We recently went hands-on with the NOTSAG Aquaelite Type I, the first of two accessible watches from Los Angeles-based startup, NOTSAG. Founder Laurent Chardin Rischmann’s son, 10-year-old Gaston, battles multiple developmental challenges including mitochondrial disease, so 20% of net profits are donated to genetic research. NOTSAG is an anagram of Gaston and the brand was established in his honour. Although both the Type I and Type II are accessibly priced, they’re unique, well-designed Swiss-made divers with impressive underwater chops. The Aquaelite Type II adds a GMT sub-dial for frequent travellers with a style all its own.
The Aquaelite Type II
The NOTSAG Aquaelite Type II shares the 42mm stainless steel case with the Type I with a height of 13.56mm (lug to lug is 49mm). A black DLC coating is also available. The 120-click bezel is unidirectional with a 5mm polished black ceramic insert that features a detailed 15-minute scale in red. The indices, numerals and inverted triangular marker are all coated with Super-LumiNova BGW9 for a bold green glow at night. The domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating adds almost 1mm to the overall height (12.6mm to 13.56mm) and the sapphire exhibition caseback displays an upgraded Swiss Soprod automatic. The signed crown at 3 o’clock screws down and a second red pusher at 4:30, just above the bottom right lug, advances the GMT hand in one-hour increments. Like the crown, the pusher screws down for additional water-resistance, which is 200 metres. That’s a serious rating and double your average microbrand diver.
The matte black dial of the Aquaelite Type II is a bit busier than the Type I with a large GMT sub-dial at 6 o’clock. The indices are spread in two-hour increments. A power reserve indicator sits at noon with a red low-power mark matching the red scale on the ceramic bezel (and red GMT pusher). Oversized applied indices and Arabic numerals at 3 and 9 o’clock are filled with Super-LumiNova BGW9 for excellent legibility against the black dial.
Steel sword-style hour and minute hands are also completely filled with lume, along with the circle of the lollipop seconds hand. The seconds hand also sports a red tip that completes the simple yet eye-catching colour palette. A minute track spans the outermost perimeter and as with the Type I, the watch is labelled as Swiss Made under 6 o’clock.
NOTSAG went with a Soprod C140 automatic for the Type I, which is a less common Swiss alternative to ETA – Sellita usually fits that bill – and the Type II upgrades to a Soprod C115. It’s comparable to the C140 and shares its 42-hour power reserve, but adds the GMT sub-dial at 6 o’clock. It has 31 jewels and beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a custom, bidirectional rotor sporting the brand’s logo and Côtes de Genève. The movement is also decorated with perlage. The C115 is a modular movement based on the earlier Soprod A10 base, which has a proven history of reliability dating back to 2004.
As for the strap/bracelet, the default option is a 22mm black rubber strap with a stainless steel deployment clasp. It’s a functional, no-fuss strap for both diving and all-day wear. As with the Type I, two other options are available – black leather and either a silver or black steel bracelet, all having deployment clasps and quick-release levers. Deployment clasps aren’t my first preference (they rarely sit well on my smaller wrists), but these are well executed and comfortable, and can be easily swapped out for a 3rd party option.
I was fairly impressed with the NOTSAG Aquaelite Type I and the GMT Type II doesn’t disappoint. Frequent travellers will appreciate the second time zone, while water enthusiasts benefit from the same robust specs as the Type I. Polished ceramic bezel with Super-LumiNova, legible black dial with oversized, lume filled indices and hands, and 200 metres of water-resistance.
A watch for a good cause
It’s the story behind the watch, however, that really sets it apart. Gaston’s developmental challenges include mitochondrial disease, severe autism and a GABBR2 mutation, and the brand was developed to raise both money and awareness for related genetic research. Those who purchase the Type II will be donating to a great cause, one which directly benefits the founder’s 10-year-old son and many others around the world. Of course, you’re also getting a unique, well designed and very capable GMT Swiss diver to boot, all for an accessible price. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Availability and Price
The NOTSAG Aquaelite Type II is limited to 999 pieces (same as the Type I) with a pre-launch price of USD 899 for the silver model and USD 999 for the DLC black model. Pre-orders opened on April 1st and deliveries are scheduled for December. Retail prices will be USD 1,199 for the silver and USD 1,299 for the black, so these pre-order prices are pretty interesting. All models also come with a three-year warranty.