On 7th October 1927, English swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze attempted to cross the channel with a new Rolex Oyster handing around her neck and after more than 10 hours, the watch kept good time and remained water resistant, proving the magic of the case.
Since those days, dive watches have come a long way, most being water resistant up to 300m (or 30atm). In order for a watch to be described as a dive watch it must be:
- Water resistant up to 100m
- Have a unidirectional bezel that can measure a time up to 60 minutes with 5 minute markers
- Have easily distinguishable minute markers on the face
- Readability/visibility in total darkness
- Shock and chemical resistant
Find the full ISO 6425 divers’ watches standard here.
Nowadays, the dive watch has much been taken over by the personal dive computer, but at one time, these timepieces were vital to keep divers alive when below the water. Their complications were immensely practical and sometimes (Radiomir and Luminor) helped push great technological developments.
To keep things simple, we won’t be differentiating between new/older models of timepieces, so for example a Rolex Submariner will simply be classed as that, irrespective of their dial colour, material or type of strap. As the hashtag has been used over 45,000 times and each image must be reviewed individually, we will be taking a small sample size of 2,500 images calculating the percentage from this, to decide which watch is the most popular across the whole hashtag. We have only included watches defined within the Perimeter of Fine Watchmaking. So without further ado, in ascending order, here is the most popular #divewatch on Instagram.
Percentage of total: 10.54%
History: In the early 1950’s, Rolex developed several professional tool watches whose functions were far beyond simply ‘telling the time’. One of these was the Rolex Submariner, the first ever divers’ watch, waterproof to a depth of 100m and a rotating bezel so that divers could read their immersion time.
Why: One of the first and one of the most famous dive watches ever. The submariner has, since it was first released, been a key innovator for all dive watches, pushing the boundaries wherever possible. The submariner proves that a tool watch doesn’t have to simply be that, the vintage look of the timepiece makes it both a dress watch and professional tool watch in one perfect case.
Percentage of total: 9.79%
History: The Sea-Dweller wasn’t the first of its kind but it was, at the time, the most impressive. It went deeper than any commercial watch had at the time. At its time of release, the Sea-Dweller could dive to a depth of 610 metres and needed a helium escape valve to do such a feat.
Why: This year, this classic watch celebrates its 50th anniversary. The new version has its name written on the face in red – a nod to the first model ever created. The Sea-Dweller is a watch that classicists instantly think of when the words ‘dive watch’ are mentioned. The black dial and utilitarian look to the piece means it also follows two of the big Fine Watchmaking trends of 2017.
Percentage of total: 4.57%
History: The Omega Seamaster was originally released in 1948 and modelled after the Omega Marine, the brand’s first water resistant watch. However, the Seamaster is most notable for its numerous appearances on the wrist of James Bond.
Why: The re-issuing of the 1957 Omega Seamaster sold out in less than a day. The look of the Omega Seamaster is something that goes with a three piece suit (James Bond reference) as well as it does with diving gear. It’s a true masterpiece in both look and ability. It proves, just as the Rolex Submariner does, that tool watches can be works of art as well as being technically magnificent.
Percentage of total: 4.57%
History: Since WWI, Panerai have been famous for their marine instruments, originally creating a luminescent substance called Radiomir for the Italian Navy in 1916. Radiomir was made with radium which was highly toxic. In 1949 the brand patented a new substance under the trademark ‘Luminor’, thus giving birth to a new collection of dive watches. However, it wasn’t until 1993 that Panerai released their first three watches to the public, two of which were part of the Luminor family.
Why: Versatile, minimalist, classic. The Panerai Luminor is a watch that, due its large size, might not be for everyone, but it sure will stand out on the wrist. It is somehow understated and ostentatious at the same time. A timepiece that was originally created for a specific purpose, but style was clearly never far from the designer’s mind.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
Percentage of total: 3.21%
History: Before the Omega Seamaster and before the Rolex Submariner, the idea for the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was conceived. Created in 1952 for the ‘Nageuers de combat’ (basically the Navy Seals of France), the watch was designed specifically for the rugged tasks this elite team would undertake.
Why: The Fifty Fathoms is synonymous with the ocean and if you’re looking for a dive watch that matches the ongoing vintage trend, look no further. The brand itself cares about the oceans, which definitely makes it popular among the dive community and beyond. Buying a Fifty Fathoms timepiece means you become part of something bigger than the watch community – you become a part of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment.
Percentage of total: 2.95%
History: Breitling are undoubtedly most famous for their aviation timepieces, but during the 1950’s (the golden era of dive watches) Breitling introduced the Superocean. It was released in 1957 with a water resistance of 200 metres and a clean design with oversized hands, making it easy for divers to read.
Why: The Superocean Heritage range (which made up most of the entries) is a throwback to the original watch released 50 years ago – and if you haven’t noticed, vintage is kind of a big deal with Fine Watchmaking in 2017. Breitling are famous for their tool watches so there’s an element of trust that can’t be bought within their – usually – battle tested timepieces.