The regulator, which was unveiled at DIVE 2014, is called the Black Sapphire. I was secretly given one to take diving in Egypt a month before its release.

The First Stage
The first stage is based on the company’s popular, tried and tested flagship model the XTX 200. It is constructed using a combination of chromium, titanium, zirconium and marine-grade brass with a tough black Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) finish, and a highly polished chrome Apeks logo inset at the rear.
The turret has a multi-faceted insert, coloured to match an actual black sapphire. As on the XTX, it has a compact one-piece body but with five low-
pressure and two high-pressure ports, all permanently angled to enable neat and unobtrusive hose-routeing options. The fifth lp port comes complete with a finned heat-exchanger at the bottom of the first stage for twin-set, technical or side-mount configurations.
The first stage is an environmentally sealed hydrostatic over-balanced diaphragm design. Apeks says that it allows the medium pressure in the hose to increase at a rate faster than the ambient pressure, for better performance at depth.

An environmental dry seal is designed to keep the inside free from debris, grit and salt crystals and also to prevent ice from forming, suiting the design for coldwater diving. Two connection configurations are available, with either 232-bar A-clamp or 300-bar DIN fittings.

The Second Stage
The second-stage body is built from high-grade polymers, with a front cover fashioned in anodised aluminium. This retains the crafted machining marks created during production and is shaped with facets resembling a cut sapphire. The cover is coloured to match the first-stage turret ring.
The second-stage valve is pneumatically balanced, with diver-adjustable controls to allow for the user’s breathing preferences.
The second stage is reversible, so can be used in either left- or right-hand configurations, and is fitted with a lightweight polyester braided hose. The hose swivels, unusually, at both the first- and second-stage connections.
The purge button is shaped in the same way as on the XTX range and has a two-stage operation to allow the user to control the flow rate. A press to the side delivers gas at a lower rate, good for filling DSMBs, whereas pressing in the centre delivers a full flow for clearing water from the reg.
As is standard on Apeks’ high-end regulators there is a choice of user-changeable exhaust ports, which allow for wide or narrow bubble dispersion. A silicon Comfo-bite mouthpiece completes the package.

In The Water
I used the Black Sapphire exclusively over a week’s intensive wreck-diving in the Red Sea.
My preliminary thoughts were that this regulator might be “all show”, best suited to a collector’s glass cabinet. How wrong I was!
I own and regularly dive with the superb XTX200, and would have been happy if this limited-edition model had simply performed in the same manner. However, it far exceeded my expectations, turning out to be one of the best-performing regulators I have used.
Gas delivery was extremely smooth and resistance-free. The breathing effort needed to open the balanced valve was imperceptible,
and the exhalation effort was as easy as the inhalation.
The purge button was second nature for me to locate, and delivered gas in progressive increments. Further pressure increased the flow rate, and cleared any unwanted sea water with ease.
The controls proved easy to access and adjust, with a noticeable difference in breathing resistance as the flow control was adjusted over a series of turns. Because of the nature of the dives we were conducting (from RIBs) I left the dive / pre-dive control in the dive position.
I would normally test a regulator’s resistance to a free-flow with an entry while it was hand-held with the mouthpiece facing down. RIB diving makes this an awkward exercise, so I intended to skip this part of the test – until, that was, on a rough journey out to the Giannis D, I was bounced out of the RIB.
The second stage screamed like a banshee after I hit the water.
To be fair, it wasn’t a planned exercise, I had the second stage set in Dive mode and it was probably mouthpiece-up when I hit the surface. A quick shake stopped it, although I had lost more than 20 bar of my precious tank contents.
Once the dive-guide had stopped laughing, he commented on the incident: “I’ve worked as an instructor in Egypt for more than 25 years, and not only have I never seen anyone bounce out of a RIB before, I’ve never even heard of it!”
The rest of the trip was incident-free, and I was left to enjoy using this wonderful piece of breathing apparatus.

Conclusion
The guys at Apeks Marine are justifiably proud of their excellent piece of precision engineering – so much so that everyone involved in its development has signed the bottom of the packaging.
For me, this says more about the people at Apeks than the regulator itself. The Black Sapphire is more than a celebration of 40 years in the dive-gear game; it’s a statement of intent for the next 40 by one of the best exponents in the business.
Only 5000 of these regulators will be made and distributed worldwide, and I have a feeling that they will be in very high demand.

PRICE £625
FIRST STAGE Hydrostatic over-balanced diaphragm
SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced
PORTS 5lp, 2hp
WEIGHT DIN 1.15kg, A-clamp 1.28kg
CONTACT www.apeks.co.uk
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