This is a comprehensive Ginault Ocean Rover review. Is this high end Rolex Submariner homage worth your money? Read on to find out…
- an expression of great respect and honor
In the watch world, few topics elicit stronger opinions than that of homages (i.e., watches that borrow their design from more popular, expensive watches).
Are homages a value proposition allowing an experience similar to that of a higher-priced piece at a fraction of the cost Are they nothing more than cash grabs by companies knocking off popular designs? Or do they exist somewhere on the spectrum in between?
To say this topic is polarizing would be a gross understatement, yet it’s a consideration any brand operating within the space of homage watches must face.
Enter Ginault (pronounced “ji-noh”), a United States microbrand founded in 2011 by master watchmaker Charles Ginault.
Ginault’s small staff consists entirely of watchmakers and expert machinists, and their whole product line exists to pay tribute to what is arguably the most recognizable watch in history; the Rolex Submariner.
In this review we’re looking at the Ginault Ocean Rover, specifically reference 181175LSILN.
We’ll discuss the watch based on its own merits, Ginault’s position within the marketplace, and we’ll even look at how the Ocean Rover stacks up to the icon that served as its inspiration courtesy of a guest cameo by my beloved Rolex Submariner 14060M (V-serial, circa 2008).
Case: 316L stainless steel
Dial: Gloss black enamel
Crystal: Flat sapphire w/ 2.5x date magnifier
Case Dimensions: 40mm x 47.5mm
Watch Thickness: 12.5mm (not including date magnification bubble)
Lume: Blue BGW9 superluminova
Movement: Ginault Caliber 7275
Water Resistance: ISO 6425 certified 1000 ft / 300 meters
Bracelet/Strap Lug Width: 20mm
Price: $1,499 as tested
Warranty: 1-year manufacturer warranty
It’s impossible to discuss the Ocean Rover without directly referencing the watch on which it was based. Ginault doesn’t shy away from this conversation and neither will this review.
Ginault has called the Ocean Rover a “super-homage” to the Rolex Submariner, which is to say that they’ve chosen specific design elements from vintage, neo-vintage and modern Submariner references, and combine them into one watch.
Let’s not mince words here, though. To the untrained eye a Ginault Ocean Rover could easily be mistaken as a Rolex Submariner—especially at a glance.
So is this watch nothing more than a Submariner look-alike? And more importantly, is this watch any good? Let’s take a closer look…
Cases are arguably the single most important factor in how a watch will wear. For this reason, a watch’s casework is a make-or-break selling point for me.
The greatest style, movement, and features in the world are all fine and dandy, but none of that matters if a watch is oversized or uncomfortable on wrist.
Ginault based their Ocean Rover case shape on the classic Submariner Date—particularly reference 16610—and that’s a very good thing.
Case dimensions of 40mm diameter and 47.5mm lug-to-lug yield a moderately-sized piece to be sure, but the sharply tapered lugs and thin midcase give this watch a refined elegance not usually associated with typical sports watches.
It wears impressively flat on the wrist at only 12.5mm thick, which is particularly great for people with smaller wrists and/or those who prefer smaller watches.
For reference, my wrist fluctuates between 6.5-6.75” in diameter depending, and I find the sizing to be ideal for an everyday sports watch.
The comfort of the Ocean Rover is exceptional, as is Ginault’s case finishing. I’m a stickler for finishing as I believe it shows whether or not a company is dedicated to the detail, and at $1,499 I expect a lot of dedication to the details.
I’m happy to report that the finishing on the Ocean Rover meets (and in some instances exceeds) my expectations for a watch at this price point.
The brushed finish on top of the lugs is very even, the polished finish on the sides of the midcase is mirror-like, and the transition between the two is well-defined with a very thin chamfer for visual separation.
The bezel teeth have good depth and provide adequate grip. There is a microscopic amount of backplay present in the 120-click unidirectional bezel action, but that’s also true for my Rolex Submariner.
The crown is signed with the brand’s quadrifoglio (read: four-leaf clover) logo and is well-sized with plenty of knurling for easy operation.
Clicks between setting positions are precise, the crown tube features an additional seal for peace of mind regarding the watch’s rated 300 meters of water resistance, and the crown screws down smoothly and assuredly.
The case back is relatively non-descript, as Submariners and many other tool watches tend to be.
It features a modicum of engraving around the perimeter stating the company name, case material, water resistance, and serial number.
