I recently took a short scuba diving trip to the Florida Keys. So I took a friend's personal watches on the trip with me in order to photograph and shoot some video during my dives. The watches that were loaned to me were the Bathyscaphe 300 and NOS 200m Vintage divers. I did four dives in a weekend. Two were wreck dives and two were reef dives. The first wreck dive was on the Spiegel Grove LSD-32, a Thomaston Dock Landing Craft that measures over 500 feet in length. The second wreck dive was on the USCG Cutter Duane, a Treasury Class 327 foot Cutter that performed 25 escort missions during WWII. Both ships were deliberately sunk as part of the Florida Keys Artificial Reef program.
Are there artificial reefs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary?
The reef dives were conducted on French Reef and Davis Ledge. One was a day dive, and the other a night dive. I've been on all of these sites previously. It was my third dive on the Duane, my 5th or 6th on the Spiegel Grove, and I can't count how many times I've been on the two reef dives. I wore the Aquadive BS300 on the wreck dives and the NOS Vintage 200m on the reefs.
The BS300, while a large watch, has features that make it ideal for diving. First is it's depth rating and construction. The BS300 is a serious dive watch with a depth rating of 10,000 feet (tested and passed to 13,000 ft) to match. No worries here about whether or not it can withstand a dive to a measly 113 feet! The ISOfrane dive strap I wore it on was supple, yet strong enough that I wasn't concerned about it coming off. The watch itself has a high-sided easily gripped bezel that, while fairly easy to turn, gives a feeling of confidence when set at the beginning of the dive. The hands are easy to spot at a glance and make for telling bottom time a breeze.
I admit to knocking the BS 300 once or twice against the hull or the edge of a gunwale, but upon my after-dive inspection, it was spotless. On the swim-through's of the wrecks, it was easy to forget I was wearing it, but it was always there when I needed to double-check time. It was also used as a backup to my dive computer when performing safety stops on the line. The flat sapphire crystal provided a clear view of the dial and sits flush with the bezel, making it less prone to scratches or nicks. As for the fit and finish, I'd rank the BS300 with the best divers I've ever worn whilst submerged; those would include such names as Omega, Girard Perregaux, JLC, and many others. The BS 300 offers a no-compromise package with all the features you'd expect in a legitimate tool diver, and then some. I'm not sure I can name another dive watch that can withstand over 10,000 feet of pressure and live to tell the tale.
I was told by the owners of the watches that the Aquadive NOS Vintage 200m diver was a rare limited edition (60 pieces) collectible that wasn't recommended for diving, even though its pressure tested to 200m by Aquadive. The reason being, due to its vintage 35+ year old domed Hesalite crystal. But the owner assured me it was quite alright to take his personal watch down to any depth I wanted, up to 200m. He knew the risk, but was quite confident in the watch's construction. And he was also willing to have it repaired and rebuilt should the vintage domed Hesalite crystal leak at depth.
So the NOS Vintage 200m diver accompanied me on the shallower dives but still made it to 45 feet without a hiccup. The oversized hands and markers are easy to spot underwater and they glow nicely. I chased down eels, grouper, reef squid, lobster, sea turtles, and other reef denizens with my camera while wearing the NOS Vintage 200m. The case is smaller than the BS300 by quite a bit, but that's what gives it that late 60s retro vibe. On the NATO strap, you don't even realize it's there until you need it. All in all, the NOS Vintage 200m is an understated but functional dive watch in it's purest form. No frills, but lots of style and functionality.
Personally, I'm delighted that this iconic brand has been born anew. Aquadive's storied history needed to be recounted again, and the new models are true to the original spirit of the brand. I'm looking forward to seeing the other new offerings from Aquadive in the very near future.
Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoy the pics.
Chris Kraska (EOT/DWF Moderator)