Feb 18 , 2021
Throughout the years, designing a watch that operates in an environment it probably shoouldn't has proved a challenge for modern watchmakers. In space, on mountain tops, while breaking the sound barrier. But perhaps the biggest challenge, with the most popular end product, is regarding the dive watch.
As early as 1927, Rolex introduced the “Oyster,” widely regarded as the world’s first water-resistant watch. Soon after, the Radiomir, from Panerai, was widely worn by divers in the Italian Royal Navy, with the ability to be used underwater for longer periods of time.
The Panerai Radiomir Ref. GPF 2/56, from circa 1956, which sold at auction in Nov 2020 for HK$1,386,000 (£129,000). Picture courtesy of Phillips Auctions
Fast-forward to the 1950s, 1953 to be precise, and Rolex, Blancpain and Zodiac introduced the Submariner, Fifty Fathoms and Sea Wolf respectively. Each of these designs, while unique in their own rights, did have some similar features: water-resistant cases, lume dials, and perhaps most importantly, the rotating dive bezels. Using this bezel to calculate the amount of time spent underwater, it allows divers to know when it's time to start their return to the surface.
But just having a rotating bezel does not a dive watch make! From the International Standards Organizarion, the ISO6425 standard outlines some necesssary criteria: a minimum depth-rating of 100 meters, a unidirectional bezel with markings at least every five minutes, a dial visible in total darkness and an indication in darkness that the watch is running — usually this is indicated by a running second hands with a luminous tip or counterbalance. ISO 6425 also stipulates the watch must be anti-magnetic and shock-resistant, as well as well as resistant to corrosion in seawater. So while these watches were originally designed to be tools of the trade for military and commercial divers, they have developed into more style pieces, even though they are now designed to descend to depths way below the original models. Indeed, many of the dive watches sold today will never come into contact with water, and many divers, with the advances in computerized dive aids, will have no real need to wear one.
Let's take a look at some of our favourites.
1/10: BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS AUTOMATIQUE 45MM
We'll start with a brand which has always been linked with the ocean. Blancpain. The Fifty Fathoms collection embodies Blancpain’s passion for the marine world, introduced for the first time in 1953 with the creation of the first modern diver’s watch. Ever since, Blancpain have worked alongside divers, scientists and underwater photographers in their exploration and discovery of the awe-inspiring beauty of the oceans, contributing in this way to the revelations of this fascinating world and the motivation to protect it.
2/10: ALSTA NAUTOSCAPH SUPERAUTOMATIC 50TH ANNIVERSARY 2021
The Alsta watches Nautoscaph Superautomatic was first released in 1970 and was immortalised by the 1975 blockbuster movie ‘JAWS’.
In 2019, Alsta released a faithful re-edition of the watch worn by Oceanographer Matt Hooper, played by Richard Dreyfuss, in the movie. Now, to kick off 2021, it is releasing a limited number of 50th Anniversary pieces which has gilt dial, hands and bezel and is manufactured and assembled entirely in Switzerland including a Sellita SW200 movement.
3/10: OMEGA SEAMASTER PLANET OCEAN 600M
OK, so the Omega Seamaster is an obvious choice for this list, but which one to choose? To be honest we could have gone for any one of them, but we chose this Planet Ocean 600M. With the orange colouring and the rubber strap, it does have the appearance of more of a 'divers' watch than a 'dive' watch.
This model, with its scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, features a polished black ceramic dial with Arabic numerals and a date window at the 3 o’clock position. Mounted on the 43.5 mm stainless steel case (also available with a 45.5mm case) is the world's premiere black ceramic bezel with orange rubber. The diving scale of the bezel is crafted with Liquidmetal™.
The OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Master Chronometer is water resistant to 600 metres / 2000 feet / 60 bar, and has a helium-escape valve. The OMEGA Master Chronometer calibre 8900 at the heart of this timepiece can be seen through the transparent caseback. To achieve Master Chronometer status, it has passed the 8 rigorous tests set by METAS (The Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology).
4/10: BREITLING SUPEROCEAN AUTOMATIC 46 BLACK STEEL
Again, so many to choose from, but...this one!
Sporty, strong and bold, the Superocean Automatic 46 is designed for daring men looking for a sports watch combining exceptional performance with contemporary style. It is up to any challenge: dive with it, surf with it or swim with it!
Available in a selection of colours, as black on black isn't everyones favourite.
