With their sporty designs and serious tech cred, dive watches are still a cool accessory, even if you’re strictly a landlubber. Norman Burns points to some of the world’s best.
The market is saturated with dive watches — they represent a sense of adventure that few other accessories can replicate. For watchmakers, water and fine mechanical movements generally don’t mix, so producing timepieces that can tick away without a worry deep beneath the waves is a technical achievement worth shouting about. Plus, buyers assume dive watches are totally waterproof. That’s not strictly accurate as most brands (Rolex being a notable exception) are careful to say their models are water-resistant, not water ‘proof’. Diver’s watches were born out of the demands of the military but now even high-end luxury brands have them.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
The distinctive design and steel construction of Audemars’ Royal Oak has been redefining luxury for decades. This Offshore Diver is water-resistant to 300m, has an inner rotating bezel to mark off dive times and is powered by an automatic movement. This is a brilliant example of luxury engineering.
Ulysse Nardin Diver Chrono Artemis Racing
There’s a lot going on with this striking dive/yachting timepiece. A special release to tie in with Swedish America’s Cup team Artemis Racing, it’s big on the wrist (45.8mm with a rubber-coated stainless steel case), the dial has a slew of chronograph functions and the watch is rated to 200m water-resistance.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
If you’d like your dive watch to have a sense of history, this model is a must. First released in 1953 (Blancpain has been making watches since 1735) it’s regarded by most as the first modern diving watch. The 45mm 2017 version has a brushed titanium case, automatic movement with 120-hour power reserve, rotating dive bezel and is water-resistant to 300m.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver
Legibility undersea and rugged construction are musts for a good dive watch, and the BR 03-92 Diver (42mm with a Bell & Ross automatic movement and 300m water-resistance) has these in spades. The rotating dive bezel in a square case is a touch of design genius.
Favre-Leuba Raider Harpoon
This is a dive watch with a difference. Displaying the time with a unique, patented rotating disc system, the big (and only) pointer is the minute hand, with hours marked in Arabic numerals on the dial. A rotating outer bezel marked in five-minute increments is used to set dive times and the watch, with its chunky retro 70s feel, is rated to 500m.
You could call this the “real McCoy” of dive watches, because it was designed by a professional diver, Perth-based Todd Caldwell. The Aegir is a tough, no-nonsense affair made from German 316L stainless steel and a Swiss made Sellita SW300-1 automatic movement. The bezel is super-hardened and big (42mm), hardy and rated to function at depths up to 700m.