People are second only to cyclists and maybe mountain climbers when it comes to nitpicking about small units of measurement. Where cyclists might be fine with a new version of their favorite derailleur adding two grams to their total weight, watch nerds lose their minds and declare a new part unwearable, even blasphemous, for adding a millimeter. Or subtly changing the shape of the hour marker. And don’t even get me started on what happens when the molecular recipe of a bezel is slightly altered…it’s the manic attention to detail, sometimes invisible to the naked, untrained eye, that separates us from the uninitiated masses. For better or for worse. But how much do these small details affect the wearable experience on a practical level? Let’s discuss it using the recently released 2022 Aquastar Deepstar 39mm Chronograph.
The previous iteration was quite long and I’ve also taken the green version diving here, so we don’t need to dig too much into the history of the revamped Aquastar as a brand. Not to mention I’ve even taken the non-chronograph model underwater. Cliff’s notes are: Aquastar is a heritage dive watch brand from the 1960s that survived the quartz crisis by moving into the niche market of quartz-based regatta timers. Doxa, Aquadive and Tropic Strap brand revival mastermind Rick Marry revived them in 2019. Their latest release is the Deepstar 2020 Chronograph, a beautiful vintage-leaning chronograph whose only point of contention from users is that it ditches the vintage size for a more modern 40.5mm and semi-chunky 14.8mm thickness. In their sophomore release in 2021, Aquastar surprised everyone by bringing a much smaller, 36mm, three-hand version called the Deepstar II, a continuation of the inspiration of the original Deepstar from 1965.
The third release from the new Aquastar is the 2022 Deepstar 39mm, which is almost identical to the 2020 Deepstar Diving Chronograph, but shaved off 1.5mm in diameter. That’s it. The thickness is the same. The movement is the same. Same with the bracelet. How much difference does that make? As an owner of the 2020 Deepstar since its release, I’m in the unique position to know exactly when Aquastar graciously offered the new, updated version to lenders. Unfortunately, I don’t have an actual rice bead bracelet so can’t compare apples to apples, but we’ll be close enough. Let’s dig into it.
Here’s a rundown of the specifications. The 2022 Aquastar Deepstar is a 39mm automatic chronograph crafted from 316L stainless steel and offered on a stainless steel beads-of-rice bracelet or a Tropic rubber strap. Powering things is a high-end column-wheel chronograph movement built for Aquastar by La Joux-Perret. The dial is a sunburst pattern, available in blue, gray or black, which offers some radial light play depending on the angle of illumination. All the hallmarks of vintage Deepstar design are here, with an oversized, white 30-minute chronograph counter and strange alien markings on the dial, designed to help you calculate decompression time for multiple dives using 1960s compression science. your thing The watch has the Art Deco design touches and charms you know and love, in a microscopically small package. So does just 1.5mm really change anything? Does it really make any difference, you might ask? Here’s the thing: it really does.
Small differences make all the difference
Defying all description, and certainly defying my expectations, the slightly smaller chronograph feels like a completely different watch. Well, maybe not completely different, but different enough that you’ll definitely notice. On my small, 16cm wrist, the original, Deepstar 2020 looks like a chunky modern dive watch. It definitely has the aesthetic vibes of a vintage watch, but that’s where the vintage ends. It sits big and tall and slams into the door frames like you’d expect a modern diver to do. It doesn’t sound too big, but it’s definitely close to that line.
A 1.5 mm shedding in diameter and lug-to-lug measurement changed all that in the new version. It feels noticeably smaller in diameter, and more importantly, the size makes thickness feel like a non-issue. One thing that has always annoyed me (and presumably everyone else) with the original 2020 version is that it always feels a little thick. So when I initially read its specs and saw that the thickness was the same, “You really missed the mark, Aquastar.” I’m happy to report that my knee-jerk reaction was wrong. Somehow reducing the diameter a little makes the whole package feel like it nestles in your wrist and doesn’t feel chunky. There must be some sort of sorcery going on inside the workshop at Aquastar HQ.
Where the original version had all the girth and wrist presence of a modern dive tool, this slightly svelter version leans a bit more towards its vintage origins. It feels like sipping a sidecar on a wooden runabout, on the French Riviera, or enjoying other nautical 1960s stereotypes. The blue sunburst dial of the review model fluctuates between a vibrant royal blue and a deep, almost navy blue depending on the light. The chronograph pushers are nice and crisp and responsive, while the rice bracelet beads complement the vintage stylings.
The lug width has been reduced to 19mm, which is unfortunate as it limits the available straps you can play with, but Aquastar sells matching Tropic and NATO straps, so all your bases are covered there. I haven’t taken this one scuba diving, but having spent time underwater with two different versions of the 2020 Deepstar Chronograph and the Deepstar II, I can confidently say that it performs well as a dive watch. It has the standard 60-minute dial markers you’d expect on a diver (though it’s a bidirectional dial, so be careful not to accidentally misplace it), and the large 30-minute chronograph counter is good for timing deco stops. Or any other small activities underwater. Bonus points to Aquastar for confidently saying that the chronograph’s pushers can be safely used underwater, I can confirm. The BOR bracelet also has a dive extension, which allows the watch to fit snugly over a wetsuit.
All things considered, I think Aquastar made the right move with this evolution of their flagship watch. They listened to their customers and made adjustments accordingly without compromising their vision for the brand. And we made adjustments so little that early adopters thought we made the wrong purchase. So do small size adjustments matter? The answer here is brilliant: Kinda! We’ll check back when we see what Aquastar does with Deepstar 2023.
Available now for USD 3,590 On a tropic gasket, or USD 3,790 On the BOR bracelet from aquastar.ch. Note that the watch is limited to 300 pieces per year.