I stumbled opon Aquatico Watches on a Facebook group devoted to microbrand watches, where Mr. Calvin Lee, the brand owner, was promoting his Pilot One watch release. The Pilot One got my attention because of it’s bold square-shaped design, which reminds me of Bell&Ross watches. There is usually a very thin line between a design inspired by another watch and a direct copy. Aquatico Pilot One can definitely stand on it’s own. However, I found soon enough that’s not the only watch that Aquatico offered. They also have a quite sleek looking dive watch, which shares a lot characteristics with Steinhart’s Ocean One series, but more on that later.
I’ve exchanged a couple of emails with Mr. Lee and I decided it would be great to see these watches in flesh, or rather in steel. A couple weeks later, I was fortunate enough to hold these great watches in my hands. A quick side note: the delivery process was extremely quick, it traveled from Honk Kong to Poland in 2 or 3 days… and spent almost 2 weeks in customs, but that has nothing to do with the shipping service itself.
Aquatico Watches come in a tiny cardboard box and that’s about it. I honestly did not expect more given the price of $200 for these watches. All the money was well spent on the watches them-self, which is always a great choice.
My initial thoughts on these watches were extremely positive. Both watches have a substantial weight to them and they feel very solid in hand. You can really feel that you have a solid product there, even more considering how affordable these are.
What really struck me was the sheer size of the Pilot One. I knew it was going to be big given the case size of 44mm but the fact that the case is square makes it look massive. Even on my 7,5″ wrists it does feel substantial. Probably it’s not a watch I would wear on a daily basis but it would make a great weekend companion. Despite its size, it’s a really well built case. The machining is top notch, although finishing may feel a little rough at times. The angular shapes give the watch an industrial feel and look, you definitely know that you are looking at a tool watch. And indeed it is a true tool watch. The watch is rated to 300 meters thanks to the screw down crown so you can be sure it endures everything you throw at it. Especially when it’s equipped with a sapphire crystal with an AR coating on the inside. I personally love these tool watches, and the fact they can withstand almost anything gives a piece of mind (even though I live a rather comfortable city life).
The dial of Pilot Ocean One deserves a few words as well. My model has a black matte dial but there are two more colours: blue and green. Based on stock photos, I think the black is the most attractive looking one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big sucker for blue dials but in this particular case I think that the black works great with the overall look and feel of the watch. What’s worth noting is the fact that the dial is a sandwich type dial. Which means there are two layers: the top layer with numeral cutouts and the bottom layer covered with lume. This creates a great 3D effect and gives the watch additional depth. To brighten up this black dial, designers at Aquatico Watches decided to add an orange seconds hand. I really like these kind of accents as it can really make the watch pop. While talking about hands, I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of hour and minute hands on the Pilot One. I can’t really explain what it is but it seems to be slightly off. Perhaps more technical looking hands would fit more to this industrial tool watch.
The other watch from Aquatico I’m handling today is the Aqua One. It’s a classic looking diving watch inspired by legendary Rolex Submariner and… Steinhart Ocean One. Ok, I know it’s controversial but I have to put it down: Aquatico Aqua One uses virtually the same case as watches from Steinhart Ocean One series. The main difference is in the bezel construction but the rest of the case is extremely similar. I don’t want to get into details because I don’t know for sure. I’m sure of one thing though, this case if available for various manufactures and Aquatico did nothing wrong. This case has some great design choices, it looks great and has proven to be a loved piece by many watch enthusiasts. So why not build on something that’s been already put to the test? It not only offers a great water resistance of 300 meters and screw down crow but sits really low on the wrist with just 12 mm height as well. The lug to lug measures a comfortable 50 mm, which makes it a great daily wearer for a variety of wrists. Similarly to the Pilot One, Aqua One has been fitted with a sapphire crystal with AR coating on the inside.
One thing about Aqua series from Aquatico, is that the bezel is far more superior when compared to Steinhart Ocean One series. Not only the bezel action itself is very satisfying despite being only 60 clicks, but also the bezel insert is made of ceramic, matte ceramic. Yeah, you can say that Steinhart also offered ceramic bezel but it was glossy and shiny and didn’t look that great to be honest. However, the matte ceramic on Aqua One looks and feels great. The quality does not fall far from the Omega Planet Ocean that was stolen from me back in July.
I’m glad that Aquatico did not decide to go for a classic Submariner dial on their Aqua One watch. Sure, it uses the Mercedes style handset (there is also Tudor Snowflake version as well) but the dial design is slightly more original. There are numeral indices at 6 and 9 but the rest of indices are shaped in tiny rectangles. At 3 o’clock there is a date window with a silver border, which looks quite handsome despite the white date wheel.
As far as the movement is concerned, both Aquatico releases utilize a well known and trusted Seiko NH36 movement. It’s an automatic movement with hacking and hand winding functions. Both watches kept a really good time for me within the movement specifications.
Strap and wearability
Aquatico Pilot One comes on a Isofrane style rubber strap with a solid machined buckle. It’s a hiqh quality strap made of natural rubber and not a cheap silicone. I doesn’t attract dust and it’s extremely soft. I was really surprised by its quality. Again, you have to remember that we are talking here about $200 watch. You definitely get a lot bang for your buck.
As I mentioned earlier, the Pilot One wears big, there is no other way around it. I wouldn’t recommend getting it if your wrist is 7 inch or smaller, unless you really like big watches. On my 7,5 inch wrist it wears comfortable, although it’s rather on a bigger side. It’s a great choice for a weekend/holiday watch but not for a everyday wear.
Aquatico Aqua One is shipped to you on a stainless steel bracelet. Again, I was positively surprised by the high quality of the bracelet. The links are made of solid steel, including the endlinks. Links are hold in place by pins so adjusting the bracelet length is quite an easy process. Perhaps I would be better to have screws but pins are absolutely acceptable to me. The clasp is a push-pull style with safety, which firmy secures the watch on your wrist. However, the clasp is sometimes difficult to open because you have to put your fingernail underneath to pull it out. The amount of force you have to use to open it is perhaps a little to high for my liking. But that’s really nitpicking.
I’ve seen a lot of watches in my WIS career and I pretty much know what to expect at this point. However, Aquatico Watches manged to surprise me in a good sense. These extremely affordable watches offer a nearly unbeatable cost vs quality ratio. You get a high quality stainless steel case, a sapphire crystal with AR coating, an automatic Seiko made movement, and a great strap/bracelet for a 200 USD. That’s a steal in my books! I see a bright future ahead of Aquatico Watches if they manage to offer this level of quality in their future watches. I highly recommend you checking it out at the Aquatico website.