Baltic Goes Global with the Aquascaphe GMT

For a small company of fewer than 10 people, France-based Baltic is often a brand that attracts outsized attention. Led by its young founder, Etienne Malic, Baltic has from its initial launch in 2017 focused on creating vintage-influenced modern watches, and few of these have garnered as much praise as the mid-century diver-inspired Aquascaphe and its numerous iterations: this year’s bronze models and the salmon-dialed Worn & Wound x Baltic limited editions have been frequently cited among 2020’s top releases. Now the French independent is unveiling the latest update to the popular design, the much-anticipated Aquascaphe GMT.

The new model brings adapts the familiar Aquascaphe design to a dual-time format better suited for a globetrotting consumer. The most prominent features differentiating it from the original, diving Aquascaphes are the GMT bezel, in place of the 60-minute diving scale; enlarged markers on the dial; a 6 o’clock date; and a GMT hand to keep track of a second time zone. Additionally, the water resistance has been decreased, from the 200 meters necessary for diving to a lower but still substantial 100 meters. The watch is likely to appeal to both new and existing Baltic consumers; the updates, including the date window and large indices, indicate that the brand is listening to input from its fans.

A closer look at the Aquascaphe GMT finds the familiar 39 x 47 x 12-mm brushed steel case, similar to that of previous models, complete with slim lugs, a 24-hour, bidirectional GMT bezel with sapphire insert and a signed screw-down crown that aids in the water resistance. Currently, Baltic is offering the watch in three color varieties: blue-and-green, blue-and-gray, and blue-and-orange, as reflected in the bi-color bezels and small accents on the dials. Baltic has noted more color options will likely be introduced pending the response consumers have to these models, so those looking for a “Pepsi” colorway may be in luck later on; the Aquascaphe, however, takes its foremost design inspirations from Blancpain rather than Rolex, however, so nothing’s guaranteed.

That historical influence is found most clearly on the vintage-style dial, underneath the double-domed sapphire crystal, which takes cues from the same Blancpain-produced Waltham Bathyscaphe watches that inspired the original Aquascaphe. On the outer edge is a thin white minute ring, elongated at each hour. Inside this ring are printed hour markers, with a single Arabic numeral at 12 o’clock, slim triangles at 3 and 9 o’clock, and circular markers for each of the remaining hours. At 6 o’clock is the fan-requested date window, outlined in a matching white.

Deeper toward the center of the dial, we spot the now-familiar, thin Baltic logo under the 12 o’clock position, and below it a colored “Aquascaphe” text and white “GMT.” Passing over the dial are two pencil-style hands for the hour and minute, while a lollipop-tipped pointer counts the seconds and a color-accented, rounded-triangle-tipped pointer indicates the second time zone. Both the hands and the hour markers use C1 LumiNova — a less bright variety of lume, but one that remains a pure white in daylight.

Inside the Aquascaphe GMT models is the Soprod caliber C125, a rising-star GMT movement favored by some smaller independents and micro-brands. The Swiss-made caliber holds a 42-hour power reserve, beats at 28,800 vph, hosts 25 jewels, and boasts a high level of shock resistance. Its accuracy is unclear, though the brand claims it was “chosen especially for its robustness … reliability [and] … optimum precision.” The movement is protected via a solid, screw-down caseback engraved with a map and a world-time motif, some of the watch’s descriptors, and its numbering out of 600 pieces — which will be the limit of the first production run.

The launch of the Aquascaphe GMT is significant. It not only represents a responsiveness by the brand to the wants of its consumers, many of whom had been asking for a GMT-focused Aquascaphe and especially one with a date, but it also signals Baltic’s growth from its niche, micro-brand origins into a true player — albeit a smaller one — in the watch market at large.

Baltic’s use of a Swiss movement in this latest model — its first time doing so in one of its watches — is also notable. The obvious appeal of the movement, to both the brand and the consumer, is in its Swiss production, which helps account for the Aquascaphe GMT’s price premium in comparison to other Baltic models. Baltic feels confident that its consumers will pay a premium, and further that the brand will benefit by shifting more of its production to Europe from Asia. (Despite the Swiss origin of the movement, the vast majority of the components for Baltic watches are still sourced from Hong Kong and assembly takes place in France, which is also where the rubber and steel bracelets are produced by a partner.)

Will the Aquascaphe GMT become the top sub-$1,500 GMT model upon its release? That remains to be seen. In any case, it marks a big shift for Baltic and the micro-brand market at large, proving that small players can make big waves with the right leadership behind them.

The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT is available directly through the brand, and is set to retail for $1,105 on a tropic rubber strap, or $1,200 on a steel beads-of-rice bracelet. The first production run will be limited to 600 numbered editions, though Baltic plans to put the model into regular production eventually.

To learn more and inquire for purchase, you can visit Baltic’s website, here.

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  1. The grumpy old man

    I wish Baltic success. However their value proposition has gone down since they first presented their first marine inspired models. Other smaller brands offer similar watches ( eg Yema, and others) with interesting movements for much less. At these prices one can aim at well established Swiss brands and even save a few bucks. I currently see no reason to buy their new crop of models.

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