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1943 was the height of World War II, but it was also the year that would forever change the nature of skin-diving, and would serve as the genesis of a classic timepiece design: the diver's watch.
In the icy waters of the Marne River, a young lieutenant in the French Navy by the name of Jacques Cousteau tested a new apparatus that he developed with his colleague, Emile Gagnan.
Prior to this year, diving for extended periods was only possible with the aid of long hoses connected to tanks on the water's surface. But Cousteau and Gagnan designed a regulator to emit air at an intake of breath, hooking the regulator to a hose that was connected to two tanks of compressed air that could be strapped to the diver's back.
After a few slight adjustments to the intake and exhaust valves, Gagnan and Cousteau patented their invention, calling it the Aqualung. By 1946 the Aqualung was being sold in France to commercial and amateur divers, and by the 1950s it was available in the US and Great Britain.
The advent of the Aqualung self contained underwater breathing apparatus made skin-diving as a sport much more accessible to lovers of the sea. Before electronic diving computers, watches were a crucial tool for divers, who required them to calculate dive and decompression times. This necessitated the development of specialized, easy-to-read watches with waterproofing that would hold up under the increased pressures of depth underwater. Rolex and Blancpain's iconic dive watches were released during this decade, the Submariner and Fifty Fathoms, and both have become the stuff of legend.
Though perhaps best-known with their association with Blancpain and DOXA, Aqualung also marketed contract-built watches under its own name alongside the diving equipment sold in its catalogs and dive shops. These attractive divers (also known as “Skin 666” from the last three digits in the number on the case back) used contract cases manufactured by A. Schild, with thick beveled lugs and handsome brush finishing throughout. They were powered by the sturdy, no-nonsense A. Schild/Felsa Caliber 4004 movement.
The crowning glory of this watch (aside from the actual crown on the bezel at 12 o’clock) is the absolutely gorgeous radium dial, in this case in outrageously beautiful preserved condition. Featuring generous plots of Radium luminescent material and large stylized hands, these Aqualung branded watches are highly sought after by diving enthusiasts and tool watch fanatics alike.
Aqualung’s reputation for their contributions to the diving industry is well-deserved, and this watch is a testament to the brand’s quality. Uncommon and undeniably attractive, it offers the collector a rarely-seen alternative to the Fifty Fathoms and Submariner, with no less of a diving pedigree.
Stainless steel case is approximately 37mm (excluding crown). A. Schild/Felsa Calibre 4004 Automatic-Winding Movement. Circa 1960s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition overall with sharp lugs and retains crisp brush finishing. Rotating bezel is in very good condition with only light signs of wear. Dial is in excellent condition with fine even patina to the luminescent (Radium) elements of the hour plot and hands. Unsigned crown. Case back retains factory serial number engraving and only has very minor signs of wear.
Includes one 20mm woven cloth strap and two nylon straps from Crown & Buckle