Herein lies one of the Ocean Rover’s strongest selling points. Ginault uses a bracelet nearly identical to modern Submariner Oyster bracelets and their widely revered Glidelock clasp (read: toolless on-the-fly adjustment).
Sizing is 20mm at the lugs with a taper down to 16mm at the clasp, making it very comfortable on wrist. Finishing is top notch with brushing on top of the links and polishing along the sides.
Bracelet resizing is done via screws rather than pin-and-collar sleeves. Bonus points to Ginault for including a perfectly-sized screwdriver, making resizing a simple and straightforward endeavor that anyone can easily handle).
When it comes to this bracelet, the clasp is the true star of the show. The toolless adjustability built within the clasp is a supremely useful feature that allows fit adjustments quickly and easily—no need to hunt down tools to add/remove links or reposition a tiny spring bar in conventional microadjust holes.
Over my time with the Ocean Rover, I found myself using this feature at least a few times as temperatures in my hometown of Nashville, TN fluctuated from chilly 40° mornings up to hot and humid 80° afternoons. Operation of the adjustable clasp is tight and precise.
The Ocean Rover also incorporates a buttery-smooth, spring-loaded pivoting release mechanism inside the topmost part of the clasp which provides a tactile experience that I can only describe as overwhelmingly enjoyable.
I’ve often found myself opening and closing the clasp again and again just to hear and feel that reassuring “click.”
My only criticism of the bracelet is that I wish it had a signed clasp. The lack of identification on the clasp is the only thing that cheapens the overall package, as it gives the appearance of a generic bracelet.
This bracelet is anything but generic, though. It’s exceptional through and through, and here we start to see the tangible benefits of the super homage approach chosen by Ginault.
They’ve brought to market a Sub-style watch with classic dimensions and a modern bracelet—a combo Rolex themselves never produced despite a staggering amount of demand by fans, consumers, and collectors alike. But this super-homage goes deeper than just a case and bracelet combination…
Hands & Dial
Ginault went with sword hands for the hours and minutes, inspired by the ultra rare and uber-collectible 5517/5513 Submariner references of the 1970s that were exclusively military issue equipment (hence the MilSub nickname).
They then capped the handset off with their own bright red seconds hand; a feature I wasn’t sold on in photos, however in person it’s a nice touch.
It’s also a playful nod toward the splashes of red that Rolex has used throughout the early years of Submariner history—particularly the red bezel triangle of models from the 1950s and the red “Submariner” dial text on some of the first Submariner Date models ever offered.
This handset is the biggest visual differentiator to passersby that the Ocean Rover is not a Rolex or a Rolex replica, as the odds of seeing a sword-hand Sub in the wild make hitting the local Powerball lottery seem downright probable.
Ginault continues to mix modern and vintage Submariner design elements by stacking their vintage-inspired handset over an inky, gloss black enamel dial featuring oversized lume plots filled with blue-glowing BGW9 superluminova—dial features only found in the most modern Rolex references.
This all resides under a sapphire crystal with a date magnification bubble—a feature nearly every homage maker gets wrong due to poor magnification levels.
Rolex uses 2.5x magnification in their date magnifiers, as does Ginault.
Ginault Ocean Rover Movement
Ginault uses their own Caliber 7275 to power the Ocean Rover. Caliber 7275 is a clone of the ubiquitous Swiss-made ETA 2824, and Ginault’s site offers in-depth technical details as well as best practices.
Super techy stuff aside, what most of us really care about is whether or not we can depend on our watch to be relatively durable, reliable, and keep good time, right? Right. Let’s talk about that.
If Ginault Caliber 7275 performs as well long-term as the ETA 2824 upon which it’s based, most people can expect relatively reliable day-to-day durability and timekeeping.
To be fair, that’s a big “IF” though, as this is not an ETA 2824. Future servicing is always always a concern of mine, but Ginault has ensured me that any competent watchmaker capable of servicing an ETA 2824 should also be able to service a Ginault Caliber 7275 if and when the need arises (and Ginault also offers servicing in-house).
It’s worth noting that Ginault’s attention to detail continues on the movement level. Each movement is hand-jeweled, plated, finished, and assembled in-house, then fine-tuned over six weeks in an effort to deliver a watch that’s as reliable and accurate as possible.
In each watch’s packaging they include a timing sheet indicating each serialized movement’s results.
While this particular watch’s timing sheet indicated I could expect performance in the neighborhood of -3.0 to +1.6 seconds per day, after tracking timing over the course of several weeks I saw an actual daily average of approximately +10 seconds per day. This is a non-issue for me for several reasons.
