Vertex Launches All-New M-60 Aqualion Dive Watch Collection

Bringing old watch brands back from the dead is quite the thing at the moment. It’s actually surprisingly simple to do. There’s no shortage of company names sitting on dusty shelves. And there’s a ready(ish) supply of cheap far eastern movements and cases just waiting to be turned into the newest incarnation of Miggins et Cie, founded 1856 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, brought back like Lazarus in 2021 on an industrial estate just outside Bradford. This makes it all the more refreshing to talk to Don Cochrane, the founder and owner of Vertex.

If you know your military watches you’ll be familiar with Vertex. Before WW2, under their original name of ‘The Dreadnought Watch Company’, founded by Claude Lyons, the firm had shipped watches to the Western Front in WW1, including some beautiful artillery timers. They were one of the suppliers in WW2 that made the so-called ‘Dirty Dozen’. These were all military watches built to a tight specification from the War Department that set out criteria for legibility, accuracy and sturdiness. As today, all watches were not equal, so to meet the spec. you needed to be a proper watchmaker. Vertex was in fine company with makers like IWC, Jaeger Le-Coultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC and Omega.



Sadly, even success in two world wars was no defense in a market flooded with new quartz watches in the 1970s. In 1972, when the lease on their Hatton Garden workshop expired, Lyons let it lapse and shut up shop.

Don Cochrane is Claude Lyons’ great-grandson, so there’s real integrity to the new Vertex brand name. In fact, one suspects he’d no more put a cheap movement in a nasty case than use the wrong oil in his hardcore R1200GS BMW. His first offering was a modernized version of the WWW Cal 59 Nav model – the original Dirty Dozen watch – using a Swiss stainless steel case and a modern ETA 7001 movement. Now, he’s launching the M60 AquaLion, the firm’s first diver.

The AquaLion may be Vertex’ first purpose-built dive watch, but, typically of Dan’s work, it has a rather neat link to the past. Remember Vertex was originally The Dreadnought Watch Company? The ‘Dreadnought’ was symbolized by a mythical creature, half lion, half fish. Very appropriately, you’ll find one on the caseback of your AquaLion. There’s another reference for those who know; each watch has a serial number on the caseback and the movement that starts with ‘FN’. Dreadnought means ‘Fear Nothing’.

Let’s start with that case. Vertex have clearly taken a look at the trend for dinner plate-sized divers and are having none of it. The AquaLion is a much more reasonable 40mm and is cut from 316L stainless steel. The case uses a screw-down back and, as you’d expect, a screw-down crown too. A pub-fact for you; Vertex tells us that the knurling on the scratch-resistant ceramic unidirectional bezel is based on the rear sight adjuster from a WWII Bren gun.

The watch comfortably exceeds the current ISO standard for diving watches, ISO 6425. Now on its fourth edition, ISO 6425:2018 subjects diving watches to an extra 25% of depth pressure than their dial-rated depth. That means a 600m-rated watch needs to carry on happily ticking if you drop it down to 750m. To be fair, even if you’re a serious diver it’s unlikely you’ll be making use of that sort of depth rating, but it means you certainly don’t need to worry in any real-world diving situation where you’re using your AquaLion as a dive computer back-up. 

As befits a proper diver, the dial and hands are almost bright enough that you can chuck your torch away. Vertex have used X1 Super-LumiNova for the now signature molded dial markers. It’s not only a brighter compound than standard lume, it glows for longer, too. If you’ve ever done any diver training in the UK, you’ll know how handy that is as you work out your decomp stops in a freezing, muddy quarry. The sword hour and hands (very MilSub) as well as the center seconds use the same stuff. You get your choice of a date or non-date model, both at the same price.

There are even a couple of Super-LumiNova red dots on the bracelet clasp too, linking to the two dots you’ll usually find on a Vertex dial at 12. If you don’t fancy a stainless bracelet, that’s OK. You also get a one single-strand Zulu and a rubber dive strap marked with the Ministry of Defense pheon in the box. All the straps are on quick-release bars. It’s quite a box too – a proper just-about-everything-proof Peli case that even floats. 

The movement is the now very familiar Sellita SW360-1 (with or without date), doing duty with hours, minutes and a very appropriate hack seconds. Once it’s been on your wrist long enough you’ll have 42 hours of power reserve.

Should you go for one? The first thing is that you don’t need one, clearly. Dive computers have rendered diving watches pretty much redundant. But, if you want to at least try to justify your decision practically, the AquaLion will more than easily work as a mechanical backup for your dive technology. The same design and manufacture that makes it waterproof to any depth you’re likely to encounter also makes it robust enough to withstand anything you’ll throw at it. At the same time, it’s understated enough that you could wear it anywhere without worrying it’d attract the wrong sort of attention. And then there’s the heritage it comes with. Sure, it’s a new design and a new watch but it’s got a direct link to its past. We like it a lot. The Vertex M-60 Aqualion is priced from £2,375 and will ship in late January. Vertex

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Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
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