More Compact, Even Better? Discussing The 2022 Aquastar Deepstar 39mm
Tiny evolutions, huge loads of cool.
Watch people are second only to cyclists, and maybe mountain climbers when it comes to nitpicking about tiny units of measurement. Where cyclists might throw a fit if the new version of their favourite derailleur adds two grams to their total weight, watch nerds will lose their minds and declare a new piece unwearable, even blasphemous, for adding a single millimetre. Or subtly changing the shape of an hour index mark. And don’t even get me started on what happens when the bezel’s molecular recipe is altered slightly…It’s that type of manic attention to detail, details sometimes invisible to the naked, untrained eye, that sets us apart from the uninitiated masses. For better or worse. But how much do these tiny details actually affect the wearing experience, on a practical level? Let’s discuss that by using the recently-released 2022 Aquastar Deepstar 39mm chronograph.
The previous iteration has been covered at length and I even took the green version diving over here, so we don’t need to dig too much into the history of the revamped Aquastar as a brand. Not to mention that I took the non-chronograph model underwater too. The cliff notes are: Aquastar is a heritage dive watch brand from the 1960s that survived the quartz crisis, just barely, by transitioning to the niche market of quartz-powered regatta timers. They were revamped in 2019 by Rick Marei, the mastermind who also rejuvenated Doxa, Aquadive and the Tropic strap brand. Their freshman release was the Deepstar 2020 chronograph, a lovely vintage-leaning chronograph whose only point of contention from consumers seemed to be that it had abandoned the vintage sizing for a more modern 40.5mm and a semi-chunky 14.8mm thickness. Their sophomore release in 2021 saw Aquastar surprise everyone by bringing out a much smaller, 36mm, three-hand version called the Deepstar II, imagined as a continuation of the spirit of the original Deepstar from 1965. That gets us up to the current day.
The third release from the new Aquastar is the 2022 Deepstar 39mm, which is nearly exactly the same as the 2020 Deepstar Diving Chronograph but has shaved 1.5mm off the diameter. That’s it. The thickness is the same. Movement is the same. Bracelet is the same. How much difference can that possibly make? As an owner of the 2020 Deepstar since its release, I was in a unique position to find out definitively when Aquastar kindly offered a loaner of the new, updated version. Unfortunately, I do not have the beads-of-rice bracelet for the original so the comparison won’t be apples to apples, but we’ll get close enough. Let’s dig into it.
Here is a cursory rundown of the specs. The 2022 Aquastar Deepstar is a 39mm automatic chronograph, fashioned 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, grey or black, that offers some radial light play, depending on the angle of illumination. The hallmarks of the vintage Deepstar design are all here, including the oversized, white 30-minute chronograph counter, and the strange alien markings on the bezel, designed to help you calculate decompression times for multiple dives using 1960s-era compression science, if that’s your thing. The watch has all the same Art Deco design touches and charm that you have come to know and love, in a microscopically smaller package. So does a mere 1.5mm really change anything? Can it really make any difference, you might be asking? Here’s the thing: it really does.
Small differences that change everything
Defying all explanations, and definitely defying my expectations, the slightly smaller chronograph somehow feels like a totally different watch. Okay, maybe not TOTALLY different, but different enough that you certainly notice. On my smallish, 16cm wrist, the original, Deepstar 2020 feels like a chunky modern dive watch. It certainly has the aesthetic vibes of a vintage watch, but that is where the vintage ends. It is large and sits high and bangs into door frames like you’d expect a modern diver to do. It doesn’t feel TOO big, but it certainly gets close to that line.
Somehow shedding 1.5mm both on the diameter and also the lug-to-lug measurement has changed all of that on the new version. It feels noticeably smaller in diameter but also, and most importantly, the sizing makes the thickness feel like a non-issue. The one thing that has always irked me (and seemingly everyone else) with the original 2020 version has always been feeling like it’s just a little too thick. So when I initially read the specs on this one and saw that the thickness had stayed the same I thought, “You really missed the mark, Aquastar.” I am happy to report that my knee-jerk reaction was incorrect. Somehow slimming the diameter just a little makes the whole package feel like it nestles down into your wrist and it doesn’t feel chunky at all. There must be some sort of sorcery going on inside the workshop over at Aquastar HQ.
Where the original version has all the girth and wrist presence of a modern dive tool, this slightly svelter version leans a little more into its vintage provenance. It would feel right at home on a wooden runabout, sipping a sidecar on the French Riviera, or any other maritime 1960s-era stereotypes you can come up with. 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, just as they should be, and the beads of rice bracelet rounds out the vintage stylings.
The lug width has been reduced to 19mm, which is a bit unfortunate as it limits the available straps you can play around with, but Aquastar sells Tropic and NATO straps that fit, so all your bases are covered there. I did not take this one scuba diving, but having spent underwater time with two different versions of the 2020 Deepstar Chronograph, and the Deepstar II, I can confidently say that it would perform just fine as a dive watch. It has the standard 60-minute bezel markings you would expect on a diver (although this is a bidirectional bezel so take good care not to accidentally turn it the wrong way), and the large 30-minute chronograph counter is good for timing deco stops or any other short activities underwater. Bonus points to Aquastar for confidently saying that the chronograph’s pushers can be used safely underwater, a claim I can confirm. The BOR bracelet also includes a dive extension, to help the watch fit nicely 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 also made the adjustments slight enough that we early adopters don’t feel like we bought the wrong one. So do tiny size adjustments matter? The answer here is a resounding: kinda! We’ll check back in when we see what Aquastar does with the Deepstar 2023.
Available now for USD 3,590 on a Tropic rubber strap, or USD 3,790 on the BOR bracelet from aquastar.ch. Note that the watch is limited to 300 pieces a year.
Waiting on the Benthos in all honesty. But I do like this new size.
I think it’s made to look even thicker with no reduction in height.
I am not sure how one can claim that reducing the size makes the thickness less of an issue. If anything, it makes the thickness even more pronounced, as it throws off the proportions of the case.
(For the record: I have the green original Deepstar and the 36mm Deepstar 3-hander. Both are very well made watches but the original is a little thicker than i would prefer, and the 36mm a bit smaller than i would prefer. Am only going to keep one of them – and am trying to decide which one).
Thickness is still way too much. Here’s a crazy idea to make this an even more faithful re-edition: remove the rotor (or use a SW510M movement) to save at least 1mm of thickness. Lower WR to 100 meters to shave off another cca. 1mm from the girth. Then the slimmer case will allow to make it 1 or 2mm smaller in diameter too, just to have even closer dimensions to its ancestor. BTW, I’m sure by using SW510M price can be considerably more affordable too…