Los Angeles-based watch brand Nodus specializes in hard-wearing tool watches under $1,000. The bulk of their catalog belongs to the Sector Series: a collection of six sports watches sharing a versatile case design and sector dials. Outside of the Sector Series, Nodus offers the cushion-cased Avalon, the bright and elegant Unity, and the watch at hand today: the Retrospect III. Today, we’ll take a look at the Retrospect III diver, highlighting its functionality, aesthetics, and callbacks to mid-century dive watch design.
Dial, Hands, and Functionality
The Nodus Retrospect III has a sunburst dial available in four colors: gray (pictured), blue, orange, and salmon pink. Underneath the dial is a lumed surface, visible through cut-out triangular hour indices, creating a “sandwich” effect. This dial is a nod to the original sandwich dials of the 30's and 40’s. Nodus is no stranger to the sandwich dial: it also appears on the Unity.
The Retrospect III’s hands are large, lumed, and legible. In tandem with the graduated minute track and 60-minute bezel, you’ll never have an issue telling the time. Adding to this watch’s everyday practicality is a 6 o’clock date window. The aperture has a sort of chamfered cutout, displaying the aforementioned “sandwich” layers. The date’s 6 o’clock positioning gives the Retrospect III perfect dial symmetry: a make-or-break design choice for lots of watch nerds (believe it or not).
Surrounding the dial – which is covered by a double-dome sapphire crystal – is a 120-click unidirectional bezel. This bezel operates exactly how it should: good alignment, satisfying clicks, no play. The matte black steel insert is legible in most lighting conditions: even in darker ones thanks to its lumed indices. The bezel’s knurling extends beyond the sides of the case, making it extremely easy to grip. The bezel also has a concave profile (sloping down toward the crystal), drawing the eye toward the dial while accentuating the bezel’s edge. If you’re a huge nerd like me, you know that this concave motif appeared on the original Breitling Superocean (1957): another tasteful integration of mid-century dive watch design.
The 3 o’clock screw-down crown is big and easy to manipulate. The lack of crown guards yet again honors mid-century dive watch design. When unscrewed, the crown feels secure and the positions clearly distinguished. There’s nothing worse than a vague, mushy crown: that is not the case here. Thanks to this screw-down crown (and caseback), the Retrospect III offers 200 meters of water resistance.
Powering the Retrospect III is the Seiko caliber NH35. This workhorse movement is ubiquitous amongst independent brands, as well as Seiko’s own catalog. It hacks, hand-winds, and thanks to Nodus’ in-house regulation, it tells accurate time: +/-10 seconds per day. This movement won’t knock your socks off, but it will work, and will do so reliably for some time. It’s also largely responsible for the model’s reasonable pricing.
Comfort, Wearability, and Bracelet
The Retrospect III is not a small watch; it’s the brand’s largest diver by most metrics (out of their four dive watches). It measures 42mm in diameter, 48mm lug-to-lug, and 13mm thick. I’d place it near the upper limits of my 6.75 inch wrist. That said, I enjoyed wearing this watch. It sits nicely on the wrist, has comfortable weight distribution on the bracelet, and, thanks to its female endlinks, doesn’t feel awkward or cumbersome.
The Retrospect’s three-link bracelet is excellent. It features a 22mm-18mm taper, quick-release spring bars, and most importantly (maybe surprisingly), Nodus’ NodeX clasp. If you read my review of the Unity, you know how much I adore this clasp. It has 5 points of toolless microadjustment. With the press of a button and slide of a link, you can size your bracelet exactly to your desired length. This functionality is simply unheard of below $500; I’m as delighted as I am impressed that Nodus was able to include it on the Retrospect III.
Value and Conclusion
The Nodus Retrospect III pays respect to the golden era of dive watches while confidently embracing its own modern identity. This is nowhere near an homage watch; it’s distinctly its own thing. For $475, you probably won’t find another highly-capable, dead-reliable, originally-designed dive watch. If you add toolless micro-adjustment to the mix, you’re left with one only option. The Nodus Retrospect III strongly holds its own, even in Nodus’ ever-growing catalog of value-oriented sports watches.