Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic

Angus Davies decides to go off-piste, temporarily abandoning haute horlogerie to look at the modestly priced Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic. Can a diver’s watch, priced at just £950 (RRP as at 3.7.2019), prove attractive to this self-confessed ‘watch snob’?

Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic

Throughout my adult life I have obsessed about watches. Complications, finishing and Métiers d’Art continue to enliven my soul. The ultimate expression of watchmaking is haute horlogerie, a rarefied domain applicable to the fortunate few. I cannot help being drawn to these paragons of no-compromise horology.

As regular ESCAPEMENT readers will attest, I frequently review perpetual calendars, tourbillons and minute repeaters, indulging my cravings for technical excellence and peerless craftsmanship. However, while I frequently wear these high-end creations, I lack the pecuniary means to purchase them.

Sometimes, I embrace egalitarianism and write about watches costing circa £2000. However, these timepieces are still considered a luxury item as they constitute a significant purchase for most horophiles with finite funds.

Further to a Facebook message from a loyal reader, seeking a recommendation for a modestly priced watch, I decided to venture into new territory and look for a timepiece priced below £1000. Having recently tested an impressive diver’s watch from the Swiss brand, Delma, I chose to thumb their extensive catalogue and select a comparatively affordable watch for a hands-on appraisal. With a recommended retail price of £950 (RRP as at 3.7.2019), the Santiago Automatic Ceramic fulfilled my criteria, a press-loan was obtained from the brand and a period of evaluation ensued.

The dial

The golden hour and minute hands fitted to the Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic exude an air of luxury, eschewing the customary utilitarian items found on most divers’ watches. The hands are lined with luminescent treatment and produce a vivid green emission in dim light.

Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic

Each hour is marked with a luminescent index, resembling an isosceles triangle with a truncated tip. The green luminous fill is framed with a golden border. In addition, Arabic numerals, again presented in a golden hue, are located at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock supplementing the aforementioned indexes.

A central sweep seconds hand, featuring a red tip, interacts with a series of white markings located on the periphery of the dial. These markings denote both ¼-second and 1-second integers. Based on the fact that the seconds hand is continuously sweeping and the watch is intended for underwater use, I think the ¼-second markings are superfluous. Indeed, by forgoing said ¼-second markings, I suspect the 1-second strokes would appear more prominent.

Black numerals on a white disc articulate the date. The date aperture is framed with a golden border and magnified, augmenting readability.

The epidermis of the dial resembles woven fabric with a black thread-like motif orientated along a north-south axis. Delma does not specify the composition of the dial surface, however, it does resemble carbon fibre even if this is not the case. Furthermore, the dial surface proves attractive and does not impair readability. Indeed, reading the prevailing time, including the date, proves effortless.

The case

Like many men with latent all-action tendencies, I appreciate the utilitarian design typical of divers’ watches. However, while the Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic is a diver’s watch endowed with an impressive water resistance of 500 metres, it exhibits a dressier appearance. This added dose of formality can be attributed to the rose gold PVD case, the black ceramic bezel insert and the comparatively restrained 43mm case diameter.

Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic

The steel case is treated with rose gold PVD, granting an endearing warmth and a sense of luxury. While it does not look the same as a solid 18-carat rose gold case and it lacks the noble metal’s substantial mass, it remains attractive.

In recent years, an increasing number of new divers’ watches have shunned aluminium bezel inserts and moved to scratch-resistant ceramic alternatives. Ceramic bezel inserts often feature on watches costing more than the Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic, providing a further illustration of the model’s impressive air of luxury.

The uni-directional bezel is stainless steel, again treated with rose gold PVD. The knurled edge of the bezel provides much grip and rotates with a positive action. The insert is marked with a combination of prominent strokes and numerals, proving ideal for monitoring the period spent underwater.

Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic

Divers’ watches are usually larger than dress watches. This is because they are intended to be worn over the sleeve of a wetsuit. Many potential watch buyers choose a diver’s watch not to explore oceans deep, but because of the appearance and robustness associated with this genre of timepiece. However, for some would-be buyers, the sheer scale of some divers’ watches impairs comfort. The Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic is not unwieldy. As previously mentioned, this watch has a diameter of 43mm and it measures 13.5mm, according an unobtrusive presence on the wrist.

Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic

Despite being dressed in cocktail attire, the Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic does not forgo robustness. The caseband on the right flank sweeps outwards, providing refuge for the nuzzling crown. The black rubber strap, with its substantial steel pin buckle, exhibits a notable ruggedness.

The movement

Unusually for a diver’s watch, Delma has equipped the Santiago Automatic Ceramic with an exhibition caseback. The dorsal pane of sapphire crystal provides views of the automatic ETA 2824-2 movement.

Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic

The oscillating weight is presented in a gold-plated finish, embellished with a combination of straight graining and colimaçon. The other movement components remain unadorned. However, considering the modest asking price of this watch, I would not expect anything more.

The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 25 jewels. The lone barrel provides 38 hours of autonomous operation.

Closing remarks

The Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic is comparatively affordable and should prove accessible to legions of watch fanatics. Its asking price of £950 (RRP as at 3.7.2019) may be modest, but virtues abound.

The hours, minutes and date indications prove highly legible and the seemingly woven dial surface bestows the watch with a becoming aesthetic. While ceramic bezels are usually found on much costlier watches, Delma has chosen to equip this affordable watch with a ceramic insert, depicted in a stealthy shade of black.

A maximum water resistance of 500m distinguishes the Santiago Automatic Ceramic as a watch capable of underwater use. However, despite its palpable robustness, this model remains a stylish accompaniment to a lounge suit. Indeed, it is the semi-formal appearance of this watch that makes it ideal for life on terra firma.

I confess that I have little experience of wearing watches suffused with rose gold PVD treatment. While the case would not dupe a jeweller into thinking it is made of precious metal, it does exude an air of luxury and, based on personal experience, attracts nods of approval. For those potential purchasers seeking a covert character to their watch, Delma also offer the Santiago Automatic Ceramic in black PVD.

The Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic could never be described as a paragon of fine watchmaking, its modest asking price rules this out. Moreover, I do not intend to start writing about watches in this price segment, I adore haute horlogerie too much. However, I do think this timepiece demonstrates that a watch can be endowed with a plethora of attributes while remaining within the financial grasp of a wide audience. For this self-confessed ‘watch snob’, Delma has once again produced an impressive watch with an intoxicating blend of virtue and value for money.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Delma Santiago Automatic Ceramic
  • Reference: 43501.560.6C034
  • Case: Stainless steel with rose gold PVD treatment; diameter 43mm; height 13.5mm; water resistance 50ATM (500 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and sapphire caseback
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, central sweep seconds; date
  • Movement: Calibre ETA2824-2; automatic movement; frequency 28,800VpH (4Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve 38 hours
  • Strap: Black rubber strap with steel pin buckle with rose gold PVD treatment
  • Price: £950 (RRP as at 3.7.2019)

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