Three Diving Watches With A Difference

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Three Diving Watches With A Difference

Words by Mr Chris Hall

26 April 2021

Diving watches have been so popular since their inception in the 1950s that, to a lot of people, the basic dive watch look defines what a watch is. Big hands, luminous hour markers, a sturdy case. And many is the man or woman who falls hard for the dive watch’s charms without ever wanting to squeeze into a wetsuit. But what if you want a dive watch that does things just a little bit differently? Something that retains the practicality, but adds a layer of personality that you won’t see everywhere else. We’ve picked out three that fit the bill.

Two things Oris does with superb integrity: making solid dive watches and supporting environmental causes. The Aquis Whale Shark edition, a 43.5mm stainless-steel watch with a GMT function that’s dedicated to helping to save the whale shark, whose population has halved in the last 75 years, is both. So, why are we calling it out as an alternative choice? It’s all about that dial.

Traditionally, divers’ watches just do not have decorative dials. But that’s a stance we’re reconsidering having seen this sharkskin-style texture, combined with a blue-to-black gradient radiating from the centre of the dial (which echoes the two tone ceramic bezel, with its 24-hour markings).

It’s a whole new level of detail and luxury for a hitherto functional watch, providing a fascinating counterpoint to the clean typography and simple lines. It really transforms the Aquis.

There’s a widely accepted understanding that the most successful dive watch designs are the simplest: Panerai’s Luminor, the Rolex Submariner and Seiko’s Prospex range are three good examples. But Ulysse Nardin’s Diver X goes against the grain and pulls it off.

Just as with the Oris, we have a dial that’s actually quite decorative for a functional watch, with the raised “X” motif and varying textures, not to mention two additional indicators – usually a bit of a no-no for divers.

The power reserve at 12 o’clock shows how much of the watch’s 60 hours is remaining – relatively useful, although on a dive you’d certainly be moving around enough to keep an automatic watch running. The date window at six is the one that raises eyebrows, but it’s so neatly and discreetly incorporated into the dial that it’s hard to quibble.

That most watches are round is a direct result of the technology that drives them: springs wound in a circle drive a series of gear wheels that spin the hour, minute and second hands round in, yes, circles. Diving watches have an extra reason to stick to the traditional shape: to qualify as an officially-certified diving watch (a definition maintained by the International Standards Organisation, no less), it must feature a unidirectional rotating bezel that lets you measure at-a-glance and in a foolproof manner, how long you have been under water. So, what do you do when you’ve built a successful brand around square-cased watch designs (derived from aviation instruments,) but want to offer people a dive watch version? It’s “round peg in a square hole” time.

The Bell & Ross BR03-92 had that heady “shouldn’t work, but does” factor when it launched, and additions like this matte black ceramic case have only furthered its appeal since. All the elements are there, including some standout orange details, and still housed in the brand’s signature case shape.

Not sure you’re a square watch guy? Maybe this will help.

Third time’s a charm