5/10: TAG HEUER AQUARACER
This new 43mm Automatic Aquaracer watch really does have eye-opening appeal: its bezel is covered with a Tortoise shell effect resin and its strap is in high-end rubber with alligator effect with folding clasp. Hands and indexes are covered with white Super-LumiNova® that instantly convey timing information.
Boasting an ingenious mix of sportiness and class, this TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 5 watch provides a sophisticated timepiece that not only looks the part but is fully equipped with the best Swiss made technologies. Designed to be both practical in water and striking on land, the watch has a water resistance of 300 metres. It boasts a 43mm fine brushed and polished stainless steel case, Tortoise shell effect resin 60-minute scale unidirectional rotating bezel, a screw down crown and an engraved screw in case back. Hidden within these components is the impressive Calibre 5 automatic movement.
6/10: SINN U50 TEGIMENTED
This Sinn U50 watch completely redefines the notion of a professional diver’s piece with a 41mm case engineered entirely from German Submarine steel. This material is known for being extremely resistant to sea water and processes the highest levels of non-magnetic properties, keeping the automatic movement within protected.
Appealing to all kinds of discerning ocean explorers, the case of the Sinn U50 is fitted with a captive diver’s bezel which like the entirety of the case has been treated with Sinn’s famous TEGIMENT technology. This innovation ensures that the surface has a significantly greater level of protection against scratches.
(In case you are wondering, the Tegiment process raises the hardness level of the base material ie steel, so greatly increases scratch-resistance)
7/10: PANERAI SUBMERSIBLE LUNA ROSSA
Panerai have been one of the driving innovators in dive watches since they were first introduced in the mid 20th Century. This watch is a stunning example that combines latest tech and materials with the traditional dive watch ethos.
The Luna Rossa is water-resistant to a depth of 300 metres (30 bar) with a case made of carbotech, the innovative material also used to make the hull of the America's Cup Luna Rossa AC75 . Enhancing its strong personality are the unidirectional rotating bezel for calculating the duration of a dive, also made of carbotech, and the dial, whose special texture conceals a fascinating secret: pieces of the sails of the Luna Rossa applied to it.
8/10: DOXA SUB 300 CARBON AQUA LUNG US DIVERS SHARKHUNTER
Bridging history, past and future, the SUB 300 Aqua Lung US Divers pushes the envelope and marks a first with a forged carbon case and black rubber strap. A limited series of only 300 timepieces with COSC-certified caliber, in partnership with Aqua Lung.Jet black alternating with shades of charcoal: Forged carbon gives the SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers an urban camouflage vibe. The ultra-lightweight high-tech material of the case and dial has a matte, raw look and feel that accentuates a sense of vibrant energy and toughness of purpose.
This watch is rated to a depth of 300 meters, allowing maximum freedom of undersea exploration, and the COSC-certified automatic movement ensures a power reserve of 38 hours. All dive-related information is highlighted with a Super-LumiNova® luminescent coating to ensure excellent legibility in reduced visibility conditions. The black soft rubber strap with a black PVD steel folding clasp featuring the exclusive “DOXA fish” symbol completes this stunning watch.
9/10: ROLEX SUBMARINER OYSTER 41
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to see this watch on our list. It would be rude not to include it! As with other brands, the question is "which one to include?" I've gone for this 2020 take on the classic Oyster 41mm.
The Oyster Perpetual Submariner in Oystersteel with a Black Cerachrom bezel and a black dial with large luminescent hour markers.
It features a unidirectional rotatable bezel with Cerachrom insert and solid-link Oyster bracelet. The latest generation Submariner and Submariner Date remain faithful to the original model launched in 1953. In watchmaking, the Submariner represented a historic turning point; it set the standard for divers’ watches.
10/10: RESERVOIR HYDROSPHERE BLUE HOLE
A little left-field, and maybe a little less familiar, Reservoir are known for the innovative timepieces.
Inspired by the pressure gauges of the first divers, Hydrosphere changes diving watch conventions with a single hand on the dial for a radical reading of the time.
While most diving watches follow a similar aesthetic, the Hydrosphere chooses to go its own way. Reservoir has made a name for itself with its watch dials inspired by technical instruments – this one being based on the pressure gauges used by the first divers. The unusual display shows the hour digitally in a window at six o’clock above a power reserve indicator, while minutes are displayed with a retrograde hand in an arc-shaped aperture between the traditional eight and four o’clock positions.