Look up neo-vintage in a dictionary, and you'll see this watch...
The world of microbrand watches has taken some interesting twists and turns in its lifetime. Some of the original brands that would have been regarded as micro, grew both in size and popularity. Other brands are dedicated in creating only certain types of watches such as chunky divers with an emphasis on providing a solid value proposition. We've started to see a lot of microbrand developments over the past few years with a new focus and understanding of stylish, universally attractive and more mainstream aesthetics. One of the most popular of these newer brands is Baltic Watches.
The brand began through the notes and journaling of a father who over his years developed a passion for collecting watches. The father's son (the founder of Baltic Watches) harnessed both his father's and his own obsession to create a brand that takes inspiration from the watches his father collected over the years.
The Baltic Aquascaphe Blue Gilt
Since their first two models, Baltic has only released one more watch, the Aquascaphe. If vintage watches are your thing, you'll be quite familiar with the style of this piece as it has that 'skin diver' feel to it. Back in the day these skin divers were more casual diving watch options for the general public that embraced elegance as a viable feature of the watch. If Doxa or Panerai are the Ferrari FXX-K of diving watches, skin divers are more closely aligned to a Ferrari Portofino, still enjoyable, nimble and has a prancing horse on the bonnet, but you get air conditioning, a sat nav and comfortable seats.
As you can probably tell by now, the Aquascaphe takes its inspiration from and sits at the table where elegant skin divers from the past sit. With a case at 38mm wide, a lug to lug of 47mm and a thickness of 12mm an appropriate balance has been met between the original skin divers proportions and modern day expectations. In fact if we count the bezel, the watch comes in at 39mm wide.
The fully brushed case is relatively simple in its design, however the lugs have a satisfying width to them when looking head on at the watch. It's very reminiscent of the untouched condition we all dream of finding vintage watches in. Speaking of reminiscence, the Aquascaphe's bezel is excellent at capturing just that. Simple 15, 30 and 45 appear with dots for the other markers and a triangle at 12. But, because it's the 21st century the bezel is sapphire.
Another key factor in this watch having the skin diver vibe is the dial itself. The old world sporty design choices ensure the influence of this piece is duly noted. Much like the bezel, simple aesthetics executed in a considered manner is the name of the game here. An understated sunburst blue dial acts as the backdrop with the gilt coloured seconds track, partial sandwich construction and triangle indices at 3,6 and 9 being the main act. An unobtrusive and elegant handset ensures the watch effectively portrays the essence of vintage watches it's so desperate to capture. And of course the watch has a double domed sapphire crystal.
Powering this neo-vintage watch is the Miyota 9039 which is the slimmer, dateless brother to the 9015. This popular 24 jewel movement for the microbrand world comes with 42 hours of power reserve and 28,800 vph. It's a solid movement and a logical choice for Baltic. The movement is operated through a screw-down crown which drops any sign of crown guards. A simple yet effective way of driving home the vintage dialogue of the Aquascaphe. All of these neat vintage vibes are wrapped up in a 200m water resistance package.
Baltic still only has three models, but through dial colours, case finishes and variations in design they have ensured these three models are all successful and well-received. Much like Yema has done with the Superman, Baltic have found a gem in their first three watches and simply built on these to ensure there is plenty of choices. Whenever I see a brand do this it tells me there is something special and worth looking at in that watch.
what is it really like in person?The whole experience of owning and wearing this watch is one deeply rooted in the desire for the genuine 'vintage feel'. The experience begins as soon as the watch arrives and you open the old school style watch box. Once the watch is out of this traditional style box you're then securing the simple fold-over buckle. Once secured, the beads of rice bracelet is smooth, soft and delicate to touch. It might not sound like much, but all of these small aspects have important parts to play in making this watch feel like a watch that has survived decades of use. And of course, the watches design which takes everything beautifully purposeful about traditional diving watches and offers it in this obtainable package.
It sounds like a huge cliché, but there is no doubting this watch had the ability to feel vintage. And it will put your mind at rest knowing if you knock the watch something isn't going to go wrong and take it out of action.
Interestingly though, for many of the 'vintage touches' the Baltic has, there are modern ones to counteract them. The traditionally designed dial is balanced out by a sapphire bezel and strong lume. What about the case with its drilled lugs? Well, that is offset by a quick release spring bar metal strap. And that is not even mentioning the solid metal strap with solid curved ends with 7 micro-adjustments, a case with a more conventional size and a fantastically reliable and easily serviceable movement.
Yes, the Baltic has everything that is great about vintage styling combined with the convenience and reassurance of today. In 2019 we spent some time with a Baltic BiCompax 001 (check that out here). This felt extremely like a vintage watch. But the Aquascaphe has nailed the 'nod to vintage' that is so desirable.
