The dive watch has evolved tremendously since its first true form in the 1950s. Functionality packed, inexpensive, battery-powered divers pushed mechanical dive watches more into the luxury accessory category — allowing watchmakers the leeway of straying from previously strict requirements. Of course, many recreational and professional divers still prefer the utilitarian qualities of a big, robust dive watch; however, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say most people who wear dive watches never test their timepiece further than a dip in the pool.
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It only makes sense that watchmakers have shifted design towards divers meant for everyday wear, particularly in the ever-more-casual workplace. The problem is, it’s not an easy look to pull off. Creating a balance between dive and dress watch aesthetics is akin to creating a luxury all-terrain vehicle. Many examples end up falling too far from the diver tree, while others are too chunky and oversized for a dressed-up setting. Not everyone has the desire, or the wrist, to pull off a timepiece that can be spotted from the ISS.
Last fall, we featured the Pontos S, a sleek dive chronograph. While the chronograph’s design could likely dress up with the best of them, the busy dial gives off more of a sporty feeling. The Pontos S Diver ($3,400) loses the chronograph function, creating a cleaner and classier diver. In the dress dive watch category, Maurice Lacroix has hit the nail on the proverbial head, truly tying together dressier aesthetics and dive functionality. Though not without minor faults, the Pontos S Diver is a great example of a dive watch that earns its place, whether over a wetsuit or under a cuff.
At first glance, this watch is a stunner. Maurice Lacroix produces its cases in-house, and it shows in details like polished lug chamfers and external bezel, and short, curved lugs that make the large case wear comfortably. At 43 millimeters in width, the Pontos is rightly sized as a diver, and near the maximum size for dressier situations. Ours was on a leather NATO strap, with the other option being a stainless steel bracelet. The added bulk of a leather NATO created too much height for comfortable wear under the cuff, and while the height wouldn’t be an issue while diving, the leather certainly would. Like the guy that shows up to a pool party without a bathing suit, it’s a dead giveaway that the Pontos will be staying above the water line. A nylon NATO strap turned out to be an incredibly comfortable, more versatile option.
Calibre: ML115 (based on Selitta SW200)
Frequency: 28,800vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 38 hours
Hours, minutes, central seconds, date at 6:00
Elapsed dive time with internal rotating ring
Material: Stainless steel
Case Back: Steel screw-in
Water Resistance: 60 ATM (600 meters)
Lumed hands and applied hour markers
Genuine leather NATO strap and pin buckle (available with steel 3-link bracelet with foldover deployant)
Where the Pontos S Diver really shines is its dial and internal rotating bezel. For the ideal dive watch, an external, uni-directional rotating bezel would probably be the go-to choice. However, when an internal bezel is done properly, it just looks damn slick. The highly legible internal bezel sits a good millimeter above the dial, creating depth and detail. It’s clear the concept of the internal bezel was not shoehorned into the watch; the design was conceived holistically and with purpose. In the age of “too many words on the dial”, Maurice Lacroix did well to keep the dial uncluttered — focusing on more important details like an applied logo and hour markers. With all of the high-end touches, the white date disk betrays the overall dressed-up looks.
From a functional standpoint, the Pontos hits a lot of the right notes. The vintage-aged hour and minute marks on the dial contrast nicely with the matte black finish and the rotating bezel. The polished hands aren’t very thick, but visibility shouldn’t be an issue, given the outstanding lume and red-tipped minute hand. As for the crowns, a 2/4 o’clock split would have been preferred for design balance and to save the back of the hand from being dug into by an uncomfortable 3:00 crown. With that aside, the rotating bezel crown operates quite smoothly, even if you can’t make the bezel adjustments underwater. Finally, powering the Pontos S Diver is the Sellita SW200, a reliable clone of the ubiquitous ETA 2824-2. While Maurice Lacroix has a lineup of in-house manufacture calibers, the Sellita is a proven workhorse, and it cuts back on the bottom line cost.
Unfortunately, it may be impossible to build the perfect dressy diver, as certain necessary dive watch features are incompatible with dress watches. The pursuit ends up being a search for the right mix of both. You would be hard-pressed to find a better embodiment of a dress diver than the Pontos S Diver, especially at its price point. Even if a dressy diver isn’t your thing, a sensible mix of wearability, functionality, and versatility are plenty of reason to look forward to more from Maurice Lacroix.