The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT: What happens when a diving watch wants to go travelling?
“Great design is eliminating all unnecessary details” - Minh D. Tran
There are many quotes and thought processes when it comes to how one should approach design. One of my personal favourites is when an establishment evolves at an incremental level. It shows an understanding and importance of how previous design still holds value and should be respected.
Car manufacturers are brilliant at this. Take BMW or Audi and have a look back at their cars from 10 years ago to now. Not much has changed, you can tell they’re from the same family meaning buyers remorse when a newer model is released is minimised. Good design cuts through all of the unnecessary weight and simply delivers a product that can consistently perform. Design is king; watches are no different.
When we looked at the Aquascaphe Blue Gilt last year we had high praise for Baltic. They had simplified what neo-vintage looks like in a way that welcomes everyone, casual or veteran. But now an evolution has happened. The Aquascaphe GMT is here and with it comes one burning question: Have Baltic managed to succeed in its evolution, or have they missed the mark completely?
How is it different from the Aquascaphe Diver?
Normally this is where we break down what the watch offers. But in this case, a lot of the watch is identical to the Aquascaphe Diver. You can learn more about those details by checking out our original review here, so today we’re just going to focus on what is new. There are 4 key areas to cover:
1. Multiple timezones in one
The most obvious change is, of course, the fact this watch is a GMT, one powered by a Soprod C125 mechanical movement. With 42 hours of power reserve, 28,800 vph and being Swiss this is a fantastic option for Baltic as they’ve moved away from the Miyota movement of previous models. It is worth highlighting to those hardcore travellers and GMT connoisseurs that although the GMT hand can be independently set, the hour hand cannot be independently jumped forwards or backwards.
Turning the watch over we see the solid caseback shows a world timer map laid out. Unfortunately, since launching the watch, it was brought to Baltic’s attention that the map is actually incorrect. However, Baltic are committed to getting this issue resolved at no cost to customers. Errors happen, and I haven’t let this impact my review.
2. Bi-directional > unidirectional
Next is the bezel which has changed both visually and of course functionally. What was once a unidirectional diving bezel is now a bidirectional 24 hour one. There is still a sapphire insert though which is the closest modern execution to a bakelite bezel as seen on historical GMTs. Baltic had some fun here with the colour options as we see a Blue/Grey, a Blue/Green and this, a Blue/Orange.
They’re clever choices as they all have that familiar feel to them but they’re not overly ‘homage’ esque. Another small bezel change is the font which has seen the flat top 4 go as seen on the diving watch, making way for an open 6. It’s a small difference, but it's certainly one that plays its part. We also see a fully lumed bezel which is essentially a torch on the wrist.
3. Some welcomed chamfering
As we move to the dial we find that the handset has remained the same, however, they’re no longer flat but now chamfered. This results in greater visibility and also added depth to the watch.
Far too often watch hands are flat and it always feels like a missed opportunity to add an additional dimension. It’s a small change, but enough positive small changes can have a huge impact.
4. Time to go glossy
Staying with the dial, the sunburst & grain finishes of the Aquascaphe Diver dials has gone with a super glossy deep black dial in its place. The number 12 still remains as does the two triangles on the left and right-hand side. However, the bottom triangle has been replaced for something far more useful: a matching black date window.
The dial is no longer a partially sandwich one, playing into this watches modern spin. Any mention of the water-resistance rating (its 100m by the way) has been replaced with just ‘GMT’. Nothing more nothing less.
Those four key areas of change aside, everything else remains the same from the Aquascaphe Diver. With a case width of 39mm, a thickness of 13.5mm and a lug to lug a hair over 47mm, wearability is a feature in itself.
Something that is important to bring up is actually a quote from Baltic that came from a chat between myself and the brand representative:
“We have been working on these GMT at the same time as the Aquascaphe, they were thought together and we are happy to finally be able to release them.”
This is an extremely important detail in my eyes. To me, this shows that the brand could sympathetically evolve from Diver to GMT from day one. This watch is not an afterthought. It wasn't a ‘let's add a couple of zeros to the bank account’ situation. This watch was always meant to happen and it’s clear from the final output.
Not only does this act as evidence that Baltic were onto something with the Aquascaphe, but it also shows a confidence in their design, creations and vision. If that doesn’t get you excited to see what the brand has up their sleeve next, I'm not sure what will.
