Wearing a $20,000 watch with a white strap onboard a Great Lakes wreck diving charter is inviting ridicule. But duty called, and I strapped the Linde Werdelin Oktopus MoonLite ($20,000, limited to 59 pieces) over my drysuit cuff, clipped on the Reef digital dive module and waddled to the back of the boat. It quickly proved a sports watch in a category all its own.
One giant leap
Testing its steely resolve
The Superocean Chronograph Steelfish ($5,700) is Breitling’s latest addition to its dive watch lineup. We tested it among the toothy predators of Bonaire’s Salt Pier.
Time for a new dive watch standard
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 rules for legibility, salt water resistance and more. But the fact of the matter is, not many watches are even subjected to the testing required to earn the ISO seal of approval. 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.
Depth of Spending
Comparing two great depth gauge dive watches: the top shelf IWC Aquatimer Deep Three and an ingenious alternative from ORIS that works without any moving parts.
Like the Shark, a Dinosaur that Still Thrives
Vintage watches are flying off the shelves right now, but the Squale 101 Atmos carries out its heritage look without pretense.
The Adaptable Survive
The Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Galapagos Islands” ($11,100) shares more with theCharles Darwin Foundation than donations. It’s a prime example of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution — in Aquatimers.
Time On Our Hands: DOXA SUB Professional Mission 31
DOXA and the Cousteaus have a hell of a history together. When Fabien Cousteau heads underwater in June to beat his grandfather’s record 30 days spent in Conshelf Two, he’ll be wearing a DOXA SUB Professional Mission 31.
Davy Jones's (Dive) Locker
For centuries, man has found countless ways to send ships to the bottom of the sea. Since the advent of scuba technology, we’ve found ways to explore them. Whether it’s to search for booty, take eerie photos, or just to pay respects, wreck diving is a not a sport for the timid. Often found in deep, cold water with strong currents and dangerous reefs, wrecks demand expertise, experience, humility and marine-grade bronze balls — not to mention a lot of specialized gear. This isn’t tropical holiday diving, so be prepared to shell out for equipment that can stand up to the conditions the Gunilda, the Thistlegorm or the Doria present.
Like Jacques Cousteau, Wearing A Tux
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. 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.
The thrill of the hunt
What self-respecting watch nerd hasn’t spent countless hours trolling eBay for that elusive vintage treasure that no one has discovered? The Pre-Moon Omega Speedmaster, the MilSub, the Cosmonaute — the names alone are enough to get palms sweating and the heart racing. While the thrill of watch collecting is in the hunt, enough foiled plans and missed auctions will make anyone gun shy. We feel your pain. The best salve is this guide to vintage watches on eBay, featuring a strong mix of underdogs — those timepieces that fly under a lot of collectors’ radars. Not only do you stand a better chance of scoring one of these collectible tickers, once you do make the final bid, you’ll end up with a legitimate piece of horological history.
If the Rolex Submariner is the most famous dive watch, then the Rolex Military Submariner, or MilSub, is the most famous military-issued dive watch. What is now a highly sought after piece of watch history — and one of the rarest collector’s watches ever — was once merely Ministry of Defense (MOD) standard issue equipment.
Shimmering a shade of blue clearly inspired by Caribbean waters, the Halios Tropik SS ($650) on my left wrist appears candy coated, looking infinitely more confident than I feel. A quick test of my regulator complete, I twist the Tropik’s unidirectional ceramic bezel to mark the beginning of this, my first real dive. I’m in the tropics to test this purpose-built diver on its home court.
Dive watches are more popular than ever, despite most divers choosing not to wear them. Never mind. We’re all for getting our watches wet. Here’s a selection of our favorite dive watches and some adventures we’ve had with them.
The Battle of Britain
The three watch companies at the vanguard of the British timekeeping renaissance — Bremont, Christopher Ward and Schofield — represent very different approaches, price points and designs. Yet they share one thing: a distinctively British take on the wristwatch. We spent some time with each to establish a solid cross section of timepieces from across the pond. Put the kettle on and settle in for our impressions.
DECYPHERING THOSE cool-looking rings
The watch is an instrument for telling time, but it can also be used to time a dive or a racing lap, take a pulse, or calculate remaining fuel or crosswind speed or the distance of thunder or artillery. How, you ask? The answer has little to do with the watch’s movement. It’s all about the bezel, that outer ring of metal (or perhaps, nowadays, ceramic) surrounding your watch’s crystal. How each type of bezel works is not complicated per se, but it is deserving of a quick guide.
The Best by Far from the Far East
When it comes to dive watches, many immediately think of iconic Swiss watches like the Rolex Submariner and the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms. Of course, the story doesn’t stop here. In fact, there’s another country that can credibly lay claim to a long and storied history with the dive watch: Japan. If you need evidence of Japan’s dive watch prowess (or just a road map to buying yourself one), read on.
Most Japanese dive watches are the best suited for real-world use. Their simple movements have legendary durability, even if they aren’t the most accurate. Designs that forgo adornment in favor of readability and functionality win out over fancy locking bezels, helium release valves and shiny slim hands. Of course, their affordability makes them not only more accessible to divemasters that live on tip money, but also more bearable should they be lost of broken.
In short, if you want a real dive watch, look to Land of the Rising Sun. We recently did just that, procuring three of Japan’s best dive watches representing different brands, styles and price points for a real-world shootout below the waves in the Caribbean.
