A Fun, Solid, and Affordable Diver
And just as I was about to declare that I’ve seen it all, I received a message from Aerotec regarding their newest model, the Black Label Aero Diver. I also could swear that it would be impossible for a dive watch to surprise me. But here I am wanting to tell you about Aerotec. To be frank, it was at first a sort of an acquired taste, like drinking wine for the first time or strapping a chronograph to my wrist although I had promised myself to never do such a thing. (I’m too much of a black-and-white kind of guy and, for the longest time, was only interested in divers.) Looks-wise, the Aero Diver is not what I typically gravitate towards as it’s a bit too “funky” to me. But here I am. And there you are.
However, I wouldn’t be writing about it if I didn’t think it would be worth your while. Because after opening the box it came with, and after spending some time with it, I can already tell you that you’re going to get a lot of good stuff for the Super Early Bird Price of $399. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of competition out there and dive watches are the most popular type of horological creations micro and independent brands make. That was true 10 years ago and it’s still true today. And there are two things that really surprised me when handling the Aero Diver. First, the quality as it relates to price. Second, its design and the myriad of tiny details that make it look different and interesting. So, without further ado, let’s talk about it.
For many, many people, specifications are everything. And this seems to be even more true when talking about watches that are launched on Kickstarter. One may like the way a watch looks, but does it have the right specs for the asking price? In other words, will it survive the test of time and tick with a healthy beat for many years to come? Conversely, some couldn’t care less about specifications, in the same way that I don’t care for luxury horology or humans who forcibly dress up their pets. That is how little some people think about the movement inside the watch or how much lume there is on the hands. But, here we are talking about a brand you are probably not familiar with and you are the type of watch nerd who should know what’s under the hood. Because I do believe you should back this campaign should you like what you see here today.
The Aero Diver is….drumroll…a dive watch. As such, it comes with too much water resistance (300 meters) and a screw-down crown and case-back. I say too much because 300 meters is a professional diver level of depth rating, but honestly—between you and I—who are we kidding? We love our water resistance and the Aero Diver has plenty of it. Despite its immense WR, the Aero Diver is, thankfully, a very wearable timepiece: a case 39mm in diameter, 46mm long, 12mm thick (including a double-domed sapphire crystal,) and 20mm lug width with drilled lugs. (Thanks the Horological Gods for the drilled lugs!) This means swapping shoes (straps) is easy, something made even easier given the quick-release spring bars found on the stainless steel bracelet.
The movement inside the Aero Diver is a premium Miyota 9039 which beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 42 hours of power reserve. I’ve handled the 9039 many times before and each time it ran well within the officially stated daily accuracy of -10/+30 seconds per day. As in, it usually runs a little fast in the single digits. And the lume, you may ask? Well there is plenty of it and in many places. The brand put hips and hips of BGW9 SuperLuminova on the hands, markers, bezel, crown and the engraved logo found on the clasp. Because if you truly intend to dive with it, know that you won’t have any problem reading the time, timing your dive, and remembering which brand this diver came from in the darkest depths of the ocean. (I just imagine it’s quite dark 300 meters below.)
More than the specs, however, the Aero Diver shines through its design. First, there is lots to talk about by simply looking at the dial. The biggest and most apparent detail here is the dial color and texture which the brand describes as being made of a deep sunburst effect. The effect truly is deep and at the same time the dial showcases a subtle matte texture which makes for an interesting combo. This color/surface treatment does create plenty of interesting light plays which change depending on the angle at which you are holding the watch. The model shown here comes with a burst orange color and a total of three variations will be available during the Kickstarter campaign: Blackorange, Blackgreen, and Blackpurple. I do like how much the orange pops while the white hour markers remain discreet.
Still being a diver, the Aerotec has to be legible in any and all lighting conditions. This is why the brand paired a bespoke handset with a 3-6-9 dial layout. The hour and minute hands are gorgeous, fully polished, filled with plenty of lume and the arrow-shaped tip of the hour hand makes it easy to see against the dial. The seconds hand is painted orange and a sufficient surface of lume was deposited on the counterbalance. The 3-6-9 hour markers are painted in negative relief, meaning the three, six, and nine numerals are the absence of lume in the triangular-shaped markers. Aerotec added what seems to be a 12-hour track outside of the fully-graduated and fully-lumed minute track which runs on the periphery of the dial.
The unusual dial color and absence of branding is offset by the presence of an applied and blue spherical element lodged smack in the middle of the 12 o’clock hour marker—which also creates a negative relief when the dial is charged under UV light—and the words “30ATM” and “1000FT” printed in small on either side of the six o’clock marker. However, the brand name can be found at the 30-minute position on the intricately-designed dive-time bezel, the latter also being filled with BGW9. On the bezel, the first 15 minutes are highlighted in white against a black background, while the 15 to 45 minutes are indicated in black against a white background. Lastly, the design of the dive time scale becomes more and more simple during the last 15 minutes.
The Heart of the Matter
At the heart of the matter is the fact that there is much more than needs to be said about the design and construction of the Aero Diver. What I can normally knock down in 400 words requires much more time and space here. For example, the case of the Aero Diver has a delicate, geometrical profile. Long and rectangular lugs make way for subtle polished chamfers that run from the end of each lug to the where the latter meet the case. Almost the entirety of the case is covered by a satin-finish brushing except for the small teeth on the bezel which are polished. The bracelet is also fully brushed and its H-Link construction perfectly matches the utilitarian nature of the Aero Diver. Furthermore, I’d say I really dig the simple yet elegant profile of the case which, combined with a 39 x 46 x 12mm measurements, make it a joy to wear.
Where this watch truly excels is in the plethora of details that can be found at every corner of its execution. For example, the conical-shaped crown comes with plenty of knurling to make it easy to grab and operate. And Aerotec went as far as adding a red-colored ring at its base to indicate whether or not it has been properly screwed down. Furthermore, the top of the crown is lumed, as indicated much earlier in this review, so is the engraved logo found on the clasp. The latter also showcases the name of the brand engraved with a large font. Underneath these splashes of visual elements we find a well-engineered tool-less micro-adjust clasp. As you can tell, a lot went into the design of the Aero Diver.
What I’ve come to understand after three delightful years of reviewing many models from micro and independent brands is that what makes them standout is the sheer playfulness and fullness of their designs. What I mean by that is this: Aerotec might not make its own movements or melt its own metals, but instead the brand put all of its thinking power into the design and in choosing the right components for this model. There are hidden little gems everywhere on this model and, as someone who was able to spend quality time with it, the execution is rather good.
Here’s the oh-so-typical conclusion of any review on Mainspring: if you liked what you saw today, then I highly suggest you check out Aerotec’s website and Kickstarter campaign page here. With a Super Early Bird Price of $399 (limited to the first 100 units per color) and an Early Bird Price of $419, you do get a lot for your hard earned cash here. Not only is the Aero Diver choke-full of incredible specs—for those of you who are into that kind of stuff—but it also looks different from most divers I’ve seen in the past three years. And as you might have heard me say before, it’s hard to attribute a price tag to creativity while it’s quite easy to do so to specifications.
Thanks for reading.