Built for life deep below the surface of the ocean.
What is a Dive Watch?
A dive watch is a timepiece that is purpose-built for scuba diving and prolonged use underwater. Dive watches exist in many different shapes and forms, and some even offer additional features and functions. However, all dive watches offer durable cases, highly luminous displays, and generous amounts of water resistance.
The Purpose of a Diving Watch
When scuba diving, time is of the utmost importance because you have a limited supply of air, and knowing how long you have been at depth is equally important as how deep you are diving. While a pressure gauge will tell you how much air is left in your tank, being able to keep track of elapsed time is absolutely critical in order to prevent decompression sickness.
The easiest way to keep track of time while underwater is with a dive watch, but not all wristwatches can survive the demanding conditions of life below the waves. On top of that, not all dive watches are created equally by luxury watch brands, and while an ample amount of water resistance is an absolute given, different dive watches can offer different features to make them particularly well-suited to keeping track of time while underwater.
The Formex Reef Dive Watch
The Formex Reef collection is the brand’s lineup of Swiss Made professional underwater timepieces. Measuring 42mm in diameter by 11.4mm thick, with a perceived height of just 9.4mm, the Formex Reef is crafted from durable and highly corrosion-resistant stainless steel, and it offers all of the hallmark features of a true dive watch, such as its unidirectional rotating timing bezel, a highly luminous Super-LumiNova display, and 300 meters (1,000 feet) of water resistance.
Additionally, the Formex Reef also features the brand’s innovative interchangeable bezel system, which allows users to instantly switch up the look of their diving watch without the use of any tools. Furthermore all of the clasps fitted to the various strap and bracelet options for the Reef collection include Formex’s fine adjustment system, which allows them to be instantly expanded or contracted to achieve the perfect fit, regardless of whether you are wearing your dive watch on your wrist or over the sleeve of a wetsuit.
While the original Formex Reef is a purpose-built professional dive watch, the Formex Reef GMT adds the additional functionality of being able to simultaneously display up to three different time zones, while still retaining the ability to withstand depths of up to 300 under water.
The Formex Reef Dive Watch
However, within just a few years of the very first GMT watches making their inaugural appearances, this innovative style of travel-ready timepiece received a major update in the form of an additional hour hand being added to their dials. Now fitted with a secondary 12-hour hand, this follow-up generation of GMT watches allowed pilots to read the time in a traditional 12-hour format without sacrificing any of the GMT capabilities of their 24-hour dial predecessors.
The next major innovation arrived in the early 1980s, and it enabled the two hour hands to be set independently from each other. This drastically alters the functionality of modern GMT watches and enables them to display two different time zones with just their dials and hands, leaving their rotating bezels free to display a third. Since the 24-hour bezel is no longer a requirement for GMT functionality, today’s GMT watches are free to to take on a wide variety of different styles, making this highly useful complication even more practical than ever before.
Dive Watch Key Features
Diving watches have been around for well over a half a century, and during that time, a wide variety of different examples have been produced by countless different brands throughout the industry. With that in mind, all dive watches are united by the same core set of features, although the specific style and the way that they are implemented can differ from one dive watch to the next.
1. Water Resistant Case
Above all else, a dive watch must be highly water resistant. Despite the fact that most recreational scuba diving is performed in less than 30 meters of water, the minimum water resistance requirement for modern dive watches is a depth rating of at least 100 meters. With that in mind, 100 meters is just the minimum requirement, and many modern dive watches can have significantly higher depth ratings with some reaching up to several thousand meters of water resistance.
2. Luminous Display
The deeper you dive, the darker it gets, and to help offer maximum legibility in dark and murky waters, many dive watches feature highly legible and luminous displays. Additionally, along with the hands and hour markers, the zero-minute indicator on the bezel is also typically finished with luminous material to facilitate tracking elapsed time in low-light conditions.
