Draken Kalahari (Review) – Best modern compressor style watch!

Today we are taking a look at a watch and company overall that I wanted to get my hands for some time now. The company is called Draken and the watch we have in for the review today is called Kalahari. Which is named after the biggest desert of Southern Africa, and using an altimeter for inspiration. Draken is based in New Zealand, Auckland and is a small microbrand. Founder and designer Michael Blythe considers his home South Africa, so that’s why the designs and names of the watches and company influences from that. The word Draken actually comes from the name Drakensberg, meaning ‘mountain of dragons’. The Drakensberg extends almost the entire length of South Africa, creating a central plateau with the highest peaks in the east. It is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, and a place that is serene and ancient, and beckons for adventure.

They have three designs in their collection, but the one we have here is called Kalahari. I really like that they don’t make homage watches or something similar to other designs. They make very original and interesting designs. Each function of the watch is usable and isn’t a gimmick. The Kalahari is actually a Kickstarter project, just like other watches they produce. The Kalahari got funded on Kickstarter last year. They got 126 backers on the board who pledged more than 53000$

Michael kindly sent me in this Draken and it travelled from New Zealand to Latvia. The watch came in this really nice leather travel pouch. It has nice brown leather all over it and on the top, it is signed with Draken logo. I actually really like the Draken logo, it kind of reminds me car maker Koenigsegg, I don’t know why, but it has that feeling. Inside the travel pouch, you will get a warranty card, patch, instructions manual and the watch itself. The first impressions are that the watch looks better in life than in photos. I really like the glow in the dark elements all over the case and especially I like the knurled crowns. Some of you who follow me on Instagram probably already saw that I’ve put this watch on the first day it arrived on an orange rubber strap and it just looks stunning with it!

The case of the Kalahari is made of 316L stainless steel. The machine work is exceptional with nice lines and angles. Like other Draken watches, the case is wider at the bezel than the base. Not only does it make the case more interesting than a standard case shape, but it also makes the watch wear smaller than 44mm, on the wrist, the watch feels like 42mm. The case has a bead blasted finish all over the case, I really like how it looks. The diameter of the case is 44mm, the thickness is 15mm and from lug to lug it measures at 51mm. At 2 and 4 o’clock you have two very nice screw down crowns. The crowns are big and due to the knurling very easy to operate. I really like the signed lume ends, on the one you have the Draken logo and on the other one you have the circle which stands for the inner bezel, basically, you can say that they are labelled. There is one thing that is a bit strange about the crowns, at least for me, as the top one usually controls the inner rotating bezel on these compressor style watches, but on this one, it is for winding and the bottom one is for the inner rotating bezel.

The fixed bezel has this radial chevron texture which I kind of doesn’t like, I wish they knurled the bezel, as it would go with the knurled crowns, but that’s just my preference. The solid screw in case back is a stunner! It has a deeply engraved Draken logo which is also lumed, not for any function, but just because they could. Around the logo, we have this black PVD coated texture which makes the logo really stand out. Around the edge, we have some specifications and the case number. The left side of the case has a Draken name engraved, in the most times I would say it isn’t needed, but as there isn’t any logo or any text at all on the dial, it makes sense! Sitting on top of the case is a very thick, double domed sapphire crystal with AR coating on the bottom which has a blue hue in the sun. The water resistance is only 100m (10ATM), which isn’t a lot for dive style watch, but plenty enough for some light swimming.

The dial on mine Kalahari is black with some sand and orange coloured accents. Kalahari dial is multilayered, with an upper central disc which is also the power reserve, a lower surround containing the date and inset hour markers. These are completely flanked by an inner rotating GMT bezel. The dial has a lot of depth and it looks pretty cool! The hands are interesting; bold and yet the skeletonised aspect allows them not to be too overbearing. The second’s hand is a simple straight red point which adds a bit of colour to the dial. It’s interesting that there is no logo on the dial, usually, small brands put logo or name as they want people to recognize the brand, but I think Draken wants people to recognize the watch by the unique design. I find it honourable that Draken has decided to leave it off. Rather than cram it on the dial somewhere else, they’ve opted to go for legibility and overall aesthetics rather than obvious brand awareness. On the dial, you have a lot of lume too as you can see from the photos! Definitely, one of the most interesting lume-shots as you need to take pictures from three sides of the watch to catch it all.

The movement powering the Kalahari is the Seiko NE57. They were actually one of the first brands to use this relatively new movement from Seiko. It is an automatic- hand winding movement with 41-hour power reserve, 29 jewels, 21.6k bph (6 ticks per second), and a hacking second hand. The movement has a central axis power reserve indicator, and date as a hand at 6 o’clock. The entire movement is rotated 30 degrees to offset the date, move the main crown to 2, allowing the additional crown at 4 for the internal rotating bezel.

The strap is canvas and suits the watch style perfectly. The cream/sand colour works great with the sand theme the watch has. The leather bottom ensures the strap is comfortable on the wrist and won’t irritate your skin. The strap also features the quick release spring bars which should be on all straps in my opinion, but some companies just don’t do that. The sandblasted buckle matches the case, it is very chunky and well designed. The Draken logo is engraved on the top. On the wrist, the watch feels very secure and comfortable. The strap is pretty supple right out of the box and won’t need any wear-in period.

Overall the watch is really great! I wasn’t expecting much as I didn’t know a lot about them, but I was really surprised about the quality and unique design. The watch is a little bit costly at 599$, but you get a lot for that price: Great leather travel pouch, amazingly made case, automatic movement with power reserve, a ton of lume, nice strap, sapphire crystal and a lot of joy by wearing it! Some may not like the pricing as it is more expensive than other offerings, but you get a more unique and distinctive design! I highly suggest this watch! If the price is a bit too big for you, you always can go second hand, I see some pop out on time to time on facebook microbrand groups for sale.

Price: 599$ @ drakenwatches.com

Case 316L stainless steel, 44mm diameter, 22mm lugs, 51.3mm lug to lug
Movement Seiko NE57 automatic
Crystal Sapphire with inner anti-reflective coating
Water resistance 100m
Strap Genuine leather or canvas with leather lining, 22mm buckle, quick-release pins, length 80mm and 125mm

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