In the early days of diving, divers wore water-resistant watches with rotating bezels to record their time under water. They would set the arrow on the bezel to the minute hand so they could see at a rapid glance how long they had been in the water by reading the number on the bezel as the minute hand advanced.
Nowadays, dive computers are the norm as they give a range of important information to keep divers safe, but a mechanical divers’ watch is a great back up in the event a dive computer fails. The look of a divers’ watch is also very special and lets everyone know that you are a real-deal adventurer of the sea.
If you are planning on taking a timepiece diving, look for one that has a depth rating of at least 100 meters (330 feet), and preferably more if you are going deep. Read the low-down on water-resistance here. For those who don’t want to take any chances, here are 10 of the most serious mechanical divers’ watches on the market today.
The Guinness Book of World Records holder for the automatic timepiece that can go the deepest is the CX Swiss Military Watch that can descend to a staggering 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). In fact, to comply with ISO norm 6425, Swiss Military Watch constructed the watch to be water-resistant to 7,500 meters to meet ISO’s 25% safety margin. The watch can withstand a pressure of 750kg per square centimetre, making it one of the toughest watches out there. This COSC-certified watch features a chronograph, a unidirectional rotating solid titanium bezel and a helium relief valve (this allows gases that have infiltrated the watch during the descent to safely escape during the ascent). Each series is limited to 1,000 pieces and they sell out faster than a flying fish, but there are a few left with a sporty yellow dial.
Price: CHF 5,841
Hublot’s Oceanographic 4000 can descend to 4,000 meters (13,120 feet), as its name suggests. The timepiece has a synthetic sapphire crystal that is 6.5mm think and a titanium screw-down case back to enable such a feat in oceanic depth. The elapsed-time reading works using a unidirectional internal rotating ring that is operated via a big crown at two o’clock (for easy operation with gloves on), and is extremely visible and easy to read. The other crown at four o’clock sets the time and date. The watch comes with two straps—one in rubber and nylon for diving, and the other in rubber for above water wear. There are a number of limited edition models available.
Price: USD 19,900
The Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea is one of a number of ultra-resistant divers’ models engineered by Rolex for the conquest of the deep. This model is water-resistant to 3,900 meters (12,800 feet) and features a beautiful black dial with gold indexes and a case and bracelet in Oystersteel, a material which is highly resistant to corrosion. Rolex was the very first watch brand to make a waterproof watch. The year was 1926 and the watch was the ground-breaking Rolex Oyster. A year later, swimmer Mercedes Gleitze swam with one across the English Channel. She had previously swum across the Channel, but it was much colder on this second attempt and she was pulled from the water only half conscious. The watch was just fine though!
Price: CHF 11,700
Ball Watches’ Engineer Hydrocarbon DeepQUEST is a striking watch with a water-resistance of 3,000 meters. The dial features three micro gas tubes for the hour, minute and second hands and 12 patented rectangular micro gas tubes for the indexes for reading at night or in low light at extreme depths. It is shock resistant to 7,500Gs and antimagnetic to 4,800A/m. The case is in titanium and has a unidirectional rotating bezel with patented setting system for recording elapsed time in the water. There are two versions, one with a black dial and the other with a silver dial.
Price: USD 4,199
The Breitling Superocean Heritage II Chronograph 44 is water-resistant to 2000m and looks as good in water as it does on land. The collection was first unveiled in 1957 for professional divers and continues today with a great selection of diving watches for real divers. Powered by the COSC-certified, automatic Breitling Manufacture Caliber 13, the timepiece has subdials at six, nine and 12 o’clock. The timepiece also features an ultra-hard, high-tech ceramic bezel for timing elapsed time in the water. It comes with a striking black dial, large triangular hands for great legibility and is fitted with a Milanese stainless-steel bracelet.
Price: USD 7,990
The Omega Ploprof is short for the French — plongeur professionnel — which translates as “professional diver” in English. First launched in 1970, the collection was among the most robust and seaworthy divers’ wristwatches. The collection was recently re-released with a new version that is very close to the original in terms of design, but now with all of Omega’s new technology, such as a ceramic bezel, titanium case and the brand’s Co-Axial and Master Chronometer calibers. The timepiece features a bi-directional diving bezel that is released and locked via a security pusher at two o’clock and includes a helium release valve.
Price: CHF 8,750
The Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive is another tough divers’ watch with a water-resistance of 1000m. Ulysse Nardin has a strong link to the sea going back to 1846 when it specialized in marine chronometers to help sailors navigate the seas. The design of the Diver Deep Dive is particularly striking with its blue dial featuring 15 hammerhead sharks, a blue bezel and a matching blue rubber strap. There is a removable titanium guard on the crown at two o’clock and a helium release valve at 9 o’clock, for deep dives of prolonged periods of time under water.
Price: CHF 12,000
When it comes to diving history, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms has a chapter all to itself. In the 1950s, two commanders from the French Combat Diving School were looking for a watch to put on the wrists of the most elite soldiers. They contacted a number of watch companies who just weren’t interested in such a niche market. Luckily, they came into contact with Jean-Jacques Fiechter, CEO of Blancpain and avid diver, who took up the challenge. The rest as they say is history! The modern day Fifty Fathoms Collection comes in a number of variations such as this Fifty Fathoms Automatique Big Date model that is water-resistant to 300 meters and features a unidirectional bezel with ceramic insert and a date at six o’clock.
Price: EUR 16,370
Doxa is one of the lesser-known names in the world of Swiss watchmaking, but one that most scuba divers have heard of thanks to the company’s long and prestigious history in the production of professional diving watches (Jacques Cousteau, the father of modern scuba diving tested a number of them). The company launched the Doxa Sub 300 in 1967 especially for non-compression and military divers and continues today to produce a large range of diving watches for recreational divers and professionals. Photographed here is the Doxa SUB300 50th anniversary re-edition (Sharkhunter) water-resistant to 300m.
Price: USD 2,500
Favre-Leuba’s new Bathy 120 Memodepth is a great diving partner as it has a unique system that records how deep you dive. The depth can be read via the blue hand that travels around the dial up to a depth of 120 meters. There is also a unidirectional rotating bezel with an anodized aluminium insert for recording elapsed time. The watch is water-resistant to 200 meters (656 feet) and has an eye-catching dial design with a black, blue and turquoise dial with red accents. Also check out the Favre-Leuba Raider Deep Blue, another beautiful dive watch with a 300-meter water-resistance and a running seconds disk in the center for function control.
Price: CHF 8,500
Delma’s new Blue Shark III is the third generation of the Blue Shark series and was created in celebration of a double anniversary – firstly the 95th anniversary of the founding of the brand, and secondly 50 years making diving watches. This ultra resistant timepiece goes to the astounding depth of 4000 meters, a first in the history of the brand.