Microband from Paris Baltic has established one of the most interesting microbrands in recent memory in a surprisingly short period of time. Baltic’s debut watch, the Aquascaphe, was and is a wonderfully constructed yet economical variation on the traditional Fifty Fathoms diver design, modified just enough to be its own watch, founded by Etienne Malec via Kickstarter in 2017. Watch collectors reacted by not just donating much over the first Kickstarter goals, but also quickly purchasing all of Baltic’s future Aquascaphe deliveries. Baltic then set its sights on a similarly beautiful time-only watch, the HMS, as well as a very reasonably priced antique Bicompax chronograph, before expanding the collection with a few Aquascape versions.
Everything Baltic has made up to this point in its history had followed a similar pattern, with cases and movements coming from Asia, straps from France, and other accessories and parts coming from Italy. Baltic is refreshing in that it is totally upfront about its source chain. Once all of the components have arrived, Baltic watches are assembled in Besançon, France’s ancient watchmaking capital. Baltic has just announced its first major update to the diver’s model that gained the brand prominence, increasing the successful Aquascaphe range once further. End Of Advertising Message (Advertising Message) (Advertising Message) (Advert
The new Baltic Aquascaphe GMT is a 200-meter automatic diver’s watch with a domed sapphire crystal and a familiar skin-diver-meets-Fifty-Fathoms case form, just like its older sibling. The Aquascaphe GMT, on the other hand, is equipped with a second time-zone function enabled by the Swiss Soprod C125, as well as a bidirectional sapphire lumed bezel, where prior revisions consisted of new dial colours, bezel inserts, or case materials.
The rise in movement spec from Miyota to a more complicated Soprod, as well as a shift in origin from Hong Kong to Switzerland, has a natural impact on price, with the new Aquascaphe GMT debuting at 1000 Euros ($1,200), $500 more than the regular model.
Given my well-documented love of watches and all things underwater, as well as my past as a commercial diver, Baltic’s Aquascaphe GMT is a fascinating timepiece that I was pleased to put through its paces in my Wrist Time review. A few questions have probably occurred in the mind of the travelling diver’s watch enthusiast: Are these upgrades worth the significant price increase compared to the well-known and well-respected Aquascaphe that so many people know and love? Is the price of the new Aquascaphe GMT worth it? Is the new watch more croissant et café or mask et fins, for example? Message in Advertising Message At The End Of Advertising
A Case with a Recognizable Shape
The original Aquascaphe’s case shape and size were part of what endeared it to the general public. The Aquascape GMT is essentially identical to the original, measuring 39mm in width and 47mm lug to lug, and wearing well on all but the largest wrists, presenting a vintage profile supported by an exceptional, vintage-style, domed sapphire crystal, which yet keeps the piece to a modest 12mm thickness. Tudor’s Black Bay 58 and Seiko’s SPB153 and SPB143 are all good examples of what appears to be an industry-wide downsizing trend. As a shorter-waisted man (6.25” after a few curls), I’m always pleased to see brands focusing on smaller cases and, in particular, shorter lug-to-lug measures.
Aside from the size, the Aquascaphe GMT case is finished in a similar manner to its predecessor, with basic brushing all around and a plain case architecture with 90-degree angles and no beveling or other frills. A signature screw-down crown sits in its regular spot, and the new Aquascaphe casing is austere, even utilitarian, except from a truly unique, GMT-model-specific caseback. The plain finishing is fine given the tool-watch attitude of the design, though there are probably more nicely finished watches in this price range for individuals who like such things. Given the premium associated with the new movement, a polished bevel or two would have been nice, but it isn’t a deal breaker for me, and it isn’t going to be for you.
(Many) Hands and a Dial
When manufacturers start adding complexity to well-known designs, things may easily spiral out of control. It’s all too easy to take on too much. Thankfully, the addition of a new jumping GMT hour hand by Baltic hasn’t thrown the watch’s balance off. With a 12 o’clock numeral combined with otherwise round or triangular indices, each filled with Super-LumiNova, this design is still very much an Aquascaphe dial. The new, vividly coloured GMT hand with a polished triangle at its point can really shine thanks to the simple polished stick hands. On my blue and grey variant, the dial lettering is wonderfully basic, with “Baltic” inscribed in grey, “Aquascape” printed in blue at 6 o’clock, and “GMT” inscribed in white just below.
