Sometimes, you secretly wish for something knowing that it will probably never happen… After all, dreaming is part of human nature. A few months ago, we published an article looking at an unusual and quite fascinating watch, the Aquastar Deepstar. And while editing the story of this original watch known only by insiders, I imagined it resurfacing in a faithful re-edition. As I said, without any real hope for its comeback. It seems that someone heard me because the Deepstar Chronograph is back. And it’s everything I was hoping for, and more. The Aquastar is reborn!
A short history of the Aquastar Deepstar
Aquastar is among those brands that are probably not known by a mainstream audience but that has a certain aura among seasoned watch enthusiasts and vintage collectors. It is a niche brand with a very respectable reputation. Aquastar was founded in 1962 by Frédéric Robert, a diver, a sailor, a watchmaker and a mathematician. He took over the brand JeanRichard from his father and soon changed the name from JeanRichard to Aquastar to reflect his plan to create professional dive watches and instruments. The brand earned credibility thanks to multiple patents, and for each of them, a new Aquastar family member was created.
As professionally oriented instruments, Aquastar watches were only available through professional diving-equipment outlets and were seldom offered on a large scale to retail distributors – which explains its modest commercial success.
Two watches perfectly represent the spirit behind Aquastar. The first is the Seatime, which was made available to the general public through retail outlets until 1982. The second is the Aquastar Deepstar, an unusual, instrumental diving chronograph with a unique personality. Launched in 1965-66, it featured a 100m water-resistant case with integrated lugs made of stainless steel and equipped with a specific bezel with two scales. The central one was used for timing dives, the outer one was a successive/multiple dive non-decompression table calculator.
Most of the originality of the Aquastar Deepstar came from its hybrid combination of diving elements with a chronograph, as well as the unusual yet appealing layout of its dial – single contrasting counter and running indicator at 9 o’clock. The watch was powered by a hand-wound Valjoux 23, a 17-jewel column-wheel chronograph. The dial was available in dark purple and in this nice sunray-brushed grey colour.
In 1974 Frédéric Robert retired and in 1975 Aquastar was acquired by the Eren Group, which implemented a more mainstream strategy. In 1982, the brand was acquired by Marc Seinet, an avid sailor and watchmaker and the brand continued the production of mechanical, quartz and LED regatta watches between 1983 until 2018.
But the story of the rebirth of Aquastar as we see it today has to do with Rick Marei, the man behind the resurrection of many dive-oriented brands. Marei was the figure behind the return of the Doxa Sub in 2001, as well as relaunching ISOfrane and Tropic straps (under the Synchron group). After several years of discussions, Marei was able to acquire Aquastar with all its old stock, toolings, spare parts and all its blueprints and documentation. And here’s the first “new” Aquastar.
The Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition
The Aquastar is back. Possibly, this name and the watch in question won’t talk to a broader audience; however, I’m pretty excited to see its return. As I said, publishing the article on the vintage model was a reminder about this watch that I secretly wished would return to the surface. So, yes, I’m not hiding my enthusiasm and I’m looking forward to seeing this watch in the metal – which will happen soon. And knowing Rick Marei and his commitment to creating accurate, faithful re-editions, I’m not worried.
Design-wise, no surprises, as the Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition incorporates all the elements of the vintage model. The shape, the finishing, the avant-garde design (at least for the mid-1960s), the functions, the patented scales… The case of the new Deepstar is made of stainless steel, with typical integrated lugs and sharp angles. The top surface is circular brushed, the bezel is polished and so are the crown and pushers. The casebands are straight brushed and the overall design is instrumental, with no concession to modernity or luxury, other than a modern sapphire crystal.
Proportions for this Deepstar Re-Edition have evolved ever so slightly. The diameter is now 40.5mm – versus 38mm for the vintage model – and it has a height close to 15mm, which can be attributed to the automatic movement inside the case. The dial is framed by a hallmark Aquastar bezel, with two distinct tracks. The inner one is a classic diving timer, on a 60-minute base. The outer one is designed to be used with dive tables to calculate required decompression times for safe repetitive dives – a feature that was necessary until the advent of digital dive computers. Note that the crown screws down and that the water-resistance has been upgraded from 100m to 200m. The watch also features a screwed caseback that is identical to the vintage model, with the same decoration.
The dial of the vintage Aquastar Deepstar contributed to its appeal and so does the dial of the re-edition, which faithfully reproduces all the elements; the original applied indexes, the hands, the fonts, luminous dots… everything is here. Even better, the odd display, consisting of a single chronograph counter and a discreet running indicator at 9 o’clock (in fact, a running seconds with no sub-dial), is maintained.
For its relaunch, the Aquastar Deepstar will be offered in three colours: a rather modern brushed blue dial; a classic matte black dial; and, my favourite, a medium-grey brushed dial that (to me at least) makes for the most accurate version. All three models have polished stainless steel hands and applied indexes, and a fair amount of “old light Radium” Super-LumiNova has been applied.
The main evolution, as you might imagine, concerns the movement. While the original watch was powered by a hand-wound Valjoux 23, the re-edition features a modern, automatic chronograph movement. Not a simple 7750 or Sellita here, the Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition comes with a special column-wheel integrated chronograph by La Joux-Perret. Running at 4Hz, it boasts a comfortable power reserve of 55 hours. And while the caseback is closed, Rick told us that the movement was partially decorated and equipped with a dedicated Aquastar rotor.
The Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition is delivered on a period-correct 22mm Tropic rubber strap, matching the colour of the dial. An additional handmade shell cordovan strap is also included. Both straps come with Aquastar-signed buckles. And as you can see in the images, the watch looks great on either NATO or ISOfrane straps.
Availability and Price
The Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition is now offered for pre-orders at aquastar.ch/pre-order. Watches will be delivered from November 2020. The pre-order price will be USD 2,790 and the expected retail price will be USD 3,590.
More details at aquastar.ch.