People, and specifically watch enthusiasts, love to wear tool watches. Dive watches, in this case, serve a purpose in addition to keeping track of time. And no, you do not necessarily have to be a diver to wear a dive watch. You do it for the sheer fun of it. This is why you will often find dive watches worn out of the water in many cases. From Seiko SKX007 to Rolex Submariner and every dive watch in between, check the x’s of the equation being solved as we explain why dive watches are so popular.
Dive Watches Serve A Purpose
Dive watches are primarily used to keep track of elapsed time underwater. That’s a no-brainer! However, it allows you to keep track of how much time you have passed underwater and how much air is left in your breathing tank. All these calculations are vital and are done easily with the help of the rotating bezel.
You can also dive knowing that you are adhering to the diving safety guidelines by doing the necessary decompression stops and measuring your surface time before attempting a second dive (This allows your body to re-oxygenate). For example, if your first dive lasted 20 minutes, you should spend at least 35-40 minutes on the surface.
Decompression stops, in case you didn’t know, should be done when a diver starts ascending to the top after diving past the 40-meter mark (130 feet). It prevents decompression sickness (pressure injury) caused by nitrogen (taken from the air tank) which contains undissolved body tissues.
They Are Rich In History
Although the stepping stones for the modern dive watch were set during the 19th century, watchmakers were trying to achieve such pleasant results since the 17th century. These pieces were usually one-off watches that served for a particular customer and were custom-made.
The world would have to wait up until 1926 when Rolex introduced the Oyster. Considered as the world’s first dive watch, Rolex Oyster set the bar for water-resistant watches. The model became quite popular, considering that dive watches became extremely useful for military and other groups like professional divers, navies, and explorers. Many other brands followed.
1932 – Omega “Marine” was introduced.
1936 – Panerai brings the Radiomir.
1953 – Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is introduced in Basel Fair coincided with the introduction of Sea Wolf from Zodiac.
1954 – Rolex Submariner makes its first debut in Basel Watch Fair. (image above)
1961 and 1963 – Edox released Delfin and Hydrosub, resistant to depths of up to 500 meters.
1965 – The first Japanese professional dive watch, Seiko 62MAS was released on the market.
Professional Diving Got Momentum
Commercial activities in the oceans and seas throughout the 1960s established professional diving companies that required more durable timepieces made for diving operations at higher depths. This resulted in the creation of the first “ultra water resistant” watches, such as the Rolex Sea-Dweller 2000 (2000 ft = 610 m), which was released in 1967 and was available in several variations, and the Omega Seamaster Professional 600m/2000 ft, also known as the “Omega PloProf” (Plongeur Professionnel), which was released in 1970 and was available in several variations.
Diving Became Glamorous, And Dive Watches Followed Suit
Underwater diving, or SCUBA diving as it became known, was extremely popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Brands from Switzerland to Japan understood the market potential and started developing some of their first diving watches. This resulted in a flood of diving watches being released by many watch manufacturers.
Professional divers, such as diving instructors, saturated divers, or even the navies demanded watches that could be functional and also fit well on the wrist. Scuba divers wanted watches that could be used and looked nice, while professional divers, such as scuba instructors, sought watches that could last. This helps to explain the popularity of watches like the Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster. Both are excellent examples of diving watches that provided not only high levels of durability but also a cool element.
Diving Watches Became Part Of Pop Culture
Dive watches are popular due to their long lifespan and adaptability to most outfit styles. Furthermore, these particular tool watches appeal to those who enjoy being active. Dive watches have been featured in major blockbuster movies for decades, such as James Bond, making them appeal to a wide audience. In James Bond’s recent series Casino Royale (2006) and No Time To Die (2021), Agent 007 played by Daniel Craig, is seen wearing the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M CO-Axial and the lightweight Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition, respectively.
Panerai also put a stepping stone to their brand recognition efforts with the introduction of Luminor Marina ref. PAM00091 worn by Pierce Brosnan in After The Sunset (2004).
