Sometimes, you secretly wish for something, knowing that it will probably never happen… Dreaming is part of human nature after all. 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 was imagining it to re-surface in a faithful re-edition. As I said, without proper hope for its comeback. It seems that someone heard me, as the Deepstar Chronograph is back. And it’s everything I was hoping for, and more. 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. A niche brand that, however, has a respectable image. Aquastar was founded in 1962 by Frédéric Robert, a diver, a sailor, a watchmaker and a mathematician. took over the brand JeanRichard from his father and soon changed the name JeanRichard to Aquastar to reflect his idea 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 seldomly offered on a large scale to retail distributors – which somehow explains its modest commercial success.
Two watches perfectly represent the spirit behind Aquastar. First is the Seatime, which were then made available to the general public through retail outlets until 1982. 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 diving sessions, 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 implement 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 a man named Rick Marei, who’s behind the resurrection of multiple dive-related brands, which includes facilitating the return of the Doxa Sub in 2001 on the forefront, as well as relaunching ISOfrane and Tropic straps (under the Synchron group). After several years of discussion, Marei was able to acquire Aquastar with all its old stock, toolings, spare parts and all blueprints and documentation. And here’s the first “new” Aquastar.
The Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition
So here it is, Aquastar is back. Possibly, this name and the watch in question won’t talk to a broader audience, however, I’m fairly excited to see it return. As I said, publishing the article on the vintage model was a reminder about this watch I somehow forgot, but coincidentally, the secret wish to see it coming emerged. 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-edition, I’m not worried.
Design-wise, no surprises, as the Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition brings back all 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 and luxury, other than a modern sapphire crystal.
Proportions for this Deepstar Re-Edition have slightly evolved though, with a diameter that is now at 40.5mm – versus 38mm for the vintage model – and a height that is close to 15mm, which can be attributed to the automatic movement inside the case. The dial is framed by a typically 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 the digital dive computers. Note that the crown screws down and that the water-resistance has been upgraded from 100m to now 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 was greatly participating in its appeal and so does the dial of the re-edition, which is very faithfully reproducing all elements. The original applied indexes, the hands, the fonts, luminous dots… all is here and identical. Even better, the odd display, consisting of a single chronograph counter and a discreet running indicator at 9 o’clock (in fact, a running second with no sub-dial), are still present.
For its re-launch, 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, as 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 an automatic and modern chronograph movement, but quite a special one. No simple 7750 or Sellita here, as Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition comes with a 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 fairly 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 Aquastar-signed buckles. And as you can see on the images, the watch looks equally good on NATO or ISOfrane.
Availability and Price
The Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition is now offered for pre-orders at aquastar.ch/pre-order. Watches will be delivered as of 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.