NTH? Janis Trading? Who, or what, is that? If you were not aware, Janis Trading is actually a brand you are probably already familiar with – they were formerly known as as Lew & Huey. Now, that is a name that should be familiar to most of you (and if it isn’t, check out our interview with brand creator Chris Vail). As part of the rebranding, the Janis Trading NTH Subs are a completely new line that will hit the streets soon, and we recently got to spend some quality time with a pair from the new lineup, which we first brought you word of back in the spring.
Now, anyone taking a look at the NTH Sub lineup is instantly going to see the obvious cues to watches of the past. What you might not be as aware of is that these are not simply taking inspiration from the Rolex watches of the past. Instead, these draw from the original military specs that brought us watches like the Rolex Submariner, and the Omega models that preceded the crowned brand in the military contracts. In other words, these are a mix of different styles, bringing things together in different ways. And, of course, Vail being Vail, he had to tweak the designs a bit, all while bringing the high-quality materials to the table at his affordable price points.
The first of the two NTH Subs that I had hitting my wrist was the Santa Cruz. This is the most recognizable design of the two, with the Mercedes handset, and of course those index shapes. Actually, those indices are a perfect place to start to showcase how Vail upped the game with these watches. Rather than going with some sort of simple printing, or even layers of paint, these are very raised applied indices. Then, on top of those hunks of metal, you have some lume that has a color to give it an aged look. I would not go so far as to call it tropic, as it is set off (in our review loaner) against a crisp white dial.
The dial of the NTH Sub Santa Cruz is not some boring, flat insert either. No, instead, there is a cross-hatch weave on the dial. For me, this calls to mind a higher-quality dress shirt that initially appears smooth, and only on closer inspection do you pick up the color-on-color pattern. In short, I found a lot to like about the dial on the Santa Cruz, though I could have perhaps done without the model name showing up on the dial (the rest of the text was A-OK in my book). Fortunately, the “aged” lume did not impact glow performance either (more on that in a bit).
The other NTH Sub we took a at look at is known as the Amphion. Right off the bat, you can see that there are a lot of similarities to the Santa Cruz – same case and bracelet, same indices and crown, and a very similar bezel insert. Ignoring colors for the moment, the big difference here is sword-style handset. At first glance, you might think that this is copying a Seiko mod. As it turns out, all of those Seiko mods that go this route are pointed back to that mil-spec design, so we’re still in good company here. I would be remiss if I did not call out the similarities to the Raven Vintage, another watch of this style that I have been a big fan of.
Getting back to the Amphion, this is the classic “red triangle” style, no-date look. While the Santa Cruz definitely has more of a styled touch to it (with the color scheme), here, on the Amphion, you are headed for more of an everyday, no-nonsense sort of styling. In other words, while both are tool watches, I might be tempted to say that the Santa Cruz is more style-oriented, while the Amphion with the lack of a date display and it’s crisp white-on-black color scheme hews the closest to the tool watch ethos.
Regardless of which of the NTH Subs you go with, you will be picking up the excellent build quality that Vail has come to be known for. You will also be getting some pretty awesome lume. While the Amphion is all in blue (including the bezel insert), the Santa Cruz instead goes with green, and mixes in a blue lume pip on the bezel. I would not want you to miss the lumed crowns, either, as those are just plain fun. Useful? Not by a long shot, but they are a treat to see (and they are color matched to their dial lume colors). Tucked into the 40mm cases of the NTH Subs you will find a Miyota 9015 movement which, while nothing flashy, will certainly get the job done.
In practical cases – i.e., daily wear – I found the NTH Subs to be great companions (as myInstagram wristshot-off with Victor Marks will attest). While 140g seems like a heavy watch, it wears extremely comfortably. This is in large part due to the solid bracelet (and it now occurs to me: why not lume that logo on the clasp?) that hugs nicely to the wrist. The thinner profile also works well, as this is not a dive watch that snags on a shirt cuff, even though it manages to carry a 300m water resistance rating. In short, the NTH Subs continue the argument for why dive watches are one of the most popular choices out of the tool watch designs. They work well, the design looks sporty without being overbearing, and the construction (and water resistance) give confidence that it is a watch that can survive daily life.
