ISO 6425 is an international standard that spells out in great and unambiguous detail the criteria for what can be called a “diver’s watch”. Aside from the obvious water resistance requirement (100 meters, by the way), there are more specific guidelines: the ability to read the time from a distance of 9.8 inches in total darkness, a healthy resistance to salty water, magnetism, shock, considerable tugging on the strap, and many other devious and torturous deeds.
But the fact of the matter is, not many watches are even subjected to the testing required to earn the ISO seal of approval. After all, most dive watches scarcely see time underwater anymore, and there is considerable cost involved to have every watch independently tested for certification. So when Cartier, best known for its classic Tank and elegant Ballon Bleu watches, introduced its Calibre de Cartier Diver ($8,200) this year with full compliance with ISO 6425, the watch world took notice.
The question of why Cartier even needs a dive watch is immediately answered when one sees the Diver; this is Cartier’s latest attempt at the style, and rather than just slapping a rotating bezel on a watch and increasing the water resistance, they’ve gone the full nine fathoms.
Calibre: Cartier calibre 1904-PS MC
Frequency: 28,800vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours
Hours, minutes, seconds
Rotating ADLC steel timing bezel
Material: Stainless steel
Case Back: Screw-in steel
Water Resistance: 30 ATM (300 meters)
Lumed hands and hour markers
Rubber with pin buckle
Aesthetically, the Diver shares much with the rest of the broad-shouldered Calibre de Cartier family. Most noticeable is the dial, with its oversized Roman numeral XII, the snailed marker track, prominent seconds subdial and bolted-on crown guards surrounding a crown sporting the trademark blue sapphire. This casual elegance, equally at home in the office or on a beach, is what happens when a dress watch company builds a sports watch. What is new with the Diver is the rotating timing bezel, a steel ratcheting ring with a thin serrated edge for optimal grip and topped with an engraved insert. The bezel, the defining characteristic of any self-proclaimed dive watch, goes beyond the ordinary. Its inky black timing ring is rendered in Amorphous Diamond-Like Coating (ADLC) that makes it extremely scratch-resistant and adds a glossy sheen; its engraved numbers are painted a luminous white.
ISO 6425 says nothing specific about the kind of movement that a dive watch should have, but that didn’t stop Cartier from endowing the Calibre Diver with a superb motor. The calibre 1904 MC is entirely engineered and manufactured in-house, and that’s a particularly good thing in this case; there are few watch maisons these days as capable as Cartier, a company that has prolifically produced some of the most innovative and complicated timepieces of the past decade. A dive watch movement doesn’t require much in the way of complications or expert finishing, but what it does need is accuracy and reliability. The 1904 MC delivers, with twin barrels that ensure a consistent torque curve for chronometric stability across the watch’s entire 48-hour power reserve. The self-winding movement is hidden away behind a rather workmanlike solid steel caseback, entirely appropriate for a dive watch.
When the news broke this past January that Cartier was releasing its own diver, we’ll admit to a healthy dose of skepticism. Even the early photos didn’t convince us. But to see and wear the watch was revelatory. The 42-millimeter size, curved lugs and slim profile make it easy to wear yet big enough to hold its own as a sports watch. The Roman numeral dial, while entirely unconventional in a field of watches that more typically sport hashes and dots, somehow works without impairing readability. Turn off the lights and its dial — including the ring around the seconds subdial — and the sword hands glow like torches, even beyond 9.8 inches away. The textured rubber strap, while a bit short, is supple and comfortable and integrates nicely into the case. The overall look is seamlessly and flawlessly executed.
While the Calibre Diver’s ISO 6425 compliance is impressive, the real beauty of this watch is that it exists at all. It’s as if an exotic supercar company suddenly built an off-road vehicle that’s prettier than every rock-crawling 4×4 on the trail and outperforms them, too. Cartier’s watch retains the refinement and panache of the brand while holding its own in a field of brutish tool watches. This is a watch that could be worn diving the Andrea Doria by day and then paired with a dinner jacket for cocktails by night. The Calibre de Cartier Diver handles both situations with equal aplomb, an accomplishment nowhere to be found in ISO 6425. Maybe it’s time for a new dive watch standard.