I was never going to push the Vertex M60 AquaLion to its limits. It’s a watch that is built to withstand water pressure at a depth of 600 meters. Not even the diving Fratelli such as Gerard and Nacho reach depths of 600 meters. I took the rugged and capable AquaLion for a couple of swims in the North Sea, that’s what I did. I also wore it in incredibly hot weather, sat with it on a terrace, and took it out for dinner. And guess what? It performed flawlessly, felt comfortable, and with its balanced aesthetic, even looked like quite the suave gentleman.

What do most people want from a modern dive watch? For it to be waterproof. But that’s only because they want to be able to take a shower and swim with the watch. The waterproofness is a spec that ensures usability without a care in the world. And with waterproofness comes ruggedness. A dive watch is a solid piece of kit that’s not afraid of a few bumps and occasional harsh handling from its wearer. A dive watch is also a symbol of fitness, vibrancy, and confidence. I know, this sounds suspiciously like the characteristics that the Cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus) cow looks for in a dominant bull, but may I remind you that we are still human animals despite the watches we wear? The Vertex M60 AquaLion (£2,375 excluding VAT) sure has the muscular good looks of a 600-pound, seven-foot-long Cape fur seal bull in his prime.

Vertex M60 AquaLion

The Vertex M60 AquaLion dive watch was having a laugh

When you think “sports watch”, you basically think “dive watch”. The characteristic looks of a watch with a contrasting dive bezel, a lot (or at least a more-than-average amount) of lume, but not too many frills otherwise provides an instrumental, no-nonsense appeal that speaks to almost every man. It certainly speaks to me. And in the case of the Vertex M60 AquaLion dive watch, I’m pretty sure I also heard it laugh at me at least once.

It was the first time I went for a swim with it. There were hardly any waves, and I did spend a wee bit of time underwater because of the cooling effect on a blisteringly hot summer’s day, but it didn’t impress the AquaLion one bit. I think he found my frolicking in the gentle waves amusing at best. Frankly, I was embarrassing the watch. So when I checked out the time, I could have sworn I saw a big fat smirk on the face of the AquaLion.


M100 versus M60

It didn’t stop me from wearing the AquaLion, though. The watch was right; I couldn’t challenge it. I realized that, and we were both okay with it. And because the AquaLion is not a clumsy 45mm “dive beast” like some other creations we had at Fratello HQ lately, it proved very easy to enjoy its over-engineered capabilities. And so I did. The M60 AquaLion may lack the all-out vintage charm of the 2017 M100. That watch, Vertex’s reappearance on the watch scene, is the updated version of the famous “Dirty Dozen” field watch supplied to the British Armed Forces during World War II. The M100 is nostalgia re-imagined in a very tasteful and respectful way.

With the M60 AquaLion, Don Cochrane — great-grandson of Claude Lyons, the man who founded Vertex in 1912 — created a more or less timeless timepiece. It’s a creation that uses all the proven ingredients that make up a dive watch but with additional details that, while not overly prominent, play a significant role in how you perceive and experience the watch.

Vertex M60 AquaLion

Having a click with the bezel

The bezel of the M60 AquaLion, for instance, is something special in a subtle and soft-spoken way (until the lights go out, but I will get to that later). First and foremost, I like the bezel because it’s a 60-click type — one click every minute. It’s accurate, it’s simple, and it feels solid. Click it into the desired position, and it stays there firmly without any forward or backward play. The bezel has fine-drawn cutouts with a textured structure — Cochrane apparently found inspiration in the rear sight adjuster of a British Bren gun, a WWII light machine gun he has in his possession — and the grip is superb. The cutouts also add a unique visual element. The bezel looks both familiar and different.

Light the way, Vertex M60 AquaLion

Believe it or not, I’m not done yet writing about the bezel. And that’s because the bezel guides us to the light, yet another remarkable feature of the AquaLion. The matte black ceramic bezel shows engraved timing indices filled with Super-LumiNova Grade X1. And that is some serious glow-in-the-dark material. The markings on the bezel light up like a nuclear-powered Christmas tree, and if that weren’t enough, there’s also plenty of lume to be found on the dial and the three hands. More than plenty, in fact, because the markings and Arabic numerals on the dial are molded out of the same Super-LumiNova Grade X1. In the dark, the AquaLion truly shines and comes alive. I was struck by it every time I went from the light to the dark.


