Legends are made quickly in the microbrand world. In the case of the Halios Seaforth Bronze, news of its popularity could barely keep up with the speed at which it sold out, and while rumours of a second production run have been teased since January, second-hand Seaforths in bronze have been selling for more than their prior RRP. Not to be outshone, the French emerging mainstay Baltic have released their own bronze-cased, 200M, time-only watch, dripping in vintage character and with similarly perfect proportions. While these two watches are by no means clones of each other, no doubt they’ll be fighting over territory on your wrist.
The dimensions of these two watches both sit in that masculine sweet spot for those who want big impact in a non-overbearing package. The Seaforth’s 40mm diameter and 48mm lug-to-lug should ensure a comfortable fit on smaller than average wrists, and the same goes for the Aquascaphe’s 39mm width and 47mm lug-to-lug. Both measure in at a modest 12mm high, including their domed sapphire crystals, so neither will provide too much of an obstacle to sliding under a cuff, if that’s the kind of environment you’ll be wearing it in.
Although the Halios isn’t immediately recognisable as a dive watch due to its fixed solid bezel, it matches the Baltic’s capabilities of 200M water resistance thanks to a screw-down crown and stainless steel caseback, which gives the added bonus of not leaving oxide residue on your skin. Speaking of the patina, both watches have specific blends of bronze using aluminium, which prevents the watch from becoming a green-blue ocean relic immediately — instead, subtly darkening over many months in a consistent manner. If patina isn’t your thing, then these kinds of alloys also require less cleaning to keep their warm, golden lustre. So far, so equal.
While the Seaforth was available with three dial variants, we’re going to be singling out the blue sunburst reference, as it was one of the more popular options and most neatly competes with the Aquascaphe. As the name ‘Seaforth’ implies, the rugged timepiece doesn’t stray too far from the hallmarks of an out-and-out diver. Chunky slabs of C3 Super-LumiNova fill the rectangular indices, with a large triangle at 12 o’clock helping with orientation in the dark. A decent amount of lume on the refined gold-tone hands doesn’t go astray either, with crisp white minute tracks lining the perimeter of that sunburst-brushed dial, which has shades of navy and aquamarine flowing as it moves and plays with the light. The Halios script is bold, no-nonsense, but also unobtrusive.
The Aquascaphe is in an entirely different world, channelling imagery of Jules Verne and lost treasures. Whether you’re a fan of aged lume or not, on this watch it’s perfectly at home. The creamy and textured paint works wonders with the art-deco numerals on the quarters, as well as matching the tone of the gilt hands and minute track — leaving the white lollipop seconds hand to really burst off the sunburst dial, which truly resembles a midnight-blue sapphire stone, tumbling into an ocean’s depths. The large hands help enormously with legibility, and the unpainted bronze bezel helps prevent an overall complexity while keeping its diving functionality.
Both of these watches come on rubber with a bronze buckle by default, but while the Seaforth has a plain, albeit comfy, black strap, the Aquascaphe doubles down on vintage charm with a dial-matched blue Tropic strap. However, with a common lug width of 20mm, both of these watches can be veritable strap monsters. NATO, suede, canvas, or sailcloth, your options for aftermarket straps are limitless and will definitely form part of the fun of ownership.
Here is where one of these watches shows some objective superiority to the other. Both have the typical 28,800 vph beat rate, an average power reserve of around 40 hours, and have hacking and hand-winding. While the Baltic packs a Miyota 9093, the Halios boasts an ETA 2824-2. Make no mistake, the Miyota is a perfectly good movement — generally reliable, cheap to service and usually more accurate than its stated -10/+30 seconds per day, but it just doesn’t quite carry the same reputation as the Swiss-made ETA. The ETA’s boons are accuracies closer to +/- 12 seconds per day, bidirectional winding instead of unidirectional, instantaneous date changing and, in most cases, quieter rotor noise. Being an off-the-shelf movement, it’s also easily serviced and adjusted, although replacement parts may be a touch more expensive than the Miyota.
So, as you may have guessed, there can be no clear winner between these two watches. Bronze cases aren’t generally considered very versatile, but if you’re looking for something that may pass more easily for daily wear then the Halios is the one to go for. At the same time, if you’re lusting after something that looks from a different age, the Baltic offers nigh unbeatable value. While the movement may be superior in the Seaforth, both casebacks being solid steel means that you’re rarely going to think about it, so just let your emotions guide you.
Pricing and availability of the Halios Seaforth and Baltic Aquascaphe
As previously stated, the Halios Seaforth Bronze is currently out of production and only available on the second-hand market, seeming to hover around $800 USD, a substantial increase from its $685 RRP. But if you keep your ear to the ground and have some patience, it’s more than likely that a second generation will eventually come around.
The Baltic Aquascaphe Bronze Blue Gilt is available to purchase here, and although at the time of writing it is sold out, it’s not a limited edition and should be back in stock in the not-too-distant future. At around $720 USD, it’s a very close competitor with the second-hand Seaforth, but you also get the two-year warranty.