Despite being an iconic brand, it was not until recently that I’ve come to appreciate what IWC has to offer. To remedy that, I will be doing an IWC Aquatimer review.
The Aquatimer Ref. 812AD was the very first dive watch released by IWC. The watch debuted with a bang and featured a timeless design – which is why it’s still being made today.
Is the Aquatimer Automatic still a worthy purchase today? Let’s find out!
IWC Aquatimer Review: At a Glance
For this IWC Aquatimer review, we will focus on the IWC Aquatimer Automatic Ref. 3290 which is the base model. As with most of my watch reviews, let’s first take a look at the key specs and features of the IWC Aquatimer:
|IWC Aquatimer Automatic|
|Water resistance:||30 bar|
|Black dial with luminescence|
|30120 Calibre, Automatic, self-winding|
|Power reserve:||42 hours|
|Frequency 28800.0 vph (4.0 hz)|
|Black rubber strap with IWC-patented quick-change system|
|Mechanical external/internal rotating bezel with SafeDive system|
Sapphire glass, convex, antireflective coating on both sides
IWC bracelet quick-change system
Central hacking seconds
It’s worth mentioning that there’s another model of this watch which is the IWC Aquatimer 329002. It’s virtually the same watch but with a stainless steel bracelet.
I’ve been interested in IWC as a brand for quite some time now. The best IWC watches are some of the most beautiful and functional timepieces available. So I didn’t pass up the chance to check out the iconic IWC Aquatimer.
When the watch arrived, I was pleased that it’s so much better than expected. The dial features a simple design but you can tell that a great deal of craftsmanship has gone into it. The black matte dial just screams elegance.
I am not a diver myself but I appreciate just how legible the dial is. Many people seem to have a problem with the minimal seconds hand but it doesn’t bother me that much.
One of my initial concerns about the Aquatimer is its rubber strap. However, I shortly realized that my concerns were unfounded. I opted for the rubber strap because I intend to add the Aquatimer to my casual day-to-day rotation, so the rubber strap is the obvious choice for its lightness. Fortunately, the quality of the strap is on-point.
The Aquatimer seems to have a bit of heft to it but it’s far from a bulky profile. My first impression is that I made the right choice with the Aquatimer, despite my initial concerns.
My Aquatimer Automatic came in a 42 mm stainless steel case and it’s about 14 mm tall. While the watch is marketed towards men, I do believe that the Aquatimer has the style and size that would look great when worn by some ladies.
After all, this Aquatimer model is the smallest watch in the IWC dive watch lineup.
Moving on, there’s not much to say about the stainless steel case except that it feels solid and robust. This is a fairly high-end dive watch and the case very well represents the luxury feel of IWC watches. One interesting design element of the case is the notched bezel (more on that later). These subtle notches are a plus for me and show IWC’s attention to detail.
The crown, crystal, and caseback are properly secured with gaskets – hardly a surprise when it’s a dive watch. The screw-in crown ensures that the watch can provide reliable water resistance. The Aquatimer has a water resistance rating of 300 meters (approx. 1,000 feet) which is nothing short of impressive.
The domed sapphire crystal protects the dial and has an anti-reflective coating on both sides. This ensures that the watch is legible at all times.
I have always been a big fan of black dials, so opting for the black dial Aquatimer is a no-brainer. However, there are other variants of the 392001 such as the limited edition, Aquatimer Automatic Edition “Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau”.
The Aquatimer’s dial can only be described as clean and elegant. It still pretty much looks like the early IWC divers and you know what they say about things that aren’t broke.
Perhaps one of the first things you’ll notice about the dial are the oversized hour and minute baton hands. This gives an interesting contrast against the thin and minimal seconds hand. The markers for every 5 minutes are applied which gives an almost 3D-like effect. The date aperture is found at the 3 o’clock marker – pretty standard stuff.
