I’VE BEEN TRAWLING THROUGH SOME recent test pages, and realised that I haven’t included a mask since the December issue! So my apologies to regular readers who might have been shadowing my long-running love affair with this vital and sometimes maligned piece of dive kit.
Now I’ve been sent a mask from those masters of style and fashion – the Italians. Appropriately it’s named the Italia, and it’s the flagship model from the Seac stables.
The Italia is a two-window mask with a rigid polycarbonate frame. It’s made in two sections, with chromed metal closing inserts fastened with stainless-steel screws to sandwich the lenses and skirt.
The skirt is injection-moulded, using soft liquid silicon in various thicknesses, and has textured surfaces either side of the external face of the nose-pocket and around the cheek area of the skirt. The squeeze-to-release buckles are fixed directly to the frame and swivel in four directions, allowing the mask to be folded flat as well as optimising the position of the silicon head-strap.
The teardrop-shaped lenses are formed from 3mm-thick tempered Ultra Clear glass – optical-grade glass that has had the iron content reduced during the manufacturing process to remove the green hue found in lower-grade “float” glass. It offers outstanding light transmission and clarity.
The test model sported a representation of the Italian flag set in the frame above the nose-bridge, and had a translucent frame and clear skirt.
A dive-mask is about as much use as a button on a sock if it doesn’t fit the face, but I’m pleased to report that this one fitted my wrinkly old Chevy Chase almost perfectly.
It appeared to be around the mid-range as far as sizing goes – the nose-pocket wasn’t what you’d call oversized, but provided a snug and comfortable fit for my grandiose beak.
The clear silicon used for the skirt felt soft against my skin, and the tapered thickness at the skirt’s sealing edge moulded to my contours to provided an effective barrier against water ingress.
The closeness of the lenses to my eyes and the negative rake of the frame provided a great peripheral outlook, especially down towards the chest area. This enabled me to see the risk-critical information displayed on my contents gauge and computer screen without needing to lift them towards my face.
From the photography point of view the translucent skirt let in a little too much light, however, causing my facial features to be reflected on the inner surface of the lens,
and interrupted the view through the camera’s viewfinder.
For me, and most other photographers, a black-skirted mask is a better option in these circumstances.
A nice touch is the textured segments around the nose-pocket, which provide a non-slip surface for thumb and forefinger when equalising, and making this essential operation a walk in the park.
The swivelling buckles allowed me to position the mask-strap exactly where it was most comfortable and effective, and the fact that they swivel outwards meant that there were no gaps formed in the corners of the skirt when wearing a thick neoprene hood.
One of my regular dive buddies goes by the name of Bruce Milani Gallieni (I wonder if you can guess from where he hails). He took one look at the Italia mask and said: “I’ve got to have one of those.”
I’m not sure if it was the green, white and red Italian flag that caught his eye or if it was recognition of the impeccable style that he and his fellow countrymen seem to possess.
What I do know is that the Italia was a delightful mask to use. It was comfortable, delivered a great field of view and, most importantly, fitted my face. For me, its cool styling was just the icing on the cake.
LENSES: Two, tempered Ultra Clear
OPTICAL LENSES: Yes, with options between -1.0 and -6.0
SKIRT: Variable thickness liquid silicon
VARIANTS: Clear silicon with black, red, blue, yellow or translucent frame. Black silicon with red, ocean, blue or black frames
DIVER GUIDE 9/10
Appeared in DIVER April 2017