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Review: Aquatico Bronze Sea Star

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    Review: Aquatico Bronze Sea Star

    MicroBrand Review: Aquatico Bronze Sea Star

    Full Image Album:

    Why Did I Buy This Watch: Well, I wanted something specific. I was drooling a lot over the Tudor Black Bay Bronze/Espresso watch, but I just didn’t have the funds, and I also prefer that my watches have at least a date complication, as my job involves signing and dating a lot of documents. So I went looking for an alternative and had a few requirements: Bronze case/bezel, brown dial, brown bezel, and an automatic movement. I found this watch, as well as the Mathey-Tissot Vintage Diver. However the Mathey-Tissot had a steel bezel insert (the Aquatico has a ceramic insert), and had the word Vintage tackily scrawled across the face. While the Mathey-Tissot was a loud and clear mockery of the Rolex Submariner, the Aquatico seemed like a more subdued homage to the Tudor. I should say I briefly considered Christopher Ward, Glycine, and Zelos offerings as well, but all were substantially more expensive. Each color of the Bronze Sea Star was also given a limited run of 88, and comes with an authenticity card and an engraving between the lower lugs indicating you received one of a limited quantity. So limited, in fact, that none of the colors are yet sold out. Truly an exclusive club.

    Price: $299

    Customer Service: The first thing I do when I want to buy something is go look for a coupon code. The second thing I do is email the company asking for a coupon code. This tells me how honest they are, and usually saves me a few bucks. In the case of Aquatico I wasn’t able to find any coupons, but when I emailed them, they promptly sent me a code for $20 off. So that was nice of them.

    Packaging: Packaging was lackluster. The box was lightly scuffed. It came in a sleeve, that was majorly scuffed, and a cardboard box, inside of a protective bubble wrap, inside a thin plastic mailing bag. The watch was also thinly bubble wrapped inside the box. Overall happy with the security of the packaging, although the scuffed box is disappointing.

    Shipping Speed: This was my own fault. Aquatico offers free shipping through SF Express, which estimated delivery in 4-6 days to my zip code. They also offer DHL for an additional $20, but I rolled the dice on SF Express and got majorly burned. I placed my order late Saturday night, and it shipped the next day. Bravo Aquatico. It then proceeded to take a full 12 days to get from their mailbox to mine. SF Express is slower than cold molasses. Lesson learned.

    Utility: The Bronze Sea Star uses the Seiko NH35A movement and seems perfectly adequate. It’s keeping good time (losing about 10 seconds per day), and it feels sturdy. The crown screws down, which is a plus, and when manually setting the hands there is very little play, they don’t wiggle like some other watches I have used. This makes setting the date precisely a breeze. The NH35A is a hacking movement, and while I prefer a faster beat (most of my watches are 8 beats per second, while this movement is 6) it’s still lightyears more preferable to the quartz 1 per second tick. By far my biggest complaint is the strap. First off, it has a leather strap that feels quite nice, although it had already started to wear a little just from being buckled while it shipped, so I have my suspicions it won’t be extremely durable. Less forgivable though, is that the smallest wrist size it has holes for is about 7 inches. My wrists are about 6.25, and as you can see by the photos there is considerable room between the band and my wrist. It comes with a very nice bronze buckle, but the strap is both a consistent 22mm (it doesn’t taper), and the prong of the buckle is much wider than normal. This means it’s going to be very difficult to find a replacement strap that will accommodate the original buckle. Very frustrating for guys like me who have dainty woman wrists. The buckle also isn’t shaped the best, and sticks out a bit from the strap, where a better quality buckle would curve with the leather. The watch also comes with a very soft silicone strap, which I didn’t even see advertised in the description. The one I received was black, with a silver buckle. There is no black or silver anywhere on the watch (except the caseback), and the size issues are consistent with the leather strap. All told, I’m not sure why they bothered including it. Changing the strap will be easy however, as the lugs are drilled all the way through. While I don’t prefer the appearance of drilled lugs, it certainly makes changing the strap easier. As the box’s interior will tell you, this is a “Precision Dive Watch”, water resistant to 1,000ft. The power reserve is a reasonable but unremarkable 41 hours.

    Feel: It has a nice weight, and it’s not as big as I was expecting. The uni-directional bezel is impressive. It has zero play between the very positive clicks. The leather strap feels nice. I sure wish it fit my 6th grade wrists. The other thing I will say is that when the main rotor turns and winds the mainspring, you can feel a slight vibration, and hear a low grind if it’s in a quiet setting. My understanding is that this is typical of an NH35A movement.

    Looks: Let’s face it I bought this watch because I liked the look of it. NH35 movements are found in all kinds of watches from all kinds of manufacturers, I wanted this one because it fits the look I was after. And boy does it look good. The ceramic bezel in particular is a very nice touch, and well finished, something I don’t normally find on sub-$300 watches. The gilted indices are all properly aligned, and their lume is uniformly applied and aligned as well. There are no obvious burrs or rough spots on the hands or on the bezel, and the lume pip (while unnecessary, as the whole triangle is lumed) is centered. Speaking of the lume, it’s quite bright, and comparable to my Seamaster. The crystal has a slightly elevated edge above the bezel, and I would have preferred a simple domed crystal, but that and the drilled lugs are my only real complaints. As the NH35 is a simple and undecorated movement, they were kind enough to hide it’s utilitarian form behind a stainless steel caseback. While I usually prefer the look of an open caseback, having seen the NH35 naked, I believe in this instance Aquatico made the right choice. I also find the Aquatico logo (a breeching dolphin silhouette) tasteful and understated, present only on the crown and caseback.

    Conclusion: I hadn’t seen any reviews of this microbrand, so I didn’t really know what to expect from this watch. What I got was an extremely capable placeholder until I can afford to pick up the Tudor that originally caught my eye. If you’re buying this watch hoping it will scratch the itch left by the Tudor, you will probably be disappointed. But if you are looking at it more as a sub-$300 casual wear diver, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The bezel is by far it’s biggest standout feature, and I continue to be amazed at the quality, feel, and sleek look of it. Conversely, the band, arguably the easiest part to get right, doesn’t work for me at all, and there are a few minor issues that stop this watch from being the end of my quest for the Bronze Bay. That being said, it’s still a quite nice watch for the money, and people with less expensive aspirations might find it to be just what the doctor ordered.