Alsta was a brand owned by Alstater Watch Company from New York. They imported Swiss movements and cased them in the US and unfortunately succumbed to the quartz crisis in the late 70s. The brand was revived by Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFayden) in 2014 and has steadily produced watches up until their latest creation – the Alsta Nautoscaph Superautomatic.

Alsta wanted to make watches that could go anywhere and do anything – and keep up with the hip and trendy youth of the 1970s. They wanted it to be as happy on the pistes of Courchevel as it was on the beaches of St Tropez. They produced the Surf n’ Ski – the name pretty much says it all. It provided 666 ft of water resistance and an Incabloc anti shock mechanism.

1970 Aslta Surf n’ Ski

I was speaking with my friend T the other and he shared and auction for a Surf n Ski whilst he was looking for a Bulova Devil Diver. What interested me was that it was not an Alsta branded watch but it had Wakmann on the dial. So I kept digging around for similar items and found a Paul Peugeot with the same movement and dial. It became clear that Alstater must have been selling it’s watches to other brands.

1970 Wakmann Surf n’ Ski Superautomatic

1970 Paul Peugeot Surf n’ Ski Super Automatic

The next obvious step was to increase the water resistance of their model range to 999 ft. Enter the Nautoscaph. The original Alsta Nautoscaph was powered by a Felsa 4007N and later an ETA 2452 or 2783. The rarest combination was an A. Schild 2066 movement with a day date complication.

1970s Alsta Nautoscaph Superautomatic – the above watch was bought from an estate lot and inscribed with a 1974 date on the back

The new Alsta Superautomatic uses a Seiko NH35A. A known quantity – relatively accurate for a cheap movement and widely available. It has a hacking seconds function and I have found it to be running at about +5 seconds per day. As per the original, it features 999 ft of water resistance aided by its triple lock crown mechanism – screw down with two seals. It sports an anti-reflective sapphire crystal – however without the original cyclops. Cyclops divide opinion however I feel one is always necessary – Bulova had the right technique of having it underneath the crystal so it would not protrude out.

Remake on a tropic strap

The main thing that drew me to this watch was its reasonable size. It’s 38 mm across and has a much more vintage feel. Almost all other offerings in the same price category are whacking great obtuse 45 mm monsters that will not wear well as a daily. It’s a remake of a vintage so the fact it is sized correctly is a huge bonus.

The hour markers are brutal coffin shape indices with broad dagger-like hands – it’s not subtle but allows for great legibility. The main difference on the dial is replacement of ‘Incabloc’ with ‘shockresistant’ – as this was a brand in its own right.

Wax seal on the crown

I wonder if Alsta could reproduce a day-date version using the NH36A? I don’t see as many new day date watches anymore – companies just slap a tiny date somewhere on the dial and hope nobody complains about the shit font and awful placement. Make a bigger deal of the day and date!

In the original Jaws film from 1975, Richard Dreyfus portrays an enthusiastic oceanographer Matt Hooper. It’s this individual who immortalised this watch and this bracelet design. But it took until 2010 before it was worked out what he was actually wearing – that’s a slow-burn marketing technique for you.

Hooper bracelet

Based upon the Speidel Mach 1 stretch bracelet that Hooper wore in Jaws, which had more of a race and rally feel – like the circle cutouts on the legendary Tissot PR516. It’s an unusual choice.

It’s this unorthodox combination that’s so bloody cool. This new 20 mm bracelet features a deployment clasp rather than the outdated stretch-style band that should stay in the 70s. I dig it.

Pricing is around £800 new with either a tropic strap or the Hooper bracelet. This is a limited edition of only 1975 pieces – relating to the release year of Jaws.

The bottom line is the styling is absolutely spot on, the case finishing is perfect and it wears really nicely on the wrist. The cheap Seiko movement is a bit of a letdown so I hope future developments with superior movements will occur.

Available here on the Alsta website.

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