Diving – a weightless experience in a fascinating underwater world. Exploring mysterious depths requires the perfect mixture of concentration, fitness, and adrenaline. Just like a diver, a diving watch must meet certain specifications in order to resist the extreme conditions of the deep-sea. With a solid and technical dive watch on the wrist, adventures can ensue just as easily on land as in the water. Breath-taking views make for a surreal and intense experience thanks to an innovative dive watch strapped on the wrist.
Diving Watches – then & now
Researchers Hans Hass and Jacques-Yves Cousteau developed the very first scuba diving instruments during the Mid-20th century. By then, the foundation of the diving sport had been set, and brave divers began to explore the oceans and the lakes of the world.
The aspect of time has always played a key role in diving – be it the start time, the ascent time, or the proper measurement of decompression stops. Today, modern technology and computers can easily accomplish the essential measuring tasks, but the dive watch remains a reliable tool that can provide divers with an extra sense of security. Diving watches also provide a sense of nostalgia and they look particularly appealing strapped onto the wrists of divers. As a matter of fact, luxury diving watches look sleek and robust, regardless of whether worn in the water or on the land. Classic diving watches like the Rolex Submariner or the Omega Seamaster, have most likely never explored the depths of the ocean – yet it is nice to know that they are capable of doing so if the opportunity should ever arise.
The original diving watch – Does it even exist?
In today's day and age, many watch manufacturers claim that they are responsible for developing the first diving watch known to mankind. Rolex, for example, stresses that they created the first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch, the Rolex Oyster, and accordingly laid down the foundation for all subsequent diving watches. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms has claimed that they created the first modern diving watch whereas Omega has stated that they produced the first diving watch for the Navy. A clear winner in the race for the invention of the first diving watch can not be determined however, and we can conclude that the development of the diving watch most likely came about as a result of a joint collaboration. Currently, every renowned watch brand incorporates a diving watch amongst their collection. The main difference between them lies in the water resistance, the functionality, and, of course, the design of the watch.
ISO 6425: The standards for Diving watches
For the first time, there is now an international standard for diving watches: The ISO 6425. In accordance with The ISO 6425, all diving watches must be waterproof, shockproof, condensation resistant, and resistant to pressure up to 20 bar (200 meters in depth). Furthermore, the diving watch must be able to withstand pressure for two hours while submerged in the depths specified by the manufacturer. The diving watch must also be resistant to magnetic fields up to 4800 A/m. Deviation under such circumstances can be at most, 30 seconds per day. It is also required that the bezel of the watch is equipped with minute marks and that every 5-minute mark is highlighted. Together with the minute hand, these elements must be clearly visible and legible in dark or murky environments. The watch should have no visible traces of submersion in warm salt water after 24 hours. Despite the regulations placed on diving watches, luxury manufacturers continue to surprise watch enthusiasts with new inventions and interpretations that meet and surpass the highest expectations of diving watches.
What makes a diving watch?
Waterproof & pressure-resistant – these are the most important requirements for a precise diving watch. When the functionality of a diving watch has been proven, then come the significant designs and technical add-ons. A diving watch is utilised in the measurement of dive times. Therefore, a diving watch should always be fitted with a rotating bezel that can clearly mark the start time of a dive. For security purposes, the bezel should only be rotatable in a counterclockwise direction. That way, the bezel cannot be unintentionally shifted, making it seem as though the dive start time commenced earlier than in actuality. This could result in a dive that accidentally exceeds the recommended immersion time. Consequently, for health and safety purposes, it cannot be stressed enough that a diving watch should only come equipped with a unidirectional rotating bezel.
A waterproof case
When purchasing a luxury diving watch, it is always important to determine whether the numbers on a bezel are embossed or painted. If the numbers are in fact painted, it is important to note that the paint will wear off after only a couple of salt-water dives. Evidently, the case of a diving watch must be robust as divers venture to depths as profound as 200 meters. Some watch manufacturers such as Sinn, utilise submarine steel in the creation of their diving watches in order to resist staggering levels of pressure. Sandblasted or matte steel is often better than highly polished steel, as the material will not succumb to scratches under water.
Helium escape valve
Another indispensable detail when it comes to diving watches is the helium escape valve. The feature is essential when divers explore great depths and must spend time in a pressure chamber breathing in a gas mixture that contains helium or hydrogen. Since helium is the smallest natural gas particle found in nature, it is easily able to find its way inside a diving watch during decompression stops, therefore building up a pressure difference between the particles inside of the watch compared to outside of the watch. The helium escape valve is activated when the difference in pressure becomes too high, eventually releasing the built up gas particles. Furthermore, the anti-glare, scratchproof sapphire crystal makes for especially outstanding readability. However, compared to aviation watches, diving watches are fitted with a relatively smaller viewing glass. This is due to the bezel overlapping the watch crystal in order to protect it from shocks.
Diving watches – Bracelet
The use of materials is also an important aspect to consider when purchasing a diving watch. Leather, as splendid as it maybe be, is unfortunately not the optimal choice for underwater journeys, as the material will stretch and develop an unpleasant smell after prolonged contact with water. Suitable materials for the bracelet of a diving watch include steel, nylon, and rubber. The bracelet should also be adjustable to longer lengths in order to ensure ultimate comfort wearability when placed over a wetsuit.