The hour markers, bezel, and the hands are all coated with luminescent coating. I’ve tested the lume and I must say that it looks great even under total darkness. The glow of the dial is simply mesmerizing. I only hope that the glow lasts for a long while.
Undoubtedly, the most interesting part of the Aquatimer for me is the bezel.
All the Aquatimer timepieces are fitted with the patented “SafeDive” rotating bezel. As mentioned, the Aquatimer’s bezel is subtly notched which is a deliberate design decision. The notched design makes it easier to rotate the external bezel which works like a standard dive watch.
However, there’s another internal bezel or flange which showcases the diving scale. The internal bezel can only be rotated in counterclockwise direction. According to IWC, this ensures that even when the outer bezel is inadvertently rotated, the dive time will not be adjusted.
The 60-click bezel operation is utterly satisfying. Moreover, the clicky rotation adds a great deal to the adjustment accuracy. IWC has nailed its proprietary bezel design – very functional and easy to use.
You can’t have an IWC Aquatimer review without talking about its movement.
The IWC Aquatimer Automatic is powered by the caliber 30120, a self-winding movement. It features 21-jewels, a date display, a central hacking feature, 28,800 vph (4Hz) frequency, and a 42-hour power reserve.
I must admit that I was slightly disappointed to find out that the Aquatimer doesn’t come with an in-house movement. Interestingly, the caliber 30120 is derived from ETA 2892. IWC gets the 2892 in kit form and performs the assembly themselves with some modifications/additions of their own.
However, I am not one to complain especially when the 2892 is a durable and easily serviceable movement. SO far, I have no problems with the accuracy but I intend to test it some more. Other than that, there’s not much to talk about as far as the movement goes.
Overall, despite the lack of an in-house movement, the Aquatimer has more than earned its worth through its other components.
First and foremost, don’t knock the Aquatimer just because it comes with a rubber strap. The quality and design of the Aquatimer strap is about what you can expect from a luxury dive watch.
For starters, the rubber strap didn’t have any vanilla or rubber smell. The strap was manufactured to smell neutral which is something that I can get behind. This means that the rubber strap was well manufactured.
Furthermore, the strap features seven buckle holes and finding the right fit was a breeze. Once strapped i, the watch feels very comfortable and the rubber strap didn’t cause any irritation which I can’t say with other rubber straps.
Perhaps the best part of the strap is the quick change system. The interior end of the strap is outfitted with custom steel that snaps into the case. Attaching and re-attaching the strap is quick and convenient. However, this also means that you can only use IWC brand rubber straps.
The price of the Aquatimer Automatic dive watch is just about right for the base model. If you choose to get the version with a steel bracelet, expect to pay about $1,000 more.
This IWC dive watch also comes in many other variants like the Aquatimer Chronograph and the super luxurious Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “50 Years Aquatimer”.
The lack of a real in-house movement is disappointing at first but after wearing it for weeks, it felt like the asking price is more than justified. Other aspects of the Aquatimer is just so well done that you can easily forget its other flaws.
For professional divers, the Aquatimer might just be one of the best diving timepieces around. It doesn’t offer a whole lot when it comes to diving features, like a dive computer, but it does very well with what it can offer. Ease of use and legibility are top-notch. The luminescent coating should also serve you well when underwater.
Ultimately, the Aquatimer is more than worth it for the price.
Should You Get the IWC Aquatimer Automatic?
We wrap up this IWC Aquatimer review with my verdict. Is the IWC Aquatimer worth the investment?
Whether it’s for everyday wear or diving, the Aquatimer should serve you well. The watch boasts high-quality construction and excellent durability, making it ideal even for regular rotations. Also, numerous unique design elements make the Aquatimer stand out from other divers. The bezel and strap are my favorite parts.
It’s also a great-looking watch despite the fairly simplistic appearance. The overall look is clean, elegant, and iconic. The IWC Aquatimer Automatic is a worthy addition to any dive watch collection.