There’s certainly no shortage of dive watches on the market with diehard classics from Rolex, Omega, Seiko, and other mainstream heavyweights. Unique offerings from lesser known brands like H20 Watch and Farer provide intriguing alternatives, and there was a boom of relatively unknown, first-class divers thriving in the 1960s and 1970s. Although never a household name, Aquadive was well respected among water enthusiasts in those earlier decades with high depth ratings, no-nonsense designs and advanced technology for the time. Similar in spirit to the revived Jenny Caribbean 300 diver, the new Aquadive Bathyscaphe 100 GMT brings retro styling with modern engineering for divers seeking to relive the past or simply sport a unique piece. With both German and Swiss design, the watch is first and foremost a submersible tool, but a stylish option for terrestrial fans as well. Let’s take a closer look at this modern take on a sea-dwelling blast from the past.
Although popular with innovative, affordable dive watches in the 1960s and 1970s, Aquadive went the way of disco and bellbottoms as the quartz crisis decimated many in the industry in the 1980s. The brand resurfaced in 2011 under the Synchron Group, which also owns Doxa, another storied and revived diver brand that also happens to distribute the aforementioned Jenny divers. But let’s not go off on a tangent. The Bathyscaphe 100 GMT is among a small portfolio of new Aquadive pieces that include 1,000 and 3,000-metre Bathyscaphe and Bathysphere versions. Singularly built for diving, the watch is loosely modelled after the Time-Depth 50 from Aquadive’s original era. That piece had an early electric movement and Bourdon (oil-filled) depth gauge, and coupled with its seagoing heritage, is consequently difficult for collectors to find in pristine, original condition. The movement wasn’t quartz and had a conventional hairspring, but the mainspring was replaced by a battery-powered charge.
Aquadive found new-old-stock cases for some truly retro models in 2011 and 2012 with the 200 NOS vintage diver (a newer NOS Model 77 is currently available), but the Bathyscaphe 100 GMT is a ground-up piece that’s machined from 316L stainless steel blocks in Germany. Its recent Bathyscaphe 300 (with a 3,000-metre depth rating) has a massive case that matches the original Time-Depth 50 at 47mm, but the 100 model is toned down with more practical dimensions. A Swiss ETA workhorse replaces the earlier electric movement that required a battery replacement every couple of years. Like Doxa and Jenny, Aquadive is relatively unknown outside of the diving world with perhaps a little-known history. It’s great to see these veteran diver brands making a comeback with modern takes on vintage designs.
CASE AND DESIGN
The Bathyscaphe 100 GMT case is a still manageable 43mm in diameter and hefty 15mm in height – clearly a tool watch size, but comfortable on the wrist. All cases are CNC machined, polished and brushed in Germany from German 316L stainless steel, along with the movement retaining ring and bezel (a machined bronze case is also available). The steel caseback screws down and the watch is water-resistant to 1,000 metres. Replacing the Time-Depth 50’s Bourdon depth gauge is an automatic helium release valve at 6 o’clock and the GMT hand resembles the depth gauge’s hand on the vintage piece.
A ceramic timing ring is inserted in the 120-click unidirectional steel bezel. The bezel is tall with a pleasing ratcheting action, making it easy to turn with both wet hands and gloves. The screw-down crown helps ensure the 1,000 metre depth rating and winds the watch in the first (unscrewed) position, sets the GMT hand in the second position (and turning it counterclockwise sets the date) and the standard time in the third position. Aquadive’s logo is machined on the crown’s end. A sapphire crystal protects the dial and the aesthetic is that of a no-nonsense dive watch from a bygone era.
DIAL AND HANDS
The black dial comes with four colour options for the GMT hand and 24-hour GMT outer ring. Colours include orange, turquoise, white and yellow. Bold, applied indices with lume are just inside the GMT ring and the silver skeleton hour and minute hands also have lume inserts. The silver seconds hand has a square of lume near its tip and the coloured GMT hand has a large triangular pointer.
A date window sits at 3 o’clock with a matching black background and although well sized and unobtrusive, I personally prefer divers without the complication. AQUADIVE and its logo are printed in white at the top, with BATHYSPHERE 100 GMT at the bottom (although this is a Bathyscaphe model). 1000 METERS/3300 FEET and AUTOMATIC are printed below. The dial is highly legible and the unique shape of the hands (and a splash of colour) provide a bit of personality in an otherwise straightforward tool watch.
The beating heart of the Aquadive Bathyscaphe 100 GMT is a Swiss ETA 2893-2 automatic calibre. It has 21 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 42-hour power reserve. Functions include hours, minutes, seconds (hacking), GMT hand and date. The Top Grade movement is adjusted in 5 positions with an individual certificate of accuracy included with each watch (average accuracy rate of +/- 4 seconds per day).
It’s not a chronometer, but that extra level of detail from Aquadive is a nice touch. It should be noted that the ETA movement doesn’t have a jumping hour hand, so when setting the standard time, the GMT hour hand moves as well – probably not an inconvenience for most.
All models have an ISOfrane rubber (isoprene) strap (a brand also under the Synchron Group umbrella) that come in black and matching colour to the GMT hand and outer ring. The straps were first introduced in the 1960s specifically for divers and are superior to standard rubber in both comfort and durability. They’re long enough to wrap around a wetsuit and come with a signed stainless steel buckle. The 22mm straps are comfortable, non-toxic, hypoallergenic and silicon free (a dust magnet), which is perfect for prolonged water exposure. They can be easily swapped with an optional stainless steel bracelet or third-party strap.
It’s not hard to find a competent dive watch in just about any price range, but reviving older brands like Jenny and Aquadive bring classic designs and loads of character to your wrist. Although the original Time-Depth 50 was unique with an electric, non-quartz movement and oil-filled depth gauge, the contemporary Bathyscaphe 100 GMT provides a more reliable and polished design for today’s water enthusiasts. You may not be familiar with the Aquadive brand, but it has a history of first-class dive watches going back to the 1960s and you’d be hard pressed to find a more capable piece in this price range.
The Bathyscaphe 100 GMT models are limited to 500 watches with a retail price between USD 1,890 and USD 1,990 depending on the model (reduced from USD 2,490). All watches come with a limited 2-year warranty and can be purchased at the company’s online store. More information can be found at Aquadive’s website.