For many, today’s introduction of the Aquastar Benthos 500 Chronograph has been a long time coming. After all, this is arguably one of the brand’s most famous historical references. Well, for those who have been waiting, prepare to be impressed because this is a fantastically modern yet faithful rendition of the beast from 1970!

Since 2020, the resurgence of Aquastar has brought us a slew of lovely watches. The Deepstar, Deepstar II, and Series 60 are skin-diver-cased beauties that have all struck a chord with buyers. Then, late last year, a different design direction emerged. The Benthos H1 showed us that the brand’s leader Rick Marei was interested in paying homage to one of history’s most beloved dive watches. The H1 was an affordable three-hand model instead of a chronograph, and the watch sold out quickly. Still, there were questions. Fans asked for a true chronograph with a central minute counter like the original Benthos. Now, with the new Benthos 500, their wish has been granted.

Aquastar Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition Chronograph

The Aquastar Benthos 500

The new Aquastar Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition Chronograph is an impressive watch. As we’ll see, it’s a dead ringer for the original 1970 model, but it has been fully modernized. It contains a new, exclusive movement designed especially for this watch, which is impressive considering the small initial run. The watch’s size is faithful to the original, but the case has been slimmed down and reshaped slightly to make it more wearable. Finally, the price is attractive considering the heritage and, more importantly, the sum of its parts.

A case with thoughtful modifications

The Benthos 500 uses a 316L stainless steel case with a 42mm diameter and 47mm length. This is the same footprint as the original, but three key details have been updated in the name of comfort. The watch is 15.4mm thick, including its flat sapphire crystal. This is 0.6mm thinner than the original model. Next, Rick and his team altered the side profile with a greater downward slope to the lugs. These alterations lead to less of a porpoising effect on the wrist. Finally, the lug spacing was increased from 20mm to 22mm to help provide both greater physical and visual balance. Normally, I like a narrower lug gap, but I agree that a wider one works better on this watch.

The movement is an achievement

Fans were wondering what was taking so long for an accurate reissue of the Benthos 500. The answer is simple: there was no readily available mechanical movement on the market to address the particular requirements of this watch. Namely, it needed to be an automatic monopusher chronograph with a centrally mounted 60-minute chronograph hand.

Work began more than three years ago(!!) between Aquastar and La Joux-Perret to create a bespoke movement with all the necessary features for the Benthos 500. The result is the caliber 1MPS, and it’s a testament to the growing partnership between the two companies. Spec-wise, the automatic movement has 60 hours of power reserve and can be manully wound via the signed screw-down crown at 4 o’clock. The chronograph pusher is at 2 o’clock (the original was at 4) and works like a typical monopusher. Of course, because this is a 60-minute chronograph, it takes a true minute to ensure it’s working. Aquastar goes out of its way to mention that the pusher can be used underwater.

Aquastar Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition Chronograph dial close-up

Cosmetic details of the Benthos 500

Aquastar stayed true to the original concept of the Benthos 500 with all of the physical details. The semi-glossy black dial features a mix of printed and applied indices with ecru Super-LumiNova. The minute and hour hands are large and luminous, and the chronograph hand is orange with a luminous arrow-shaped tip. There’s no date window, which is also in keeping with its forebear. The signature “checkered” black and white rehaut is there, and it adds the right amount of pizzazz to an otherwise straightforward dial design. A black ceramic unidirectional dive bezel with luminous markings lends a modern touch. For those wondering, the bezel provides solid action without being unreasonably difficult to turn. It feels like quality.

Aquastar Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition Chronograph Case back

“Quality” is a good word to describe the entirety of the new Benthos 500. Some may not buy into Rick Marei’s passion for vintage dive watches, but his obsession with detail is on display here. Small touches like the brushing on the top of the case or the star-shaped case back feel expensive. The movement development alone is a reason to applaud.

Aquastar Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition Chronograph wrist shot

On the wrist

The Aquastar Benthos 500 is no wallflower, but its compact dimensions make it quite comfortable on the wrist. I agree that the wider ISOfrane strap helps keep the watch balanced, and there’s no lopsided feeling. The Benthos may lack grace, but it makes up for it with comfort and character. My wrist is small, yet this watch works well on me and wears much better than another large diver like Seiko Marinemaster 300.

Aquastar Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition Chronograph

Pricing and availability

Aquastar will make just 300 numbered units of the new Benthos 500 Founder’s Edition Chronograph. That’s a shame, but perhaps we will see more colors in the future. Still, the black model is the most original and would be my choice. Aquastar is offering a pre-order price of US$2,790. That price will rise to US$3,790 after shipping begins in May. Considering the uniqueness of the movement and legendary styling, I can’t fault the price at all. Plus, and it’s sad to say, the options for well-finished watches at this price level have dwindled dramatically over the past year. It should sell quickly as many have been waiting for this release. We’d love to hear your thoughts, though. Does the new Benthos 500 meet your expectations?

For additional information and ordering details on the Benthos 500, visit the official Aquastar site.

Watch specifications

Benthos 500 Founder's Edition Chronograph
Semi-gloss black, applied hour markers with high-density Super-LumiNova (ecru color)
Case Material
316L stainless steel
Case Dimensions
42mm (diameter) × 47mm (lug-to-lug) × 15.4mm (thickness)
Flat, triple-coated anti-reflective sapphire
Case Back
Stainless steel, screw-in
La Joux-Perret 1MPS: automatic monopusher chronograph movement with manual winding, 28,800vph frequency, 60-hour power reserve
Water Resistance
200 meters (660 feet)
22mm black ISOfrane rubber strap with stainless steel pin buckle
Time (hours, minutes, central seconds), centrally mounted 60-minute chronograph hand, 60-minute dive bezel (unidirectional with 120 clicks)
US$2,790 (pre-order price) / US$3,790 (regular price)
One year
Special Note(s)
Limited edition of 300 pieces with deliveries beginning in May 2024