Diving With The Aquastar Deepstar Greenwich Chronograph
Putting one of the coolest vintage reissued diver's chronographs to a test in its natural habitat.
The rebirth of Aquastar as a brand and the Deepstar as a model is well-worn territory by now, having been covered by media outlets far and wide. See our own articles on the original 1960s Deepstar and the 2020 re-edition. Sometimes, though, it’s important to get past all the internet hype and marketing buzzwords around watches and get them out in the real world, away from our desks, and see what they can do – and by that, I mean what they are meant to do in the first place, diving! To that end, we are taking the newly-released Aquastar Deepstar Greenwich scuba diving to see if it lives up to its rich and storied legacy.
Aquastar was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1962 by an entrepreneurial watchmaker, diver, sailor and all-around aquaman named Frédéric Robert. Mr Robert wanted to develop watches and other instruments specifically designed for a number of maritime activities, from sailing to sport diving, to more serious endeavours like scientific expeditions and undersea exploration. Aquastar was soon producing a wide array of aquatic products, such as depth gauges and thermometers, as well as some truly groundbreaking diving watches, receiving four patents for dive watch innovations within ten years. It was Roberts’ positioning of the brand as instruments to be sold at dive and gear shops, instead of standard watch retailers, that probably led to its moderate success and relatively unknown status to the average watch consumer.
Mr Robert retired due to health reasons in 1975 and the brand went through a few different ownerships, still producing watches with varying marketing strategies all the way up until 2018 when then-owner Marc Seinet was contacted by one Rick Marei. You might recognize that name, as Marei is the mastermind behind the resurrection of several important dive watch brands over the last 20 years; most notably Doxa, but also Aquadive and the ISOfrane and Tropic strap companies. Marei reached out to Seinet in hopes of relaunching the brand. Seinet was interested but too busy with other business ventures to participate, so Synchron Group, a company helmed by Rick Marei, made a deal to acquire the Aquastar brand, including all old stock, spare parts and blueprints from Seinet and relaunch the brand in 2020.
The Deepstar was relaunched with much hype to critical and enthusiast acclaim back in October 2020. The initial blue, grey, and black colourways were limited to 300 pieces of each colour and sold out relatively quickly, especially for a very niche and not very well known brand.
Fresh off the success of that initial release, Aquastar is back with a new colour in the Greenwich version. According to Aquastar, the meaning is twofold: “From Middle English Greenwich, from Old English Grēnawīċ, Grēnewīċ (literally “green harbour, green settlement”). Also, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London”. Quite a fitting name for a high-quality, green, Swiss-made timepiece.
The Aquastar Deepstar Greenwich
Nothing has changed here from the initial re-release of the Deepstar besides the colour, but here is a brief overview for anyone who missed it the first time around:
The 2020 Deepstar is a faithful recreation of the iconic watch first released back in 1962, but it has been updated to a more modern size and specification. The original was a mere 37mm in diameter, which is a little bit small by modern standards, so the new version has been increased to a crowd-pleasing 40.5mm, and 15mm thick. That thickness is likely to accommodate the automatic movement inside. 15mm thick might seem a little chunky to a smaller-wristed person, but something about the architecture of the skindiver case shape makes it not feel too top-heavy or bulky. The domed sapphire crystal is triple-coated with an anti-reflective compound, making the dial highly readable from nearly any angle.
The new green dial features an art deco look, with large, polished stainless steel applied markers at 12, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. The baton-style hour and minute hands share the same look and polish. There is a huge 30-minute chronograph totalizer in the 3 o’clock position, and a running indicator at 9 o’clock. The running indicator has no markers so it doesn’t function as a second hand, but exists to let you know the watch is running, pretty important when you’re 100m down, searching for Atlantis. The stainless steel caseback is nearly as attractive as the front of the watch, featuring brushed and polished surfaces, the classic Aquastar text and logo, and retaining the teeth from the old proprietary Aquastar caseback opening tool. Anecdotally, I have heard it is difficult to remove the caseback without this tool, so attempting it is not high on my list of things to try.
Aquastar wanted this reborn Deepstar to be special, so they chose the movement accordingly, going with a high-end, column-wheel chronograph by La Joux-Perret. A classy choice, as it would have been much easier to go with the standard ETA/Valjoux 7750 here. The movement ticks along at 4Hz and offers a respectable 55-hour power reserve. While it is hidden from view behind the solid caseback, photos show that it’s nicely finished, with a custom Aquastar rotor.
Now, on to the new and exciting part of the watch: the namesake green dial. It can be hard to put subtle hue variations into words, but I will give it a shot. The sunburst finish of the dial gives it the same fun and ever-changing whimsy of the three previous colourways, reacting to different angles and lighting with lively annular action. But that’s where the similarities end. The green colour here is a very interesting hue, and quite different from the standard emerald or British racing hues typically seen on wristwatches. Depending on the lighting, this dial runs the gamut from an apple green, to a darker, olive oil bottle green, to a drab, almost Army green tone. It also changes from an active radial sunburst to appearing nearly matte when viewed from a 45˚ angle. It’s a very interesting colour choice and adds greatly to the already abundant charms of this watch.