Watch Straps for the Baltic Aquascaphe Diver
With both a quick-release metal strap and drilled lugs, it's clear this Baltic is set up to enjoy a few strap changes in its life. In fact, the watch is available on a tropic style rubber strap if you really want to go all-in on the skin diver look. We start from a great place with the Baltic as there are many directions we can take the watch, let's jump straight into a few of our favourite straps.
Simple Handmade Italian Leather Watch Strap - Chocolate Brown
Let's start with a classic from our range, the Simple Handmade Leather in Reddish Brown. This is one of the longest-standing products available on the site that continues to be loved by many collectors. As the name suggests it's a simple watch strap being a piece of thick Italian leather with a few stitches around the lugs and tail of the strap and a solid buckle. However, the beauty in this strap is how it ages and softens over time. A classic choice that is a different take on a casual look for the Aquascaphe.
Sennen Military Nylon Watch Strap By ZULUDIVER in Blue / Beige
This next combo is simply game set and match. The Sennen in Blue & Beige matches the Baltic so perfectly, it's incredible that this isn't a standard offering with the watch. The Sennen is actually made up of three stitching colours; Black, Blue and Beige. Looking closely at the strap you'll see that the blue in the strap is actually a blue/black horizontal mix. This is perfect for a sunburst dial as these dials shift from dark blue almost black tones to bright blues depending on the light. Combine this with the great similarity in the beige stripe and the lume on the watch and the outcome is flawless. A real must for the Aquascaphe.
Vintage Highley Genuine Leather Watch Strap in
If you're looking for the Aquascaphe to become a daily wearer for you, you'll want to make sure you grab a Vintage Highley Leather. Padding is the name of the game here and the Highley is one of the best to do it. Another reason this is a go-to pick is down to the stitching colour and how well it matches the yellow lume of the watch. If you want to smarten the Baltic up a little, this is the strap for you.
Baltic Aquascaphe Alternatives
Coming in at £720 (or £634 on their Tropic strap), the Baltic sits at an awkwardly competitive price point. The £500 - £1,000 price point offers some incredible value from a range of different purchases. So if you want a similar watch in design, concept and price, what are some other options?
An obvious comparison (and one that is asked a lot online) to make as these two watches share a lot of similarities from price points, styles and appealing looks. They're both neo-vintage watches that effectively look backwards to propel themselves forward. The main difference here worth talking about is simply history. Baltic was founded in 2017 and look to evoke the feeling of a watch from the 60s in the Aquascaphe whereas the Superman design actually is from the 60s. Both models are available within a few hundred pounds of each other, both on metal bracelets and both offer elegance and timeless looks. A tough comparison, and one we will be re-visiting in more detail soon.
Geckota Airstream Gen2 WatchA hugely attractive aspect of the Baltic Aquascaphe is its personality helped by the choice of inspiration. Well, if that is a huge win in your eyes, the Geckota Airstream Gen 2 will also float your boat. Powered by the same 9039 Miyota movement the E-01 Gen2 is the more sporty and characterful development of the Gen1. With a size that wears similar to the Baltic (37mm with bezel and a lug to lug of 45.3mm) the E-01 has effectively captured the charm of skin divers.
Retail price: £349 here.
Why not go for genuine vintage?
If you're looking to spend around the £700 mark for a watch, there are lots of genuine vintage models that can be had, especially when it comes to skin divers. Above is a Calvy Diver coming in at 37mm wide and being powered by the ETA 2472. The condition looks very honest and untouched, even the minute hand has lume missing which is good to see on a vintage watch. Or how about this, the Potens Squale Diver which uses a case from Squale and has a bakelite bezel? Or does this Erguel Diver tempt you? The point being for a similar price to the Baltic, genuine vintage watches are out there and available. Where these watches could bite you however is in servicing, reliability, condition and longevity of parts.
Retail price: Ranges from £645 - £775 here for the Potens, Calvy and Erguel.
Final thoughts - Is it worth the money?
The Aquascaphe (and Baltic as a brand) offer a lot of fantastic features that are extremely compelling. With all of the clever design choices that evoke feelings of a bygone era the Aquascaphe is a watch for many enthusiasts. If you're a casual passing fan of vintage watches or you're looking to take your first steps in vintage horology, Baltic watches make the process friendly and welcoming.
You won't need to worry about if a watch has been polished if the dial is a replacement, has it been serviced recently or even if it's a genuine watch at all. Baltic makes enjoying vintage simple, approachable, reliable and stylish. What more could you ask for?
The Baltic Blue Aquascape is now available online starting from £634. We'd like to thank Baltic for sending the Blue Aquascaphe Diver on loan for this review. To find out more and order yours, click here.]