French independent brand Baltic may very well be credited for ushering in the age of neo-vintage. Whether it’s a trendsetter or merely has its finger on the pulse of industry preferences, Baltic just can’t seem to lose. Each new release hones the brand’s image and further cements its place as a heavy hitter in the microbrand world (and beyond). The Baltic Aquascaphe line emulates 1950s dive watches, and mid-century ads from the likes of Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms will clue enthusiasts into the design cues for Baltic founder Etienne Malec. The vibe of these divers is reminiscent of a time when watches were tough, and the men who wore them were tougher — in our collective memory, at least. Joining the bronze ranks of the black and blue dials that came out in the years preceding this 2023 release, this colorway offers collectors more than a pretty face. One look at the Baltic Aquascaphe Bronze Brown and it becomes evident that the black and blue references walked so this watch could run. 

Baltic’s bronze is a unique combination of copper and aluminum alloy (CuAl8) that offers the wearer a nice patina with continued wear. Although the brand uses the French word marron in the moniker, this descriptor doesn’t fully do justice to the depth or richness of the color. A better term would be chocolate, though espresso may more accurately represent the dynamic fumé dial that is lighter in the center and deepens toward its edges. While the blue and black dials in the Aquascaphe line have a distinctive maritime flair, the marron plays nicely on or off the water. This is one of those rare divers that looks spectacular in a variety of situations. Much of that duality is thanks to the sapphire crystal bezel inlay, which provides a natural visual border and keeps the case from visually extending too far — something the black and blue dial versions lack. It would be as much at home on a lido deck in the Caribbean as on the wrist at the office, and that particular level of versatility is uncommon, especially at this price point. 

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Though not as thin as its Hermétique sibling, the Aquascaphe is a reasonable 13mm in height. That measurement includes its double-domed sapphire crystal, which adds about 2mm on top. For a diver with 200m of water resistance, 13mm is decently svelte. The 39mm diameter is also larger than others in Baltic’s more conservatively sized collections. Still, for industry standards (and the success of pricier contenders such as Tudor’s Pelagos or BB58 options), this size may just be the watch world’s golden child… for now. My wrists are on the small side (5.75 inches, for reference) and, though fairly large in comparison, 39mm is one of my spec preferences. It allows for a pop of style without the fear of accidental doorframe-dinging so common when I begin to size up. The lug-to-lug measurement of 47mm also plays a large role in the wearability of this reference, causing the watch to look demure on larger wrists while making a statement on small ones. 

Baltic’s entire Aquascaphe line is powered by the Miyota 9039 caliber, which is modest and reliable, as well as a leading factor in its accessible price point. Though the 42-hour power reserve is nothing to write home about, it keeps costs low and is generally sufficient for the typical enthusiast. The watch features a 60-minute luminous diving scale on its 120-click uni-directional bezel. The drilled lugs make for smooth strap changes, though the black tropic it comes with is equal parts comfort and style. It’s also available in two sizes: medium, which will work nicely on smaller and average-sized wrists, and large, which will fit wrists up to 8.80 inches (or 22.5 centimeters). The black strap and bezel combined with the chestnut dial make pairing your favorite belt or shoes — of either color — a snap. 

As a leading player in the neo-vintage trend, Baltic is committed to the designs of the classic dive watches of the past. This includes the double-domed sapphire crystal that references the boxed acrylic of a bygone era. Dive-watch history buffs will love the callback, but utilitarians and fans of über-legibility might not dig the distortion on the painted numerals that the wearer might experience at certain angles. Additionally, the stainless steel caseback may cause a second glance as it is a bit visually dissonant when paired with the otherwise fully bronze case. However, this design choice was rooted in practicality, as bronze directly on the skin can lead to undesirable color transfer and faster patination due to sweat and other environmental factors.

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The Baltic Aquascaphe Bronze Brown might be enough to convince me to add the first dive watch to my collection. This reference offers collectors a classic mid-century diver aesthetic with none of the actual vintage risk. The 39mm case is flattering on many, and there’s a warmth to the marron that lends itself to both summer (dock jumping into saltwater) and winter (sipping espresso martinis by a fireplace) sensibilities. It’s a watch that can truly be worn year round and just gets it. The Baltic Aquascaphe Bronze Brown is priced at 625 Euros. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.

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