As man continues to challenge the unforgiving oceans, world-renowned watchmakers are designing technologically advanced products which are made to survive extreme conditions The elements can be unpredictable and unforgiving. When faced with the enormity of the vast ocean, a trusted timepiece is one means of staying connected to the rest of the world. After all, nothing is guaranteed out in the open sea - except perhaps for precision timekeeping. Serious divers require equally capable functions, from water temperature and depth readings to separate gauges for timing the breathing mixture inside the air tank. However, for the rest of the population, a marine watch can be more of a statement to suggest an active lifestyle. Considering that many don't even graze the water's edge, only the basic features - such as water resistance and a unidirectional rotating bezel - are really necessary. After that, it's more a question of fashion over function, the appeal of an athletic aesthetic with the potential to perform. Although timepieces were first used at sea for navigation to pinpoint an exact location, many are designed for diving today. Roger Dubuis recently launched its EasyDiver collection, an updated version of the original launched in 2004, in addition to existing sport lines SeaMore and AcquaMare. The firm showcased the limited-edition EasyDiver tourbillon skeleton watch, one of the first of its kind and with only 88 pieces worldwide, at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie watch fair earlier this year. All are water-resistant to a depth of 300 metres, lightweight and shock-resistant while some feature a tourbillon for added luxury. The bezel can be used to set the time when starting a dive and most are fitted with rubber straps. The brand also creates exclusive timepieces to suit daily needs, and the emphasis on innovation and quality is equally catered for use on land. 'Water sports, whether diving, yachting or surfing, have a lot to do with quality of life. When you enjoy a splendid afternoon on a yacht, sipping a glass of cold champagne, you need to have a matching watch for the occasion,' said Haspeter Peith, managing director of Roger Dubuis Asia. 'The major features are not so much technological features, but more an aesthetically pleasing diving watch that can be worn by people who enjoy the luxurious things in life.' With a yachting partnership dating back to the late 1950s, Rolex takes a more athletic approach, embracing excellence, precision and team spirit. The close ties have grown considerably stronger over the years and today the company is title sponsor to 20 major international events, including the Rolex China Sea Race, held in Hong Kong. Its support of the International Sailing Federation also led to sponsorship of the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards, which celebrate distinguished navigators. The brand's most significant step into the realm of marine watches was in 1926 with the Oyster, its first waterproof and dust-proof watch featuring a hermetically sealed case to provide protection from movement. Since then, many professional watches tailored specifically for water sports have been created with an emphasis on robustness and reliability. For sailors, the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II boasts a programmable countdown feature from zero to 10 minutes with mechanical memory, according to the countdown of each regatta. Divers have their own specialised models, such as the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller DeepSea, unveiled at this year's BaselWorld fair. Waterproof to an extreme depth of 3,900 metres, the new-generation timepiece is equipped with a new case architecture to resist the colossal water pressure at great depths. Highlights include a bracelet with a double extension system for greater comfort over a wetsuit. One of the most memorable moments in Rolex's history came in 1927 when the Oyster crossed the English Channel unscathed on the arm of young English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze. The brand's founder, Hans Wilsdorf, reserved the front page of the Daily Mail to announce the event to the public. It marked the beginning of the watchmaker's Testimonee campaign. Man's intent to push boundaries didn't end there. In 1960, Jacques Piccard's bathyscaphe Trieste plunged to a depth of 10,916 metres in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. With the Deep Sea Special prototype fastened to its hull, withstanding a pressure of more than one tonne per square centimetre, Rolex proved its waterproof wonder. The moment that will go down in history for Zenith was the development of marine chronometers in 1865, designed for use at sea to ensure sailors did not lose their bearings. The marine mastery was further validated when a French air commando from the Beret Verts tested a Defy Xtreme watch by parachuting from a French fighter jet. Upon landing in the sea, he was rescued by a French navy submarine and the watch also survived untouched. The Defy Xtreme collection stays waterproof up to about 1,200 metres. Features include a sealed case, helium valve to compensate pressure differences, a screw-in crown and push buttons, a unidirectional rotating bezel and three bridges in Zenithium, an alloy developed by Zenith to resist shock. It combines the advantages of titanium for lightness and resistance with the tensile power and shape of aluminium. The latest limited-edition Defy Classic Sea collection also integrates oceanic elements in its design, such as the blue colour of the sea, wave design on the bracelet and dial, and the shape of a racing buoy and propellers for the chronograph counters. 'The sea is a source of inspiration, translating a way of life,' said Thierry Nataf, Zenith president and CEO. 'Those interested in water sports are also real aesthetes with a taste for products, mechanics and fine horology.' Constant goal setting means that the possibilities for seafaring timepieces are endless. 'The future will be made of watches that go deeper, are more shock-resistant, ergonomic and lighter. They will offer features such as time elapsed since first dive and pressure indications,' Mr Nataf added. 'There will be no limit to further improvement as long as imagination governs the world.' It would seem that the potential for progression is as bright as the tides are tremendous.