Since some press photos leaked from across the pond a couple of weeks ago, the online watch community has been buzzing about the next generation of IWC Schaffhausen’s Aquatimer dive watch family, which will be formally introduced in a couple of weeks at the Salon Internationale Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. With this year’s refresh of the Aquatimer, IWC seems to have listened to some of its customers’ opinions, but also took a new approach, bringing back the internal timing ring, with a new (ahem) twist.
Deep and Deeper
If you’re like us, you have a long list of watches you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series Want This, Get This presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. With IWC’s Aquatimer due for a refresh at January’s SIHH, we bid it farewell alongside a lookalike, the Steinhart Ocean Two, which costs a tenth of the price.
Out of the mall, under the sea
The Fossil name usually elicits sneers and scorn from watch cognoscenti as an emblem for shopping mall fashion dreck. But Fossil has quietly upped its game with a small line of Swiss-made watches, not to mention being behind the latest darling of the American watch scene, Shinola. Then, out of nowhere this year came the Breaker, a limited-edition dive watch that will make even the most cynical watch geek look twice.
Easy to Fathom
Gear Patrol’s series “Want This, Get This” presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. This week, we feature the forebear of all modern dive watches and a young upstart that still holds its own.
Worth far better than third place
Bronze has been around almost as long as horology: finding form in weaponry and decorations at the same time water clocks first appeared (4000 BCE), it’s mankind’s oldest alloy. Concocted in varying combinations of copper and tin, bronze can pack a Vickers hardness rating higher than that of wrought iron and stainless steel combined, and is also anti-magnetic and resistant to the corrosion caused by seawater.These characteristics, along with its ability to stand out in the seas of stainless-steel wristwear, make it an ideal alloy for your wrist.
10 Top-Notch Watches that Won't Break the Bank
When building anything, one must begin with strong foundation. A watch collection is no different. While anyone, given the choice, would undoubtedly begin and end with only finest examples of haute horological hardware, we can’t all justify blowing junior’s college and post-grad funds on something small and shiny. A conservative budget should not dissuade wide-eyed complication connoisseurs however: there are many excellent mechanical options available for the budding collector. We’ve selected ten rock solid options, both vintage and new, that would proudly produce any one-percenter’s tan line. So get started. Junior will thank you — it’s his heirloom, anyhow.
Fifty, or Fifty-Five, Fathoms?
In our series Want This, Get This, we profile one wildly desirable, largely unattainable item and one similar item that costs far less. In fact, that’s exactly what watch modification, or “watch modding”, is all about. Now, given enough money, any watch can be modified. Just witness the huge market for blacking out and blinging out Rolexes. But there’s another subculture out there, one whose sweet spot isn’t a $25,000 watch, but rather a $50 to $250 watch — the ubiquitous Seiko dive watch. We examine the subculture and its major players.
A few weeks ago we ran an opinion article about so-called “homage” watches. Amid some attention from readers and experts alike, we heard from MKII, a watch company we had discussed in the article. They offered to send us the MKII Paradive, a watch inspired by Benrus’s iconic (and mysterious) “Type 1″ and “Type 2″ timepieces. We found the Paradive a tool watch worthy of homage, itself.
From the deep, for the deep
As men were pioneering ways to explore and live in outer space in the 1960s, another groundbreaking initiative was taking place closer to home, in an equally hostile environment: the ocean. Parallel efforts by the U.S. Navy, the French commercial diving firm COMEX and diving legend Jacques Cousteau were developing a way for man to live on the ocean floor by breathing a gas mixture made up of a majority of inert helium combined with oxygen. “Saturation diving”, as the new method was called, greatly increased possibilities for living underwater by removing the need to frequently come to the surface to decompress.
But a problem was discovered: the crystals of divers’ watches were blowing off upon decompression at the end of their time on the seabed. A new dive watch was needed, and Rolex responded with the now-legendary Sea Dweller.
Elegant sportiness or sporty elegance?
Despite a recent set of understated accomplishments (and a rather aristocratic-sounding name), Maurice Lacroix has managed to largely escape notice. Then last year’s BaselWorld came around, and the introduction of the diver’s chronograph Pontos S ($4,440) made dive watch fans and industry observers sit up and pay attention. We strapped it on for two weeks of testing.
Crepas Watches out of Malaga, Spain is a niche dive watch company that elicits true horological lust. Each of Crepas’s three previous releases sold out, if that’s any indication. Using classic dive watches as their muse, Crepas issues one watch per year, and their latest release, the Cayman 3000 (~$1,190), found its way to our doorstep this summer.
When venerable Swiss marque Blancpain introduced its first diving watch in 1953, it was thought that 50 fathoms, or 91 meters, was the deepest a man could dive on SCUBA. Hence the name of their groundbreaking timepiece, arguably the world’s first purpose-built dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms. Now, Blancpain’s back at it again with their cheekily named X Fathoms ($38,700, limited edition). We break down this leviathan.
In the Oktopus's Garden
Watches, especially dive watches, tend to follow a set formula: black dial with white markers, round case, rotating bezel. But while we like classic aesthetics, sometimes it’s nice to see a watch company pushing at the edges of design, whether it be through a splash of color, a new case shape or an innovative function. The Linde Werdelin Oktopus II (~$9,873) checks all these boxes.