Did IWC miss an opportunity with the release of their Aquaman Aquatimers? Did IWC miss an opportunity with the release of their Aquaman Aquatimers?

Did IWC miss an opportunity with the release of their Aquaman Aquatimers?

Jamie Weiss

Just before Christmas, IWC revealed that they’re releasing a pair of limited-edition Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month models, which are inspired by prop watches they’ve supplied to the villains in the upcoming Aquaman sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Our editor Zach was one of the first in the world to break the news of this collaboration, and you should read his extensive write-up here.

‘Inspired’ is the crucial word there. The two watches seen in the film – a red model worn by Black Manta (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and a blue model by Dr. Stephen Shin (played by Randall Park) – are not the same as the two Aquatimers available in the real world. The prop watches feature extremely bright always-on backlights and appear to be simple time-only models (they have internal diving bezels but lack a seconds hand or date window) whereas the real-world Aquatimers boast complex digital perpetual calendars and feature more conventional Super-LumiNova.

iwc aquaman aquatimers
L-R: The IWC Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month in red (ref. IW379405) and blue (ref. IW379406).

And here lies the dilemma: why are the real-world watches so different to the prop watches? These Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Months are cool watches, but it feels like a missed opportunity on IWC’s part.

The reason it’s such a head-scratcher is twofold. Firstly, the Aquatimer hasn’t received a major update in years. In 2022, IWC introduced the Aquatimer ref. IW328802, which replaced the ref. IW329001 which was in production from 2014 to 2021. The only difference between the two references is that the newer ref. IW328802 is now powered by the IWC-manufactured calibre 32111, which boasts a 120-hour power reserve – a substantial upgrade over the previous model’s ETA-based calibre 30120, which only had a 42-hour power reserve. However, other than that tweak, the Aquatimer hasn’t seen a significant aesthetic update in almost a decade.

iwc aquatimer IW328802
The IWC Aquatimer Automatic ref. IW328802.

In that sense, it’s a missed opportunity for IWC to relaunch the Aquatimer, which they could have done with a special edition of a new and overhauled but less complicated model. They could have used the Aquaman tie-in to debut a new Aquatimer collection – but actually, the Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month was first introduced back in 2017 with the Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “50 Years Aquatimer” ref. IW379403, which also has a Ceratanium case. The only difference between the ref. IW379403 and the two new ‘Aquaman Aquatimers’ is that the latter two feature blue or red Super-LumiNova.

The IWC Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “50 Years Aquatimer” ref. IW379403.

It kind of feels as if IWC’s overcompensated for not producing glowing watches like the props from the film by instead offering complicated perpetual calendars… However, at a whopping A$91,400 each, the two Aquaman Aquatimers are way out of budget for the vast majority of superhero movie fans. They’re not quite as punchy as the controversial and similarly superhero-inspired A$240,000 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon… But they’re close, and that’s the second confusing thing about this release.

In my opinion, they might have been better placed simply releasing two Ceratanium takes on the standard Aquatimer, as that would still be pretty novel for collectors: they’d be the first time-and-date only Aquatimers in Ceratanium, and the first Ceratanium Aquatimers in the range since the now-long-discontinued ref. IW379403.

iwc aquaman villain posters
Posters for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom featuring villains Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park), both prominently wearing their IWCs.

I understand why IWC didn’t release movie-accurate Aquatimers. The props in the film are clearly backlit using some sort of powered light source, and as you can see from this behind-the-scenes video below, the watches themselves aren’t strictly functional: there are lights built into their dials below the hands at 10:12. It would not be feasible or desirable for IWC to bring them to market. But I don’t think anyone would have complained about Ceratanium Aquatimers with coloured lume. They’d also be a lot cheaper and therefore more accessible to more Aquaman fans. A$91,400 is a bewilderingly expensive sum.

Having said all that, I don’t hate the two Aquaman Aquatimers. They’re very high-tech, imposing and exactly the sort of overblown, ridiculous watch a supervillain would wear. The red model in particular is very evil-looking and suits the character of Black Manta perfectly. And am I a dork for loving the Aquaman/Aquatimer synergy?

However, I’m holding out hope that 2024 – which is a decade since the current Aquatimer design was introduced – might see IWC overhaul their dive watch yet. Maybe these two Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Months are a last hurrah for the design. We’ll just have to wait and see…