Off the Cuff: Aquastar Deepstar

Sometimes a watch just hits you in the feels. The moment you see it, the connection is so visceral you don’t even realize what has occurred until Paypal sends you an email verifying your purchase. For me that watch was the Aquastar Deepstar.

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If you follow the blog, you might remember that I wrote an On Spec review of the Deepstar before it was widely available to the public. At that time, I was already on the pre-order waitlist. Let me begin by saying that I have not been disappointed. Nonetheless, I will do my best to be objective.

Aquastar Deepstar Microbrand Watch Review
The Aquastar Deepstar @calibre321

Background

Frédéric Robert founded the Aquastar brand in 1962, as a sub-brand of JeanRichard. As a seafaring adventurer—sailor and diver—Robert began developing a wide range of instruments, including watches, which focused on sport diving and undersea exploration. The purpose-driven focus of Aquastar was new for a Swiss watch company, and you could say, they made waves. Among the numerous pre-quartz innovations—which included a regatta countdown timer—Aquastar is perhaps most famous for its association with dive legend Jacques Cousteau, who wore…you guessed it, a Deepstar.

Jacques Mayol, the famous French freediver, also wore a Deepstar in 1968, when he plunged to a depth of 75 metres and returned to the surface on a single breath.

Aside from being a capable 100m diving chronograph, the 1966 Deepstar’s main innovation was its bezel. In conjunction with a dive table, created by the French Navy, the Deepstar bezel could calculate not only time elapsed during a dive, but the time necessary between dives in order to maintain safe nitrogen levels in the bloodstream.

The quartz crisis hit many automatic watchmakers hard. Aquastar was no exception. The company changed hands several times, until in 1982, under the direction of Marc Seinet, the brand settled into the market of producing regatta watches, and then closed its doors for good in 2018. Or did it?

Rick Marei, known throughout the watch world for his rejuvenation of Doxa through its SUB line of watches, also had a hand in Aquadive, Tropic, ISOfrane, and a number of other dive watch-related endeavours. Now, he is the latest hero in the Aquastar story. On a recent episode of The Grey NATO, Marei said, “I started this, not to make money…not to recreate a brand…I started out of my own need. I thought that is a great-looking watch. Why isn’t available again.” 

Well, now it is.

Aquastar Deepstar Microbrand Watch Review
Aquastar Deepstar with Dive Compression Calculator Bezel @calibre321

The Watch

The contemporary Deepstar is nicely sized at 40.5mm in diameter, making it accessible to the majority of wrists—both big and small. Its iconic skindiver case (a design which originated with the Aquastar 63) has been faithfully recreated—from its curved profile, to its long blocky lugs and squared off strap recess. It is entirely brushed with very little bevelling or chamfering. Its appearance, as such, is every bit that of a tool watch.

The polished bezel which made it famous is also true to its vintage roots and maintains the same dive calculator developed almost sixty years ago. Then, as now, it remains a ratcheting 120-click, bi-directional flange. The single asymmetrical sub-dial still stares like a cyclops from its black sunburst dial. The tiny seconds hand still spins in perfect counterpoint on the opposite side at the 9 o’clock position. Even the applied indices are period correct.

Aquastar Deepstar Microbrand Watch Review
Aquastar Deepstar with Triple-coated AR Sapphire Crystal @calibre321

However, there are a few upgrades. For one, the Deepstar now offers 200m of water resistance. For another, the Plexiglas crystal is now domed sapphire. But most importantly, the original hand-winding Valjoux 23 movement has been replaced by a customized Swiss mono-compax from La Joux-Perret. The movement is adjusted to 5 positions and offers a 55-hour power reserve. Here, I must mention that the action of the chronograph pushers is satisfyingly responsive and smooth, with an impressive flyback. And, yes…they are designed for use underwater. The movement is also signed and decorated with blue screws and Geneva stripes. Alas, all this is hidden behind the engraved caseback.

Aquastar Deepstar Microbrand Watch Review
Aquastar Deepstar with Engraved Caseback @calibre321

SPECS

Case316L Stainless Steel
40.5mm Diameter
50mm Lug to Lug Width
14.8mm Thick
22mm Lug Width
120-click Bi-directional Bezel
200m Water Resistance
MovementMono-compax Column Wheel
Chronograph by LaJoux-Perret
28 Jewels
28 800bph
55-Hour Power Reserve
Crystal & DialTriple-coated AR Sapphire Dome
Black Sunburst (model pictured)
Applied Stainless Steel Markers
Old Light Radium Super-LumiNova
StrapGenuine Tropic Strap /w signed Buckle
The Aquastar Deepstar
Aquastar Deepstar Microbrand Watch Review
Aquastar Deepstar @calibre321

Of Interest

During pre-order, you could obtain the Deepstar for $2790USD. It now retails for $3590USD. However, at the time of publication, Aquastar has announced a fourth colourway—in addition to the black, grey, and blue dial variations. They are calling it “Greenwich.” The deep green dial reference rolls back the clock, as it were, on current Deepstar pricing. For a short time, consumers will again have the opportunity to obtain a Deepstar for the original price of $2790. Like the earlier releases, only 300 models of the Greenwich will be made available.

In addition, as promised, Aquastar have created a German-made, stainless steel mesh bracelet for the Deepstar. It is equipped with a deployant dive clasp and is now available on their website for $189USD.

Aquastar Deepstar Microbrand Watch Review
Aquastar Deepstar @calibre321

Quibbles

I don’t have any. But make no mistake, the Deepstar is an instrument as much as it is a watch. It is not a desk diver. It’s chunky and sits high on the wrist. Some may find its 50mm lug to lug design a bit much.

Aquastar Deepstar Microbrand Watch Review
Aquastar Deepstar on a Tropic Strap @calibre321

Final Thoughts

The Deepstar is everything I had hoped it would be. It’s a robust toolwatch with Swiss refinement. It has real wrist presence. Its design language is “neo-deco” vintage from its script choice to its indices. Its quality is unmistakeable. It makes a statement. The price tag might seem steep; however, if you consider the Doxa SUB 200 T Graph, or the Tudor Heritage Chrono—both amazing diving chronographs—the Deepstar comes out looking like a bargain. And arguably, the Deepstar has an edge in movement quality. In the case of the Tudor, the Deepstar also nicks it in water resistance by 50 meters.

Ultimately, the Deepstar looks and feels like a lost design icon. It did everything right in 1966 and it has done more of the same with its encore performance. My favourite quote from Rick Marei has to be, “A decent man has got to have a decent watch.” Well, the Deepstar is certainly that. And more.

Check out their website for more information.

Aquastar Deepstar Microbrand Watch Review
Aquastar Deepstar with Iconic Skindiver Case @calibre321

Off The Cuff articles are full-length, hands-on reviews of the watch in question and represent the opinion of the author only. All photos are original, unless specified otherwise. If you would like to have your watch reviewed on this site, contact us here.

Published by calibre321

I am a writer, an educator, a craftsman, and a watch enthusiast. Follow me on Instagram @calibre321, or read my watch reviews at calibre321.com.

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