Review: The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT

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Imagine yourself at a watch counter, somewhere in Europe. You want to pick out a new travel companion while on your big Swiss ski trip. It’s the mid-1960s, right at the height of the “Golden Age” of air travel. It was a time when you had to dress up to get on a plane — suit and tie were required, real meals were served, smoking was practically encouraged, and you could actually stretch your legs out in front of you (8+ hours in a smoke and booze filled tube with no noise cancelling headphones or in-flight movie sounds a bit hellish to me). Despite the health concerns and prohibitive cost, there’s no denying that nostalgia for the 1960’s is still strong even today. Back to the watch counter — You want a new watch that can track the time where you are, but also what time it is back at home. Something with a GMT function is a no-brainer. It’s very easy to picture the new Baltic GMT Aquascaphe right alongside a shiny Rolex GMT Master 1675 or a slightly more funky Zodiac Aerospace GMT. What are you reaching for? Today, we’re going to pretend that we picked up the new Baltic GMT Aquascaphe. While the 1960’s are long gone, the appeal for vintage and vintage-inspired watches is stronger today than ever. 

Baltic’s charming take on the GMT is inspired heavily by the original GMT watches of the 1960’s. A modestly-sized 39mm case, two-tone GMT bezel coloration, and beads of rice bracelet represent the vintage aesthetic, but the watch is firmly modern in construction and materials. The 100m water resistant case sports a highly scratch-resistant domed sapphire, while the bezel features its own sapphire glass protecting the colored 24-hour scale underneath. The watch is a blast from the past that’s brought into the modern era through playful use of color and solid construction, but retains all of that vintage charm that draws us into watches of this style. Let’s dig in and take a closer look at this new GMT timepiece from France’s Baltic Watches.

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$1105

Review: The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT

Case
316L Stainless Steel with bidirectional GMT bezel, lumed sapphire insert
Movement
Soprod C125 GMT
Dial
Black gloss finish
Lume
C1 Luminova
Lens
Double Domed Sapphire
Strap
Tropic-style Rubber/Beads of Rice bracelet
Water Resistance
100m
Dimensions
39 x 47mm
Thickness
12mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Screw down, signed
Warranty
Yes
Price
$1105

Case

It’s hard to criticize a 39mm case. Falling just under 40mm, which is usually the minimum size that watch enthusiasts can shout “should have been smaller!”, and staying well above the 36mm threshold of “way too small”, there’s no denying that 39mm is a sweet spot. The Aquascaphe’s case is rather simple, but in a good way. From the top down, you’re able to take in the full 47mm lug-to-lug span of the watch. The lugs themselves are on the slimmer side, never coming off as delicate. The very ends of the lugs slope down at a dramatic, yet curved angle towards your wrist. On either side, you’ll find drilled holes that make strap swapping a quick and easy affair. The case features an all over brushed finishing, done light enough to allow the case to shine a bit.

On the right side of the case, you’ll find a large textured crown at 3 o’clock that’s signed with a polished Baltic “B” against a textured backdrop. The star of the show is the 48 click GMT bezel mounted on top of the case. While the case itself is 39mm, the bezel does overhang the edges a small amount on either side. This overhang does make it exceptionally easy to grab, with the coin edge finishing helping out even more. Inside the bezel, you’ll find a two-tone 24 hour scale under a sapphire layer. The numerals are lumed, which glow a bright green when in the dark. The typeface used for the numerals oozes vintage charm, with open fours and sixes, and a sans-serif approach to the ones. 

There are three color options available —  each GMT bezel features the same mid-tone navy blue up top, with a complementary color on the bottom. You can choose from a bright and cheerful orange, a fun and funky teal, or a subdued gray. You might expect a classic Pepsi combo of red and blue on a GMT, but I’m really glad that Baltic strayed from the classic color combination for something more fun. These secondary colors also make an appearance on the dial in the form of accent text and the arm of the GMT hand. It’s a welcome detail on the dial that really helps to tie the overall look of the watch together. 

Looking at the case from the side, you’ll notice a slim, curved mid case. There’s a small vertical surface where the bezel meets the main bulk of the case. This small gap does an excellent job of breaking up the case while giving the mid portion an even slimmer appearance. Underneath the mid case, there’s another small step, but this one angles in and downward, terminating at the screw down case back. The whole case is thoughtfully executed with a nice balance of visual and functional elements throughout. On the case back there’s an engraved world time map that you can reference for time zone offsets. It’s fun to look at and fits the theme of the watch well. It can also be functional in a pinch, if you want to know what time it is elsewhere on the globe.

