Value is a big part of the discussion here on worn&wound. Often, it’s enough to say that a reasonably priced replica watch with decent specs and a pleasing design presents a significant value. But for some companies, value doesn’t mean offering just the bare minimum. For these brands, the desire to go above and beyond the fundamentals is what separates them from the pack, and if it can be done without charging the exorbitant prices one has come to expect from the replica watch industry, then that’s just icing on the cake. If there is any company that has come to embody this ethos in totality, it’s Damasko.
Based out of Regensburg, Germany, Damasko first entered the market in 1994 with a desire to do something new and different. Since its inception, Damasko has set new and exciting standards for both the replica watch industry and with consumers as to what a small brand could truly accomplish. Led by Konrad Damasko, whose expertise centered on work with fine metal components for the aeronautical industry, Damasko set out on a path to produce replica watches that were rugged, over-engineered, and simply put, more robust than anything else on the market. Damasko holds numerous patents on everything from their in-house movements and crown design to the very steel used to make their cases.
Today, we’re taking a look at one of Damasko’s entry-level timepieces, the DA36 black. For most companies, an entry-level replica watch often means making sacrifices for the sake of cost, but such isn’t the case with Damasko. Other than the 3rd party movement, the DA36 boasts most of the revered in-house tech one has come to expect from the brand. As you read the review below, keep in mind that the DA36 black retails for a very reasonable $1,320. What Damasko is able to offer at that price point puts competitors to shame.
(Disclaimer: The replica watch pictured here is from the writer’s personal collection.)
On the surface, the case on the DA36 black appears relatively straightforward, with no apparent visual frills to draw your eye to the design. It’s a bit stark and utilitarian, but that’s entirely the point. Aesthetically, it’s quite similar to certain models from Sinn, most notably the retired 656. It should be noted that the two companies were in a partnership until 2002, with Damasko manufacturing cases for Sinn before the formation of SUG, so the carry over of certain elements makes sense.
Coming in at 40mm wide with a thickness of 12.2mm and a lug-to-lug height of approximately 48mm, it’s a great contemporary size that should fit comfortably on most wrists. Adding to the comfortable size are drilled lugs that sweep down and hug the wrist. A prominent fluted crown is protected by crown guards with some of the tightest tolerances I have ever seen on a replica watch. The bead blasted matte black finish is flawless. The specs of the replica watch are deeply engraved along the case back, and six notches are fitted along its perimeter to facilitate removal.
Those that know Damasko know that the aesthetic simplicity of the case belies the true technical achievements packed into it. First, let’s discuss the steel. Damasko doesn’t use the industry standard 316L surgical steel for their cases. Instead, they manufacture their own patented steel alloy that’s nickel-free and boats a substantial level of resistance against corrosion. Another benefit of the alloy is that it allows Damasko to “ice-harden” their cases through and through to approximately 760 HV, about four times the industry standard. By comparison, Sinn’s tegimenting process hardens only the surface to 1200 HV, leaving the case underneath relatively soft. As a result, Sinn cases are harder on the surface, but they’re also more vulnerable to indentation after a hard hit. A Damasko case, on the other hand, is technically softer at 760 HV, but because it is hardened throughout it is largely scratch and indentation proof. All parts of the case are ice-hardened, including the crown, the crown tube, and the case back.
Damasko’s patented crown system is also designed and engineered in-house. While most manufacturers use cost-saving press fit tubes, Damasko’s crown tubes are screwed directly into the case, resulting in a substantially surer fit. As already mentioned, all parts of the crown are hardened to the standards of the case, so stripping the threads isn’t something you need to worry about. Furthermore, the crown has a built-in lubrication system that oils the shaft and the crown gaskets whenever the crown is screwed or unscrewed. The gaskets are made from Viton, a material with high resistance against chemical and mechanical wear. It is, hands down, one of the best crowns on the market.
Operating the crown is a joy. It may seem like I’m overstating it, but it’s absolutely true; the action is incredibly smooth. When you unscrew the crown, you can feel it disengage. When you tighten the crown it decouples–in other words, the movement doesn’t wind as you lock it down. Damasko developed this to make tightening the crown easier, and it’s not something many brands bother even doing. But for Damasko, it’s often the small “invisible” details that make all the difference.
