Ever since Man donned a wetsuit and flippers and strode into the sea, watch companies have wasted no time in finding ever-better solutions to meet the need for telling the time underwater. In the uniquely demanding environment of the sea, a dive watch is a tool watch under real pressure to perform. The ways in which manufacturers have evolved their dive watches is as visually diverse and technically radical as any exotic creatures you might get to see when you’re under the waves.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller is a true deep diving tool. A remarkable water resistance depth rating of 4000 ft. is four times the depth rating of the Submariner, of which it is based on. It takes some considerable engineering to achieve this. Rolex uses a thicker sapphire crystal and because of the added crystal thickness, their trademark magnification cyclops over the date window is rendered redundant here.
As deep dive watches typically spend time in a decompression chamber, the Sea-Dweller employs an innovative solution to a problem discovered by COMEX divers back in the 1960’s. Helium builds up inside the watch case during decompression which increases pressure inside the watch and can blow the crystal off. Rolex solves this problem by integrating a helium escape valve into the Sea-Dweller case which will automatically release when pressure builds to a critical point. To accommodate the integrated valve the case size of the Sea-Dweller is beefed up roughly 4 millimetres thicker than that of the Submariner.
So, what you get with the Sea Dweller is exactly what it says on the dial. Massive water resistance and a complete package that’s stripped of any extraneous decoration and brutally, beautifully good at its job.
Don’t let the luxury watch appearance fool you. When you dive right into it you’ll see that this watch is certified to 1000m (that’s 3000ft in old money) and still finished to Jaeger-LeCoultre's impeccable high standards, with polished flourishes on the lugs, and a keenly detailed caseback.
Rather than stainless steel or precious metals, non-corrosive grade five titanium has been used to cut down on weight. Inside, the dive chrono movement features an in-house column wheel chronograph which starts instantly, and can be operated constantly without any additional wear on the movement.
The name Master Compressor refers to what JLC call compression keys. To ensure water-resistance you need to give the chrono keys a quarter turn (a half turn for the crown), and the internal gaskets are sealed, or "compressed" so you can use the chronograph underwater, even with gloves on thanks to the chunky rubberised finish on the pushers.
This is a diving chronograph that’s well thought through, performing superbly underwater and equally at home under a shirt cuff.
Panerai are synonymous with diving watches. Bold, oversized cases and distinctive dials are the hallmarks of the Italian brand. Much copied, but never bettered, Panerai made their name supplying watches to the Italian Navy frogman units.
The PAM00307 Luminor Submersible is a serious diver's tool watch and features an electronic depth gauge module which is operated by the pusher at 10 o'clock. At the touch of a button, the outer reading on the navy blue dial will display the divers current depth up to 120 metres. At a whopping 47mm in diameter and 23mm thick, the Luminor Submersible has an undoubted wrist presence and would be clearly visible over the top of a wetsuit. The watch was made to commemorate explorer Mike Horn's Pangea expedition and is one of only 500 pieces.
With a 44mm steel case and a matte dark grey ceramic bezel, the Omega Seamaster packs a lot of wrist presence. But that’s because there is a lot to like here in a striking combination of sporty looks, advanced movement tech and a build quality that’ll get the job done.
The Master Chronometer (METAS certified) movement on the inside this Seamaster Diver 300m can compete with many of the other higher priced manufacturers watches on the market - and the marine chronometers up on deck. In one respect this watch goes way better.
It’s the Omega calibre 3603; essentially a calibre 3330 with a GMT complication. The movement features Omega’s proprietary co-axial escapement and a silicon balance spring, which is designed to provide high resistance against magnetic fields (up to 15,000 gauss) and better accuracy. Like all the in-house Omega movements the automatic rotor winds in both directions, there’s a column wheel chronograph and the movement is COSC Chronometer certified. Omega have also ensured that the chronograph mechanism can be used underwater, a feature which adds to the purposeful tool-watch appeal of this Omega Seamaster 300M.
Then there’s the well-regarded Omega bracelet. Omega originally designed it as a more chunky dive-style version of the Speedmaster Professional bracelet so you know it’s going to be comfortable. The Seamaster 300m Chronograph GMT is also the type of watch that will look really good on a rubberised strap.
It’s almost time to start thinking about the seaside, sunshine, heatwaves, mojitos and beach parties… and of course, what watch to wear this Summer? The beach is no place for your dress watch and a glamorous beach party is no place for a dull looking black-bezel diver.
No, you want a diver that looks classy, starts a conversation and which can jump into the water with you, without you having to think about it. Well, look no further than the Royal Oak Offshore Diver.
It’s a massive, rugged and sturdy block of stainless steel. The overall construction of the Royal Oak Offshore Diver is extremely solid, and you can really feel that quality when on the wrist. What surprises in a watch of this heft is that the finishing is delicate (in a good way). The case alternates between polished and brushed surfaces, with a clear distinction between these areas and the dial detail is a real eye-catcher.
Because the octagonal bezel doesn’t move, Audemars Piguet have switched to a colourful internal bezel on this Royal Oak Offshore Diver so you can still measure elapsed time underwater and the watch can carry its trademark screw-down bezel.
This colourful Royal Oak Offshore Diver watch is definitely a diving tool, but it will be a brave owner that takes such a top-end piece underwater or treat it to too much sub-sea rough and tumble, but it’s good to know you could!
Shop our full collection of pre-owned diving watches and more here.