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Panzera Aquamarine Pro Diver Review

Are big watches making a comeback or did they never leave?

Disclosures: This watch was sent from Panzera to review but is the previous model to the Pro Diver that just launched. The alterations made from this version to the current is the case has been slightly modified to accommodate their M2 stainless steel bracelet. All Aquamarines purchased as of November onwards can accommodate the bracelet.

I was fortunate to spend the better part of this past summer and fall with the Panzera Aquamarine A45-D Pro Diver for a field review. You may be familiar with our other field reviews involving backcountry hiking and diving. With the Panzera, I went on two backcountry trips AND took this watch diving. All non-field images in this review were taken following these adventures.

The Aquamarine Pro Diver is a 45mm compressor-styled diver with 300m of water resistance powered by the Seiko NH35 movement. Panzera is an Australian watch brand that has been producing large and bold watches for the last few years, filling a much-needed gap in the micro brand market that is occupied in the luxury space by Panerai and brands of their ilk. The Pro Diver retails for a steep $895 USD on the new bracelet but regularly run promotions bring this number down as low as $537 (40% off). On the strap, the price is $715 retail and about $429 with the discounts. With me is the Black dial, and I have the classic black rubber strap and their vibrant yellow for an extra punch of Vitamin D. Blue is also offered as an alternate dial variant.
Backcountry.

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Back Country

On the wrist, the Pro Diver provides that surprisingly comfortable feel while maintaining a massive wrist presence, familiar to anyone who has tried on a Panerai. The diameter is 45mm, which is the upper echelon of what my 7.25″ can pull off comfortably, and the lug-to-lug is 55mm. For the types of adventures, bringing the Panzera on bigger was definitely better. The massive internal chapter was easy to see through the AR-coated crystal from just about any angle, and the blasted case made any accumulated scratches negligible.

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The first of two backcountry trips was to Caribou Lake. Caribou Lake is accessible via an 8.8-mile trek of the Arapahoe Pass Trail. The hike covers almost 3,000 ft of elevation gain and achieves heights of over 12,000 as you summit the top of the pass.

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(My wife and our pup Chloe enjoying the views at the top of Arapahoe Pass, Caribou Lake lies about 1,500ft below)

The trail is a bear of a hike, and we had been experiencing unseasonable rain back in July. The rain was great for combatting the fires of years past and made me thankful for the extra comfort of serious water resistance the Pro Diver had. Like our previous backcountry trips, I used the divers timing bezel to time increments of effort along the trail. Either 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the difficulty of the section of the trail.
I had concerns that using the crown would be annoying or obnoxious with frequent use, which has been my complaint about other duel crown divers in the past. However, the oversized crowns were not problematic, and I had no issues with cross-threading. Due to the angle at which duel crowns enter the case, this is a common issue, so to see that Panzera had sorted this out on their pro-spec’d diver is a huge plus. Props to them because this is not easy.

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The only complaint I had during the hike came after a water break. I went to sling my backpack over my shoulder, and the watch’s crown caught on the backpack causing the quick-release spring bar used on the strap to fail.

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I noticed as it happened and dropped the pack, allowing the watch to land on the backpack before bouncing to the ground harmlessly, aside from a small scratch on the polished bezel. This goes back to my gripes surrounding the use of spring bars industry-wide.

Spring bar gripe:

Traditional Spring bars are trash. I am not specifically referring to the spring bar here on the Panzera, but everyone’s. My Rolex Explorer II had its spring bar fail (OEM Bar) during a hike earlier this summer, and it was not even remotely as reasonable as getting caught on a backpack. The bar just failed, all on its own. Spring bars are inherently flawed because they are designed with the assumption that the bar’s failure mechanism would be steel in shear, which is NOT a correct assumption. In the case above and with my Explorer II, the failure mechanism was due to compression of the spring that was maintaining the steel bar within the lug hole. This results from a force being applied to the spring bar from the strap, which is not perfected perpendicular to the bar. A force applied at a slight angle can cause the spring to compress within the tube due to gaps between the pin and steel tube. Once the spring is compressed, the steel pin pops out of the lug hole, and your watch is gone. This can happen to any bar at any time with the right circumstances, except for a great shoulderless bar. I am working on a more in-depth project to discuss why spring bars are so flawed, but for now, we will leave it here and return to the review.

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Caribou Lake was spectacular; in the few hours it wasn’t raining. We rose early, and the Aquamarine aided me in making our morning coffee while watching the early sun illuminate the surrounding peaks.

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The highlight of this trip was the moose that graced us with their presence. You can see one in the background of the above photo, but here is my favorite image of the trip.

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For the fellow photographers reading this, the above image was shot at 70mm to give you a sense of how uncomfortably close this moose was to camp.
The second backcountry trip the Panzera came along with me was our Field Review of the Tudor Pelagos 39. I wore the Pelly 39, and my good friend John (@watcheswithjohn) wore the Panzera to give me feedback and serve as a wrist model.