How does it feel on the wrist?
To put it bluntly, this watch has changed my stance on GMTs. I’ll hold my hands up and say previously I haven't been a big advocate for the GMT. Do I adore how a bakelite GMT Master from 1957 looks? 100%, they’re stunning. Do I understand how for many they’re an incredibly useful complication? Of course, but past Tim never felt a burning desire to add a GMT to his collection. Well, the Aquascaphe GMT does so much right it's difficult to be anything but positive.
Executing a date window on a watch is no easy feat. Every position a brand decides to place has its flaws…apart from one. A 6 o’clock date doesn’t compromise symmetry or useability. It’s a win-win. And here on the Baltic is a true pleasure, it's there when you want it and it disappears when you don’t.
The new glossy dial, chamfered hands and inviting tones of the bezel are the real stars of the show. It's fascinating how just executing certain features correctly can have such an impact on one's overall thoughts on a watch, but it's true. Through smart design choices, Baltic have ended up with a watch that truly punches above its weight on the wrist.
We can’t really talk about mechanical GMTs without mentioning Rolex. In fact, taking a look at the Baltic box alone reveals a design and construction that is extremely similar to vintage Rolex boxes. It's no coincidence Baltic has all of these little nods to Rolex. It says a lot about where they’re positioning themselves in the industry. Is it potentially seen as a corner-cutting way of connecting to people resulting in more customers? Possibly, but if the end product is to a high standard and it fulfils the brief and requirements of said customers then there will be happy people with watches on their wrists.
Something I wasn't expecting was how modern the GMT feels. The colour options are familiar without feeling like its history repeating itself. If your heart is set on a watch evoking all of those desirable vintage feelings then the Diver Aquascaphe is for you.
If on the other hand, you’re looking for a usable tool watch that feels more modern than historical you should consider this GMT.
Watch straps for Baltic Aquascaphe GMT
Let's take a look at a few different strap combinations as this watch can be massively transformed with some straps; especially the ones we’ve chosen here...
Dulas Vintage Genuine Leather in Light Brown
The Dulas Vintage Leather strap in Light Brown is a breath of fresh air to the watch it's fitted on and in this case, it makes the GMT really pop. The orange on the bezel is a similar tone to the light brown seen on the strap which explains why the end result is amazing.
The Vintage Watch Company Military Nylon strap by Geckota in Blue
Next, we have a strap option that is ideal for those looking to test the capabilities of the Aquascaphe GMT. By now everyone knows the benefits and appeal of a military strap but what makes the VWC Nylon in Blue is how perfectly it matches the blue found on the watch.
Cheswell Vintage Genuine Leather Watch Strap in Distressed Grey
The Cheswell Leather in Distressed Grey is easily my favourite strap for the Aquascaphe GMT. My love for grey straps is well documented, and here it works exceptionally well. The orange and blue found on the bezel are a match made in heaven, but throw some grey into the mix and its game set and match. We’ve also picked the Cheswell as the stitching colour is white rather than beige so it plays off the white coloured lume.
Costing £888 on the metal bracelet, the Aquascaphe GMT feels like an absolute bargain in terms of how far that money can stretch. There is just a £300 premium on the Diver for this mechanical GMT which is an impressively small increase. Baltic’s evolutionary changes are spot on. The design has been appropriately updated, the movement is now Swiss and the watch feels more modern and versatile.
You’ll notice we don’t have a ‘things we would change’ section for this review, and that's for good reason. There isn’t anything that stands out as feeling not quite right. It would be nice to see the Baltic with some more metal strap options, but that takes nothing away from the watch itself.
The Aquascaphe GMT is a simple watch. There are no overly aggressive or in your face design choices. But simple isn’t a weakness. The next time someone asks me for a first mechanical GMT suggestion I’m certain this new Aquascaphe is getting a mention.
We starting this article with a quote so it's only right we end it the same way with a quote that epitomises Baltic’s approach to adding a GMT to their range:
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” - Albert Einstein
The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT is now available for £888 on the bracelet and £818 on the Tropic Rubber. We’d like to thank Baltic for sending their new Aquascaphe GMT on loan, to find out more be sure to head over to their website here.