In Watch of the Week, we invite HODINKEE staffers and friends to explain why they love a certain watch. This week’s author is Asha Wagner, a professional Fire Captain, ardent adventurer, and deep tool-watch enthusiast based in Northern California. Read more about her in the new issue of HODINKEE Magazine.
I really wasn’t sure which to pick for this story. The truth is, I’m a nut for gear and, as I’ve gotten further into my career path, I’ve become a huge fan of tool watches. As a Fire Captain, a Hazardous Materials training officer, and a hazmat specialist with a FEMA task force, I have a history of being tough on gear – including my watches.
My path to this funky ’70s Aquadive Time-Depth Model 50 is one of slowly discovering watches within the context of their history as tools for difficult and adventurous jobs and experiences. I started wearing a Timex while I was working in wildland fires, where watches are crucial for keeping to a schedule and timing vitals for those in emergency medical situations – like pulse, breathing rate, etc.
I loved that Timex for its backlight but replaced it because the movement ticked so loudly it made it hard to fall asleep at night between calls. I switched to a Luminox, but the tritium tubes proved too fragile for my work and the battery eventually died in the middle of the night while I was on shift.
These days, my work-watches span a handful of tough and legible timepieces, but I primarily wear a Sangin Instruments x Triple Aught Design Dark Professional. These are quartz, but they have an end-of-life battery indicator, which gives ample warning to change out the battery when needed.
They are really tough, glow well, and the company is run by genuinely nice people. I still frequently use my watch as a tool for my work, especially as a backup timing device for tracking air use when my team is breathing on an SCBA (that’s like SCUBA, but we aren’t underwater) for hazmat entries and Large Area Searches in buildings.
But the Aquadive is different. Less of a work watch and more of a watch for living. Stuff like errands and just hanging out. I came across the brand after falling for their Poseidon GMT a couple of years ago. I love co-branded watches and was always on the lookout for toolish designs that could keep up with my work – be it fighting fires or rappelling from helicopters for the US Forest Service.
The Poseidon helped kick off a fascination with funky 1970s tool watches. I fell in love with the era and the designs. When trying to explain why I love watches from the era, I’m always reminded of a quote I read from Max Büsser on the HM9, “The whole idea of HM9 is based from a time when engineers were artists. There were no wind tunnels to tell you whatever car or plane you were designing was actually efficient. So you’d design something that you thought would go fast and therefore you actually designed something that looked fast.”
I love this thinking, and it also applies to the way that watches were designed in the ’70s. The Time-Depth looks so burly and capable just sitting on a table. There’s no mistaking this era’s take on tool watches. They are unapologetic in their focus on a specific task, and they definitely aren’t trying to fit under a cuff.
So I started hunting for a Time-Depth and eventually locked in on a few good examples being offered on eBay. I took some advice from a watchmaker friend of mine about what to look out for to avoid buying one with a dead or soon-to-be-dead movement and I made an offer. The seller accepted and said that they could tell I would appreciate the watch given the questions I had asked in advance.
And that’s how I ended up with this funky chunk of cool ’70s design. It’s a Model 50, measuring 46mm wide with a left-side crown, an electronic movement that uses a battery to wind the mainspring, and a special diaphragm that allows the watch to indicate depth underwater. Sure, it’s huge, but think of what it offered back in the day – two crucial dive functions in one wrist-worn tool.
Nearly five decades later, it’s mine and I wear it casually for day-to-day use. Stuff like errands and just hanging out. I have it on an Erika’s Originals MN strap because it suits the watch and the parachute webbing and hardware reminds me of my time as a Helicopter Rapeller. For me, the Time-Depth represents this era’s ability to combine engineering with bold design and the pursuit of adventure.
Shop this story
Learn more about Aquadive watches online. HODINKEE Magazine Vol. 10 is available in the Shop. The HODINKEE Shop has also curated a selection of watches based on those featured in Vol. 10; explore the collection here.