With a grand total of eight different variants being made of the four NTH Sub models, you certainly have no shortage of choice. If I were choosing amongst them all, I would most likely go, myself, for the blue-dialed Nacken. Of the two that I had in, it is almost a coin-toss. I dug the coloration of the Santa Cruz, but I came to realize the Mercedes handset is not my favorite. The flip side of our review coin has the Amphion, and this is just a great-looking watch for everyday – even if some might confuse it for a Seiko mod with the handset.
Janis Trading (remember, formerly just Lew & Huey) has certainly got to be one of the most popular – and affordable – micro brands that we’ve had pop up in the last year or two. Frankly, that is not something I see changing with these new NTH Subs. Vail has a knack for starting with popular designs, and building them into something that is uniquely his own. And, while the materials involved may not reach the levels of, say, an MKII, that is ok. The NTH Subs are still solidly built with good bits and bobs – stainless steel, sapphire, and a Miyota 9015. All good stuff for keeping the watch firmly standing in the affordable market.
You might think the MKII comparison a bit unfair, but I find it to be appropriate. Frankly, for what Vail has put together here, I think these are actually fairly close competitors. Yes, there are any number of Sub clones, homages, and imitators out there on the market, especially among the indie and startup watch brands. For more established brands with solid track records, though, Janis Trading and MKII are definitely inhabiting similar orbits, at least in my mind. Pricing aside, picking a model of either is going to result in a watch that you will no doubt enjoy for years, and it’s the details that set them apart. Of course, when you also incorporate price, well, then the Janis Trading NTH Subs certainly pick up an advantage.
Speaking of price – the pricing across the NTH Sub lineup is consistent. While full retail is expected to be $625, Janis Trading is currently in a pre-order mode, so they can determine how many of each model to produce (see link to previous article). That means that there are some rather nice discounts in place. At the time of writing, the pre-order price was sitting at $475, though we are told that the price will be going up another $25 after July 30th (and $25 each month until production is finished). Have no fear, if you should miss that lower price, as you, dear reader, can use the code ABTW to net yourself another $25 off of your order. Then, once you’ve redeemed that, be sure to pop back over here and let us know which one you ordered! Based on the remarks these watches picked up on my Instagram feed, do not be surprised when you start seeing these pop up all over the place when deliveries start in the fall.
>Model: Sub (Santa Cruz and Amphion)
>Price: $625 (MSRP)
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Why yes, yes I would, thank you for asking.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: This is a perfect entry for your pal who sort of likes vintage style, but really just wants a solid sport watch for everyday use.
>Worst characteristic of watch: That we can’t mix-and-match the various details to create our own “perfect” sub homage.
>Best characteristic of watch: Amongst the many details, I settle on the one that first captured my attention – the lumed crown, which is a symbol of the attention to detail here.
Tech Specs from Janis Trading
- Case Material: 316L Stainless Steel
- Caseback: Solid, 316L Stainless
- Display Crystal: Double-Domed Anti-Reflective Sapphire
- Water Resistance: 30 ATM / 300 meters
- Bezel: 120-click uni-directional
- Bezel Insert: Steel with Lumed Markers
- Crown: Screw-down
- Case Diameter: 40mm (without crown)
- Case Length: 48mm
- Case Thickness: 11.5mm
- Lug Width: 20mm
- Weight w/ bracelet: 5.5 oz / 155g
- Movement: Miyota cal. 9015 Automatic
- Accuracy: -10~+30 seconds/day
- Beat Rate: 28,800 BPH
- Power Reserve: More than 42 hours
- Warranty: 2 Years