Dive watches are becoming increasingly sophisticated and elegant

Huge dive watches are becoming ever more sophisticated, and some are even relatively elegant, writes Carl Cunanan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 3:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 April, 2015, 12:25pm

Going deep has always presented challenges. It was crucial for divers to keep track of time. Whether they were down there for scientific exploration, military operations or fun, the amount of time underwater needed to be indicated immediately and accurately.  The weight and bulk of dive watches were originally a result of technical demands before they became a badge of honour. Now, there are fully capable dive watches that are sleek and elegant alongside others that revel in their size.

Officine Panerai got its start making timepieces to help Italian frogmen deliver explosives on rideable torpedoes. All its models have been derived from those early dive watches. Its most hardcore aquatic line is the submersible family, such as the 2014 release Luminor Submersible 1950 Left-handed Three Days Automatic Titanio. 

This watch is 47mm in diameter, made of titanium and rated to go down to 300 metres. 

It is a left-handed watch, meaning the crown is on the left and it doesn't dig into your wrist or glove as it would if it were on the right of the case. The run is limited to 1,000 pieces. Rolex has released a new and collectable deep-dive watch. The Deepsea Sea-Dweller with D-Blue Dial is based on its 3,900-metre-capable Deepsea, but with a flourish. 

Meant to commemorate filmmaker James Cameron's historic deep dive, the dial starts as a brighter blue at the top of the face and changes slowly to almost black at the bottom, representing the colour change as you descend to the depths of the ocean. The word "Deepsea" is on the face in green, the same colour as the submersible Cameron used. The piece can achieve such depths because of the helium safety valve on the 44mm steel case, invented by Rolex in 1967.

Cartier is building on the success of its new men's watch model family, the Calibre de Cartier, by going in a new direction. It designed a timepiece with the strict and rather formidable challenge that it had to be first and foremost a Cartier, but also a fully technically capable dive watch. 

The Calibre de Cartier Diver is a 42mm ISO-certified dive watch that is water resistant to 300 metres. It uses the Roman numerals so associated with Cartier and has clean, elegant lines that are extremely readable at night thanks to the use of Super-LumiNova  on the hands and indices.  The watch is available in steel, pink gold and a pink gold and steel combination, and shows seconds in a sub-dial at 6 o'clock and the date in an aperture at 3 o'clock.

The early Aquatimer models from IWC always held a special place in many collectors' hearts. They had a unique look in the dive watch world because of an internal bezel that turned under the glass rather than externally. The bezel was adjusted by a knob rather than direct manipulation, and while this made it slightly less diver-friendly, it made the watch very distinctive on the wrist. 

The Aquatimer of today is a combination of both, with an internal/external bezel in which the timer marks are still under glass, but the adjustment is done by another bezel in the traditional place surrounding the sapphire crystal front. The Schaffhausen company has made a name in specialty dive watches with integrated depth gauges with their Deep One and Deep Two models, and this continues with the Deep Three. A 46mm titanium case protects the watch, which incorporates a mechanical depth gauge.