1970: The beginning
1970 Benthos 500
In 1970 Aquastar released what was to become one of the most iconic dive watches ever: the Benthos 500. The first non monobloc cased dive watch to be designed to operate at 500 meters depth, the Benthos 500 incorporated an innovative 60 minute flyback totalizer for timing a dive. Building on the trend of that era to make dive watches bigger and more substantial, the 500 measured in at: 47mm lug to lug, 42mm wide (48mm if you measure across the offset crown), 16mm high with a 4mm thick crystal and had a 20mm lug width. It also incorporated a 60 click bezel which was large and easy to grip even with gloved fingers and a simple high contrast dial. The Benthos 500 became a favorite of Jacques Mayol and he wore it when he broke the 100 meters freediving barrier with a no limits record dive to 101 meters in 1976. The watch would also be included in the approved equipment section of the 1973 US Navy Air Diving manual. A detailed retrospective of the Benthos 500 can be found here:
1987: 3300 FeeT DEEP
1987 BENTHOS I
The 1970s could be classed as the depth ‘arms race’ in the dive watch world. There were serious bragging rights to be attained for having a deeper depth rating than the competitors and Aquastar stepped up their game to participate. The Benthos I was introduced and the depth rating doubled to 1,000 meters. The new watch looked visually similar to the Benthos 500 initially but looking close shows that there were a number of changes. The most substantial change was the caseback, or the lack of one. The Benthos I used a one piece monobloc case. This now meant that there were only two water ingress points. The crown, which was screwdown with double o-rings and the 4mm crystal, which had a screw down gasket compression ring. Overall, the case and bezel had rounded edges giving it a more streamlined look, but the biggest change was the clockwise rotation of the crown and totalizer monopusher by approximately 25 degrees so that the crown was now at a more traditional 3 o’clock position. The same Benthos 500 functionality was there but at double the depth.
1985: The Quartz ERA
1985 Benthos II Marine Nationale
When the Benthos II was released there had been a number of changes both at Aquastar and in the watch world. Frédéric Robert was leading a design team at another Swiss brand and the quartz revolution had begun to decimate mechanical Swiss watchmaking. With the Benthos II, Aquastar simplified the functionality of the watch. While the case was similar to the monobloc Benthos I, the movement was now a simple 3 hand quartz version, without the functionality of a totalizer and the need for a monopusher. The dial changed to show large luminous numbers and a smaller 24 hour count. The handset also changed. The Benthos II was still a 1,000 meter dive watch but simplified from the Benthos 500 and Benthos I. The Benthos II may have been a less complex watch to the two previous generations but it was highly thought of by the French Navy as several watches were issued to the French Navy “Marine Nationale”.
2023: THE RE-EDITION
2023, A NEW era has begun..
Retaining the original proportions and exact dimensions of the 1970 Benthos 500, the new 2023 Benthos H1 is built around a tonneau-shaped 42mm 904L stainless steel case, with the crown once again in its unique position at 2:00. As the purest expression of the Benthos visual DNA, this reference is powered by a Swiss-made genuine ETA 2824-2 Elabore grade movement, and has been embellished with modern updates throughout, including a unidirectional rotating dive bezel with a ceramic insert, and generously applied modern SuperLuminova in Aquastar’s signature “old radium” ecru color to punctuate its inky black dial. And just like the original Benthos with its pioneering depth resistance, the H1 also maintains a robust 500 meters of water resistance — making it once again, the deepest diving modern Aquastar to date.