Glycine Combat Sub Bronze Watch Review - A Budget Tudor Black Bay Bronze? (GL0390)
I have a love/hate relationship with bronze watches. I like the idea of owning one, but don't keep watches in my collection if I don't find them special enough. This is why I sold the $199 San Martin Bronze Water Ghost that I reviewed in 2020. At the same time, I struggle with spending thousands of dollars on a watch like a Tudor Black Bay Bronze that is going to tarnish immediately. When I came across this Glycine Combat Sub Bronze in an Instagram post, I thought that it might be the Goldilocks bronze watch that I didn't know that I needed. Inexpensive, but not cheap. Let's find out if that turned out to be true.
The combination of colors was the first thing that drew me to this watch in photos, and in person, it didn't disappoint. Flat gray is really popular on cars at the moment, and it works well on a watch dial too. Combine that with the dark brown bezel, and the warm tones of the bronze case, and it's a striking combination.
I'm not always a fan of "fauxtina" lume, but I like it on the Glycine. The dial is such a modern color that it doesn't come off as trying to look fake vintage, and the black surrounds on the applied markers and hands add to a distinctly not-vintage look. Additionally, the tan lume pairs much better with the bronze case than pure white lume would.
Another thing that I quickly noticed is that the black printing on the dark brown bezel disappears in certain lighting. It hurts legibility a bit if you really needed to use the bezel for timing, but it gives it a clean look similar to a Unimatic U1.
Wearing the Glycine Combat Sub
When you strap on the Combat, the first thing you'll likely notice is how thin it wears. At under 11mm thick, the numbers indicate that it's very thin for a 200m dive watch. On top of that, Glycine thins out the sides of the case to only 4.7mm. some of the visual thickness is hidden in the caseback dome the slightly sloped bezel, and the raised (but flat) sapphire crystal.
The lugs curve down enough that the caseback doesn't even touch the surface when you rest the watch on a desk, giving the critical "hug the wrist" feeling too.
As far as legibility goes, this watch is good, but there is not as much contrast as you might see on other dive watches. Additionally, the tan lume works well but is not as bright as a watch with C3 Super-LumiNova for example. Glycine doesn't disclose the type of lume used, but it looks and glows like Super-LumiNova Aged Radium lume.
The large crown is also easy to grip. The Combat Sub winds very smoothly, and my watchmaker friend commented on how solid the crown is for such an inexpensive watch. There is no wobble or play, and the detents for the crown positions are very crisp.
As you might expect, I didn't wear the stock strap for very long. It appears to be of high quality, with a textile outer layer matching the bezel, and a leather inner layer. It felt a bit stuff, and I wanted to wear this with rubber anyway.
My favorite strap to wear it on so far has been a similarly-colored StrapHabit gray Slim Ridge Rubber strap with the Glycine bronze buckle swapped over for the full matchy matchy.
A black Ridge Rubber strap is also a fun option to give it a budget gold Yachtmaster vibe.
As an alternative to the Tudor Black Bay Bronze
Unfortunately, I was not able to get my hands on a Tudor for the review, but I have handled them before and can still give some insight. The Black Bay Bronze with slate gray dial (M79250BA-0001) would be the closest comparison, so I'll compare to that.
Getting the objective data out of the way, the Glycine wins out in the wearing comfort category. It's about 1mm narrower, 2mm shorter lug-to-lug, and a whopping 4.6mm thinner. People often complain about the thickness of the Black Bay, and the Glycine proves why that is important.
Tudor's movement of course is a big selling point being in-house, and with almost double the power reserve, and significantly better accuracy.
As far as the less tangible metrics, Tudor's case has better finishing with additional chamfers on the edges of the case. This is, however, less of a concern for me on a bronze watch, as the patina that develops tends to hide any fine finishing anyway.
The bezel clicks on the Glycine are shockingly good for a watch that was this inexpensive (more on that later). Tudor is known for having nice bezel clicks, but I don't think that anyone would complain if the Tudor came with the Glycine's bezel.
What you're really getting with the Tudor is aesthetics that have been iterated over and over again by a team that wouldn't stop until they had the design just right, especially on the dial. Where the markers, hands, and layout of the dial are in perfect proportion, the Glycine is lacking in this area. The minute hand is too narrow, which not only hurts legibility but also looks wimpy. The hour markers as well as the dial logo and text are also too small which gives the dial the appearance of too much blank space. The worst offender, however, might be the date window. In what I'm sure was an effort to reduce cost, it is a contrasting white that doesn't match anything else on the dial. Tudor, on the other hand, had the restraint to eschew a date altogether, providing symmetry.
At the end of the day, it will shock to no one that the Tudor Black Bay Bronze has some significant benefits over the Glycine Combat Sub Bronze. The question comes down to price then. The Tudor is priced at $4,250 MSRP. Even buying used, WatchCharts puts the value as of today at $3,087, or nearly three times the Glycine's MSRP of $1,350.
At that price, the Glycine seems like a strong contender, however, there is more to the story. It is discontinued, but I still bought mine new from an online retailer and it is not hard to find them at significant discounts online (or even at Costco of all places). This might be because Invicta owns the Glycine brand, and that seems to be Invicta's business model. Either way, thanks to a discount code, I paid just over $300 for the bronze Combat Sub. At that price, with sharp finishing, exceptional bezel precision, and a great look, it is a no-brainer.
Maybe someday I'll be willing to spend $3-4k on the Tudor, but at the moment, the Glycine is filling my desire for a fun bronze dive watch and has been getting a lot of wrist time as you might have noticed if you follow @strap_habit on Instagram.
What are your thoughts on bonze watches? Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comments.
Name: Glycine Combat Sub
Reference Number: GL0390 (694-518)
MSRP: $1,350 (Discontinued)
Diameter: 42.5mm (at the bezel)
Lug Width: 22mm
Weight: 80g (head only)
Movement: GL224 (ETA 2824 or Sellita SW200-1 base)
Power Reserve: ~38 hours
Water Resistance: 200m
Bezel: Unidirectional rotating, 120 click
Strap: Textile with leather backing and bronze buckle