When the Deepstar 2020 was released, it was almost unanimously praised for the faithful recreation of one of the most iconic dive watches ever. Except for one thing. The size. It was 41mm wide, without the crown and 51mm lug to lug and topped out at 17mm in height and weighed an impressive 183 grams on a bracelet sized for a 6.75 inch wrist. However notwithstanding the size it wore incredibly well even for the wrist size challenged amongst us and when the Beads of Rice (BOR) bracelet was released and paired with it, it wore even better.
Questions were asked as to why the increased size. Why not make it the same size as the original Deepstar which was 37mm, without the crown and 47mm lug to lug? The answer was the movement. In order to accommodate the new automatic, La Joux-Perret movement the case had to be scaled up and in order to keep the dimensional ratios the same, the case got big.
Aquastar listened to what people were saying and wondered how they could make a vintage sized Deepstar. They spoke to Mark Jasinski, the manager of the Aquastar R and D department from 1962 to 1964 and the designer of the Deepstar’s Decompression bezel and asked what he thought the next vintage Deepstar would have been.
Marc’s answer may have surprised people, but it made perfect sense. The Deepstar was a dive watch with a Chronograph function. It wasn’t a true multi compax Chronograph as it only had a 30 minute timer. It also couldn’t be operated underwater. What made the Deepstar arguably the most innovative dive watch of the era wasn’t the Chronograph function, it was the Decompression bezel and you didn’t need the chronograph in order to use it. It would have been a logical progression to make a Deepstar without the Chronograph function.
For anyone who wants to understand how the bezel operated, Aquastar have the instructions on their website, here: https://aquastar.ch/the-deepstar-bezel/
Fast forward almost 2 years and Aquastar have released the Deepstar II and it really is a legitimate successor to both the vintage Deepstar and the 2020 version. I referred to the Deepstar 2020 as a modern classic, well the Deepstar II is a classic modern! It is almost as if Aquastar found the watch in the bottom of a drawer that hadn’t been opened for 50 years. It is available with black, grey and blue dials. The blue dial has the most pronounced sunburst effect and changes color like a chameleon depending on the lighting conditions. And this is where I think Aquastar made a wise decision. Each watch will be numbered but the Deepstar II is not a limited Edition. There are only 300 of each color being produced in the first batch. This leaves the door open to produce more of these colors at a later date and I’m hoping other dial colors like silver and Greenwich green are produced and as usual my wife wants a fire engine red dial version.
So let’s get the big question out of the way: is it not too small? Well, in total honesty, when I first picked up the watch I was wearing the Deepstar 2020 which is probably close to being the biggest watch I own and my first impression was that the Deepstar II was quite small. But now having worn it for a number of days, my feeling is that other watches are quite big. The watch was designed with specific intentions. It is a vintage sized watch (37mm x 47mm x 13.3mm high and 19mm lugs), weighs like a vintage watch at 138 grams with the BOR bracelet sized for a 6.75 inch wrist, wears like a vintage watch and looks like a vintage watch. The case shape is the classic Aquastar elongated lugs case which was also used by other manufacturers at the time and defines an era of vintage watches. The thing to realize is that the dial size is approx 28.5mm which is actually larger than some ‘bigger’ watches. The Synchron Military has a dial size of 26.8, the Rolex Sea-Dweller is 27mm and the DOXA SUB 300T is 27mm. NOTE: I’m measuring the visible dial size not the actual size as it will be larger but partially hidden by the case.
The Deepstar II is smaller and lighter than the 2020 and wears so much better for my sized wrist. I don’t know what started the megapixel race equivalent with dive watches but for skinny wristers like me it is nice to see watches that you can put on and forget about. Maybe this is the start of a downward size trend. The days of the hockey puck sized watch could be numbered!
The other thing about a vintage sized watch is that it really can be classed as unisex. Within minutes of the watch arriving, my wife hit me with her classic line: “could you resize the bracelet to see if it fits me”. Normally that means the watch becomes a co-share watch, my wife speak for: “it’s mine, keep your hands off!” Yes I did resize the bracelet and you can see how it wears. But… she didn’t get to keep this one. It is just too nice a watch to give up without getting a couple of weeks wear out of it. I resized the bracelet again for me.
