2020 Aquastar Deepstar: A Vintage Enthusiast’s Terminal Dive on a Modern Reissue
If you have followed my site for any amount of time, it will come as no surprise to you that my horological tendencies skew towards the vintage variety. Many of the reasons I cannot get enough of a well-worn timepiece are, ironically, the same reasons that many avoid vintage watches like the plague. Figuratively, vintage watches are a minefield of minutia. Every single component, from the case to the crown, can be mercilessly studied to the point where “analysis paralysis” serves as a warning flare to a potential buyer. When a bona fide deal pops up, the knowledgeable victor savors the spoils. Alternatively, those of us bold enough to spend money without the requisite scrutiny are destined to learn the hard way why vintage watch collecting can be such a cruel mistress, and why we seek solace in the contemporary comfort of modern reissues.
While I have journeyed down the rabbit hole for years, I am admittedly somewhat new to Aquastar ownership. For me, it began last with a model “63” that possessed an engraving of “SEALAB II” upon the caseback. By a stroke of pure luck, it just so happened that I began digging into Aquastar history at the same time that the brand was being revived by Rick Marei, of Doxa and Aquadive notoriety. Along with this much needed revitalization, Dr. Pete Millar (author and Doxa-enthusiast) was in the midst of drafting a book about the brand-history and Aquastar’s storied involvement in the pelagic pursuits of the 1960’s and 70’s. I was fortunate enough to contribute to “A Dive Into Time”, and have thoroughly enjoyed following this new chapter in the Aquastar journey. When the opportunity arose for me to test this 2020 Deepstar, I knew that I had to “dive in.”
The concept of the “vintage reissue” has been trending for some time now, and with such a deep well of historical references to pull from, I do not anticipate much of a slowdown in the practice. Obviously, there are many different paths a company can take when reintroducing a model that existed half a century ago. In the case of the Deepstar, it is clear that the goal of Marei and team was not to manufacture a 1:1 replica of the predecessor, but rather improve and expand upon the original design. From the start of their conception in 1962, Aquastar is a brand that was at the forefront of the skindiving and SCUBA boom. From depth gauges and thermometers to wristwatches and modular dive consoles, the aim of Aquastar was to create utilitarian underwater tools. Historically speaking, these watches were involved in a number of monumental pursuits, from the US Navy SEALAB II program to the Trieste Bathyscaphe dive into Challenger Deep.
Alright, let’s get down to the details. Far and away the number one concern I saw expressed when the Deepstar was announced is that this is a BIG watch. While some of these complaints may be exaggerating the impact of this modern upsizing, this is undoubtedly true. This watch cannot be described as “cuff-friendly” or “svelte”. Then again, many “cult classic” dive watches of the past, from the Benthos to the Ploprof, are known for their substantiality. There are a couple factors to bear in mind when considering the measurements of the Deepstar. Firstly, this is an automatic chronograph, where the initial release was hand-winding. This inevitably adds thickness (the Deepstar is 17mm, for reference). In order to compensate for the added size, the lug to lug width was stretched out to 51mm with a lug width of 22mm. All in all, I found the Deepstar to be unapologetically confident in this size. Sure, it’s bulky, but then again, so are submersibles. Although it is a deviation from the original 1960’s model, I find it appropriate given the nature of the beast; all of this being said, I found it to wear comfortably. The height of the watch actually kept the crown from digging into my wrist, and the lug to lug distance, though vast, was not overwhelming.
After a few days of consistent wear, I found the dial to be the star of the show. In the past I have been less than enthusiastic about sunburst finishes, but on this Blue Ray model it couldn’t be more fitting, for a couple of reasons. The combination of a blue dial on a dive watch is reminiscent of the cool oceanic waters for which it was designed, and the dials of many original Aquastar watches featured a similarly reflective dial. It makes the watches challenging to photograph, but the effect is a pleasure to look at when you inevitably find yourself transfixed on the dial as it catches the sunlight in an almost magical manner.
The calling card of the Deepstar is, of course, the large asymmetrical 3 o’clock subdial, which serves as a 30-minute counter. Across the dial, at 9 o’clock is a small, thin, diamond-shaped running seconds indication. This is a useful feature that allows the wearer to quickly discern if the watch is operating as it should. This was quite valuable to the sport divers who wore the original Deepstar for its intended pursuits, and provides piece of mind at a quick glance day-to-day. The Aquastar logo and dial text are extremely faithful to the predecessor, as are the applied stainless steel markers and “sawed-off” hour hand. Though sometimes controversial within the community, the warmer tone of “old light Radium” SuperLuminova adds to the vintage aesthetic without shouting “fauxtina” from the mountain tops.
The market for a 200m-rated dive chronograph is somewhat niche. That being said, there is an intangible coolness factor that applies to wearing such a capable chronograph around, in or out of the water. The fact that the pushers of the Deepstar can be operated while submerged serves as a testament to the delightfully over engineered nature of the piece. The impending release of a stainless-steel “beads of rice” bracelet will add even more 1960’s charm to this already endearing throwback. At $3,590, this is a lot of watch for the price. While it may not be for everyone, it is certainly a singularly unique offering among the throngs of vintage-inspired timepieces on the market today. Clearly built upon the storied legacy of a pioneering aqua sports company, this watch carries the spiritual DNA of each Aquastar model that came before. The reverence and respect for the heritage of the watch is present in every carefully thought-out detail, and I find that to be the most appealing aspect of all.
Thanks to Rick and the team for giving me the chance to get "hands on" with this new Deepstar. I am certainly looking forward to seeing what comes next at Aquastar! Cough *Benthos" cough. What do you all think of this new take on the vintage Deepstar? Sounds off below in the comments and let me know.