3. Rotating Timing Bezel
The vast majority of dive watches feature a rotating timing bezel, which is graduated to 60-minutes and that can be used by divers to track elapsed time. The rotating timing bezel can either be internal and operated by a secondary crown on the side of the case, or external and simply gripped and rotated directly. On modern dive computers, the timing bezel has just been replaced by a digital timer; however, nearly all analog dive watches will offer some form of rotating timing bezel that will allow you to measure elapsed time.
4. Helium Escape Value
Many dive watches also feature helium escape valves, which are specifically designed to let trapped helium molecules safely exit the case during the decompression stage of saturation dives. Saturation diving involves living in a pressurized dry chamber deep below the surface of the ocean, and while helium escape valves have become a popular feature on modern dive watches, only a small handful of highly-specialized professional divers will ever require their functionality. Helium escape valves do not increase water resistance, and unless you are actively in the decompression stage of saturation diving, they do not actually perform any practical functions whatsoever.
A Brief History of the Divers Watch
Although diving watch companies have been trying to make water resistant timepieces since the very earliest days of the wristwatch, the first purpose-built dive watches didn’t make an appearance until the rise of scuba diving in the early 1950s. Although there are several documented instances of water resistant watches being ordered by various military units during the earliest days of underwater operations, the very first commercially available divers watches were released to the public in 1953.
Rolex, Blancpain, and Zodiac all unveiled dive watches that same first year, and the genre of underwater timepieces quickly gained popularity over the course of the next couple decades. By the late 1960s, the ability to seal a diving watch against moisture and dirt was well within many brand’s abilities, but new challenges stemming from the unique environments of saturation diving called for a new type of dive watch.
In the late 1960s, the issue of trapped helium molecules from saturation diving was solved with the advent of the helium gas escape valve, and from this point forward, the core concept of an analog divers watch remained largely unchanged, even after the arrival of battery-powered quartz movements in the 1970s. Today, analog dive watches have largely been replaced by digital dive computers within both the professional and recreational side of the scuba diving industry. However, countless people still use a mechanical dive watch as backup when diving, and an even greater number of people who do not scuba dive at all simply choose to wear dive watches on an everyday basis because of their durability and practical set of features.
Different Types of Dive Watches
Although dive watches can come in many different shapes and forms, all of them are intended to perform the same core function, and that is to keep track of time while underwater. With that in mind, there are a few different types of dive watches, and each one corresponds to a different type of diving.
How to Choose a Dive Watch
When choosing a dive watch, the first place to start is by figuring out what type of diving you plan to do with it. For days hanging out at the beach and for the occasional recreational dive trip, almost any decent divers watch will serve your needs. However, if you plan on consistently using your diving watch for serious scuba adventures, you may want to consider something a bit more professionally oriented.
Additionally, the size of a dive watch is also important to take into consideration when choosing the right one for your wrist. Sometimes diving watches can be quite large since they are designed to be worn over the sleeve of a thick wetsuit, and you may find that they are a little bit too big and cumbersome for everyday wear and use. Beyond that, it just comes down to your personal preferences regarding matters such as the color of the watch, the type of strap or bracelet fitted to it, and the overall aesthetics of its specific design.Read More
The Best Luxury Dive Watches
These days, digital dive computers perform most of the necessary timekeeping tasks while scuba diving, but countless luxury watch brands now produce dive watches, and some models are even crafted from solid gold and set with diamonds. Many of these ultra-luxurious versions won’t ever actually be used for scuba diving, but the best luxury dive watches combine form and function to create highly capable underwater timepieces that are also crafted to the highest possible standards within the industry.
On its most basic level, a diving watch is just a tool, but in addition to being able to accurately keep time while underwater, it’s important for a dive watch to both look good and feel comfortable on the wrist. The best luxury dive watches will be able to check all of the performance boxes needed to survive life below the surface of the ocean, but they will also feature refined designs, expert levels of finishing, and additional functions and features, often in relation to their clasps or bezels, which will enable them to be particularly well-suited to life both on land and while scuba diving.Read More