Hands-On: The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT

Hands-On: The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT

A GMT watch is the horological equivalent of your favorite childhood stuffed animal. Wherever you go, a little piece of home goes with you. You’ll often come across old Rolex GMT-Masters in the wild with faded bezels, banged-up cases, and bracelets dangling from their last limbs. Why? Because they’re watches of function and purpose. Most of all, they were very much loved by those who wore them day in and day out. There is real nostalgia associated with a GMT watch. It’s a watch that’s seen some stuff.

Baltic – the fledgling France-based watch brand that began on Kickstarter in 2015 – lives in the universe of nostalgia. It has created multiple collections of timepieces drawing inspiration not from any one single vintage watch, but rather from the idea of good old things. The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT, the brand’s newest watch, is a fitting addition into the stable. It’s got the look of the nostalgia-inducing GMT watches of yore, but is a decidedly modern watch in every way that counts. 

The original Aquascaphe was Baltic’s first dive watch, featuring a slim 39mm case. Where the original Aquascaphe capitalized on vintage look and feel – with textured matte dials and gilt accents – the Aquascaphe GMT pares down some of the more obvious vintage design cues.

The matte dial is now gloss, and the recessed markers are now uniformly raised. Where prior iterations of the Aquascaphe had design elements a bit more rugged in appearance, the GMT has a definite cosmopolitan vibe – but in a Magical Mystery Tour sort of way. 

The Aquascaphe GMT comes in three variants, each with a different rotating bi-color (and bi-directional) bezel. All three easy-to-use bezels share the same navy blue top half. Each variant has a different bottom half in three colors: sea green, burnt orange, and grey. Baltic has opted to fashion the bezel insert of this watch out of sapphire. The result is something reminiscent of vintage bakelite bezels (a plastic material notably used by Rolex on early vintage models). The sapphire insert has a distorting effect on the numerals, as if you were viewing them through Hunter S. Thompson’s eyeglasses. 

This is the first Baltic watch to introduce a date complication, which might explain the decision to excise the recessed marker styling cue from prior models (as only recessing two markers might’ve looked a little odd). The date window is nestled right at six o’clock, with a black background that keeps it from breaking up the dial symmetry. 

The remaining  dial aspects are pretty much unchanged from prior Aquascaphe models. The Arabic 12 sits at (where else?) 12 o’clock, with the Baltic wordmark just below it. Further down, you see the word Aquascaphe in a color that corresponds with the GMT hand (orange, green, or blue). Where prior models would list the depth rating of the watch on the lower portion of the dial, this one has GMT printed in its stead. 

The Aquascaphe GMT uses a new typographic style for its bezel, with direct vintage styling cues. Unlike Aquascaphe dive watches, there is no “flat four,” (a type-style in most vintage watches where the number four has a flat top). What we have in its place is the “open six,” a style of type commonly seen in the date wheels of early 1970s Rolex watches.

Now, there is a certain notion that gets tossed around about whether or not a watch is a “true GMT.” What many consider to be a “true GMT” is a watch that allows for independent movement of the hour hand, leaving the GMT hand to reflect one’s home time. The Aquascaphe doesn’t offer that functionality, but it’d be pedantic to give it a demerit because of that. 

What this watch does allow is independent operation of the GMT hand itself. Once it’s set, you can view the time as you normally would, treating the GMT hand as a second hour hand – one that travels in 24-hour increments around the dial. 

For the Aquascaphe GMT, the brand has chosen the Soprod C125, a Swiss, self-winding (read: automatic) movement with a power reserve of 42 hours, a date complication, and a GMT function. The closed caseback is engraved in what can only be described as a world-time layout, with country names circumventing the outer part of the caseback and a map of the world situated in the center. 

True to vintage form, this watch features lug holes in the case, which allow for easy strap changes. What’s more, the bracelet (one of two configurations for the watch) features an easy-release trigger system allowing you to remove the bracelet in mere seconds. The tropic strap, however, must be removed (and put on) the old fashioned way.

The case is basically all brushed. In profile, the construction of the case gives off a pseudo-sandwich effect, as both the crystal/bezel and the caseback protrude from either end. This is virtually imperceptible on the wrist as the watch is a slim 12mm. The crown is signed with the letter B and is finished with a nice sandblasted effect. This is the sort of micro-detail you don’t often see in watches under $ 2,000. 

On your wrist, the sweet-spot 39mm Aquascaphe GMT wears comfortably on both a beads-of-rice bracelet and a breathable, tapered tropic-style strap.

This watch is equally legible in light and dark environs, with luminescent material applied to both the dial and bezel. The numerals on the bezel, the hands, and all the markers on the dial are treated with green Super-LumiNova. 

While it might seem strange to reach for a travel watch in a time when traveling feels like a distant memory, the Baltic Aquascaphe GMT brings a sorely needed warmth and nostalgia. That’s the thing about a GMT – you look down not only to see the time, but also to keep the people and the places important to you close at hand. The Baltic Aquascaphe does that as well as most “true” GMTs. Maybe better. 

The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT. 316L stainless steel case with bi-color sapphire bezel. Water resistance to 100 meters. Soprod C125 movement with GMT function and 42 hours of power reserve. Domed sapphire crystal and engraved caseback. First batch is numbered set of 1,500 pieces. Stainless steel grains-of-rice bracelet with seven micro-adjust positions and an easy-release system. Price: $ 1,200 on bracelet and $ 1,105 on tropic style rubber strap. For more, visit Baltic.com

Photos: Kasia Milton

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