The time came recently for me to buy a new dive watch so I went to see Matt Lind at Splash and check out what they had on offer. Matt confidently strolled over to the spearfishing display corner and pulled out the Sherwood Amphos. Air, check. Nitrox, check. Custom mixes, preset alarms, stopwatch, it's all there. The Amphos has all the whiz-bangs you could ask for. That said, I'm a spearfisherman. We are a simple bunch and have only a few, but essential needs when it comes to dive watches. At first I was slightly dubious about a watch that had a variety of scuba modes plus a freedive mode. I don't want the company that makes my watch to think of me as a red-headed step child. Despite my doubts, I knew Matt wouldn't lead me astray, so I pulled the trigger on the Amphos.
Fast forward a bit. I've been using the Amphos day after day leading up to the Spearfishing National Champs and I'm stoked. It seems the folks at Sherwood have done their research. The freedive mode is no black sheep. Laying on a weedline or hanging on the edge of a craggy pin, I get instant depth and dive time with just a glance thanks to the very large display numerals. Back at the surface, I'm taken straight to my surface interval time, again in large numerals (not a tiny afterthought up at the top like on some watches). Previous dive stats are a single button push away, which is super easy even with gloved hands thanks to the large, positive-click buttons. A second click gives you the water temperature and time - the latter being critical information in a competition setting. Without touching the watch again, it automatically takes you back to the current dive page.
Another great feature is the wet-activate setting, which I turned on right at the beginning. Unlike other watches, the Amphos doesn't go straight into dive mode after being wet, but rather only after a dive below 1.5 m. And the Amphos returns to normal watch mode after a period of non-use. This is very helpful if you're prone to leaving your watch in a wet dive bag - no more dead battery suprises with the Amphos!
To wrap it all up in a few words, the Amphos is extremely user friendly in the water, which is really the whole point of having a wrist computer in the first place.
Of course nothing is perfect and it's worth pointing out a few things I've noticed. First off, the Amphos is pretty big. Wearing it downtown Friday night will certainly draw questions, perhaps even from the fairer sex, but answering those probably won't place you any farther up the ladder. So no double-duty as a casual wrist watch. It also doesn't come in any flash colours or shiny metallic versions for dandy divers. On the tech side, the organizational format of the various modes takes a bit of learning and the manual is very detailed and hard to focus on when you've got the "new toy" jitters.
That said, the positives abound. The inevitable first question with a computer is all about dollars and cents, the answer to which was a pleasantly low figure, especially compared to other watches out there. Despite its size, this is a lightweight watch, so no need to take lead off your belt. There's also nice little video about the Amphos on the interweb for the manual-averse, which I recommend checking out. After I spent a few minutes sorting out how to use the Amphos, I had a eureka moment where I understood how the structure makes it extremely efficient to get to all the information you need and not have to cycle though the stuff you don't. Without getting into the organizational detail, let's just say it works a treat and makes for a much better experience in the water. Other nice things include a strap extension (for use with thick suits or tree-trunk wrists) and a totally clear display protector which works much like a screen protector for smart phones. The battery is also user-changeable and comes with an easy-to-use tool to open up the back.
The Verdict: the Sherwood Amphos is definitely a serious tool for spearfishermen. It gives you all the right information at the right time and it's easy to use in the water. Hats off to Sherwood for doing their research and giving us a proper tool at a great price.
About the Reviewer: Kolt Johnson is one of the top divers in New Zealand and at the time of writing has just placed 5th in the National Champs and won the Lake Taupo Catfish Cull. Originally from Florida he has dived throughout the US, NZ, Pacific and Europe.
For the record he paid for his watch.