Since black replica watches tend to be scratch magnets, you know Damasko didn’t settle for a straightforward DLC coating. Instead, Damasko utilizes a proprietary multi-layer composition called Damest. The process begins with the hardened case, which acts as the foundation for the Damest coating, supporting the upper layers against abrasion. The intermediate layer, approximately 1.5 microns thick, is created via ion implantation on the surface of the case, resulting in a hardness of about 1500 HV. This layer is also the bonding agent between the case and the upper Damest coating. Approximately 7 microns thick, the final top layer Damest coating reaches a hardness of approximately 2500 HV. Using this combination of layers allows for a substantial resistance against surface abrasions, and only the hardest of impacts will eat away at the coating. I’ve smacked my replica watch against a number of different surfaces in the two years I’ve owned it, and only one instance lead to any surface marks. Had it been any other replica watch from any other brand, the damage would have been far greater.
When I think “Damasko,” I immediately imagine the dial of the DA36. In my mind, it is the iconic Damasko look. The general aesthetic pulls from the classic flieger with a few updates to the formula. The Arabic numerals are highly legible, a bright and vibrant white against a matte black base. In place of the 12 is the classic flieger triangle. The pilot hands are equally as bold, with the hours hand hovering right above the hour markers and the minutes hand hitting the minutes track. The divisive seconds hand is bright neon yellow, the only pop of color on the replica watch. The dial is broken up into quadrants via cross hairs, which push the Damasko logo off to the right side of the dial above the day/date window. The day and date wheels are custom, matching the dial in both typeface and color. They are also modified to sit slightly below the traditional 3 o’clock position, which balances out the placement of the logo.
Resting on top of the dial is a flat sapphire crystal with AR coating on both sides. The crystal is impeccable and utilizes some of the best AR I have ever seen on a replica watch. It is highly resistant against scratches, and believe me, there have been many opportunities for me to put some on. It is also exceptionally clear; at times it looks like there is no crystal at all. The crystal in conjunction with the readable design of the dial results in a replica watch that is the most legible–under any light–of my entire collection.
The lume is perhaps the only major low point on the DA36. The C1 is known to be a bit underwhelming in terms of luminosity, but the lume on the DA36 is some of the weakest I’ve encountered. The physical application of the lume on the hands is also quite blotchy, which is a bit unexpected from a company so obsessed with details. Furthermore, the Arabic hour markers aren’t lumed at all; instead, the accompanying square notches are, a curious choice that degrades nighttime visibility. It would benefit Damasko to make the switch to BGW9, ensuring a similar aesthetic while appeasing lume fanatics.
At the heart of the DA36 is an ETA 2836-2, the day/date version of the ubiquitous 2824. It’s a workhorse movement with 25 jewels and a frequency of 28,000 bph. It hacks and can be wound manually, and it has a power reserve of approximately 41 hours. Damasko regulates their movements, and my piece runs within 2 seconds a day.
The movement is protected from magnetism by an integrated anti-magnetic inner cage made up of the dial, the movement retaining ring, and a second case back. This shield provides anti-magnetic protection up to 80,000 A/m.
Straps and Wearability
The DA36 comes paired with a branded Di-Modell Pilot strap, a match made in German heaven. Di-Modell makes some of the most over-built replica watchstraps on the market, with an aesthetic that complements the DA36 quite well. The buckle is signed and features the same hardened steel and Damest coating.
One would think that a black case would limit strap choices, but I find the opposite to be true. The DA36 looks great on a number of different options, from nylon one-piece straps to leather two-piece bands. I especially like the way the DA36 looks paired with lighter colored options like the tan suede featured in the gallery. The contrast allows the replica watch head to pop. For a slightly dressier combination, try something a bit unorthodox like a dark brown shell cordovan strap.
A Damasko isn’t just a replica watch, it’s an engineering marvel. It’s a symbol of invention, epitomizing the best of intelligent engineering and design. It shows a brand at its best, pushing beyond the status quo and setting standards in an industry that is often comfortable with more of the same.
The DA36 black, at $1,320, presents an exceptional value, one that is truly unrivaled in the market. And it’s not even the most affordable in Damasko’s lineup; the DA36 sans Damest coating is $120 cheaper. If the design speaks to you, there is no better option. And if it doesn’t, Damasko has a number of other similarly priced models to choose from, all packed with the same awesome Damasko tech.