I have a question for you: How many black dialed-dive watches do you own? The black dial, black bezel format has long been the central aesthetic for the dive watch derived from the format’s intensely toolish origin story. But today, SCUBA diving has finned well beyond its military start to become a safe and exciting leisure sport. Furthermore, watches aren’t even commonly used as a safety device for diving – so can’t we all have a little fun?
For the young British brand Farer, the answer is a resounding “yes,” and the brand’s latest dive watch, the AquaMatic, applies Farer’s boldly colorful charm to a dive watch that should suit not only smaller wrists, but also smaller budgets.
Despite the stoic nature of early (and enduring) dive watches like the Submariner and the Fifty Fathoms, there is a long-standing history of bright and colorful dive watches – just consider Doxa, Jenny, Mido, Zodiac, Yema, Bulova, and many more. The AquaMatic continues in that thinking by taking a conventional steel dive watch format and offering it in four exceedingly colorful versions – the Porthleven (blue/red), the Cribbar (red/black), the Freshwater (white, light blue), and the version seen in this review, the Thurso (silver/teal/orange).
Regardless of the coloring, the watches in the AquaMatic quartet are all 38.5mm wide, 11.9mm thick, and 45mm lug to lug. With 200 meters of water resistance, a screw-down crown, luminous aluminum bezel inserts, flat sapphire crystals, and closed steel casebacks, the AquaMatics also come with a trio of mounts, including a steel bracelet, a colorful rubber strap, and a fabric NATO-style strap.
The Thurso is so named in reference to a town (Thurso East) in Northern Scotland that is known to be home to the area’s best surfing, including the Thurso Open. As a watch, the Thurso is characterized by a teal bezel, a silver dial, a bright orange minute ring, and both markers and hands that feature green lume coloring bordered by dark blue edges. The complex mix of colors is capped off by a white seconds hand with a punchy pink-red tip. Surprisingly, especially for a guy with fairly conventional dive watch tastes, I think all of these colors come together nicely and the Thurso certainly has a presence all its own.
As you can see from the photos, legibility is excellent thanks to the overstated nature of the markers and hands. The lume, too, is very good thanks to a considerable application of Super-LumiNova for the hands, markers, and bezel. Finally, there is a day-date display at three that works well in terms of dial balance and practicality. Dial text is minimal and the matte silver base of the dial helps to keep the colors from overpowering the design.
Speaking of power, the AquaMatics feature a Sellita SW220-1 automatic movement, which ticks at 4Hz, has about 41 hours of power reserve and offers Swiss timekeeping at a price where Miyota has become much more common. It’s not a fancy movement, but they are reliable, easily serviced, and generally fuss-free. Just what one wants from a dive watch, and Farer continues to offer a five-year warranty for their watches.
The case is simple, with a brushed finish, a recessed pocket for the crown, and 20mm lug spacing which allows for a wide range of strap options. The bezel is unidirectional with 120 clicks and a light action. Bezel grip is only okay and there is a tiny amount of wiggle in its action, which is common for 120-click designs and bezels at this price point. All in all, it is easy enough to use, if a bit too smooth at the edges.
Where the AquaMatic really shines is (as one would hope) on the wrist. The case shape and proportions are lovely and the bold display projects off the smaller dimensions to offer a lot of presence despite the mid-sized case. This is especially true when you fit the bracelet, which is nothing short of excellent for the price point.
While both the bracelet and the rubber strap feature quick-change spring bars, once I fitted the bracelet I did not switch it back to the rubber (save for photos). The bracelet is fully brushed with a five-link layout that tapers to 17.5mm at a butterfly clasp. While such a clasp does not offer any micro-adjust, the bracelet has several removable links for adjustment and I found it to be very comfortable on wrist.
Using split pins for the removable links, while it’s far from my favorite format for bracelet sizing, the tolerances and build quality are great and sizing was simple, with no need for pliers and no worry of bent pins. For my 7-inch wrist, I removed five links and the resulting total weight on the bracelet was 144 grams.
Similar to the bracelet, both the rubber and the NATO straps are high quality and work well on the AquaMatic Thurso. That said, and not ignoring my usual distaste for bracelets, I found that the Thurso was at its best on the steel. Given that Farer includes all three options, each AquaMatic owner will be able to discover their own preference.
The Thurso feels substantial but very easy to wear. It sits low and flat, and the bracelet is nicely balanced in terms of weight, proportion, and how well it integrates with the general design. I expect much of the experience is a result of the weight and the short lug to lug, the combination of which allowed the Thurso to wrap nicely around my wrist.
For $995, and assuming one of the four colorways suits your tastes, the AquaMatic offers a great experience and nothing short of a whole lot of watch (and fun) for the cash. Over the years, I have spent time with a handful of Farer’s watches and the AquaMatic is the first to challenge the Roche World Timer for top billing in my mind. Sure, I kind of wish they offered a more boring spec (what can I say? I like grey), but such an option would certainly be less entertaining.
The sub-$1000 dive watch range has never offered more for your hard-earned money and now we can add another name to that list with the Farer AquaMatic Thurso: a colorful, nicely-sized, well-made, and thoughtfully-designed watch that wears with a smile and suggests that dive watches are supposed to be fun – especially when you’re not diving.
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Farer watches are sold directly via the brand’s own website; for more information about the Aquamatic, click here.