If there were a contest for the “it” metal for dive watches in 2011, hands down the gold medal would go to… bronze. Yup, 2011 was the year of bronze, which at first blush might seem to be an odd choice for a watch meant to spend the bulk of its time strapped to your wrist in the briny deep. For starters, it doesn’t tend to react well to human skin, and what’s more, it oxidizes at an accelerated rate, leading to excessive “patina”. Well, as it turns out, that latter quality is quite prized, and as for the first issue, the case backs of these watches are usually made from steel or titanium, thus minimizing skin contact.
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So, what’s out there? Well, if you’ve got the money — and a good relationship with your local Panerai dealer — the 382 “Bronzo” sits at the top of the heap. However, with an MSRP kissing $12K and run limited to 1000 pieces, good luck getting one. Anonimo, Ennebi and Kazimon all offer bronze-cased divers, but these will also set you back a pretty, copper penny. For those on a budget, however, there are a few affordable alternatives, with the new Olivier Bronze Diver ($650-$850) being the latest to enter the fray. Named for the man behind the company, Roland Oliver Tetenbaum, this bronze beauty was born from his desire to land an affordable — and wearable — bronze diver on anyone and everyone’s wrist, even if said wrist isn’t 8″ (the 382 clocks in with a diameter of 47mm, vs the 45mm of the Olivier). In addition to all the prerequisites — 500M depth rating, helium escape valve, sapphire crystal — the CuSn8 marine-grade bronze-cased Olivier one-ups the competition by supplying not one, but two user-replaceable bezels as well as a bronze buckle. Available with either a Japanese Miyota 8125 or Swiss ETA 2824 automatic movement, Olivier represents a terrific value in this specialized arena.
So what are you waiting for? Time to go for the bronze!
Buy Now: $650-$850 (Pre-Order, Available Spring 2012)
By Adam Craniotes