The GMT, unlike the original Aquascaphe, has a printed dial rather than a sandwich-style construction on the basic watch. Another unique element is the date window, which is symmetrically situated at 6 o’clock, creating an appearance that I think works well without overcrowding the dial. In retrospect, this is the brand’s first watch with a date function, a complication that makes a lot of sense given the GMT watch’s intrinsic travel orientation. C1 Super-LumiNova is uniformly coated on the hour markers and all of the hands, as well as the sapphire bezel, for lume connoisseurs. While the lume is decent and visible throughout the night, it isn’t as brilliant as some competitors, which may disappoint lume-hungry aficionados, especially if they’re switching from a Seiko diver, for example.
Soprod, Miyota, Miyota, Miyota, Miyota
The addition of a Swiss-made GMT calibre in the form of the Soprod C125, which powers the Aquascape GMT, is, of course, the star of the show here, and the primary reason for the significant upcharge. For those unfamiliar, Soprod is a Festina Group subsidiary and one of a few movement makers (together with Sellita) offering brands an alternative to the previously near-ubiquitous ETA, a subsidiary of the world-dominating Swatch Group.
The C125 is a 25-jewel automatic with a power reserve of 42 hours and a pace of 28,800. The C125 is made up of a base movement (the M100 in this case) and a GMT module, similar to the relationship between the ETA 2892 and 2893. As a result, the C125, like the ETA 2893, does not have a “true” GMT movement, which would feature a quickset local hour hand. If this distinction is important to you at this price point, it shouldn’t be, because I’m not aware of a “true” GMT calibre that costs anywhere near the Aquascaphe GMT’s pricing. If I’m wrong, please correct me sarcastically in the comments.
The C125 has performed admirably for me, keeping precise time both at home in Miami and six hours ahead in France, where I lived for a few months and maintain contact with a few acquaintances. I also work with an international team, so having the ability to select the watch’s second time zone makes it easier to collaborate with colleagues in other countries. Of course, this watch is designed to be worn on the go, and I’m convinced it would perform admirably in that capacity should the world ever return to some semblance of normalcy. I’m crossing my fingers.
Points of Rigging
Baltic has always done a good job with straps and bracelets, producing a wonderful signed beads-of-rice bracelet that fits all of the brand’s watches, which is very useful if you start collecting them, as many people do. The bracelet is made entirely of solid links, with polished beads and brushed outer links, and it features a signature, vintage-feeling clasp. It’s beautifully accomplished and looks fantastic on this and other watches from the company.
If you don’t want to wear the bracelet, the Aquascaphe GMT is also available on a natural rubber tropic-style strap with a signature buckle. This rubber strap is near perfect; it tapers from 20mm to 16mm and is comfortable on the wrist while giving the watch an instantly more casual, aquatic vibe. This strap and bracelet are both excellent value for money, while the Aquascaphe’s 20mm lug width allows it to be worn on just about anything you have lying around. On a grey Nato, for example, it works well.
When taken as a whole,
Overall, the Baltic Aquascaphe is a major improvement over the original model, with some useful features. Given Baltic’s success with this watch family, I’m sure we’ll see more varieties in the future. There’s no doubting the watch’s clean, appealing design, which has a lot of DNA with the Zodiac Aerospace but not in a way that feels like it was copied but rather built using comparable concepts at the same time. This watch, like the original Baltic Aquascaphe, feels one-of-a-kind, mixing just enough modernism with beautifully built vintage design components in a rugged-enough build for tool watch use, though I think this one is a little more refined. To be honest, I wish more brands would embrace this notion. Many divers (in non-pandemic eras) go to foreign locations to dive, therefore the GMT function makes sense, while not detracting from the use of a dive watch.