As a active professional in the dive industry I need kit that I can rely on. In the past I’ve been tempted and persuaded to use equipment that didn’t live up to the expectations. I’ve seen fads and fashion come and go but reliability and quality are kind of there forever, however they are only there forever if we support the manufacturers.
Manufacturers are business, we often think of them as charitable foundations and I suppose like dive shops themselves they have to compete against online retailers and they have to make a profit. Some manufactures have moved their manufacturing base to countries where the labour is cheaper but they then suffer from the likelihood of reduced quality therefore they have to ensure strict quality control is maintained.
Some years ago after a having a really poor dry-suit, I purchased a Northern Diver suit that was actually dry and they gave a fantastic service but when it came time to replace the suit Northern Diver were no longer making suits in the UK and had elected to manufacturer in China. They used the sales talk as “they’re made in the same factory as O3” but I didn’t continue with Northern Diver and was delighted to receive a sponsored suit from DUI. Delighted at first but disappointed in the long run as the nice dry-suit that I expected was not that dry and despite several attempts to rectify the problems it was never dry.
During the DUI period I had started a relationship with a lady from Bradford and her family lived quite close to Otter. I needed a light suit for travel and called into Otter to see what they had. I purchased a made to measure super-light suit. I still have this suit, it has seen some action and it has always served me well.
The super-light suit I wore a lot in the UK when the DUI was out of service and I was so impressed that I had another suit made, a Britannic. I expected it to last a year of hard service and at the end of the year it still looked good so I didn’t replace it but had it looked at, new seals and a badge stitched back on. As my work took me more to the Red Sea I dived wet suits for a lot of the time but still call into Otter when visiting the in-laws. The staff are always the same, long term employees with proper employment contracts, maternity pay and sickness pay. I’m always amazed that the prices are kept on a par with the competition yet they still manufacture in Bradford.
I landed in the last week UK and a few days later I had to get my kit ready for my Malin Head trips. I then remembered that I had lent my Britannic to my son (and that it was getting a bit on the tight side) so I popped into Otter and begged them to make me a suit. I know that it was a tall order as they are busy and I know that they got staff in on overtime to complete this suit on time. It is a work of art. I am nowhere near a standard size and it fits. Otter Britannic 2 made from scratch in under 6 days by British people in Bradford.
As I walked out of the door with my suit in the bag, I had a sense of pride in owning the suit, I know it will serve me well and it will quite possibly be my last dry-suit as the years are passing and this one will last quite some time.
Thank you to all the staff at Otter and to John Jr and John Senior for sticking with it. Other manufacturers will come and go but you will be around doing what you do best. Satisfying customers to far beyond their expectations.