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Is the dive watch really high and dry ?
Watch Stories

Is the dive watch really high and dry ?

Thursday, 03 March 2016
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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4 min read

Enjoyed for their dynamic style and robustness, dive watches have hit rock bottom. Are brands proving resistant to the sporty appeal of these underwater instruments?

Even watchmakers have faced the fact that any self-respecting diver these days relies not on a mechanical watch, at best a safety net, but on a dive computer. Despite this, the custodians of time have virtually all, at some point, had a dive watch on their books. Some were part of the deep-sea adventure well before electronics were an option, and are eager to preserve the legitimacy that goes with the terrain. After all, for a watch to qualify as a “dive watch”, it must comply with a certain number of criteria measured by ISO 6425 international standard in terms of robustness, precision and reliability. These are qualities that appeal to a good many watch buyers, even those who have no intention of pursuing their diving career any further than the shallow end of the pool but like to look the part. In a word, the dive watch has come to symbolise a certain lifestyle.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300m
Launched in 2004, the TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300M is equipped with the brand's Calibre 5 on a Sellita SW200 base. Various interpretations of this classic have followed, the latest in 2015, with a unidirectional rotating bezel in ceramic.
Down to earth

Brands have therefore been at pains to keep up a steady stream of designs likely to win over these underwater aficionados. Until this year, that is. 2016, already labouring under dismal prospects, is leaving dive watch fans high and dry as watchmakers focus on the civilised, street-smart wrist. Jaeger-LeCoultre, an important purveyor of dive watches with models such as the Deep Sea and the Master Compressor, last year revived its Geophysic, a classic timepiece if ever there were, while in 2016 it has eyes only for the Reverso, now in its 85th year. Not a trace of the least instrument cut out for the deep. It’s the same story at IWC, where the Aquatimer is taking a back seat to the Pilot’s Watch, and at TAG Heuer whose Aquaracer comes across as distinctly old-tech alongside the TAG Heuer Connected or the dashing Carrera Heuer 02-T chrono tourbillon. Audemars Piguet has made the effort, although this doesn’t go much beyond giving its Royal Oak Offshore Diver Chronograph a new coat of many colours. Cartier, which took to the seas like a duck to water with its Calibre Diver, this year sticks to the road ahead with its strictly terrestrial Drive collection. Even Panerai, a brand synonymous with diving, is putting out multiple versions of its Radiomir 1940, a model that easily makes the transition to “city” wear.

Like James Bond striding out of the sea, peeling off his wetsuit with one hand and adjusting his tux with the other.
Refined first, diving second

And so the paragon of sport watches edges closer towards safer, more consensual terrain as Bulgari confirms with its latest Diagono Scuba (BVL 191 Solotempo), the nautical watch par excellence that made its debut in 1994: “Diagono Scuba is not merely a diver’s watch complete with a raft of water-resistance patents. It is an elegant watch imbued with contemporary Italian refinement and clothed in a diving suit.” Like James Bond striding out of the sea, peeling off his wetsuit with one hand and adjusting his tux with the other. If originality is about looking the part, as with the new Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition (Sellita SW200) with bronze case, it’s always worth casting an eye in the direction of women’s watches. Eterna, which is lining up for its big comeback, presents the Lady KonTiki Diver (Sellita SW200).

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 39.5mm
This Omega Planet Ocean 600M Master Chronometer has all the attributes of a chic sport watch for women, with its Sedna gold case, an Omega proprietary alloy, and chocolate dial. It is driven by Calibre 8801, one of the first with METAS certification.

Better still, Omega recently revealed its new Planet Ocean 600M Master Chronometer, a women’s sport watch with a 39.5 mm diameter, in 18k Sedna gold and chocolate ceramic. This is one of the first women’s watches to meet criteria set out by the Swiss federal institute of metrology (METAS) for Master Chronometer certification, thanks to automatic Calibre 8801 that withstands magnetic fields of 15,000 gauss and delivers a level of precision in excess of that required by the COSC. For the serious water sprite.

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