Written by Senior Writer, Mike Razak
Before I dive into the who of the Aquanero Sailmaker, it’s probably a good idea to get into the what. The brand describes the model as a sailing watch. Now what in the name of John F. Kennedy at Hyannisport is a sailing watch? I can’t be sure. There’s no hard data on the subject. But best as I can tell, it’s a watch not meant for immersion in the water, but instead meant for being near the water; you can splash it all day and night, but try not to drop it in the deep blue.
If you’re sailing, you’re probably of a certain wealth, and so there’s a bit of a high-end feeling to a sailing watch, certainly a bit of polish somewhere. Think of sailing watches as the boat shoes of the watch world; they’re not waterproof, but they certainly look fantastic when worn on a boat.
The Aquanero Sailmaker is one such watch, and it’s part of the family of brands under Blacklist Watches (including the eponymous Blacklist brand, Archon, and Harbinger). Blacklist was founded in 2013 as a college side hustle, but its rapid success allowed the expansion into new marques to allow a diversity of models that may not fit into the design language of the original brand. Aquanero aims to be a sea-inspired brand and the Sailmaker is its first offering.
On the Wrist
I’ve learned from my watch obsession that 43mm is about the upper limit for my 7-inch wrist. The Sailmaker wears every bit of its 43mm on the wrist as far as heft and feel go, but at a glance, seems closer to 42 because of the pronounced bezel and restrained dial features. But the watch has definite wrist presence; you know it’s there, and you’ll immediately know if it’s flown into the water off the port side of your 120’ Oyster 1225, just as you’re about to set anchor for the Catalina Wine Mixer.
A gentle downward slope of the lugs doesn’t mitigate the 13mm thickness, but it also doesn’t worsen it. Again, the watch wears true to size in every dimension, but the integrated bracelet—basically a Patek Philippe Nautilus bracelet—ensures that the flow from the watch onto your wrist is uninterrupted, and therefore far less likely to be unwieldy.
There are 12 different colorways and I chose arguably the least-legible one (white indices with polished surrounds on an ice blue dial) and it was still readable at a glance. However, larger hands would have made checking the time even easier. The coarse sand dial is a joy to look at, and the heavily brushed bezel only enhances the aesthetic pleasure.
While I think most people will laud the dial of the Sailmaker as the best feature, I’ll say it’s a close runner-up to the case and bracelet. The dial’s texture is great and I almost always prefer something to nothing, as flat and matte can get very boring, and means everything else has to be perfect. The ice blue is a beautiful color, so much so that I don’t understand why anyone would buy one of the others when they had the option of this color.
So, what’s the problem? The date window is too small when compared to all the other features of the dial, and it’s located too far in, which creates some awkwardness. Next to the big bold hour markers with matching polished surrounds, the date window looks a bit feeble. The same issue befalls the handset, which I mentioned already could use being slightly thicker, with a slightly shorter hour hand. All brands should take note that there are natural points on the dial where the hands should end, usually the minute track (for minutes and seconds) and the interior edge of the indices (for hours).
The lume is evenly applied which is rarer than you’d think in this price bracket, and so should be commended. However, it’s not as bright as I’d like. It’ll meet your basic needs, but won’t last that long, and so at night or in dark places, you’ll be left guessing after a few minutes. But at night you should be properly hunkered down in the master cabin waiting until the next morning when the Catalina Wine Mixer begins, which has been called the “Le Mans of Social Drinking.”
Case, Bracelet, and Movement
If you’re familiar with the Patek Philippe Nautilus, you’re familiar with this case. While it is larger, the vibe is certainly similar, and the brand has acknowledged it took inspiration from the acclaimed luxury timepiece. The main difference is a fully round case, instead of a rounded square. It does give it a bit of distance and one can’t justifiably call the Sailmaker a knockoff.
All the finishing is exceptionally crisp; the midcase is brushed, while the dramatic bezel features a polished bevel and a heavily brushed top. It’s a pleasant amount of contrast that, executed at this level, makes the watch hit a bit above its weight class. Geometric crown guards are polished on only the top facet (an interesting choice), and are relatively subtle, protecting a deep-grooved signed crown.
The massive domed sapphire crystal is welcome but can obscure the periphery of the dial when checking the time at an angle. Perhaps this could be a bigger issue if you’ve caught some ocean spray on the lens while racing your sailing buddy Brock after daydrinking at the Catalina Wine Mixer. But aside from such seagoing shenanigans, the crystal adds vintage charm to an otherwise quite modern watch.
The bracelet is done perfectly. Integrated with the case, you’ll only be able to swap straps if you have something custom-made. But while I am a self-avowed strap addict, I had no problem because the bracelet is just so nice. With polished center links and finely brushed main links, the bracelet features a significant taper from the case to the butterfly clasp. Another potential drawback (but not for me) is the lack of microadjustment. It means a cleaner look to the bracelet, but a bigger risk for not being able to find the perfect size with the provided links. It sized perfectly to my 7-inch wrist, though.
The back of the case is polished with a thick screwdown caseback (I like the round holes for unscrewing, but they are purely an aesthetic choice). A sapphire caseback is useless, in my opinion, as it only serves to show off the entirely undecorated Miyota 8215 movement. When you’re plopping down $795 for any watch, I expect a better movement. I try not to be a movement snob, but certain price points call for certain features; the 8215 is a fine movement, but the bottom tier for Miyota and lacks hacking, which I expect on almost any watch above $500. The justification, as I was told, is that the finishing is and design are of such a caliber that a more affordable, while still robust, movement was selected to manage costs. I don’t disagree on the quality of the watch itself, but I’ve seen this issue better managed elsewhere, with less sacrifice.
This isn’t the watch you’d own if you were actually going to the Catalina Wine Mixer on your Oyster 1225, nor if you owned property in Hyannisport. But it is a watch that you might wear if you were visiting Hyannisport with a friend whose friend has a boat he was going to let you use. Or if you couldn’t get tickets to the Catalina Wine Mixer, so you had your own well-attended and very classy sailing-themed wine mixer in your backyard. That’s what this watch is. It’s not the Patek Philippe Nautilus. But it is a solid watch, with a great look and superb finishing.
The Aquanero Sailmaker comes in every color you can imagine, and some with gilt accents, some with polished steel, all rather classy. As I mentioned above, the limited sizing options of the integrated bracelet may cause issues for some—and versatility is cut down drastically unless you want to lay out cash for custom straps. Add to that a middling movement for the price, and so-so lume, and you’ve got a watch that’s going to appeal strictly for its look, rather than its aesthetic and technical entirety. If you can look past those few nitpicks, you’ll be in for quite a lovely watch, with top-notch finishing and a design that echoes one of the greatest sailing watches ever made.
Check out more dive watch reviews from The Watch Clicker
Check out the Aquanero website
|Lug-to-lug Height||47mm||Lug Width||Integrated|
|Water Resistance||100 meters||Lume||Super-LumiNova® BGW9|