First and foremost, this is a review unit that was regulated months ago with an unknown history since, and even if this watch were delivered brand new from Ginault at +10 seconds per day, I rarely wear the same watch long enough for small timing variances to cause me any real-world issues.
As long as a watch can keep relatively close time over the course of a single day—such that I don’t show up for an afternoon meeting five minutes late—I’m a happy camper.
Furthermore, this is timekeeping consistent with any ETA 2824-equipped watch I’ve owned and par for the course with most mechanical timepieces in this price range.
Ginault vs. Rolex
So where does all of this leave us? Is the Ocean Rover nothing more than a Submariner copy?
Well, mostly. That’s kind of the point. Per Ginault’s John McMurty,
“The 5517/5513 MilSub has long been the grail watch for many of us here at Ginault. When Charles first came up with the idea of creating the Ocean Rover, he wanted to challenge the status quo by recreating a homage of the MilSub but upgrading it to a more modern design and spec while maintaining that same quality and craftsmanship as how things are done inside Rolex.”
Has Ginault succeeded in that mission? I think they have. If Rolex made a modern day tribute to Submariner history with all of the Ocean Rover’s design elements, watch enthusiasts would lose their collective minds and a proverbial feeding frenzy would ensue.
Personally speaking, I look at the Ocean Rover like a cover song, and some cover songs are really, really good. I love “All Along The Watchtower” whether it’s by Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix, and it doesn’t have to be Jeff Buckley singing for me to enjoy “Hallelujah” so long as the artist in question does it justice.
The Ocean Rover is a lot like that. It’s the most reverent, well-executed homage to the history of the Submariner available on the market today, and if homages aren’t a deal-breaker for you, I think there’s a lot to appreciate about that.
What I Like
Being a Submariner owner myself, I obviously like the style of the Ocean Rover. In fact, many of the reasons I like my own 14060M Sub so much are also why I like the Ginault.
You see, I didn’t buy my 14060M Sub because it was the best watch. It’s not. I bought it because I believe it’s the best Submariner that Rolex ever made.
Editor's Note: Check out Josh's watch collection
On the wrist, it feels like a vintage piece from the 50s or 60s thanks to the lack of a date window, svelte case, and jangly hollow bracelet. But it also has a glossy, refined dial finish and superluminova, making it more elegant and useful than vintage models.
And it predates Rolex’s change to chunkier cases with shiny ceramic bezels—changes I don’t personally care for. If I was going to spend my money on a Submariner to own and wear, the 14060M model was the only model for me, so I put my money where my mouth was and sourced my perfect watch.
In my mind, it’s the only reference still true to the model’s roots while simultaneously being a culmination of the model’s evolution. In that way, I view the 14060M as a tribute to the lineage of the Submariner itself.
After a month with the Ocean Rover, I view it in much the same light. And truth be told, in some ways it bests my actual Sub.
In hand the Ocean Rover certainly feels more solid and substantial than my Sub thanks to its modern bracelet design. It’s also more practical, legible, and useful for daily wear in comparison to my 14060M thanks to the adjustable clasp, date feature, enlarged markers and updated BGW9 lume.
And I love that I can have all of this in a package with vintage collector design cues thanks to the MilSub-style sword hands.
It’s also worth noting Ginault’s efforts to make as many parts of this watch in America as possible, including full U.S. assembly. Ginault could have easily sourced and manufactured this entire watch abroad for significantly cheaper.
Instead, they’ve forgone the cheaper route in an effort to bring what they feel is a superior product to market, and I personally believe they have succeeded.
What I Don't Like
This watch is executed on such a high level that there’s very little to critique. The lack of a signed clasp is disappointing and an engraved quadrifoglio would be a welcomed touch.
Other than that, the only real question mark around this watch for me is the movement’s long term durability and reliability. However, after speaking with Ginault, I’m just as confident in this watch’s movement as any other ETA 2824-equipped watch I own (which is to say that it’s not my favorite movement choice, but it’s par for the course at this price point and serviceable enough).
Every other thing I don’t love is purely subjective. I’d personally like to have seen a fully graduated bezel insert to be more stylistically consistent with the handset and to keep things in line with the MilSub heritage.
I’d also have preferred a seconds hand styled after the 5517/5513 MilSubs. Lug holes would have brought in more of a vintage vibe visually and also allowed for each strap changes, although the bracelet is so good I was hard-pressed to want to try other straps (and when I did, it was short-lived before swapping back to the bracelet).
