This year IWC introduced an entirely renewed Aquatimer collection. That literary means that ALL Aquatimer models have been redesigned and now feature the same design cues, and, more importantly, functional feats like the new Dive-Safe system; an externally operational internal dive-time bezel (still with us?) We tried the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition „Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau” for some weeks for this review and liked it more and more during the test period.
The IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau (a mouthful) is a special edition, based on the Aquatimer Chronograph. It features a recognizable blue dial that previous „Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau” also had. It commemorates Cousteau’s fantastic voyages and films that made millions aware of the beauty of the underwater world. His movies educated people around the world, about the underwater world, in times that most people didn’t have a clue about what was going on under that blue surface.
History of the IWC Aquatimer
In 1967 IWC introduced the very first Aquatimer, which had a depth rating of 200 meters. The first Aquatimer adepts to similar style elements as used for many dive watches of that era. This is called a compressor-style case, featuring two crowns on one side of the case. One crown to wind the movement and adjust the hands, and the second crown to turn the inner diving bezel.
In 1982 they introduced the legendary Ocean 2000, designed together with the Porsche design team, and like the name already indicates, it has a depth rating of 2000 meters! At the time it was the first serial produced dive watch in titanium with a 2000 meter depth rating. Today it’s a highly sought after collector’s piece. During this period the ‘normal’ Aquatimer was not in IWC’s collection. The Ocean 2000 did not feature an inner diving bezel, like its predecessor, however an external one obviously served as inspiration for the new 2014 Aquatimer collection.
The Aquatimer re-appeared in the collection in 1997, as part of the legendary GST collection. GST stands for Gold, Steel and Titanium and IWC was a pioneer in using titanium as material for watches cases and even bracelets. The new Aquatimer features an external dive bezel, like the Ocean 2000. Two years later, in 1999, IWC introduced another iconic dive watch: the IWC GST Deep One. This was IWC’s first dive watch with a mechanical depth-gauge.
In 2004 IWC introduces an entirely new Aquatimer family of watches. All models feature an inner diving bezel, which is operated through a dedicated crown.
In 2008 IWC celebrated its 140th anniversary and introduced the Vintage Collection, which comprised of six ‘founding legends’ including a re-issue of the very first Aquatimer. The re-issue featured an inner diving bezel, like its predecessor.
2009 marks the year that IWC presented an entirely new Aquatimer collection, and again without an inner dive bezel. The inner diving bezel and IWC have a bit of a love/hate relationship. While the brand recognizes the importance, both functionally as well as aesthetically, it remains a difficulty in production and service. Together with the new Aquatimer family, a new version of the iconic Deep One, now called the Deep Two, was introduced.
This year IWC brings back the inner rotating dive bezel, that is now for the first time operated by an external rotating bezel. The all new 2014 Aquatimer family features this very user-friendly diving bezel. Also a third version of the dive watch with mechanical depth-gauge is introduced: the Deep Three.
The Aquatimer is a robust watch, and the model we had for review came on a black rubber strap. It’s a large and sporty chronograph that goes well with a casual or sporty attire, but shouldn’t be worn with jacket & tie. The stainless steel case on a black rubber strap and the dark blue dial, just looks pretty awesome. It’s not extremely distinct, however it stands out just enough to be noticed; we got quite a few positive comments, “out of the blue”, while wearing the Aquatimer Chronograph Cousteau.
Without being very distinct, without loud colours and without any showy design feats, the IWC Aquatimer Chrono Cousteau DOES stand out. And people notice it and even make(positive) comments about it. Is that maybe typical IWC?
Let’s start with the obvious: it’s a dive watch, it’s robust, it feel robust, it features a chronograph and it has a depth rating of 300 meters. The chronograph, with central second hand, 30-minute register at 12 o’clock and 12-hour register at 6 o’clock, is operated by pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock. At 3 o’clock is a day and date indication and the continuous second indication is the small orange hand at 9 o’clock.
One of the least outstanding features that is immediately the one we loved most; it’s the inner rotating dive bezel that is operated by an external rotating bezel. They call it the DiveSafe system, and it’s a very clever construction that allows you to operate the internal diving bezel, via the external bezel.