So I could wax lyrically about how the size compared to other watches and what it is like, but a picture is worth a thousand words so here are a number of well known watches to compare it against.
Vintage DOXA SUB 300
Seiko 6105-8000 and 6138-8020
How many people looking at it for the first time without a Deepstar 2020 to compare, missed the fact that there were no Chronograph pushers and that the ‘Big Eye’ was on the left side of the dial? I did, and having written the Aquastar book and looked at a multitude of vintage and modern Deepstar images, you would have thought that I would have caught the difference instantly. I didn’t!
Like the Deepstar 2020, the Deepstar II has a signed screw down crown (6.2mm x 3.5mm) and is good for a depth of 200 Meters. Ignore the numbers and words on the outer ring of the bezel and you will see the inner ring can be used as a 60 minute timer. The only thing that, for some people, would stop the watch being classed as a true modern dive watch is that the bezel rotates both ways. This was normal for most dive watches produced at the beginning of the 1960s, but they quickly changed to uni-directional bezels, which were safer as they couldn’t be moved counter clockwise and erroneously indicate that you had been underwater for less time than you actually had been. The vintage Deepstar bezel was designed to be bi-directional. The modern Deepstars follow that tradition.
Behind the classic Aquastar 18 point caseback, here seen beside the one on the Aquastar 60 from around 1961, beats a non-date version of a Sellita SW-290, which has 31 jewels, runs at 28,800 bph and has a power reserve of 38 hours. For those people who have ETA envy, there are a couple of things to consider. Sellita are arguably as good a Swiss movement manufacturer as ETA and since ETA movements are no longer supplied to anyone outside the Swatch organization, you will see more and more watch producers turning to alternative movement purveyors.
The Deepstar II is available in 2 options, with a signed BOR bracelet or a matching color Tropic strap. My watch arrived with the BOR bracelet and a blue signed ballistic nylon NATO strap. As averse as I am to straps, I did put it on and try it. It is actually, comfortable and matches the dial very well, but I’m a bracelet guy and the BOR was back on the watch within the hour. The warranty card is also pretty neat in that it has a concealed USB drive which holds the operating instructions for the watch and the Decompression bezel.
The BOR bracelet is very similar in construction to the one for the Deepstar 2020, the difference being it is 19mm and does not have a divers’ extension. Rather than write about the bracelet, I’ll refer you to the review of the 2020 bracelet here: https://adiveintotime.com/beads-of-rice-bracelet/
The domed crystal on the Deepstar II is also nicely done. It is a triple coated Anti-Reflective sapphire and there is very little distortion that many others show. The dial is clear even at a low angle.
One of the design elements that allows the watch to wear so comfortably is the flat caseback which is on the same plane as the ends of the lugs. There is no wobbling top effect, the Deepstar II just hugs the wrist. I tend to wear my watches loose so I’m often aware of it interacting with my Ulnar Styloid (boney bump on the little finger side of your wrist). The bigger and heavier the watch, the more I’m aware of it. With the Deepstar II, many times I had forgotten I was wearing it. Of course the watch also looks like a classy piece of wrist wear, it just demands that you look at it and I did find myself looking at it a lot and not just to tell the time.
The acid test for me of how comfortable a watch is to wear is if I take it off immediately when I come home. I was gobsmacked to find that there were days when I was still wearing the Deepstar II at bedtime.
So how is the lume on the Deepstar II? I thought a fair test would be to compare it with three of the newest watches I own. I really didn’t give the lume a ‘proper’ charge. I just held a lamp over the watches for about one minute and in full disclosure, when I started the test, the DOXA was so low on luminosity I gave it another 20 seconds to boost the brightness. The image below tells the tale. After 30 minutes the two Deepstars are still readable, while the Synchron Military and DOXA SUB 300T have faded badly. Obviously as Super-LumiNova is energized by light, giving the watches a blast for, say, five minutes would have extended the glow considerably, but for a ‘quick and dirty’ test, the Deepstars are best of the bunch.
Is the Deepstar II for everyone? Absolutely not but given how the Aquastar website groaned under the strain the day it was released and how quickly the pre-orders sold out, I’m assuming a bunch of people are liking it.
When you look at a fraction of the watches that Aquastar produced in their golden age of the 1960s and 1970s, you have to say that the future is indeed bright.
The Deepstar II was available at https://aquastar.ch/