Three Affordable Vintage Dive Watches From Historic American Brands

July 12, 2019 Watches By Photo by Those Watch Guys
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Skin diving refers to short dives using only basic equipment like snorkel gear. Watches for this kind of activity naturally need to be reasonably water-resistant, but not to the extent of the more well-known, chunky dive watches that are rated to withstand hundreds of meters of water pressure (though some skin diver watches are rated to “professional diving” depths). This allows them to often be thinner and generally more wearable in out-of-water situations as well.

There isn’t a strict definition of a “skin diver” watch per se, but many that are branded as such share some physical traits, not least because during the height of their popularity a handful of case makers (Erwin Piquerez S.A. (EPSA) and Squale are well-known) were supplying the majority of brands. They tend to feature long, angular lugs, thin rotating bezels, and a generally flat profile. Take a look at the watches below and you’ll get the idea. While these were made for swimming and light diving decades ago, it is advisable that they are enjoyed on land today.

The brands represented here each have a venerable name and an American connection, but many enthusiasts might not expect something from them like these sporty dive watches.

Waltham Skin Diver

What We Like: Originally from Massachusetts, Waltham was one of the most well known American watch companies for over 100 years, but by the time they were making watches like this Skin Diver they had already moved to Switzerland. While the brand probably first conjures images of pocket watches for many people, Waltham also made a range of wristwatches over its history, including some like these, sometimes sold to military personnel. With a 36mm case and manually wound Waltham-signed movement, it offers a very approachable and sporty window into a historic brand.

From the Seller: Case is unpolished and in appealing vintage condition. Movement has just been serviced and works fine.

Wittnauer Skin Diver

What We Like: Another great name from “golden age” American watchmaking, Wittnauer watches have some interesting stories to tell. Dating from around the 1960s, this one features a classic skin diver look with its angular case and steel bezel. It’s powered by the manually wound Wittnauer C11-KS movement, and its 38mm-wide case is perfectly sized for the modern wrist.

From the Seller: The watch is currently working including winding and setting fine. Dial is original and in excellent condition. Minute hand is missing some lume.

Elgin Skin Diver

What We Like: Elgin is another American brand that was once an industry giant alongside brands like Hamilton and Bulova, but didn’t survive into the modern era. This little Elgin has the classic skin diver case but brings a dollop of personality with a colorful bezel and arrow-shaped minute hand. Seriously, how often do you see a red and green bezel like this? It’s further nicely sized at 37mm wide and powered by a German PUW 1341 automatic-winding movement.

From the Seller: The dial is great with no major blemishes seen. Case shows no signs of over polishing & remains sharp after the decades. The movement keeps great time.

Forgotten Watchmakers You Should Know

Before the quartz crisis of the 1970s and ’80s, there were dozens of watchmakers out there producing exceptional timepieces. Though most of them were victims of a seismic shift in timekeeping technology, they are worth knowing about and their watches are worth collecting. Read the Story

Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

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