Plenty of watches on the market claim to be waterproof, but that’s far from the only factor to consider when shopping for a good diving watch. To get the most bang for your buck, a diving watch must be water-resistant to at least 100m, the markings should be clearly legible and it should have a screw-down crown. It should also be equipped with a unidirectional anticlockwise bezel that, if accidentally knocked on, will take time off the dive, not add to it – a crucial feature in situations when the minutes count.
While some timepieces on the market can cope with the extreme pressures of commercial diving, all should be able to handle the demands of recreational scuba divers, who generally don’t venture more than 40m down and often stay far shallower. What makes a dive watch so compelling is that while all the technical features add up to a timepiece that’s indispensable under the water and robust on land, a good instrument can also be a bit of a head-turner.
Gafencu has rounded up eight of the best dive watches, in terms of both aesthetic and function.
Rolex has had a long connection with the sea, whether it’s with competitive sailing or scuba diving. For the latter, the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller must be close to the top of any diver’s wish list. This distinctly masculine and robust timepiece is waterproof to a depth of 1,220m – overkill, perhaps, for recreational scuba divers, but it means the timepiece is able to withstand the extreme depths in which commercial divers sometimes operate.
To cope with the rigours of such depths and subsequent decompression, it’s equipped with a helium-escape valve, patented by the maker in 1967. It also features a Cerachrom bezel and a luminescent display.
Fortunately for the ladies, a number of the world’s top horologists have produced diving watches in more feminine styles. For those who like a bit of glitz to go with their underwater excursions, Chopard’s Happy Ocean timepiece fits the bill. Five “floating” diamonds move freely between two sapphire-crystal glasses set against a royal blue backdrop.
It’s not just a pretty face, though.
The watch is waterproof to 300m, and the caseback is engraved with a sporty wave motif. The timepiece has a screw-down crown and unidirectional bezel, and another version has a bezel set with sapphires, diamonds and a choice of rubies or blue topazes. Even the fish would give it a second glance.
With highlights in red and blue set against a matte black dial, the Seamaster looks at home underwater
Omega, another favourite among divers, has released its Seamaster Planet Ocean ETNZ “Deep Black” Master Chronometer to celebrate the brand’s backing of the New Zealand sailing team in the 35th America’s Cup. With highlights in red and blue (the Kiwi team colours) set against a matte black dial, the watch – water-resistant to 600m – looks perfectly at home at sea, above and below the water’s surface.
The graduated bezel, made from the brand’s trademarked liquid metal, is as essential for timing a dive as it is for timing an international yacht race. Its multi-purpose function even extends to night-time reading: a dot at the 12 o’clock position is filled with Super-Luminova to emit a green glow. The timepiece, which has a GMT function, is powered by the Chronometer Calibre 8906. This chronometer appellation is significant – it means its automatic movement has been thoroughly tested to meet strict international timekeeping standards.
Those who prefer a more demure dive watch may want to consider the Diver Le Locle from Ulysse Nardin. The simple yet striking design was inspired by a vintage model from 1964. It’s good down to 100m – plenty for recreational diving – but it’s equally apt for a casual day at the beach. The caseback displays an engraved image of a diver, while the strap – continuing with the nautical theme – is made from durable sailcloth.
The Diver Le Locle has the usual whistles and bells one would expect from a diver’s watch – a screw-down crown, unidirectional bezel and luminescent markers. It is driven by the UN-320 manufacture movement (made in-house) and has a power reserve of about 48 hours.
For more serious divers, Bell & Ross’s 03-92 Diver watch, featuring a square case in satin-polished steel, is something of an individualist. A black rubber and synthetic fabric strap states its business-like intentions, borne out by its 300m waterproofing credentials. The circular date window sitting between the 4 and 5 o’clock positions, along with the four slotted screw heads in each corner of the case, lend it an edgy, industrial chicness. Metal appliqué skeleton numerals and indices make the watch instantly readable in low-lit situations, whether you’re deep sea diving or just checking whether you can sleep an extra 15 minutes before work.
Italian watchmaker Officine Panerai, has a long and distinguished history of producing dive watches dating back to World War II when it helped create instruments for frogmen of the Italian special forces. This pedigree means the watches it makes today are easily able to withstand the rigours of diving and other adventure activities.
The Luminor Submersible 1950 3-Days Automatic is a modern interpretation of one of its vintage timepieces, while the Bronzo version, at 47mm, is a big, bad boy. Like others in the Luminor line, it sports a distinctive and patented mechanism that covers and protects the crown, while a sub-dial at 9 o’clock records the minutes. As its name indicates, its three-day power reserve allows it to be left to its own devices for a while.
Continuing with the military theme, the Tag Heuer Aquaracer Camouflage is, well, camouflaged. It comes in two styles – Arctic and Jungle, with the former available in shades of blue and grey and the latter available in shades of green. Tag Heuer is well known for its stylish yet rugged sports watches, and this model is no different. Waterproof to 300m, the case is made of Grade 2 titanium with a matte PVC treatment – apparently to ensure that it doesn’t catch the light and attract the enemy’s attention. The date window at 3 o’clock has a magnifier for ease of reading – useful in the office, or when planning a daring raid on a military installation.
Last on our list is a most versatile timepiece. Tudor’s Heritage Black Bay most definitely looks at home in the boardroom. Don’t be fooled, though. This yellow gold and steel watch, which comes with a date function, is happy down to 200m and has all necessary features to set it apart as a diver’s watch. Housing the MT5612 manufacture chronometer movement with a 72-hour power reserve, it can be taken off on Friday night and worn again on Monday morning without the need for a reset. The easy-to-read rotating bezel is set in yellow gold with a graduated matte black anodised aluminium disc.
Whether you’re a deep sea explorer or you just like to look the part while dipping your toes in the water, there’s a diving watch on offer for everyone.
Text: David Cornwell