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I mean. Damn. This watch looks fantastic out in the wild. John is an owner of a bunch of peak adventure watches. From the latest Pelagos 39 to a limited-run bronze Laventure. His feedback on using the Panzera? The Pro Diver was insanely comfortable for the size, and he was shocked by the quality of the case for the money. The rubber strap is high quality and comfortable. He echoed my thoughts from the backcountry trip I took with the Pro Diver a few weeks earlier.

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After about 26 miles of backcountry hiking and a week in the wilderness cumulatively, how else could we test this watch out?

Panzera Aquamarine Specs

Case Width

45mm

Lug-to-Lug

55mm

Case Thickness

14mm

Lug Width

24mm

Water Resistance

200m

Strap

Rubber Strap

Crystal

Sapphire

Lume

Yes

Movement

Seiko NH35

Price

$590

Diving

How about taking the watch for 20+ hours of travel to Tahiti for two weeks of diving? Although the Aquamarine Pro Diver has a wealth of water resistance, it has some apparent limitations in practical use. Let’s get those out of the way first and get to the positives.

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With all super compressor-style watches, the duel crowns are a problem. True super compressors are much less common than you would think, and the limitation is that you cannot adjust the timing bezel once you are IN the water. You need to unscrew the crown to rotate the bezel, compromising the water resistance while setting the timer. When diving, you would need to set the bezel before getting in the water for it to be of use during your dive, and you would be unable to use the watch as a timer for navigational purposes or as a safety stop timer. Despite that, are you able to use the watch during diving? Yes, of course.

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Our preferred method was to set the bezel to about 5 minutes in the future and then, once in the water, wait to start the dive until the time aligned. Additionally, you can use the bezel to time your surface intervals. When diving with a dive computer and a backup dive computer, this is plenty to ask for from your mechanical dive watch, especially on guided dives. Had we been doing our navigation, this would have been more inconvenient.

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The apparent advantage of the watch was the ridiculous legibility underwater. Due to the crystal shape and wide chapter ring, you can read the watch underwater from almost any angle. The rubber strap was long enough to accommodate a wetsuit without any issues, and the 24mm width was appreciated while taking the watch on and off on a rocking dive boat.

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The most significant takeaway from diving with this watch was damn it was cool and easily one of the best-looking watches underwater I’ve used. I thought not needing to use the bezel (in part because you couldn’t) would bother me, but in reality, it didn’t. Using my mechanical dive watch underwater is excellent, and there are uses for it, BUT it is another thing to do and worry about. I dive with a full camera rig, including strobes, multiple video cameras, safety buoys, emergency beacons, knives, computers, backup computers, compass’ES, noise makers, and so on. All of this is a ton to manage and consider, and it was nice to have one less piece of gear not to concern myself with. The Pro Diver was there when I wanted to look at it, was easy to read when I did and required no action on my part. It turns out that is plenty—all the more time to snag an image of the incredible wildlife.

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Aside from the obvious durability and legit capabilities of this watch, how was it just a daily companion? Similarly to the Panzera Chronograph I recently reviewed for our YouTube channel, people continuously complimented me on this watch. Both on the trail and abroad, the large dial and colorful straps catch people’s eyes. From across the room, anyone can read your watch and the high-contrast dial, especially when paired with the vibrant yellow.

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The matte black dial does have some texturing when viewed with a macro, and the date window is extended to include two additional positions. With the large handset, the added size to the window ensures that you can check the date regardless of the position of the hands. If the time is in the 14th minute of a given hour, you can tell what the date is from the third number and likewise for other times.

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The Panzera branding appears throughout the watch, including the caseback and crowns. The branding here is tasteful and well done. Combining the blasted and polished case makes the metal interesting in all lighting conditions.

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Chapter ring, indices, and hands are all treated with blue lume (Panzera doesn’t specify the type). I’m not sure the type, but I found the lume to be plenty for reading in the dark, both out in the wild and when setting up for a photograph.

Final Thoughts

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How does the Pro Diver stack up? I found the watch to be compelling as an adventure companion. Robust, thoroughly water resistant, and easy on the eyes. As watches continue to trend smaller and smaller, there will likely become more prominent niche brands like Panzera carve out for themselves by serving the underserved desires of big watch connoisseurs. Within this price point, I struggle to come up with a close watch, and even if I could, I wonder if it would outpace the Aquamarine Pro Diver. With the new stainless steel band as an option, the watch is complete.

If this were a traditional review, the complaints I would raise would be regarding the font and size of the numbers on the chapter ring being slightly too large. They blend together and lose their overall definition due to this. That being said, what place does that have in a 2000+ word review on a watch that just went through more testing than virtually all watches do in their lifetime? The Panzera is a watch you can buy for your dad or recommend to a friend as their one watch; they’ll continuously be showered with compliments from strangers. The watch will stand up to anything they put it through; it’s the perfect recommendation especially as many of those who crave a larger watch with more wrist presence are finding fewer and fewer options under $1,000.

Check out more Panzera reviews at The Watch Clicker here

Check out the Panzera website here

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