Aquastar made a name for itself in the early 1960s as one of the first purveyors of purpose-built dive watches. Starting as a company that made watches and other maritime instruments, it became one of the most well-known watch brands for serious SCUBA divers and underwater professionals. It found a certain type of fame on the wrists of everyone from Jacques Cousteau’s team of explorers to US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, who wore an Aquastar while aboard the bathyscaphe Trieste for his pioneering journey to the bottom of Challenger Deep at a record-breaking depth of 10,911 metres (for the record, the Rolex Deep Sea Special was strapped outside, some Longines stopwatches were onboard, and Walsh was wearing an Aquastar). After a bit of a lull during the quartz crisis, Aquastar was revived in 2020 by none other than Rick Marei, the man famous for rejuvenating another esoteric dive watch brand, Doxa. Today, we take the brand’s latest creation underwater, the Aquastar Model 60, a tribute to the brand’s inaugural 1957 dive watch.
Aquastar has released a number of watches iterating on its original Deepstar design. First, there was the inaugural release, the 2020 Deepstar, a modern take on a dive chronograph, sized up to modern, if slightly chunky, proportions. Then came the Deepstar II, an imagining of what may have come next for Aquastar back in the 1970s had they not been kneecapped, like so many others, by Seiko and their shiny new quartz technology. After that, Aquastar, likely listening to the murmurs of watch fans, released an updated Deepstar chronograph in a slightly smaller form factor. This gets us up to speed and ready for the newest offering from Rick Marei: the Aquastar Model 60.
If that name sounds familiar, you’re not mistaken, as it is the same name as Aquastar’s very first watch, released all the way back in 1957. And indeed, this was the actual watch worn on January 23rd, 1960, by US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh (co-pilot of Jacques Piccard) aboard the Bathyscaphe Trieste when achieving their record-breaking depth.
When it comes to making a dive watch in the 2020s, brands usually fall into one of two camps: the modern, high-tech, usually large diver, or the smaller, vintage-inspired piece, typically inspired by something from their own (or someone else’s) back catalogue. Aquastar has been in the latter camp for its first three releases and decided to take it even further this time around. What that gives us is basically a 1:1 recreation of its first watch. The only modern upgrades are a domed sapphire crystal, more water resistance and, obviously, a modern movement. Even the bezel retains its old-school bi-directionality.
The Aquastar Model 60 is a 37mm diameter, stainless steel dive watch in the most classic sense. The lug-to-lug is 47mm, and the thickness, or thinness in this case, is a mere 11mm. In keeping with the original, it’s only available with a black dial. The paddle-shaped hands and indices at every hour are nicely painted with Old Radium-toned Super-LumiNova. The dial is completed with a date window in the traditional 3 o’clock position. This, along with the standard 3-hand layout, are a much more conservative approach to watch design compared to Aquastar’s later models with offset sub-dials and no-deco bezels. Around the back, you will find a screw-in stainless steel caseback with the Aquastar logo nicely engraved. This caseback ensures the 200 metres of water resistance that this little guy has been upgraded to from the 100 metres of the original.
Under the hood, you will find another modern upgrade, the Swiss-made La Joux-Perret G100 automatic movement, which has been adjusted in four positions by Aquastar. It’s always nice to find a less common, more interesting movement when digging into the spec sheet. The G100 is one of the latest competitors in the space, usually dominated by the ETA 2824 (and its clone, the Sellita SW200) and offers one substantial upgrade, a 68-hour power reserve. All in all, this is a nice choice for the movement and also keeps it in line with the other modern Aquastar offerings, most of which also feature LJP movements.
The Aquastar Model 60 On the Wrist
This nice little thing exudes all the old-school charm you would expect from a faithful recreation of a stalwart vintage diver. The 37mm size is just about perfect, in my humble opinion. Not too big, not too small, pure Goldilocks. Looking down at your wrist, it is easy to imagine yourself as the subject in a black and white photo, your watch barely identifiable as you sit behind the giant controls of a submersible roughly resembling a large toaster. Although it ships on a high-quality seatbelt NATO strap, a Tropic rubber strap is where the Model 60 looks the most at home, to my eye. There will also be a beads-of-rice bracelet available for when you want to fancy things up at a regatta gala or other suitable affair.
Diving with the Aquastar Model 60
I was kindly loaned an early Model 60 and was able to take it on a few dives; one shipwreck and reef system off the Atlantic coast of Florida, and one spring and cave system, also in Florida. I am happy to report that the watch is just as charming underwater as it is on dry land. It ticks all the boxes you would want in a modern diver. Comfortable and unobtrusive over a wetsuit? Check. Highly legible at a quick glance? Check. Keeps all the water out? Check.
In a world where mechanical dive watches have been mostly relegated to backup timing duties, the Aquastar Model 60 also has that other quality that we love in a good dive watch. It’s just plain cool. It throws you back to a time when divers were true adventurers, when gear was limited to a rubber suit to protect you from the elements and a 3-hand watch to keep you alive. Sure, it’s nice that modern diving is a much safer pursuit, but having a totem on your wrist that gives you even a glimpse of that feeling of raw adventure and a bit of danger, is basically priceless. It helps that it also looks the part once you get back on the boat and don your red watch cap, drinking coffee and pondering the next adventure.
My only little quibble about the watch is the bidirectional bezel. It makes sense from a true, throwback point of view, as that is exactly how the original would have been. Aquastar tells me the decision was made to keep the ceramic bearing type bezel, as changing it would require a thicker bezel and thus cause some proportioning issues compared to the original, so I suppose it’s a fair trade-off. Regardless, I didn’t have any issues at all with the bezel turning by accident, and considering the backup timing duties this would likely be used for, it’s definitely not a deal breaker. Would just be nice to have that little extra layer of safety included.
In a nod to Aquastar’s history as a manufacturer of other marine instruments, such as depth gauges and thermometers, Aquastar has included a fun little addition to the Model 60. The first 100 buyers will get a water-filled marine compass that fits right on the strap below the watch. If you don’t wake up early enough to be first in line, don’t fret, everyone else will be able to buy one for USD 70. It’s unclear if this was an option for the original models of yesteryear, but it is a fun complementary element and adds to the toolish vibe of the watch.
I will say this for Aquastar; with Marei at the helm, it has become impossible to speculate on what they will do next. I certainly did not see this one coming, but it was a very pleasant surprise. With this new Aquastar Model 60, it continues the work of reimagining its past catalogue with a few modern twists. This one has fewer modern twists than usual, but depending on your taste, that might just be the best news you’ve heard all day.
The Aquastar Model 60 is now available from the brand’s website. The pre-order price is USD 990, which will later go up to USD 1,290. For more details, please visit aquastar.ch.