Extreme Durability Is Always Welcome
You do not have to be a diver to appreciate the engineering that goes into good dive watches. People, in fact, enjoy wearing tool watches such as dive watches, pilot watches, and survival watches, even if they do not engage in any of those activities, even as a hobby.
This is because, over time, dive watches in particular, have proven to be durable and highly resistant to whatever life might throw in their way. Water? Not allowed. Dust and mud? Will never touch the movement. Can take bumps and knocks? Sure thing.
Durability is not by choice as it is a requirement for professional dive watches. In addition to water resistance and legibility, dive watches should also be equipped with a measuring system (bezel or integrated stopwatch feature). The last must-have feature of a dive watch is the resistance to low and high temperatures. In order to obtain an ISO Certification for Dive Watches, many brands ensure their watch’s accuracy will not be compromised by temperature fluctuations.
Dive Watches Can Be Worn With Almost Any Outfit
Regardless of their clothing style, you will find dive watches worn by many people. No matter if you are a plumber, construction worker, or CEO, your occupation does not prevent you from wearing a dive watch. Their versatile style can fit with almost any outfit and this is a good reason why dive watches are so popular. Fortunately for us, diving watches may be worn in a variety of ways. In fact, you may wear them with simply a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, or you can combine them with an Oxford shirt. However, we would recommend avoiding wearing diving watches with suits and opting for a more casual dress code.
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In addition to water resistance, it is important for a dive watch to also be legible underwater. As you dive deeper, the sunlight is blocked by the water, and the dirty water makes reading the dial even more difficult. State-of-the-art luminescence is up to the challenge. Many established brands use powerful and lasting lume powder that can increase legibility underwater, or in any light condition. Additionally, dive watches often come with large hands and markers, as well as a clear design that does not compromise readability.
Dive Watches VS Dive Computers – Unsettled
The majority of divers today use dive computers. It is the equivalent of a dive watch, but digital and smart. Designed to do similar tasks, dive computers can keep track of time and avoid decompression stops. This helps a lot especially when you are underwater. The reason is that you do not need to perform the necessary calculations as the dive computer can do it for you. Although dive computers mean slow death to dive watches, the latter is far from losing popularity.
Diving watches and depth gauges are still widely employed by divers as backup devices in the event of a dive computer breakdown or malfunction. Another good reason that the dive computers haven’t yet taken over dive watches is the overall aesthetics. You can not wear a dive computer outside of water, let alone on a daily basis. Too big!
FAQ About Dive Watches
How Water Resistant Should A Professional Dive Watch Be?
A professional dive watch must be at least 100 meters water-resistant. The watch is first tested in a laboratory that replicates the natural conditions a professional dive watch should withstand. An optional certification is then obtained by ISO (International Standards Organization). The latter evaluates the watch as a genuine dive watch.
Do All Dive Watches Need A Helium Escape Valve?
Not always. Only if you are a saturation diver. Saturation divers use dive watches with a helium escape valve as they work underwater for extended periods of time. This accumulates helium inside the watchmaking it explode from the pressure. If your occupation underwater does not include working for extended periods of time on a daily basis, a dive watch with no helium escape valve is a great choice.
How Does The Rotating Bezel On A Dive Watch Work?
Before you descend, start rotating the bezel counterclockwise until the minute hand is aligned with the dive marker. As you pass time underwater, take a look at the minute hand pointing at the bezel. That is your elapsed time (dive time). Before you ascend to the surface, line the dive marker with the current position of the minute hand. This allows you to properly time your ascent time, and make the decompression stop.
Do Dive Watches Have An ISO Standard?
Yes, every dive watch has an ISO standard. To set an international regulation about the construction and effectiveness of a dive watch, ISO 6425 Standard for dive watches was created. According to ISO 6425, a dive watch must be able to endure diving to depths of at least 100 meters. It must have a measuring system to display the elapsed time (bezel or inbuilt timer function) and be visible in the dark. A dive watch must also be resistant to shocks as well as resist extreme temperatures, and ensure that temperature fluctuations will not compromise accurate timekeeping.