Dial & Hands

If you’re familiar with Baltic’s lineup of watches, the dial of the Aquascaphe GMT is nothing revolutionary. Since the watch bears the Aquascaphe name, it’s no surprise that the GMT and standard diver model share a similar appearance. Now, that’s not a knock against the GMT or the original dive watch, they’re both executed quite well. The rich, inky black dial is finished with a glossy shine, differing from the standard Aquascaphe. The sandwich effect and grainy texture of the dial are gone, and in this watch, I can’t say I miss them. The gloss finish gives that little extra bit of shine to the watch, drawing in the eye even more. Running around the outermost edge of the dial, you’ll find a printed chapter ring with small hash marks connected to an outer circle. The ring is printed in a warm gray tone, making the white of the lume pop out.

Each hour is denoted with a slightly bolder and longer hash mark and complemented with a plot of lume. At the 12 o’clock position, you’ll notice an Arabic numeral rendered in lume. Three and nine feature arrowhead-shaped plots, while all of the other hours are denoted by a circle, save for 6 o’clock. There, you’ll find the date window — a new feature on the Aquascaphe models. The aperture is surrounded by a printed rectangle. Inside the rectangle, there’s a slightly rounded inner cutout that gives you a view of the custom printed date wheel inside. White text is printed on a black base to match the dial. Baltic also used a matching typeface, complete with the open fours and sixes seen on the GMT bezel. Since the numbers on the date wheel are so small, the “open” effect of the numerals is a bit lost. The limited amount of space squishes those nice round loops in the numerals a bit, changing the look. 

Text on the dial is kept to a minimum. Just under the 12 o’clock index, there’s Baltic’s text logo, printed in the same warm gray tone as the chapter ring. Above the date window, there’s the model name “AQUASCAPHE” printed in the same accent color as on the bezel. So you’ll either see an orange, teal, or blue (this differs slightly from the rest on the navy/gray watch, but Baltic clearly made the right choice). Underneath the model name is “GMT” printed in gray. The tasteful application of text on the dial is much appreciated, especially with the busy bezel and additional hand for the GMT function. 

Speaking of hands, the Aquascaphe GMT has four of them. For hours and minutes, a pair of pencil-shaped hands are split down the middle to add some depth and polished to a high shine. In the center, a rectangular bar is filled with luminous paint. The seconds hand is slim and sleek with a circular lume plot located about 1/3 of the way back from the tip. A small circular counterbalance sits opposite the tip, adding a bit more flair to the seconds hand. To track the second time zone, a slim hand  with an arrowhead shaped tip gets the job done. The slim length of the hand is rendered in the accent color prominently featured on the watch, adding yet another subtle pop of color that plays such a strong role in tying the entire design together.

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Movement

Inside the Aquascaphe GMT is a Swiss Soprod C125. This movement is on the newer side, and it appears to be an alternative to the ETA 2893-2, sharing similar dimensions. Since it’s now a complicated affair to secure an ETA movement, especially if you’re a smaller brand, it makes sense that another manufacturer has swooped in. Soprod has been around in one form or another since the mid-1960’s, where they started off by producing watch components on a large scale. Eventually, they moved on to producing movements and assembling movements for outside contractors. Even though there aren’t a ton of watches running around with the C125 movement inside, the brand has pedigree in the world of movement manufacturing. The C125 inside the Aquascaphe GMT is an automatic winding movement with a power reserve of 42 hours when fully charged. There are 25 jewels throughout the movement and it beats at a 28,800bph rate, giving the seconds hand a smooth sweep while it makes its way around the dial. There’s a date feature that can be seen through the aperture at 6 o’clock on the dial. You can hack the seconds hand for precise time setting as well. Of course, this movement also features a GMT complication. 

The C125 is what’s commonly referred to as a “caller GMT”, in which the 24-hour hand is jumped via the crown to track a second time zone. A “true” GMT is when the local hour hand is jumped, but at the end of the day, both styles of watch are still capable of tracking a second (and even third time zone, depending on your head math capabilities). The caller style GMT movement is ideal for those who are sedentary in a single time zone, but want to track another (maybe you have to call someone to conduct business). However, the jet setting type can easily reverse the roles and set the hours to the local time zone, and jump the GMT hand to the time at home. Personally, I don’t have a ton of use for a GMT complication, but the one present in the Aquascaphe GMT functions well and is fun to play with.

