like 42mm.
The JS9 case is made of 316L stainless steel with mixed finishings. The whole case is very finely brushed and the side edges of the case are polished. The whole machine work and finishing really blew me away. I may be wrong, but I think they do the whole case finishing by hand as I can see by the looks that it isn’t done by machine. The case measure at 44mm in diameter, 13,1mm in thickness and 51,8mm from lug to lug. Yes, on the paper it sounds like a very big watch, but in reality, it wears smaller. That is due to how the lugs are angled downwards in a 45-degree angle and also due to that case thickness. The case shape is also very interesting, it doesn’t look like your typical dive watch, of course, serious dive watch people would argue if this really is a dive watch as it lacks many important dive watch features, but I would call it a dressy diver which you can wear on the beach or go to Opera or fancy dinner. I also like that they didn’t go the classic watch design way to just make a somewhat homage to Submariner. You won’t find another watch that looks like JS9. Around the dial is the sloped uni-directional rotating diver’s bezel. Polished blue ceramic is used for the bezel insert material, and the machine-cut numerals on the bezel are painted in white colour. The painted numerals actually aren’t painted in my opinion very good, there are some small imperfections if you look closer into the bezel and also there is no lume on the bezel which in my opinion is needed. The bezel angles up a bit with a plateau on the top of the case thanks to the mostly flat (but ever so gently curved) AR-coated sapphire crystal. Bezel action is pretty good and smooth. A nice feature that I found is the very nice grip on the blue rubberized signed crown. Usually, we see this on some higher end watches like Hublot or AP. But in a long-term, it isn’t the best solution as rubber tends to get old when it is used a lot, so I think after 20 years it wouldn’t look as good as now. The solid engraved, screw in case back is very nicely detailed. The water resistance is 30ATM (300m) which is more than enough to go swimming and diving without a problem.
The dial on the JS9 is a very good looking in my opinion. It is finished in a classic diver style yet it has some bold, offbeat characteristics going on. The indices on its dial, for example, are split in half for an eccentric twist and along with the hands feature an extra-thick design with substantial SuperLuminova paint for an added legibility you’ll appreciate in the underwater darkness. The dial itself is blue and it has that light texture on the dial. The hour, minute and seconds hands are finished very nicely with that matte finishing. I don’t know how they achieve it as it looks like bead blasting, but it looks very high end. At 3 o’clock we have the date window with a white date wheel. Usually, I hate when the date wheel colour doesn’t match the dial colour, but on this watch, it looks good and doesn’t look nonsymmetrical.
Inside the JS9 sits an automatic ETA 2846 Swiss movement which Armand Nicolet calls the AN-2846-9. This movement beats at a lower rate of 21,600 BPH, features a custom AN rotor, 21 jewels, and a 48-hour power reserve. This watch doesn’t have a COSC certification and runs within the ETA standard. The accuracy of mine example was about +6 to +8 seconds a day. ETA make pretty good movements that are well made and easy to service with no high service costs. The only thing that maybe I don’t understand is why they used an older movement because there is newer ETA’s that have the same movement thickness and that beat at a much higher rate. Maybe they had an older stock of unused movements and they used them, who knows?
The rubber strap that comes with the watch is super good. There is also the stainless steel bracelet option, but everyone already reviewed that and I didn’t saw any review with the rubber strap so I went with that option. The rubber is in dark blue colour to go with the rest of the watches look. On the strap, you will find the Armand Nicolet logo. The upper side of the strap is smooth and the underlining has this pattern so the watch has some grip on your wrist. The most impressive thing is probably the buckle. It is a fold over buckle and it is the best I’ve seen. The machine work is done super good and the finishing is almost better than on half of my watches, it even has perlage on it. The top of the buckle is signed with Armand Nicolet logo. The watch on the wrist feels very comfortable and throughout the day you won’t even notice it is there.
Overall the watch is really amazing! You get a very unique design diver for pretty good money. Everything from the unboxing experience to the watch itself is done like I expected it to be. Yes, there are some things I don’t like about the watch, but remember that there isn’t a perfect watch in this world. But when it comes to spending money, many of you would ask if this is a good investment? I personally think that it isn’t the best, as you can buy a used Omega or some kind of vintage piece that will have more value and will probably only get more valuable over the years. But on second hand you get a watch from a very old manufacturer with a long going history in the Swiss watchmaking industry that is known in the watch world and probably could get more valuable over the years. Anycase I leave it on you, if you buy this watch, you won’t be disappointed!
Price: 1600CHF @ www.armandnicolet.com
Calibre AN2846-9. Dial with luminous indexes and hands. Case with antiglare treated sapphire crystal. Screwed back. Turning blue ceramic bezel.