Hands-On Review – Alsta Nautoscaph Superautomatic (The Jaws Watch)

The Skinny

  • Diameter 38 mm
  • Thickness 13 mm
  • Movement – Seiko NH35A
  • Water resistance 999 feet (300M)
  • Price ₤795 (Roughly $1,000)
  • Limited Edition 1975 pieces

I Don’t Even Swim

Before I go and review this dive watch I ought to disclose that I don’t own any dive watches. I can’t swim, and I generally don’t like chunky watches. However, I appreciate a good watch.

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The Alsta feels good on the wrist. The relatively smaller size of 38 mm is comfortable on my skinny, bony wrist. The cushion shape allows the spring bar holes to be incorporated into a cutout in the case so that there are no long lugs to overhang the wrist. The watch looks tall, especially with the smaller size, but a good portion of the thickness is due to the bezel. Without the bezel it is only 9 mm thick so it wears like a small watch but has an outsized presence due to the extra material on the cushion case. It is most similar to some of my 1970’s Seiko Bellmatics which share similar shapes as Seiko divers of the same period.

What’s an Alsta and What Does it Have to do with Jaws?

Alsta in its current incarnation is a microbrand founded by Angus MacFadyen (the tech CEO, not the actor that played Robert the Bruce in Braveheart). The name Alsta originally belonged to a Swiss brand founded in 1946 that went out of business in 1982 in the aftermath of the quartz crisis. It probably would have been consigned to the dustbin of history except that in 2010 two brothers named Gary and Christian Stock discovered that Richard Dreyfuss wore an Alsta Nautoscaph dive watch in the movie Jaws in 1975. In 2014 the company was relaunched and after 3 years of development they released a series of dive watches. The first was the Nautoscaph II, a 40 mm dive watch inspired by the Jaws watch. It was followed by a limited release of basically the same watch with a black PVD coating, and then a version with a different dial. This is the first watch in a new case and bracelet.

The Original, as listed on reddit watch exchange by u/toddlinebaugh

Going Deeper

The cushion shaped and relatively thick case gives a lot of the character to the watch. It is instantly recognizable as a piece inspired by 1970’s era wristwatch design language, but the thickness gives it a somewhat more chunky feeling than the vintage pieces of the era. The front, the chamfers, and the back are brushed and the sides are polished 316L steel. The crown is large enough to wind easily and is simple with no crown guards or branding, but it utilizes a robust triple lock design. 

The bezel has 5-minute marks on 60-minute and 12-hour scales. The first 15 minutes is silver and the remainder is black which in addition to being functional also adds some contrast and interest especially with the silver and black triangle. The unidirectional bezel is slightly stiff and the notches on the edge are not very deep so you need to get a good grip on it to turn it. However, the clicks are precise and satisfying. There is a domed sapphire crystal which adds to the vintage feeling. The caseback has a shark image with the number out of 1975 pieces. Other information about the watch includes “anti-magnetic,” “100% tested,” and “999 feet.” I will note that while the watch is noted on Alsta’s website to be tested to ISO standards for anti-magnetism and shock resistance, it is not officially certified as a ISO 6425 compliant diver’s watch. It is possible that the watch meets all the standards for a dive watch but was not certified due to the cost of testing. 

The bracelet has the first three links on either side with oval holes, presumably to lighten the weight. This adds a distinctive look which you may or may not find appealing. The remainder of the bracelet has removable links secured with pins. The clasp is a double locking fold over clasp with a shark logo which feels quite secure when closed. The bracelet, like the rest of the watch, is simple but has a strong design language and feels robust.

The black dial looks relatively small for a dive watch due to the 38 mm case size. The compact space is used efficiently with the Alsta logo at the top and the Superautomatic/shock resistant/certified/999 ft at the bottom. There are coffin shaped luminous markers at the five minute marks. These are cut smaller at the 3/6/9/12 positions with luminous Arabic numbers except for the 3 position which has a date window with a white background. The coffin shaped markers give it a distinctive look. The hour hand is a gladius, the minute hand is a modified sword shape, and the seconds hand is an arrow, all with ample lume. 

The movement is a Seiko NH35A. I personally have no issue with using a Seiko movement instead of a Swiss one at this price point. It is an automatic (bidirectional magic lever) and hand winding, hacking movement with a quick set date. It has 24 jewels and beats at 21,600 bph with a 41 hour power reserve.

Overall, this is a visually distinctive, compact-yet-chunky, vintage-inspired, affordable dive watch. The 38 mm cushion case, the holes in the front of the bracelet, and the coffin shaped luminous markers offer a design language very different from the many microbrand dive watches inspired by the Rolex Submariner. It is refreshing to see a microbrand maintain quality but also take some risks. If you want a dive watch with a unique vintage inspired look in a compact size, I encourage you to take a look at the Alsta Nautoscaph Superautomatic “Jaws Watch.”