New watch brands pop up all the time, but it’s less frequent that they arrive with fully realized and distinct design language right from the jump. Usually it takes time for a brand to kind of settle into itself, work out the kinks, and figure out what it is that makes them different from their many, many competitors. Aera is a British brand that came onto the scene last year with their D-1 (a diver) and P-1 (a pilot’s watch), and have just announced a pair of follow up references that are very much in the same vein, but have some subtle improvements as well.
At first glance, Aera’s watches look almost run-of-the-mill, but a glance at the specs and a closer look at the dial design and small details of how each component hangs together reveal watches that actually inhabit a unique space in the enthusiast market. In short, these watches are big in every sense of the word. They have unapologetically large 43mm 904L steel cases and come in at 16mm and 15mm thick (for the diver and pilot’s watch, respectively) thanks to dramatically domed, double curved sapphire crystals. There’s a bulbous quality to the case design that recalls Ikepod, and when I had a chance to briefly wear a D-1 last year I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable it was for a watch that would normally be outside the limits of what I’d wear on a regular basis in terms of size alone.
But they’re big in other ways too. The curved dials have large openings, much bigger than what you’d normally see on a watch of this size, which results in insanely good legibility thanks to the oversized markers (on the dive watch) and Arabic numerals (on the pilot’s watch). They feel like a callback to the “big watch era” but in a way that is quite a bit more refined and thoughtful than what most of us will remember from that time period.
For the new D-1 Ocean Diver and P-1 Moon Pilot, Aera has introduced new color options along with some under the hood (and under the sapphire) upgrades. Blue, of course, is a natural choice for a dive watch, and for the Ocean Diver they appear to have done a nice job of matching the tone of the bezel to the dial (and the strap). Because of the naturally imposing wrist presence these watches have, the blue is sure to be a lot, but that feels like it’s very much the point.
The P-1 Moon Pilot’s gray tone is inspired by the color of moon dust, and I’m curious to see how such an under the radar color translates onto a watch design that is effectively the opposite. The Moon Pilot still features those big Arabic numerals with a smaller outer track counting off the minutes, and the contrast still appears to be top notch even with a lighter dial color than last year’s black version.
The two key improvements made to these latest Aeras concern the lume and the movement. The brand is now using Globolight luminescent material on the markers and numerals for each watch, which should provide a significantly brighter and longer lasting lume experience. The Globolight material differs from traditional lume in that it’s a solid material as opposed to being a compound that’s added atop another surface. Aera says that adds a new dimensionality and sense of depth to the dials that should be apparent even in broad daylight.
Aera has also improved the movement, moving up to an Elabore grade Sellita SW200-1. This grade of Sellita caliber promises more accurate and consistent timekeeping, and Aera says their calibers have been adjusted to work within a -7 to +20 rate per day. While certainly not chronometer spec, that’s an improvement over the standard Sellita caliber.
Both watches are limited editions of 300 pieces each. The retail price for the D-1 Ocean Diver is $1,600, and the P-1 Moon Pilot sells for $1,500. More information can be found on Aera’s website here.