Dive watches are ten-a-penny, with everyone trying to replicate or beat the success of the Rolex Submariner. The latest contender in the marketplace is Aquatico – how does the Aquatico Sea Star measure up to the competition?
A Week on the Wrist – Aquatico Sea Star 2 300m
Aquatico has attracted some controversy in watch circles, both for being a “factory direct” brand masquerading as a microbrand and for the similarity between some of their watches and those of their competitors. I’m not going to take a side and will review this watch on its own merit. Aquatico gave me this watch to put through its paces, and I must admit I did not expect much given the relatively low price point (just shy of £200).
The Aquatico Sea Star 2 300m is a diver’s watch that is unapologetic in its influences. This watch – in some colourways more than others – is clearly inspired by vintage Rolex divers and the Tudor Black Bay. My first impressions were not all that good: the watch arrives in a fairly unexciting box, and when I took it out for the first time I found that the bracelet was fitted upside down. Not a good start!
The first positive I found was when I realised that I needed to remove the bracelet to fit it the right way round: drilled lugs. This might not seem all that exciting, but once you have changed a few watch straps (and destroyed a few expensive straps thanks to digging around for the end of a spring bar) they really are a useful addition to any watch. The case itself is really nice: it has a slightly stepped shape, like the Emperor Diver, that makes it look thinner than it really is. There is a nice mix of brushed surfaces and polished bevels and it is very unintrusive to wear. There are no crown guards, which makes access to setting the date and time easy. On the negative side, there are quite a lot of sharp edges and the crown felt a little “gritty” to operate. The bezel, on the other hand, is great. It is slightly tapered inwards towards the case, which makes it easy to grip and operate and it rotates with a firm click and has very little play. I really like the black and red colour scheme, although there are loads of other options available.
The movement powering the Aquatico Sea Star 2 is the low-beat Seiko NH35. It’s a popular choice with smaller brands as it is reliable, pretty accurate and easy to service. The case back is solid (which is a plus-point when the watch has an undecorated, basic movement) and etched with an image of a mermaid riding a dolphin. I prefer either a plain case back or a deep, stamped design. You don’t look at the back of your watch often, but this didn’t really inspire me. It’s not unusual at the price point, but a plainer back might have actually been more classy. It’s 300m dive rated, which made me question why it needs a helium escape valve (indeed there ae arguments why no watch needs a helium escape valve). Personally, I think the watch would look better without it but make no mistake, this is a nice watch to look at and wear.
Dial and Hands
The dial of the Aquatico Sea Star is clearly influenced by vintage Tudor watches thanks to the narrow triangle at 12, with an equal nod to the Rolex submariner’s applied circular markers. It’s really well done for the price, with metallic surrounds to the lumed markers and crisp printing for the text. The date window has an applied border, which is a step above most watches in the price range. The hands are of the “Snowflake” design, again very much like those used in Tudor watches.
The only problem I had with the dial and hands was that the hands and indices are a slightly different colour. They all light up to the same shade of green in the dark, but it’s noticeable in bright light. There is a single anti-reflective layer inside the deep crystal, which is not domed but still pleasantly distorts the dial as you look at it from a shallow angle.
The bracelet on the Aquatico Seas Star 2 is very familiar. I’ve handled the same one – or at least something very like it – on a lot of watches in the sub-£500 price range. It has solid links, with screws to adjust the sizing and is pleasantly heavy. The end links are also solid, and the clasp has a locking feature to stop it from popping open, along with four micro-adjustment points. The engraved Aquatico text is not very deep and I expect it will soon wear off after a bit of desk diving.
I am fussy about bracelet sizing but found it easy to get this one to fit. The screws were easy to get in and out with the correct screwdriver – I’ve had a lot of stuck screws and crossed threads in this price range, so that was a real plus. It’s hardly a world-changing design but the bracelet on this watch helps make it so balanced and pleasing to wear.
Aquatico Sea Star 2 Video Review
What I Liked
- The snowflake design looks good and is not as common as stick or Mercedes hands
- The watch is really well built – especially for the price
- There are loads of colour choices to suit almost everyone
What I Didn’t Like
- There were some QC issues with the watch I was sent – the hands and dial markers are slightly different colours and the bracelet was fitted backwards
- Although the watch case and bracelet are well made, the finishing lacked finesse with some sharp edges
- It maybe wears its influences a little too prominently on its sleeve, and that might put off some watch collectors
Aquatico Sea Star 2 300m – The WRUK Verdict
I’ll be honest: I was expecting a cheap-looking and feeling watch. My expectations were blown out of the water. This is a watch that, despite its minor flaws, can stand up against the big boys. Compared to microbrands, sub-the £200 price point is relatively cheap. That makes it a good buy if you like the looks. There are not many watches with snowflake hands in this part of the market.
I consider Seiko to be the manufacturers of the best diver’s watches in the world. Seiko, whose SNZF15 “Sea Urchin” can currently be had for about the same price from Amazon. So, would I pick the Sea Star over the similar Seiko? It’s hard to say, and the choice would ultimately come down to whether I wanted the Snowflake hands. but it’s a real plus for Aquatico that their watch is of such high quality that it can be compared with the King of low-price watches. The Aquatico Sea Star gets my thumbs up – but buy it when it’s on sale.
Buy an Aquatico Sea Star
You can buy an Aquatico Sea Star direct from the manufacturer’s website https://www.aquaticowatch.com/. If you like any of their discontinued models you could also take a look at Aquatico watches on eBay to see what’s available.