The Seven Best Diving Watches To Buy Now
Taking the plunge? The super scuba timepieces that will ensure you won’t be out of your depth
For almost as long as wristwatches have existed, people have wanted to take them underwater. Rolex invented the first properly waterproof watch in the shape of the Oyster case in 1926 and the following year pioneered the concept of the “brand ambassador” by putting one on the wrist of cross-Channel swimmer Ms Mercedes Gleitze. Waterproofing improved rapidly as watch companies met the demands of the world’s militaries in the 1940s, and diving watches achieved true popularity in the 1950s and 1960s as scuba diving became a leisure activity. Nowadays, they are prized for their durability, rugged looks and simple designs as much as for their ability to operate beneath the waves, but that doesn’t stop Switzerland’s finest continuing to enhance their aquatic performance. Here are seven of the coolest and most capable dive watches on the market today.
Bell & Ross
Bell & Ross burst onto the watchmaking scene in 1992 with a stylised take on traditional aviation instruments. In recent years, it has branched out with aplomb, and this 42mm diver’s watch has proved a particular success. Marrying the traditional dive watch, especially the circular rotating bezel, with its aviation-derived square case shouldn’t work, but it does, yielding a fresh take on a classic idea. Water-resistant to 300m and with solid crown guards, the BR 03-92 is a full-blooded tool watch that also incorporates niceties such as the discreet, colour-matched date indicator at four o’clock.
Bremont is another brand that cut its teeth on pilots’ watches, but has taken to dive watches with enthusiasm. The Supermarine name is taken from the British aircraft manufacturer, which was best known for its seaplanes and developing the Spitfire in WWII. The S500 is a hardy character, rated to withstand 500m of pressure and boasting a crown that’s relocated to two o’clock and a curved crown-guard to minimise the chance of underwater damage (also handy just about everywhere else). The watch is cased in an anti-magnetic Faraday cage and tuned to chronometer levels of accuracy. Its only concession to landlubber sensibilities is the inclusion of day and date windows at three o’clock.
The issue of depth ratings on watches is a surprisingly complicated one. Never assume that your 50m-rated dress watch could survive at the bottom of a swimming pool, let alone 27 fathoms deep. IWC Schaffhausen has made certain that its most hardwearing Aquatimer can take whatever you can throw at it depth-wise (unless your name is Mr James Cameron). It is tested to withstand a massive 2,000m of water pressure. What’s genuinely impressive is that, at 42mm x 14.5mm, the watch is no larger than your average tool watch. This particular titanium model honours the 35th anniversary of IWC’s first Aquatimer and comes with a quick-release system for changing straps.
The idea of a diving watch from typically metropolitan NOMOS Glushütte might seem alien, but the ability to confound expectation is precisely why the German brand created it in the first place. The Ahoi doesn’t meet the international standards for a dive watch, thanks to its lack of a uni-directional rotating bezel (used to measure remaining oxygen time), but it is tested to 200m water resistance and has the requisite Super-LumiNova hands and hour markers to give the all-round usability that most people really want from a dive watch. Plus, it demonstrates that not all functional watches have to be burly. With its Atlantik dark blue dial and trademark typography, it is as stylish as every other NOMOS watch.
What could be more practical – and, let’s face it, boast-worthy – in a dive watch than the ability to actually measure how deep you’re submerged? Other brands have approached the same problem with elaborate membranes and pressure gauges. In typically pragmatic style, Oris cracked it by allowing water to penetrate a channel gouged into the watch’s sapphire crystal, using the pressure of the remaining air in the cavity to read depth off the specially calibrated scale. The watch is good to 300m of water pressure, but the scale only reads up to 100m. We’d like to think that if you’re deeper than that, you’re also packing some professional kit.
Belgian startup Ressence has reinvented basic preconceptions about watchmaking, so it stands to reason that it should bring its unique approach to bear on a dive watch. The brand’s signature breakthrough – that of flooding the dial with oil to allow the visual effect of the time appearing to be printed on the underside of the crystal – also allows for perfect legibility from any angle. With no air to get in the way, the principle of total internal reflection is avoided. In layman’s terms, your watch will never turn into a mirror if you look at it slightly side-on underwater. Cased in titanium, the Type 5G is depth-rated to 100m.
TAG Heuer’s Aquaracer is a lesson in getting the fundamentals right. There’s nothing on the dial that doesn’t need to be there. The bezel (now with blue ceramic inlay for further durability) feels rugged and secure when it rotates and the crown is coated with extra-tough tungsten carbide to resist scratches. The Super-LumiNova numerals and hands have real presence and the 43mm steel case is tested to withstand 300m of water pressure. The caseback is closed (real dive watches don’t have sapphire casebacks) and the watch comes on a hardwearing nylon strap.
Or try these
Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph 44mm Cermet and Tech-Canvas Watch
Officine Panerai Radiomir Black Seal 8 Days Acciaio 45mm Stainless Steel and Leather Watch
Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Automatic 42mm Stainless Steel Watch
Montblanc TimeWalker Date Automatic 41mm Stainless Steel, Ceramic and Leather Watch