Since the first practical examples of the early 1920s, divers’ watches have gone through something of a metamorphosis. Initially they were purely functional, an ugly and often ungainly tool designed specifically for use by professional divers but with little appeal beyond that. However as scuba diving and other water-sports became increasingly popular recreational activities the watch industry kept pace with greater and greater ingenuity and subsequently the dive watch has transitioned to become a much more durable and desirable item for everyday wear.
With the technical and manufacturing advances made since those early days the modern timepiece now has to meet a raft of guidelines to be officially certified as a “divers’ watch”. The essential element is, obviously, water-resistance and whilst the minimum standard required is 100m (10ATM) some brands offer resistance to a depth of 1000 meters. In addition modern diving watches are designed to pass specific levels of magnetic, shock and chemical resistance (particularly corrosion) testing and provide particular levels of visibility and legibility underwater. A top quality dive watch should be ISO-6425 certified, featuring a screw down caseback and crown, unidirectional bezel and luminous indices.
The true artistry however is that whilst many modern diving watches are produced specifically to pass these rigorous tests, they’re also designed with an eye for aesthetics, producing incredibly good-looking and often iconic pieces.
Below, we take a look at a some of the more popular pieces vying to be the best of the bunch.
TAG HEUER AQUARACER CHRONOGRAPH
The current Aquaracer range includes around 150 models so if TAG are your thing then you certainly shouldn’t be short on choice, and if you thought diver’s watches are solely designed for men then consider for a moment the 60+ variants TAG offer in their ladies Aquaracer watch range. Each model features between 200m and 500m water-resistance and has been subjected to a battery of 160 quality checks including immersion, pressure cooker, intense heat, humidity and salt as well as the delightful sounding “14 days of non-stop sweat” test.
Among TAG Heuer’s best sellers, the Aquaracer Chronograph features a high precision quartz movement in a fine-brushed steel case with screw down case back and crown to ensure water resistance to 300m. The bezel is unidirectional, fashioned from polished aluminium and features bold numeric markings for the 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 minute intervals. Protecting the dial is a scratch resistant and anti-reflective sapphire glass, the face itself features a three dial chronograph, date function and luminescent markings. This is mounted on a brushed steel bracelet with folding clasp which includes a diving extension to allow for wearing over a wetsuit. The Aquaracer Chronograph comes backed by TAG Heuer’s usual 2 year warranty.
Despite TAG have a reputation for producing robust yet stylish timepieces (behind only Rolex and Omega in popularity among the luxury watch brands) the prices of many TAG Heuer models are surprisingly modest, and this particular Aquaracer is no exception, currently retailing at around £1,850.
BREITLING SUPEROCEAN HERITAGE II
Breitling may be best known for their links with aviation, but they also have history on and under the waves. Indeed prior to its recent streamlining, their logo it included an anchor to acknowledge this aspect of their heritage. The Superocean range was first introduced in 1957 and the Heritage variants offer more than 40 models in case sizes of 42mm, 44mm or 46mm with either a blue, black or white dial and a choice of leather, rubber and steel bands. The most eye-catching of the lot however is probably the Breitling Superocean Heritage II B01 Chronograph 44. Whilst the name doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue the watch itself is an impressive piece; as well as black and blue dial options there is a silver dialed version with contrasting black bezel which looks especially stylish and is powered by Breitling’s own Caliber 01 movement boasting up to 70hrs power reserve. Perhaps surprisingly water resistance is only guaranteed to 200m, however all Breitling watches meet stringent COSC tests for quality and reliability.
The Breitling Superocean Heritage II B01 Chronograph 44 retails for around £6,300.
In the introduction we mentioned that some diver’s watches have become iconic; if ever a watch epitomised such a term then it is surely the Submariner. Another watch which can trace its roots back to the 1950’s the Rolex Submariner has long been the benchmark for many manufacturers to copy or take inspiration from, with a list of design firsts to its name. In fact the Submariner proved so popular that it prompted Rolex themselves to produce a spin-off in the shape of the Sea-Dweller. The oyster case and cyclops eye (on the date version) have become synonymous with the brand and so instantly recognisable that form part of what is surely a design classic.
Such is their confidence in the quality of their materials and production methods, Rolex offer a 5 year guarantee as standard with all models and with prices for the Submariner range starting from around £6,950 it is easy to see why Rolex remain the most popular luxury watch brand.
OMEGA SEAMASTER (Planet Ocean Big Blue)
Originally introduced in 1948 the Seamaster is to Omega what the Submariner is to Rolex. The Seamaster is quintessentially Omega, instantly recognisable and as integral to the brand as the brand-name itself. Of the latest Seamasters, the Planet Ocean Big Blue has probably caused the biggest splash. This is a hybrid GMT/Diving watch fashioned from a single block of blue ceramic with blue dial and bezel of the same blue ceramic. This wash of blue is offset by orange ceramic and rubber details to the dial, bezel and strap. In truth this should look gaudy, but the reality is that Omega have produced a stunning piece which manages to be uncompromisingly modern but somehow still scream classic Seamaster. The detail is completed by 18k white gold hands and markers treated with a white Super LumiNova coating for exceptional visibility at depth. Speaking of depths, this seafaring beast is water resistant to 600m and can withstand magnetic forces of up to 1500 gauss. For those who like to be able to see the engine room powering their watch, the “Big Blue” does not disappoint with the clear case back and unique ceramic Naiad Lock showing off Omega’s COSC certified calibre 8906 movement.
Expect to pay around £8,320 for “Big Blue”.
So which would you choose, or do you believe there is a more worthy contender for the crown?