Aquastar’s New Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition is the Release Dive Watch Fans Have Been Waiting For

If you’ve been following the reestablishment of Aquastar over the last few years, today marks an important milestone in the brand’s new chapter. After a series of well regarded divers offering takes on both Aquastar’s actual history and a sort of imagined version of it, we’ve finally come to the Benthos, perhaps the brand’s most famous watch, at least among the cult of divers and sports watch fanatics who have always held the brand in such high regard. This release, the Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition, very much feels like the watch that Aquastar has been building toward for the last few years, and it’s quite impressive in the metal. 

First, a little background on the Benthos for those unfamiliar with its history. The Benthos was introduced in 1970 as a diving chronograph, but it uses one of the most uncommon executions of what is a fairly common complication that we can recall. This is a monopusher chronograph with a centrally mounted minute hand, and no chronograph seconds hands. That means that when you activate the chronograph, the user has the strange experience of wondering if anything just happened. But wait a minute, and you’ll see that minute hand tick over to the first minute marker, and the functionality here becomes a little more clear. 

For most divers who would need to engage a chronograph underwater, it’s the minutes that truly matter, and a chronograph like this gives you exactly what you need, and none of what you don’t. The other piece of information a diver (or anyone using a watch to time something) needs is to know at a glance that the watch is running, which is accomplished here by your typical centrally mounted running seconds hand. We also of course have a 60 minute dive bezel, which can be used in the traditional way with the time-telling minute hand, giving the wearer a timing redundancy or a dedicated second method of tracking elapsed time. It’s just very functional and useful, and you begin to wonder why more watches aren’t set up like this. 


Of course, the answer to that question is simple: the movement. Just as the movements in the original Benthos were not off the shelf, the caliber found in this new version is also a custom job, made exclusively for Aquastar by La Joux-Perret. It’s an automatic caliber with a 60 hour power reserve, with the single chronograph pusher found at the 2:00 position. In my brief time with the watch, I found it to be a particularly satisfying mechanism to use with a distinct, tactile feel. 

In keeping with the design tropes of the original Benthos, the stainless steel case is chunky, measuring 42mm in diameter, 15.4mm thick, and 47mm lug to lug. While the initial visual impression of the watch, for me, was something along the lines of “Oh my goodness, how am I supposed to wear this thing?” I can honestly say that once it’s strapped to the wrist it really makes a lot of sense. I’d never say that it wears “small,” this is a big watch through and through. But the case has a subtle curve to it that helps hide some of its height, and the cushion style shape makes the lug to lug feel manageable (and it’s truthfully not even that severe at 47mm). The ISOfrane Rubber strap is also quite comfortable, and allows the wearer to easily dial in a fit that’s not too loose nor too snug. 

Plus, the novelty of the thing is just a lot of fun, and that’s really the story here. While other Aquastar releases prior to this one did a great job of milking the aesthetic of the original watches, this is the first one that really effectively nods to the madcap nature of the brand. It’s a strange, niche thing, and those watches are always the most interesting to me, and the easiest to forgive if something as trivial as the dimensions don’t line up exactly as you might like them to. 

The Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition is a limited run of just 300 pieces. The retail price is $3,790, but during the introductory launch period (which is right now) it can be pre-ordered for $2,790 via the Aquastar website

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.