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WATCH REVIEW IWC Aquatimer Chronographe Cousteau

Editor's opinion
73.5 / 100
As the fifth tribute from IWC to J.Y. Cousteau, this new Aquatimer chronograph celebrates the Commander's 100th birthday. It's an elegant diving watch, tested for you by The Watch Observer.
Straight to the Point

IWC Aquatimer Chronographe Cousteau

Ref.: IW376706
$5,150.00 US retail price June 30th, 2011
  • an elegant diving watch
  • the quality of the finish
  • the system to change the strap
  • a watch that is a little thick to be truly dressy
  • the chronograph’s push buttons, undersized relative to the case
  • the loss of the “toolwatch” aura
Brand IWC
Model name
Aquatimer Chronographe Cousteau
Case material
Case diameter (without crown)
Case diameter (crown included)
Movement type
IWC 79320
Base Caliber
Valjoux 7750
Dual-face crystal with anti-reflective coating
Power reserve
Transparent back
Lug width
Length from lug to lug
Case thickness
Clasp type
Pin buckle
Clasp material
Total weight
147 grams
Retail price USA at June 30th, 2011
Comfort (/15) 14
Movement (/20) 10.5
Movement Optimisation / Garnishment (/5) 2.5
Ease of handling and adjustment (/5) 4
Movement control proceeded by the Manufacture / horlogical awards (/3) 1
Power reserve (/2) 1
Complications (/5) 2
Finishing (/20) 17
Dial finishing (/6) 5
Case finishing (/6) 5
Quality of garnishment / caseback engraving quality (/2) 2
Crystal quality (/4) 3
Clasp finishing (inner and extern) (/2) 2
Functionality (/20) 17.5
Diurnal legibility (/5) 4.5
Night legibility (/4) 4
Water resistance (/3) 1
Strap : ease of size adjustment + ease of substitution (/4) 4
Clasp : quality and safety (/4) 4
Additional items (/10) 2.5
Limited edition (/3) 0
Watch delivered with several straps (/2) 0
Quality of the watch box (/1) 1
Portability with shirtsleeves buttoned (/2) 0.5
Goodies included (/1) 0
Understandability of the brochure (/1) 1
Value for money (/15) 12
When to wear it ? For a walk in Sea World, San Diego, CA!
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A sober diver’s watch

Based on the new Aquatimer chronograph that came out in 2009, this special series differentiates itself with its colors, materials, and specific engravings.

Let’s first take a look at the colors of this diver’s watch.
This new edition abandons the bright colors (yellow, orange, blue) of the classic IWC Aquatimer range.

The Cousteau now bears a black bezel with a plain white area to demarcate the section between 0 and 15 minutes.

The same idea is used for the dial.
It is now slate grey with a beautiful reflection to it, and has now two subdials which provide the perfect contrast with their midnight blue color.

The midnight blue color is also subtly present in the area around the chronograph pushers.
We should point out in passing that the concept is clever and consistent: the push button’s color indicate a particular function, with the same color used for the corresponding parts of the dial!

Excellent readability

Also gone are the colored hands from the previous versions of the model: the hands for this new IWC are now white.

But only during the day!
IWC had the great idea (as shown in my Live pics) to preserve the colors blue and green for the nighttime display, as a way to bring to light the minutes hand (the most useful one for diving) and the 0-15 minute area on the bezel (corresponding to the average time of a dive without decompression).
It’s well designed, and gives a great look to this Aquatimer by night!

One small distinctive feature: the main crown is not made of steel, but rubber, in order to provide a better grip.

Only long-term usage will show if this crown will have the same kind of longevity as a steel one.

This special version also provides us with J.Y. Cousteau’s signature just under the date display, as well as an engraving of the Commander’s face wearing his legendary hat on the back!

An elegant dive watch

For the other parts of the watch, we find all the usual characteristics of the new IWC Aquatimers: a nicely designed sapphire bezel that is easy to grasp with gloves on, an imposing diameter with a straight stature that reinforces that impression, nice big, readable hands – a readability that is aided by the sapphire with its double-sided antiglare coating.

Admittedly, some might complain that this new version has become too posh, and that it has lost the “toolwatch” quality of its predecessors: too classy to be used in a leisure dive without fear of damaging it, and too big to be used as a dress watch…

When all is said and done, it is a good representation of this trend of “lounge” diving watches which for the most part will never see any sea water – maybe just a few drops of champagne in the worst case scenario!

A great production quality

While (as with the older generation models) the water resistance is limited to 120 meters to allow for the use of the chronograph, the push buttons on the other hand should have been made larger.

This special version also provides us with an engraving on the back of the Commander's face wearing his legendary hat on!

Indeed they are a little small considering the firm push required to trigger the chronograph.
But most importantly, their small size seems a little out of tune with the esthetic for the rest of the watch, which is more sporty and heavy.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s not critical!

On the other hand, the clever rapid-change system for the bracelet (under a Cartier license) is particularly well-designed and seems very reliable (see the video).
A real pleasure to handle!

No real surprise regarding the caliber: this watch is equipped with a 79320, derived from the Valjoux 7750.

Sturdy, reliable, and precise, it is also nicely decorated by IWC: circular graining, Côtes de Genève, and immaculate beveling.

Indeed, like all the calibers coming from ETA, IWC customizes them to generate movements that are clean and well-executed.
But you will not be able to take advantage of it because of the solid bottom!

To watch a video of this IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Cousteau (or click HERE if you are unable to see this video):

What to remember

Unlike what is usually the case with many other special series, in this particular case, even if you are not an unconditional fan of Commander Cousteau, you can still be seduced by the simplicity of this version. Especially when the tribute to this great man remains sufficiently discreet so as to easily be forgotten.

You are still left with a beautiful diving chronograph, with an exquisite finish and a good design, that is rather elegant for a sports watch, but which will also meet the challenge of being taken underwater by the those who are a bit more adventurous.

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