The Baltic Aquascaphe, the small French brand’s third model, was a runaway success when it was launched just over a year ago. So, when we found out that the brand was restocking all three dial variants of the little diver, we were keen to get our hands on one. Upon opening the (thoughtfully designed, vintage-era appropriate) packaging, we were greeted by the sight of a blue gilt dial on beads-of-rice. It’s a watch that (from first glance) looks like it should have a price tag higher than the $724 USD that is listed on their site. But while first impressions matter, does it hold up after sustained wear? Well, I’ve been wearing it for a few weeks now, and I can say that yes, it really does.
The Baltic Aquascaphe is, in all the ways that matter, a really good watch. It’s thoughtful in many of the finer details, and the overall picture is considered and attractive. It’s not perfect, but for what it is, and wants to be, it comes very close.
Before we delve into the finer points, let’s take a macro overview of what sort of watch the Baltic Aquascaphe wants to be. Or really, what sorts of watches. On one level the watch is an ode to and a recreation of mid-century skin diver watches, which are so phenomenally popular now because they combine the sort of everyday utility that is legitimately useful with plenty of old-world charm. Beyond that though, the Baltic Aquascaphe aims to be a supremely wearable, functional watch, something that just works on the wrist. And in this, it excels.
The Aquascaphe is an eminently wearable watch because of its proportions. The steel case clocks in at 39mm across, 47mm from top to bottom and 12mm tall. On these specs alone some people might be inclined to think it’s too small. But trust me on this, it’s not. The watch has plenty of presence, thanks to the height and overall look-and-feel, but it never overpowers the wrist. The smart proportions and lug design also mean that this is a watch that will work on a large range of wrist sizes. And while we’re talking about design features there are a few other things I liked about this watch. There’s no crown guards. And not only are the 20mm lugs drilled (which is not only handy but works with the aesthetic) but the thin-but-solid beads-of-rice bracelet that this unit came on featured handy quick-change spring bars with two ‘levers’, which meant I could change out the bracelet in a matter of seconds. Now, fair warning, you’ll likely need another set of spring bars for whatever other strap you put it on, but it’s a small price to pay for a bracelet removal process that doesn’t involve swearing or scratching. Another nice touch about the bracelet is that it will fit the other models in the Baltic family.
While we’re hanging around the backside of the watch, let’s talk about the case back. Solid (which is fine, the Miyota 9039 isn’t exactly a looker), engraved with the obligatory diver. it’s simple and low profile. Comfortable, no-fuss and well-considered, much like the rest of the watch.
It’s on the dial-side though, that the Aquascaphe sings it’s most stylish song. At the outer rim we’ve got a fairly narrow coin-edged bezel with a sapphire insert – blue with gilt printing to match the dial. Protected by a nicely domed sapphire, is the dial itself. The blue of the dial is very dark, typically navy or darker with only the occasional flash of brilliance when the sun takes it. All this makes it a very hard watch to photograph by the way. The gold printing and mid-toned creamy lume provides heavy vintage overtones (though if that’s not your thing, the other two options are cleaner takes on the same genre), and the triangular markers at 3,6 and 9 are cut-outs, for a sandwich feel. Overall, the lume itself is serviceable, but won’t blow your socks off. The rest of the hour markers are printed dots, except for the numeral 12. The rest of the dial text is refreshingly brief, restrained to brand, model name and depth rating (200m, which is more than fit for purpose).
Drilling down into the details even further, the crown is well-sized, easy to use and has a great action. It’s got a neat ‘B’ on it, which is well done. There’s no date, which many will appreciate. The clasp is a simple single fold, with no diver’s extensions, or safety locks in sight, though there are seven options of micro-adjustment. And while it’s well finished with brushed centre and polished edges (which contrasts the bracelet itself), it’s on this frequent touchpoint that the price point of the watch is most evident. That said, the bracelet is absolutely fine overall, and the aforementioned quick-change capability makes up for a lot.
I could spend more time weighing up the pros and cons of the Aquascaphe, but the reality is that it’s a watch that comes together on the wrist. And while smart design choices go a long way, the real secret to this watches success are the proportions. I’ve got a pretty big wrist, and this 39mm watch looks great. It looks just as great on friends with slighter wrists. And while the 39mm diameter is an important part of this equation, it’s far from the whole reason. Height, bracelet heft, dial proportion, crown size. All these things add up to a watch that sings on the wrist. And for the $724, you’ve got plenty of reasons to sing too.