The Deepstar Greenwich is delivered on a matching green Tropic rubber strap with a signed buckle. The green of the strap skews slightly more toward the Army green hue but matches perfectly.
Diving in Dutch Springs
If you are not a scuba diver from the northeastern United States you have probably never heard of Dutch Springs. Once a 1930s-era pit mine for a cement company, it was plagued with flooding from nearby springs from the very beginning. High volume pumps were a 24/7 feature of the mine to keep the waters at bay until operations ceased in the early 1970s and the waters took over. A local entrepreneur saw an opportunity and purchased the land, turning it into one of the largest freshwater scuba facilities in the world. With depths up to about 40m, and lots of things to see, from abandoned original mining equipment, to intentionally sunken trucks, buses and airplanes, this wonderland offers something for all levels of diver. This is where we are taking the Deepstar to put it to the test.
The Deepstar wears exactly like you want a modern, vintage-inspired dive watch to wear. It has a healthy wrist presence without feeling like a hockey puck strapped to your wrist. Just the right combination of tough-guy stevedore, brainy marine biologist, and undersea adventurer. There is a very romantic appeal to these vintage dive watches and this one has it in spades. It looks just as appealing on-wrist eating oysters at a dockside seafood shack as it does strap over a wetsuit, getting ready to brave the icy depths.
Practically speaking, the dial is extremely legible and telling the time at a glance is a snap, thanks to the contrast of the polished, lumed hands against the rich green dial. A high point is the extra-large, 30-minute chronograph totalizer. Gone are the days of squinting at a pea-sized sub-dial, trying to sort out which microscopic index the microscopic hand is pointing at. The large silver dial is instantly readable, even at arm’s length, making timing anything from a cup of coffee to your nearest regatta a simple task.
How it performed Underwater
While gearing up on shore, the Aquastar’s green Tropic strap is long enough to fit comfortably over even a 7mm wetsuit, and straps down firmly like a piece of gear should. In the water, this watch looks the business, probably even more so than it does on land. The bi-directional bezel has an inner and outer ring. The inner ring has your standard 60-minute markers for timing a dive. The outer ring is a bit more interesting. Patented by Aquastar way back in 1962, the outer ring was to be used in conjunction with a dive table to calculate required surface intervals for consecutive dives, and was the first watch to feature such functionality. In layman’s terms, the outer ring counts down how much time you should stay out of the water to allow nitrogen to release from your blood before safely diving again. Although a very cool feature, the 2020 Deepstar comes with a warning that the bezel was created using French Navy decompression tables from the 1960s which are very outdated and as such, should not be used to calculate things in a real dive environment today. Modern dive computers are much more accurate and basically a requirement for the modern diver, but this is still a fun feature to play around with, just for kicks.
Probably the best aquatic feature of the Deepstar is that the chronograph pushers were designed to be safely used underwater. This has been the Achilles heel of dive chronographs for many years and always a bit confusing. What is the point of a dive timer that you can’t start in the water? But I digress. Aquastar has solved this with some sort of gasket magic and it feels like a great freedom to be able to press down the pusher while submerged, worry-free. The polished bezel can actually be a little difficult to read out of water, due to small text and reflectiveness, but underwater it is actually quite legible. More than adequate as a backup timer.
The only downside of the watch underwater that I can see is the 30-minute chronograph limit. Most modern dives go well beyond the 30-minute mark so it is pretty useless as a full dive timer unless you want to keep track of the number of times it has gone all the way around past 30. I found it better to leave the full dive timing duties to the minute hand and 60m bezel, and use the chronograph to time shorter intervals within the dive, such as time spent at a certain underwater feature or time spent at a safety stop.
The great achievement of this watch underwater, as with any dive watch in these days of high-tech computers that calculate our every breath and depth to the centimetre, is the sheer sense of romance and adventure that it instils. It makes you feel like you are a part of something historical and important, pushing the envelope and on the vanguard of a new and exciting world of exploration. Maybe that’s just me, but I sure hope not.
Just like the three colours that came before it, the Aquastar Deepstar Greenwich is a very capable modern diver, with more than its fair share of historical appeal and provenance. It’s a truly unique dive watch in a world of Rolex Submariner copycats, and for my money, the most important dive watch reissue of at least the last decade. Aquastar says they are developing a new collection around this first release, and if the Deepstar is any indicator, we are in for an exciting new/old era of dive watches.
The Aquastar Deepstar Greenwich diving chronograph was released as a 200-piece limited edition, which is now sold-out, just like the three other colours. The price was set at USD 3,590. For more details, please visit aquastar.ch.
Why would I want to get a watch with outdated dive compression information with a short interval dive timer, except as a historical piece?
Dive watches are not my favourite. I do own a few though, however I really like the look of this one. I couldn’t see me getting that one wet though.
I have one. The build quality and look is amazing and the big legible sundial makes it a useful piece in everyday daily life.