Baltic Aquascaphe GMT Hands-On Watch Review
There are some articles that come easier than others. Sometimes the words just flow. This was not one of those times. Understandably, I found myself wondering why? After spending more than a month with the Baltic Aquascaphe GMT on and off my wrist on both the supplied bracelet and the spare rubber strap (my preference), I think I figured out why.
Some releases are loud; some releases are quiet. While brands make varying amounts of noise themselves, it is the product that dictates the decibel level. Some releases are designed to send a sonic boom peeling through the industry. Others — and this is the case with the Baltic Aquascaphe GMT — are most certainly not.
Baltic has done a stand-up job of bringing out timeless, relatively refined designs at a solid and competitive price point. It is not a brand designed to rock the boat. In fact, it is just about as stabilizing as a brand can be. Next to its price-point competitors of a similar age and pedigree, Baltic looks positively mature.
A broad fanbase
To its credit, Baltic, with its more patient, methodical, long-term thinking has established a legion of die-hard fans (and with good reason). The quality of Baltic watches is immediately apparent out of the box. I honestly wasn’t expecting to like this piece very much (and from a colorway perspective I definitely would have preferred the navy/green variant instead of the navy/orange variant I got to borrow), but its crisp lines and professional design execution are top-notch.
Talking of that colorway: most of what brings this watch to life can be found in the bezel and the coordinating GMT hand. What is really apparent in these elements is the money that’s been spent on bringing them to life. The bezel insert is actually sapphire where one might expect to find mineral given the retail price of the watch.
I also made a point of getting the GMT hand under a loupe to examine the color application. It is absolutely excellent. Furthermore, this is not a stock hand shape at all. The curved triangular indicator enlarges the presence of the hand without making it overbearing. The character it adds to the otherwise muted display is most definitely welcome.
A job well done
The bezel action feels just about perfect to my fingers. Some will prefer a stiffer bezel; others will prefer a free-flowing design. This bezel handles the 24-click rotation very competently, and while my preference is for a 48 or even 96 click 24-hour GMT bezel (to cover those tricky time zones), I think I’m in the minority. At least, with this design, accidental shifts are easier to avoid.
When it comes to the case, I must say it is a job well done. The finishing is crisp, the edges are sharp, the lugs are drilled (hallelujah), the crown is bold, well-engineered, a joy to use, and decoration is sensible. Simply put, when it comes to these “smart design decisions” I always talk about in regards to brands spending the right amount of money on achievable excellence, Baltic has knocked this one out of the park.
I personally rejoiced at the 39mm size (it sits on my 16.5cm wrist very nicely but would look at home on a much larger wrist also, I believe). I measured the lug-to-lug at bob-on 47mm. If that sounds a bit small for you, I would recommend trying it on the beads of rice bracelet. Talking of that bracelet…
The bracelet is amazing
I didn’t want to fiddle about with resizing the loan piece so I wore this watch on the rubber strap (my preference anyway), but I have to say that as far as beads of rice bracelets go (and they go a long way in my opinion) this one is really quite something. It really gives the impression that every single piece was individually polished and then hand-assembled. Again, I use the word crisp.
Behind the case back
Now, the “True GMT” warriors might be disgruntled to learn that the hour hand can not be set independently of the GMT hand, but the GMT hand can, of course, be adjusted separately. What is interesting about the movement behind the case back is that is it neither an ETA nor a Sellita. Rather, Baltic has opted for the Soprod C125. Architecturally and functionally it is much the same as the aforementioned pair, but it is, from a collector’s perspective, I imagine, a little more interesting. Despite having — ahem — one or two watches in my collection, I do not yet own a Soprod-powered timepiece. I’d be quite keen to change that…
The Soprod C125 (formerly known as the A10 for anyone to whom it looks familiar), has pretty straightforward specs. A 4Hz (28,800vph) operating frequency, 25 jewels, and a 42-hour power reserve, paints a slightly prettier picture than the ETA 2893, which has four fewer jewels and four fewer hours of run-time, while the Sellita SW330 boasts an identical stat line to the Soprod.
A reduced, symmetrical dial makes this piece functional and quite timeless. The typography adds to that. Yes, the wordmark/logo is doing its own thing below 12, and the “Aquascaphe GMT” text is produced in a separate font but so finely printed it is barely visible between 6 and center. But the bezel and 6 o’clock date typography actually match, although the date font is visibly slimmed. Rather than feel huddled, it feels like a proportionally sound decision.
At first glance (especially if you’re looking at the “10” or “20” of the date wheel, perhaps) you might not think these fonts are in any way related. But go ahead and scroll to the open-topped “6” and the open-topped “4” on the date wheel and compare them to the bezel. An example of visual trickery that will have its fans and detractors. I personally found it in keeping with the rest of the watch.
This watch is a lot of things at once. It is both vintage and modern. It is both shy and extroverted. At €1,105, I’m sure it will have its lovers and its haters. And that’s always a good thing. As we frequently hear these days, if you don’t have haters, you’re not trying hard enough. I can certainly say this: Baltic appears to be trying very hard and succeeding very handily in its quest to become one of the past decade’s most established new brands. And I can’t wait to see what the next few years hold in store for it. Learn more about Baltic here.