June 19, 2022
by Ariel Adams
The latest new product from London-based Vertex watches is an impressive diver’s piece known as the M60 AquaLion. It comes in a few versions including both a naturally finished steel case and one in black DLC-coated steel. For now, Vertex also produces the M60 with both a date and no-date dial variation. The particular piece I am reviewing for you today is the Vertex M60C AquaLion Date Edition. “M60C” is what the black-colored versions are called, whereas the M60 is the term for the natural brushed steel models. In short, it is an excellent diver’s watch produced by a zealous sports watch enthusiast who wanted to sacrifice nothing in his development of a seriously durable underwater timepiece.
Let’s go back to the reemergence of Vertex of a few years ago in 2017 when I review the revived brand’s military-inspired M100 watch here. The watch was a sort of modern analog of the classic military field watch that the original Vertex produced. It was among one of 12 companies in World War II to create military watches for the British government using a particular design standard. Over time, these watches have been nicknamed “the dirty dozen” by collectors. Since 2017, Vertex has produced a few versions of the M100 including a black-colored model, a bronze-cased model, and a monopusher chronograph version. The AquaLion is the brand’s first major new model in a few years.
I think it is worth noting that Vertex wasn’t just relaunched by a timepiece-loving entrepreneur. Rather, it was relaunched by a timepiece-loving entrepreneur who is directly related to the man who originally founded Vertex watches. The man today responsible for Vertex watches is Don Cochrane, and he is cleverly using the brand as a platform to do what many like him strive to do: create an ideal watch according to his own particular tastes. This is often the most successful formula for creating a new watch. Why? Well, a designer knows their own tastes and expectations better than those of anyone else. Trying to design to meet someone’s expectations is very hard. It is simpler to design something that precisely meets your own standards and then hope if you have good enough taste that other people out there will agree with you. In many ways, what I have just described is the formula that many of the world’s best watchmakers have followed.
Cochrane began the AquaLion journey by studying some of the vintage diver’s watches that Vertex produced in the 1950s and 1960s. He wanted to produce a reasonably sized daily-wear diver’s watch that excelled in most of the areas that enthusiasts feel are important. This is first and foremost about creating an authentically capable diving watch platform that can perform underwater. Second, it is about creating a kit of items and features that seasoned buyers expect to come with their wristwatch purchase. Finally, it is about creating something visually unique (albeit familiar) that allows enthusiasts to feel as though they have something new and fresh to take interest in. “Look-alike” watches that resemble market leaders in the space typically have trouble in the marketplace when their retail prices are over $1,500, or so. With a price about double that, the Vertex M60 collection will no doubt have an elevated level of consumer expectations. In most ways, I think Vertex has succeeded, and I’ve found myself happily wearing the M60C watch on my wrist for many days now.
Let’s talk about the kit of items that the AquaLion comes with. I usually don’t spend too much time on this, but since Vertex clearly put so much effort into this element, I think it is worth talking about. The kit begins with a water-resistant storage case that seems to start where Pelican left off. It has a more futuristic design and is among the better presentation kits I’ve seen from a relatively small luxury watch brand in a long time. Inside the kit is the watch, a matching metal bracelet, an excellent black rubber strap, and a novel ZULU-style strap (here in blue). Vertex really has thought about all the details including the addition of a variety of spring bars. Why a variety? Well, the rubber strap and metal bracelet are on quick-release spring bars, which is great and convenient. Only that style of spring bar doesn’t go as well with NATO or ZULU-style straps given the protruding lever to release it. Thus, Vertex has correctly thought about a variety of needs for the user, and it is excellent that all of these wearing options are included in the kit.
Now, let’s talk about the M60AquaLion watch itself. The 40mm-wide case is in steel and is water-resistant to 600 meters. This is a big deal because, despite the high level of water resistance, the case is relatively thin at just 14mm-thick with a domed sapphire crystal. It has a modest lug-to-lug distance of just 49mm long. Therefore, the case is more or less the same size as many watches with half the water resistance rating. Vertex doesn’t stop there. To make sure the M60 is taken as seriously as possible, each of the pieces is sent for ISO certification. More specifically, ISO 6425 certification, which is the international ISO standard for dive watches. This is a bigger deal than it sounds.
