January 21, 2014
by Ariel Adams
Many of you already know that IWC watches chose 2014 to be the year of the Aquatimer. That means a revisit and reinvention of their popular dive watch collection with a focus on what has worked in the past while trying to set aside what hasn’t been as effective. aBlogtoWatch announced the 2014 Aquatimer collection here, and later offered additional details on the expansive new Aquatimer collection here. The overall collection includes a variety of case sizes, materials, movements and prices. Nevertheless, the cornerstone of a good tool diver is a well-made, affordable, three-hand automatic.
With that said I’d like to explore the most basic and probably highest-volume seller of the 2014 Aquatimer dive watch collection that is simply known as the Aquatimer Automatic. This is the first major refresh in the timepiece family since 2009 and a return to classic tool watch proportions and feel. At 42mm wide the Aquatimer Automatic watches wear boldly with widely space lugs and a deep dial. It feels like a larger watch than it is when you wear it. Nevertheless, it is positively miniscule compared to the largest watch in the 2014 Aquatimer collection that is a rather massive 49mm wide – but that is material for a different Aquatimer article.
The last round of Aquatimer models was very nice with a sapphire crystal bezel and great legible look. Nevertheless, it was missing something very important to any IWC watch. That thing was an ability to be worn in situations above and beyond diving or sports. The return to a more sober yet technical look is very much a modern theme for IWC overall. The bezel is now steel, and while you may miss the idea of having a more durable bezel material, design really counts here. The carefully refined shape of the new Aquatimer is as much retro as it is very modern. The bezel on these models have been directly inspired by the Porsche Design, designed Ocean 2000 timepiece that IWC produced in the early 1980s. As you may know the Aquatimer Automatic 2000 (not pictured in this article) is a sort of thematic follow-up to the 2000. It isn’t but it is nevertheless a very desirable piece. More down to earth is one of the four basic Aquatimer Automatic models.
The watch comes in a polished and brushed steel case with an either black or light silver dial. IWC makes use of two colors of SuperLumiNova lume with one tone being white and the other being an light marine green. This latter color is in each of these Aquatimer Automatic models and since I’ve never lived with a watch that prominently uses this color before, it is hard to tell whether or not it is a color you’d like to see every day. Both colors are used on the dial as neither of these watches is purely monochromatic even though there is no real dominant third color. Still, the more or less two-tone look of the dials helps them be more classic in persona. There is a small splash of color in the form of the tip of the seconds hand which is a nice, and not distracting touch. In fact, that color is only distinctive on the silver-dialed model (where it is yellow). In any event, it is easy to see how a mixture of modern looks with classic style and design principles goes into making a strong, yet not overly “loud” looking watch.
The dial of the new Aquatimer Automatic alone is very pleasant, but in a boring case it would not save a design. IWC really focused on the case and the overall wrist-presentation of the Aquatimer which helps assert much of its value. A great example is the rotating bezel system called “IWC SafeDive.” In person it works so nicely. The piece is designed with a quasi-internal bezel, but one that is operated using the outside bezel. The outside bezel turns in both directions and has a ratcheting operation. Meaning that it turns freely in one direction, but turns the inner rotating bezel in the other direction. The inner bezel conforms to a series of 60 clicks and it is simply a pleasure to operate in this innovative and fun to use “case complication.”
We’ve speculated a lot about the function of the left-hand “crown” on the opposite side of the case. It first looked like a helium escape valve and it also looked somewhat like a locking system for the SafeDive rotating bezel. While it isn’t actually something one can operate, it is related to the bezel system. Apparently there is some gearing in there, and the small holes are to allow water to escape after the watch has been submerged in water. As an legit diver, the Aquatimer Automatic should perform well if called upon for a dive. The case is water resistant to 300 meters and the dial is very legible. In fact, most all of the Aquatimer models this year make good actual dive watches though some might prove too precious to beat around. These great-feeling steel tool watches remind you that they are ready for action while in many ways also being simple, casual timepieces. On a bracelet the Aquatimer Automatic with the black dial could easily be a watch worn with a suit.