I did want to use this space to address something that doesn’t bother me personally, but that I’m well aware concerns some potential homage shoppers—the hypothetical scenario where someone in public spots your watch, approaches you, and asks, “Is that a Rolex?” To which you presumably have to hang your head in shame, mutter “no” under your breath, and walk away feeling dejected.
If you hear one thing from this review, hear this:
“The watch doesn’t make the man. The man makes the watch.”
As with anything style-related, if you want it to work, you have to own it. And if you hear two things from this review, the other is that 99.9% of the population doesn’t care or even notice what kind of watch you’re wearing.
Case in point: In all my years of owning and wearing homages, there has been exactly one occasion where someone approached me and asked, “Is that a Rolex?” I was wearing a Steinhart Ocean One homage at the time, and the inquisitive party was my server for the night at a local restaurant I frequent.
I smiled and replied, “No, it’s a Steinhart.” And then the craziest thing happened . . . he smiled back, said “Ah, cool!” and the world kept on spinning. I had a great meal, he got a great tip, and it was a great night. End of story.
For comparison’s sake, I wear my Rolex Submariner more than any other watch I own and it might get noticed once or twice a year, most often by watch enthusiasts.
When a non-watch savvy person notices the Submariner, I’m often backed into the “. . . but is it a *REAL* Rolex!?” conversation, which I can assure you is much more painful on a variety of levels.
Ginault Ocean Rover vs…
Ginault’s positioning here is interesting. Do we compare it to other $1,500 sports watches? Do we compare it to other Submariner homages, most being in the $300-700 range? Or do we compare it to the Submariner itself? Let’s do all three.
On the first count, is the Ocean Rover made and finished to the same level as the plethora of other watches in the $1,000-2,000 segment that I’ve owned or handled over the years from Oris, Longines, Hamilton, Tag Heuer, Zodiac, Monta, et al?
Objectively speaking, it is. Personally subjective opinions of homages aside, Ginault did an excellent job with the construction of this watch.
On the point of other homages, the Ocean Rover is 2-5x the price of its competitors (Steinhart, Squale, Tisell, et al). Is it worth the price premium? It depends on what’s important to you.
I can unequivocally say that the Ginault Ocean Rover is by far the most well-made Rolex Submariner homage I’ve ever handled, and I’ve handled most. It’s not even a close contest.
Thanks to Ginault’s design decisions and extreme attention to detail, the Ocean Rover captures the same sort of intangible feeling my Submariner gives me, which is something no other homage has been able to do.
Is the Ginault a worthy substitute for an actual Rolex Submariner in this Sub owner’s opinion? Unequivocally, no. The Ginault Ocean Rover is a fine watch and an exceptional tribute, but there is no 1:1 substitute for the real deal.
The Rolex Submariner is an icon with nearly unparalleled history, and that’s something that simply cannot be matched in an homage.
There is no denying that this is an extremely well made watch. If you’re looking for a dressy dive watch in the $1,000-2,000 price range, the Ginault Ocean Rover is worthy of consideration unless homages are a no-go for you.
If you’re looking for the absolute best Rolex Submariner homage available, the Ocean Rover is unparalleled in its execution. Every other Submariner homage I’ve owned or handled looks the part if you squint hard enough from a distance, but otherwise misses the mark in at least one major way once you’re up close and personal.
Shortcomings in casework, finishing, sizing and design details have become standard in the homage market. This leads to watches that feel like a cheap characterization of the original. Thanks to Ginault’s meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship, the Ocean Rover suffers none of these pitfalls.
It not only looks the part but it actually feels similar to watches costing 2-4x as much. Considering no other homage company has been able to pull this off, that’s a big accomplishment.
Personally speaking, as both a watch enthusiast and as a Submariner owner, this watch has easily found a place in my regular rotation over the last month. It’s a joy to wear and punches well above its weight in regards to construction and finishing.
As a fan of the Submariner and its history, it also has a special appeal to me. I saved for years and bought a Submariner years ago because it was my grail watch, and I wear mine often because I know it can handle anything I throw at it, but practically speaking I’m also aware of its value.
Realistically there are situations where I choose to wear something else. To be able to get a lot of the same feeling my Sub gives me for a fraction of the price is something I’ve searched for in every homage I’ve ever purchased, but I haven’t been able to find it.
Not until the Ocean Rover. Bravo, Ginault.