Hager Aquamariner: Better down where it’s wetter

Hager makes a small, but tight-knit assortment of diver-based watches. Whether it’s the Commando Professional, a milsub-homage, or the new GMT Traveler, you can be sure of one thing – the watches are well-made interpretations of the watches they pay homage to… like the Hager Aquamariner.

A long December, and it’s easy to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last

Aquamariner is a pretty faithful interpretation of one recent history’s most popular watches: The Tudor Black Bay. Black Bay was a model that launched the reintroduction of Tudor to America, and relaunched Tudor as a brand that paid respect to its heritage, without simply reproducing models faithfully. Of course, that didn’t last long, and the more straight homages followed quickly. Black Bay started as a 41mm Submariner-type watch in a tall case with red coin edge bezel, and matching red crown tube. The coin edge is a fine tooth edge, where the historic models were a coarse tooth edge, with wider, flatter teeth. The cases were also never so tall in the past; they were shorter, with case backs and crystals that bubbled out from the top and bottom. Here, by making the mid-case itself larger, the back can be flat, and the crystal can be lightly domed, with its edge picking up the angle of the bezel insert, making for a lot more graceful hunk of steel, uninterrupted by parts jutting out. A word on pronunciation: Hager is pronounced similar to “Hogger” and Aquamariner could be “ah-kwa-mare-uh-ner” or “ah-kwa-muh-reen-er.” I’m not certain, to be honest.

Aquamariner follows this ethos closely. It’s a 41mm diameter watch, 300 meters waterproof, with the Miyota 8215 movement. The molded end links fit the lugs tightly. The coin edge bezel is short and the mid-case tall, just like the Tudor. The sides are polished, and the red crown tube is very prominent, with a big crown signed with the Hager H on its end. The case has beveled edges where the sides meet the top of the lugs, and these bevels are polished as well, where the tops of the lugs are brushed. The red chosen here is a nice deep red metallic one. The numerals in the bezel are slightly engraved, which is a nice look, but the bezel is metal, not ceramic. I know this, because I had the bad luck to ding the bezel insert; I don’t know how. The crystal sits just slightly proud of the bezel insert. The applied indices are great, flat, and catch the light wonderfully. The dial is a deep gray, and bears the “rotor self-winding” text in a smile. There’s no date magnifier, and that’s alright.

The hand stack is nicely spaced here.

The hands are properly wide, but the minute hand is slightly short of reaching the minute track. The hour hand is the proper length, but has the unfortunate taper between the ball and pinion, where it should be straight. The reason for all this is that Hager doesn’t get hands custom made for them. It’s hard enough getting all the other details right, most microbrand watchmakers end up choosing hands out of a catalog and getting it close to right. Sometimes, they even get it perfect, but it depends a lot on what’s available. Here, it looks as if the minute hand were made for a 40mm model, and the hour hand could have been a snowflake to alleviate the taper between the ball and pinion. This is something you’ll have to decide for yourself if you like the look of it.

The bracelet is a solid end-link with solid links stainless steel affair. The end-links are solid molded rather than machined, so they lack the sharp edges you might find on a machined bracelet. Machining is expensive. The sides of the bracelet are brushed, leading into a engraved signed ratcheting clasp. We’ve seen this clasp before on the Borealis Sea Hawk, but here it’s had some work done: It now has beveled edges that are polished, something we haven’t seen before on it. Some people think this clasp is too bulky – and they’re not entirely wrong. It’s larger than the bracelet that joins it, at a place on your wrist where it’s desirable to have a smaller taper. Still, I do appreciate the ability to adjust the bracelet on the fly. Divers never do this – a diver is going to wear a watch with a nato or silicone strap. However, my wrist swells and contracts during the day, based on temperature or activity, and being able to keep it fitting properly is a good thing.

This watch isn’t light weight. It weighs in at a whopping 190 grams, where a Rolex Submariner is usually around 165. This is due to the larger case, the solid link bracelet, the clasp, all of it. It’s kind of a brute. The Borealis Sea Hawk weighs 197 grams, and the NTH Näcken Modern weights 140 grams. The Legend weighs 153. You’d think this is all a difference that doesn’t matter, but it’s entirely possible to feel the difference of 10 grams on the wrist. This isn’t to say that it’s bad – some people prefer a hefty watch, big, with a lot of mass. If that’s you, this might be your watch. It’s definitely a good looker. It feels much taller than it is at 12.75 mm. If I had been asked without knowing the specs, I’d have thought for sure it was a 14 or 15 mm tall watch. Part of what helps is the low profile sapphire crystal.

Harry Potter as a watch – still not sure how I dinged this one.

Hager recently opened a boutique in Maryland, by appointment only, and from the looks of it, it’s a beautiful space where you can go, talk watches, experience the Hager collection that’s growing carefully, with measured, well-considered choices. The Aquamariner is available for $450 USD, in red, black, and blue (okay, okay, Burgundy, Midnight Blue, or Black) bezel and crown colors. It’s a popular watch, with some models low on stock, but more will be produced.

Watch Overview

  • Brand & Model: Hager Aquamariner
  • Price:  $450
  • Who we think it might be for: You like a modern reinterpretation of a modern reinterpretation, where neither is a duplicate of its progenitor
  • Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: I was sorely tempted
  • If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: Do something about the hand length and slimming down the bracelet clasp
  • What spoke to me the most about this watch: The loving interpretation of the Tudor, itself a loving interpretation of Tudors of old.

Tech Specs from Hager

  • Case size: 41mm (50mm lug-to-lug)
  • Height: 12.75
  • Case material: steel (brushed, and polished)
  • Crystal: slightly domed sapphire
  • Strap: solid stainless steel with solid end links
  • Movement: Miyota 8215
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