Vertex isn’t the only company I have spoken to that has created a watch to meet ISO 6425 dive watch standards. Others have, and each has been humbled by it. That is why there are so few actually ISO-certified diver’s watches on the market. The certification process is demanding, and a lot of watches fail. These standards look at everything from legibility to durability. While you don’t strictly need ISO certification to have a killer diver’s watch, it does help prove the professionalism of a wristwatch, and it does offer some fun bragging rights to discuss with friends.
At first glance, the AquaLion design looks simple, but that’s part of the exercise in classicism. It doesn’t look like anything else on the market, per se, but it does feel rightly familiar. One thing that wearers will notice very quickly is how impressive the luminant is. This is an area where Vertex shines, in general (pun intended). The hour markers are produced from solid pieces of luminant material, just like the M100 started doing as the Vertex brand got its restart. There is more luminant on the hands, as well as on the markers on the matte-black ceramic bezel insert. What impresses me is how being in a lit room can be enough to charge the volume of Super-LumiNova. Often, watches need to be exposed to daylight for that to happen. In practical wearing scenarios, the M60 AquaLion really stands out from many other dive watches when it comes to the intensity and quality of the lume.
Inspired by vintage military-style watches, the AquaLion dial has big indicators of legibility, but few extra or unnecessary elements on the dial. Of course, there are two versions – with and without the date. Vertex will probably retire the AquaLion dial without the date sooner than later, with the date version being the more long-term-produced model. Dateless watches are hip with enthusiasts, but in the market, sports watches with the date still tend to do a bit better. The green lume and black dial are accented with small bits of white and red color making for an overall attractive composition. The hands themselves are a bit on the shiny side – which concerned me at first – but overall I’ve had only good experiences with legibility and this watch.
The rotating diver’s bezel has an impressive-sounding click when operated, acting as the icing on the case of a really well-thought-out diver’s-style tool watch that mostly serves as a luxury item in terms of how it is used. I’m the type of person who would gladly wear a high-end sports watch over something more glitzy, just because I like its ethos. Vertex owners are probably very much the same. The caseback of the watch has an interesting logo that Vertex carefully chose to represent the AquaLion name. It is a sort of mer-lion wearing a crown. I actually find personal familiarity in this symbol, which amused me. First, given that one of the Disney princesses and I share the spelling of a name, it has been jokingly suggested too often in my life that I am a mermaid. Second, the biblical Hebrew translation of my name Ariel is “Lion of God.” In illustrations, this character is often a lion wearing a crown. Thus, you can see why viewing this combination of a lion wearing a crown with a mermaid tale felt oddly relevant to me. I assure you that Vertex has no such intentions in mind 🙂
Inside the M60 AquaLion watches is a COSC Chronometer-certified Swiss Made Sellita SW300-1 automatic movement. This is an analog to the ETA 2892 and is a relatively thin 4Hz automatic movement with about 42 hours of power reserve and a higher-end than normal workhorse movement with certified accuracy, just about what a watch like this should contain.
Overall, the Vertex M60 and M60C AquaLion watches are really great dive watches in a sea of other purchase options. It isn’t the least or most expensive product like it out there, but it does strike a nice balance between something that you’d find from a traditional company with that from a fresh enthusiast-run brand that is really meant for fellow lovers of the genre. I’ve noticed a high degree of market interest for watches like the M60 and M60C Aqualion from Vertex thanks to their authentic connection to the past and functionality-based product inspiration. Vertex is still a niche brand, but I think that soon, more watch collectors will discover the products and check them out. Best of all is that, unlike the original M100 watch, there is no funny business in getting one of these AquaLion timepieces. Price for the Vertex M60 AquaLion watch in natural still is £2,850 and the price for the M60C AquaLion in black DLC-coated steel is £2,940. Learn more at the Vertex website here.
>Model: M60C AquaLion Date Edition
>Price: £2,940 (as tested)
>Size: 40mm-wide, 14mm-thick, 49mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a sensible daily wear or sport watch given the versatile, timeless, and handsome masculine design.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Vintage military watch lovers seeking modern analogs with contemporary specs from chic brands should step to the front of the line.
>Best characteristic of watch: Attention to detail and desire to pack in features is apparent. Attractive design. Lots included in the kit. Excellent luminant.
>Worst characteristic of watch: More expensive than much of the competition and thus the value proposition is a bit harder to convey in the digital space. I’d like to see a few other finishing options for the non-lumed sections of the hands.