The external bezel is bi-directional, and through a sliding clutch system it locks into place at one-minute intervals and ensures that the internal bezel can only be moved counterclockwise.
Another new feature that can be found on the new Aquatimer family of watches, is the IWC bracelet quick-change system. The well-known system with spring bars is easily accessible with a spring bar tool, and has more solidity with the additional metal clamp. This may look insignificant, however if you have tried to change a rubber strap before, you know how much fidgeting it takes before you finally can remove the strap. The new bracelet quick-change system might not look like something very special, in reality it’s a vast improvement.
Dial / Hands
Since 2004 IWC has introduced several Aquatimer models that were dedicated to Jacques-Yves Cousteau, or actually the Cousteau Society. Part of the proceeds from every sale goes directly to this Cousteau Society and helps fulfill the legacy of the committed environmentalist. The first version, and only non-chronograph version, was introduced in 2004 as a limited edition of 1953 pieces.
The common denominator of the Cousteau editions, is a blue dial. The latest Cousteau edition that we have here for a review, features a dark blue dial with white luminescent hour markers and hands, and an orange second hand and orange tip at the chronograph second hand. The markers on the rotating dive bezel, starting with the triangle at 12 o’clock through the 15-minute marker at 3 0’clock, emit green light, and so does the continuous second hand at 9 o’clock. All hour markers and the hour and minute hand emit blue light, when the luminescent material has been charged in the light.
Case / Strap
Being a rather large watch, with a diameter of 44mm, and 17mm in height, there’s no way it will fit under your cuffs. It’s also quite heavy, however due to the shaped rubber strap it wears well, very well actually. This rubber strap can be detached (IWC bracelet quick-change system) and instead you can also fit IWC’s stainless steel bracelet, or if you prefer you can use a NATO strap to put it on your wrist.
The stainless steel case features brushed, satin finished and polished parts. The case back features a bass-relief engraving of Jacques-Yves Cousteau with his trademark red woollen beanie. Engraved around that is the brand and model name and the depth rating of 30 bar, which equals 300 meters. Here you can see the crown and pushers on one side, and the external part of the DiveSafe system on the other side. The Aquatimer Chronograph Cousteau has a convex sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides.
The Aquatimer family comes with a variety of movements and this particular models is equipped with the IWC calibre 79320. This is in fact a Valjoux 7750, that has been modified/improved by IWC. It’s a self-winding mechanical movement, with a 44-hour power reserve when fully wound, that features a chronograph function and a day/date indication. What’s more to say… this is one of the most reliable movements ever made.
On the wrist
A strange thing happened during this review. I’ve worn the watch for around 3 weeks and in the beginning it felt like “just another dive chronograph”, nothing special. After a few days I started looking at the Aquatimer with more respect and appreciation and this only became more during the test period. I already wondered if this is a typical IWC property (no eye-catching design, yet catching the attention) and I must say I do like this “property”. It’s understated, and not understated at the same time. It wears very comfortable, it serves you well, everything works perfectly, and it does not shout for attention.
Now the competition is stiff. Consider for instance the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Chronograph (that we also reviewed 2 years ago.) Its price tag is around € 300 Euros lower, and that one comes with an in-house co-axial chronograph movement and a depth rating of 600 meters. On the other hand, the Omega is heavier and wears bigger on the wrist.
The Verdict – pros and cons
Functionality prevails, seems to be IWC’s motto, and this Aquatimer Chronograph Edition Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau is the perfect proof of such a motto. On one hand it’s a shame it does not have an in-house movement, on the other hand IWC’s calibre 79320 is a built-to-last movement. The design is not screaming for attention, but it does catch attention and always gets positive comments. The legibility is superb, it functions flawless, the inner/outer bezel (DiveSafe system) is really superb, and the bracelet quick-change system proves to be very handy. So what we’ve got here is the perfect tool watch. It’s made for diving, for serving someone in a situation where tools MUST function properly, and it looks good as well. This Aquatimer has grown on me during the review period. I already liked it to start with, but that has grown into a much deeper appreciation.
More info: www.iwc.com