Handling the AquaLion

Although the M60 AquaLion measures “just” 40 × 14mm and has a lug-to-lug length of 49mm, it wears bigger. I don’t mean that it feels bigger than it is on the wrist, but it sure has more presence than an average 40mm dive watch. The solid feel, but also the design of the crown, bezel, slightly domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, and case ensure that you notice the watch. The build quality is something you could guess from the spec sheet, but it’s even better to experience it on the wrist.

The M60 AquaLion is water-resistant to 600 meters and accomplishes a return from that depth without the need for a helium valve. That takes a seriously tough and well-built case. A well-balanced case at that. I know this also has to do with the size and specific shape of one’s wrist, but on my 18.5cm wrist, the M60 AquaLion felt right at home.

M60 AquaLion

Microbrand, macro achievement

As you know, Vertex is a microbrand. The watches the brand produces, however, don’t have that microbrand feel that you often encounter. The watches and the brand punch above their weight. There’s this burning ambition to create and present watches in a grandiose manner. It shows in the design, the details, the finishing, the included extras, and the packaging. The AquaLion comes in an excellent multipurpose Pelican Personal Utility Ruck Case that is both waterproof and buoyant. It looks awesome too, but in the end, it’s what’s inside that counts.

The AquaLion comes on a sturdy three-link steel bracelet with quick-change functionality. There are even a couple of extra links in the case, plus a black rubber strap and a blue Zulu dive strap with a small dive flag on the keeper. And you know what’s very clever? There are two different spots to put the spring bar in. This allows the bracelet to sit flush against the side of the case or the spring bar for the rubber strap to sit nice and close to it. However, if you want to use the included textile strap (or any other multi-pass strap, for that matter), the hole furthest from the case leaves enough room to do so. That’s the kind of thoughtful, impressive practicality that I enjoy and respect.

Strap of choice

My personal favorite is the black rubber strap with a subtle military sign on the lower half. The dive strap is too long for me to wear without a wetsuit. And although I do think the steel bracelet with one-sided screws for easy sizing and a wetsuit extension is excellent, the combination with the black rubber strap and a strong pin buckle is my personal preference. The combination reminded me a bit of my very first Timex watch, a tiny hand-wound sports watch I got when I was in elementary school many, many moons ago. Put the two watches side by side, and they look nothing alike, but my mind somehow melts my memory and the present together. And as a result, I didn’t want to take off the AquaLion because of how it made me feel.

Final specs and thoughts on the Vertex M60 AquaLion

Do I think that the price of £2,375 excluding VAT (roughly €2,893) is justified for what you get? Yes, I do. Vertex creations like the timepieces in the M100 and MP45 mono-pusher chronograph series always have a slightly heavier price tag than similar watches from other microbrands. But it’s the excellent attention to detail, tasteful execution, fantastic build quality, and convincing specifications that justify the price. Speaking of specifications, I didn’t even mention that Vertex used the tough ISO 6425 certification guidelines to create the 600m water-resistant M60 AquaLion. And the brand didn’t stop there. Inside the case beats a Swiss chronometer-certified Sellita SW300-1. It explains the presence of “C.O.S.C.” on the dial right above the red line of writing — you’re looking at a “single red” AquaLion, for what it’s worth.

The Vertex M60 AquaLion is a worthy adversary of dive watches from the likes of TAG Heuer, Longines, and even Tudor. It can certainly rival the big brands’ creations in terms of hardware. Only the brand experience is different. It’s a smaller, more introverted, more personal experience. Don’t expect social confirmation for your choice of the M60 AquaLion as you might get with a watch from a big brand with a large advertising budget and expensive brand ambassadors. But if you dare to wear the Vertex M60 AquaLion, this dive watch will deliver. And if the AquaLion makes fun of you after a dip in the pool, just enjoy its spirited character.

For more information on the M60 AquaLion, please visit the official Vertex website.

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