Strap & Wearability

To keep the Aquascaphe on your wrist, you can choose from two strap options straight from the factory. A custom rubber strap is one of those options. It’s constructed in the tropic style, with a crosshatch basket weave pattern on the top, bordered by a slightly raised, dashed edge. The strap features offset perforations throughout to help water drain off the strap. Flip it over, and you’ll see a waffle pattern originating at each of those perforations. Toward the lugs, you’ll see the brand name emblazoned on the strap. The strap is nice and pliable, and the type of rubber doesn’t pick up lint. There’s a taper from the lugs to the signed clasp, giving it both a vintage look and slim profile on wrist.

For an additional ~$90, you can opt for the tapered beads of rice bracelet. Starting at the 20mm lugs, the bracelet slims down to 18mm at the clasp. The small outer links feature a brushed finish, while the “grains of rice’ in the middle are polished to a high shine. The vintage styling of the bracelet fits the motif of the watch quite well, even down to the friction fit clasp. Since Baltic opted for modern construction and materials on the rest of the case, I would have liked to see a more substantial locking mechanism on the clasp, rather than just a push-to-lock mechanism. While this style of clasp is the slimmest, it’s not the most secure. An extra flip over mechanism or push buttons on the sides would instill a bit more confidence. 

On the wrist, the Aquascaphe GMT is a dream. The well-proportioned case and relative slimness really shine, especially when battling against the busier GMT bezel. Navy and orange have a way of really standing out, but the 39mm case works really well. It’s comfortable enough for everyday wear, and the 100m of water resistance inspires confidence that you can wear this watch daily, unless you’re doing some serious diving. Measuring in at 12mm thick, the watch wears slimmer than this already impressive dimension implies. About 1mm of the watch’s height is taken up by the crystal, while another ~1.5mm is composed of the case back hanging below the mid case. Since this nestles into your wrist, the only visual thickness of the watch is right around 9mm. Again, the proportions are spot on, and it really shows while wearing the watch. I threw the watch on a chunky natural veg tan leather strap and it gave it an entirely different vibe. It’s right at home on a single pass nylon strap too. While the colorful bezels are beautiful to look at, they do hinder strap color combinations just a little bit.

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Conclusions

Everything about this watch just seems to fall into that “just right” category. The ideally sized 39mm case, vintage styling that’s able to stand on its own, a simple  and legible dial design, and a Swiss GMT movement inside. The one thing that stands out the most when wearing the watch is Baltic’s excellent use of color throughout the watches. The easy way out would be to slap a red and blue Pepsi dial on the watch and call it a day. I really appreciate the thought that went into crafting fun, functional, and unique color combinations. The tiny pops of color on the dial in the form of small text and the slim GMT hand body bring the bezel colors into the dial in a subtle way. On the wrist, the watch is a pleasure to wear. Even with its already reasonable 39mm, it wears a bit smaller than the dimensions suggest thanks to the balanced case proportions. On top of it all, it’s reasonably priced too. 

At $1105 on rubber or an even $1200 on the bracelet, I feel that the asking price is fair. The Swiss GMT movement inside and French assembly and regulation along with the charming vintage-inspired design and feel of the watch do justify the price. The ~$1k price point has some fierce competition, and you can get a lot of watch for the money. In terms of GMTs, the Baltic sits right in the middle of two watches that use the same Soprod movement inside — the Lorier Hyperion GMT at $799, and the Oak & Oscar Sandford. Of course, a lot that goes into the purchase decision of buying a watch depends on personal preference. If it were up to me, the $1200 middle ground, comfortable size, and charming design all point me towards the Baltic. They’ve really done an excellent job with this addition to the Aquascaphe line. The brand started off with a bang, and it’s clear that they continue to improve and refine along their journey making great, affordable timepieces.

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Ed is a Long Island-based writer and photographer with an affinity for watches, fountain pens, EDC gear, and a great cup of coffee. He’s always looking for the best gear for the job—whether it be new watch, pen, flashlight, knife, or wallet. Ed enjoys writing because it’s an awesome (and fulfilling) way to interact with those who share the same interests.
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