Another practical aspect incorporated into a diving watch is the depth gauge, which professionals have certainly come to appreciate. In Germany, a timepiece can only hold the title "diving watch" if it has been tested for water resistance, legibility, and the inclusion of a time-preselecting device such as a bezel. Although numerous computers that assist with diving are now available on the market, classic automatic luxury diving watches maintain great popularity and continue to exceed the standard requirements laid out for safe diving adventures.
Diving watches for men & women – New, used, or vintage
Diving watches can be donned on both men and women alike, including models from the Rolex Submariner line that are convincing in terms of functionality and reliability. Strictly speaking, diving watches are not just for divers. Due to the robust and sporty features of the watch, they are now paired with everyday ensembles. Whether coordinated with a business outfit or worn during leisurely activities – a diving watch on the wrist is always appropriate.
Today's industry offers new, used, and vintage timepieces for the delight of watch lovers and aficionados. Used watches typically offer a slightly lower purchasing price compared to new models. However, when it comes to vintage models, the price range can always break through the roof. Automatic diving watches provide a longer service life since they require no battery and are automatically wound as a result of the natural motion of a wearer's arm. With proper care and handling, diving watches are the perfect companions not only under the water but also throughout everyday life.
Top 10 Diving Watches
1. Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner is probably the best-known diving watch on the globe – not to mention a watch that has been worn on the wrist of James Bond. This iconic Rolex and its recognisable design combined with time-tested quality makes the model a reliable companion both whilst diving in extreme conditions or even for special or formal occasions. The "Sub" is water resistant to 300 metres, has a robust case and offers great value in its price range.
2. Rolex Sea-Dweller
Originally, the Rolex Sea-Dweller belonged to the Submariner watch family. Over time, however, the luxurious timepiece gained independence and became a watch series of its own. A distinctive feature of the Sea-Dweller includes a helium escape valve, perfecting the gadget for professional divers. The current Sea-Dweller is waterproof to 1220 meters and is in high demand regardless of whether the model in question is new or used.
3. Rolex Deepsea
A sister model to the Sea-Dweller, the Rolex Deepsea stands out not only as a result of its size but as a result of its sheer strength in resistance. The experimental model of the Deepsea – the Deep Sea Special – conducted an extraordinary dive to the deepest part of the world's oceans – the Mariana Trench. At a depth of 11,908 meters, the experimental Deepsea proved to have no problems in withstanding the stresses of the dive and functioned flawlessly the under extreme levels of pressure. While the current models of the Rolex Deepsea are "only" waterproof to a depth of 3,900 metres, the exceptional timepiece is still a record holder among all other diving watches.
4. Omega Seamaster Professional
1932 was the year the Omega Marine was released – one of the first diving watches in history. The revolutionary timepiece is regarded as the forerunner to the Omega Seamaster watch family, which houses numerous high-ranking and famous models including the Seamaster Aqua Terra and the Seamaster Planet Ocean. As the current companion of James Bond, the Omega Seamaster remains exceptionally reliable in the most extreme of situations.
5. Panerai Radiomir
In 1935, the Italian Navy equipped the Italian watchmaker Panerai with the task of producing a robust diving watch. As a result, the Radiomir was developed. The name Radiomir refers to the radium-based powder that provides luminosity to the dials of the watches, making the instruments highly visible under water. However, the radium based substance, unfortunately, proved to be highly radioactive over time. The current models are of course no longer dangerous and the Panerai Radiomir is considered to be one of the most famous military diving watches in history.
6. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
In 1953, per request of the French Navy, Blancpain presented the first edition of the Fifty Fathoms. Distinctive features of the watch included the record-breaking water resistance of nearly 100 meters and the functional bezel that could measure diving times. The Fifty Fathoms accompanied Jacques Cousteau in the famous underwater movie "The Silent World". Today, the watch is considered among many as the first professional diving watch.
7. IWC Aquatimer
The IWC Aquatimer propelled the famous manufacturer from Schaffhausen forward in the field of diving watches. In 1999, IWC presented the especially innovative Aquatimer GST Deep One – a diving watch with a mechanical depth gauge. The current Aquatimer Collection provides colour, diversity, and maximum comfort wearability thanks to the refined IWC methods of production.
8. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver
A variant of the famous Audemars Piguet models is the Royal Oak Offshore Diver. The timepiece combines a legendary design with the best qualities of a diving watch. Water resistant to 300m, the Royal Oak Offshore Diver also comes equipped with a solid steel case and a rubber strap. The stylish model does not only impress with robust capabilities, it is also composed of the unique design expected of Audemars Piguet that clients and fans of the house have come to greatly appreciate.
9. Tudor Heritage Black Bay
Time-tested design & advanced technology: The Tudor Heritage Black Bay pays tribute to the brand's first diving watch, the 1954 Tudor Submariner. The watch easily impresses with a familliar retro flair including elements such as slender, elongated lugs, a domed crystal, and a vintage dial. The robust diving watch is a favourite amongst lovers of watches with a strong heritage.
10. Oris ProDiver
The Oris ProDiver is a professional diving watch with extra class. Thanks to the Oris Rotation Safety System (RSS), the timepiece is reliable in dangerous situations. The ProDiver unifies the heritage of Oris diving watches with contemporary and innovative Swiss engineering. The luxurious timepiece is appreciated both by professional divers and watch enthusiasts alike.