A Scubapro mask – check, an Oceanpro buoyancy control device – check, a 3mm Mares techno neoprene wet suit – check – after all you are shallow diving in the Mediterranean so a dry suit is not needed – a Spyderco Atlantic dive knife – check and a pair of Cressi fins – check.


Wait a minute there’s something missing, which dive watch should you have?
There is a moment when a novice at any new sport or pastime, specifically including riding, skiing and diving, risks being the butt of that trusty expression ‘all the gear and no idea’. This specifically refers to those who, ahead of acquiring any real proficiency in their new pursuit, acquire the very best equipment in order to look like they know precisely what they are doing. My experience with horses suggests they even knew I just looked the part and was devoid of any handling skills!

Which Watch?

So you understand the issue. However, a diving watch can be worn in circumstances other than diving – right? Channelling your inner Jacques Cousteau you will be able to boast around the coffee machine that you have taken up a new sport. You may even consider putting your newly acquired diving kit on E-Bay if you and the sport really don’t work out.

Though I suspect you may well keep and use on a daily basis your wonderful dive watch. After all, watches and water have forever been a lethal combination and if you can find one that survives the rigours of being submerged and still looks wonderful, just imagine what conversations it could start.

A little bit of definition that is a must to learn. While many watches claim to be shower-proof and an equal number can be worn underwater, to qualify as a dive watch it must carry the ISO 6425 rating. This requires the watch to have a depth rating of not less than 100 metres, be made from a non-corrosive metal, be shock-resistant and be anti-magnetic. It also must have a unidirectional bezel that is luminescent and visible in total darkness, with, usually, a glowing second hand that shows the watch is still running. With an internal gasket and a screw-down crown your watch will be as tight as a closed clamshell and sealed against any incoming seawater.

Why is your chosen dive watch so important? Your watch is a vital piece of sub-aqua kit as it allows the diver to know with great accuracy how long they have been underwater and when they need to start to prepare their ascent.

To make a watch that is resistant to water was a long-sought prize for watchmakers. The first waterproof watch appeared in 1926 when Rolex launched the Oyster that was used in 1927 by Cross Channel swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze, with no loss of seal.

Italian Naval supplier, Panerai, in 1936 launched Radiomir – a curious, almost square-cased version that served its diver clients well. I understand that early Radiomir watches were made by Rolex for Panerai.

The Rolex Submariner

The granddaddy of all dive watches is the Rolex Submariner, for which I have a serious passion. Rolex debuted its iconic Submariner (no. 6204) at the 1954 Basel Spring Fair. The 6204, and the slightly smaller 6205, were officially launched for sale to the general public in 1955.

It’s difficult to determine the Submariner’s precise designer from within the Rolex team but credit is often given to a Director, Rene P. Jeanneret, a keen amateur diver, who in the early 1950s encouraged Rolex to develop a sports watch for divers.

While the design has evolved technically and features have been added to improve the overall functionality, the current Submariner is guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 300 metres. With a variety of slightly differing styles that allow aficionados to age any given model, my favourite dates from 2018 and is a 116610LV.

Launched in 2010, it continues in loyal homage to the 1953 original model.Like other current models, it has the Rolex Gridlock Oyster bracelet that allows the watch to sit over even the heaviest wetsuit.

The watchmakers at Blancpain and Zodiac were quick to appreciate the demand for these watches. Their models, respectively ‘Fifty Fathoms’ (introduced in France 1953) and ‘Sea Wolf’, with the latter claiming to be the first “purpose-built dive watch”. Both models, as originals, are valuable and desirable collector’s watches and their current models continue to be popular.

The advance of technology is as present in the diving world as elsewhere and with on-wrist digital dive computers maybe the classic dive watch has had its day. Well not in my part of the sea!

Although many have replaced their beautiful everyday watches and are now wearing the brutal Apple iWatch, that includes, in Series 4, a dive watch that claims to be certified to a depth of 50 metres, which other classic dive models deserve a mention?

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53

Strongly echoing its 1953 predecessor. It comprises a 40 mm diameter and is resistant to 200 metres. Personally, I prefer the rubber strapped version to the bracelet. Priced between €1.100 – €1.400.

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight

As many will know Tudor is a brand owned by Rolex and as such they are prone to produce very similar looking watches at greatly reduced prices. As there is no black Submariner in the current Rolex range, although specialists make customised versions, this is a tribute, with its slightly smaller case, to original Submariners. It comprises an automatic movement, is water-resistant to 200 metres and also comes in Stainless Steel, which I really like. Priced around €3.500

Longines Legend Diver

Another great looking watch that draws on its retro past. The Legend Diver design dates from the 1960s and this version holds the vintage look. At 42mm diameter and with a depth rating to 300 metres, this watch carries a price tag of between €1.600 – €2.050 depending on the model.

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M

This dates from 1993 and is the favourite of a close friend. Its 25th birthday version uses Omega’s Master Chronometer co-axial automatic movement and has a 42mm case that is water-resistant to 300 metres. It has a distinctive face with a laser-scribed wave design that is very appealing. It looks particularly good mounted on a rubber or a Cavalry-striped strap. Price circa €5.000.

Panerai Luminor Submersible

As Panerai featured at the start of this trek through the world’s most popular dive watches, it’s fair to include their current Submersible model. While retaining the iconic shape and automatic movement a rotating bezel has been added, widening its market. A big but handsome watch with a 42 mm diameter case, it has a depth limit of 300m. Priced range, depending on finish, between €8.500 and €19.000.


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