Whilst space missions are aimed at discovering far-away environments, there is one part of our planet that we know very little about: the ocean floor. To enable explorations at ever-greater depths, engineers, inventors and technicians work tirelessly to keep pushing the boundaries of the rational and the possible. Hublot has also pushed boundaries to create a watch which is resistant to extreme pressure, as found at 4000 metres.
It is a genuine instrument, equipped with the most highly-developed technology, ergonomics for efficiency and ease of handling. It took 18 months of research, development and tests throughout 2010 and 2011 before the first Oceanographic 4000 was unveiled at the Monaco Oceanographic Museum.
Almost all the features of the Oceanographic EXO4000 are exceptional, in terms of design, development and manufacturing. To be described as a “dive watch”, resistant to the pressure exerted at the record depth of 4000 metres, the watch had to meet the exacting specifications of the international standards of Swiss watchmaking (NIHS).
Starting with its water resistance, tested in the Hublot manufacture in a Roxer tank, submerged and pressurised to the equivalent of 5000 metres. To ensure the watch is water resistant and can withstand this pressure, the synthetic sapphire crystal is 6.5 mm thick. This is thicker than normal, but is reasonable for this level of resistance. The case back is screw-down, essential for reaching such depths. It is made of grade 2 titanium, an extremely strong stainless material.
As its case is made of titanium, a material prized for its extreme lightness and with technical features appropriate for the specifications, the Oceanographic EXO4000 is still light on the wrist – although its diameter of 48 mm and its volume are substantial.
In terms of brightness, the time and elapsed time measured by the flange must be legible from a distance of 25 cm in the dark. To meet this requirement, the dial, flange and hands of the Oceanographic have been optimised to have a larger surface area treated with SuperLuminova™, a luminescent material that emits a red colour.
The reading method has been made as safe as possible, using an internal rotating flange which is unidirectional and rack-driven, with a dive time indicator. The dive time indicator being placed as close as possible to the dial minimises the risk of inadvertently altering the dive time. It also makes the dive time easier to read. In accordance with the standard, the Oceanographic 4000 has a minute scale on which the five-minute periods are clearly highlighted.
The watch is fitted with two screw-down crowns (a protective measure that helps ensure water resistance by compression of an O-ring seal). The flange crown which sets the dive time is placed at the 2 o’clock position for easy access and more comfortable use. It is unidirectional, again for safety reasons, with a bayonet fitting, and protected by an oversized crown guard, for extra safety and easy operation when handling diving equipment. The second crown, for winding and setting the time and date, is positioned at 4 o’clock to avoid obstruction.
Finally, the Oceanographic EXO4000 has a helium valve, a feature essential to any diving watch capable of descending to great depths. An essential feature when the watch is used in diving chambers, the helium valve allows gases that have infiltrated the watch during the descent to safely escape during the ascent. It is made from stainless steel, positioned at 10 o’clock, visible from the left-hand side lug.
The watch comes with two tongue and buckle straps (“Town” & “Diver”). This type of fastening is more secure than a folding clasp for this type of use, and is also easier to handle and close when wearing diving gloves. The “Diver” strap, a blend of rubber and nylon, longer than a standard strap, has been developed to be worn over a diving suit up to 8 mm thick. The length of the strap designed to be worn with the Exosuit is actually 50 cm!