It used to be that in the realm of haute horology, it was a show of expertise to produce thin, elegant timepieces. It is amazing how things change. In today’s world of fine timepieces, the focus is on creating sporty and oversized dive watches. Not only do they stand out on the wrist; the technology employed makes them highly functional. This trend was very much incepted by silver screen favorite Sylvester Stallone, who purchased a Panerai Luminor in the 90s. Officine Panerai has always been noted for having been a supplier of timepieces and instruments to both the Italian and Egyptian navies. Now, the same form has become adopted by seemingly every brand, with dive watches a standard part of many luxury names’ collections and a must-have for every collector’s wrist.
What is it that makes a diving watch different from a regular timepiece? Water resistance, for one thing. A dive watch must be water resistant to at least 100 meters; however, a typical diver will want resistance to reach around 300 meters and, for some, a spectacular 4000 meters. The most identifiable part of a dive watch is the unidirectional turning bezel, which will have markings at every five minutes. This is a tool based on a 1950s navy dive sheet that allows a diver to plan for enough time to safely begin his ascent to the surface.
Several other features to look for in dive watches include a thicker crystal, luminated indictors for greater legibility in low light conditions, a durable strap or bracelet and a power reserve indication. For divers exploring great depths, it is important to look for watches with a helium release valve.
Every dive watch has to fit a set of requisites, but each brand crafts its pieces differently. Here is a look at some of the hautest dive watches on the market today.
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CORUM ADMIRAL’S CUP SEAFENDER 48 DEEP DIVE
BLACK PVD: $12,400
Corum’s latest dive watch can go deeper than man can: 1000 meters. The new Corum Admiral’s Cup Seafender 48 Deep Dive is a hardcore dive watch. The caliber CO947 movement displays hours, minutes, seconds, date and day. A limited edition watch, the piece is available in two different variations. The first boasts a titanium case with hands and hour markers in a luminescent bi-light orange coating; only 200 are available. The second version is black PVD with an 18-carat rose gold bezel with matching rose gold and black Superluminova-coated indexes, which made the dial easy to read in murky depths; just 100 of these exist.
GIRARD PERREGAUX SEA HAWK PRO 1000 METRES
Since the 1960s, Girard-Perregaux’s Sea Hawk line has been one of the most identifiable dive watch collections in the industry. The continuous development of the line brings the newest Sea Hawk Pro water resistant to 1000 meters. Housed by a 44mm steel case, the piece is equipped with a self-winding GP033R0 movement with an indication for the 46-hour power reserve displayed on the dial. The case is outfitted with a black rubber uni-directional rotating dive bezel and a helium valve. A Girard Perregaux signature, the ergonomic crown shield protects the screw-down crown. Finally, the watch has the amazing capacity to withstand forces in excess of 1500kg.
OMEGA SEAMASTER PLANET OCEAN 45.5 TITANIUM LIQUIDMETAL CHRONOGRAPH
The first industrially-produced dive watch created for commercial use was the Omega “Marine,” which hit stores in 1932. Eighty years later, the latest Omega dive watch is the newly redesigned Seamaster Planet Ocean. Its 45.5 mm case is made of grade 5 titanium; a lightweight element that has been alloyed with small amounts of aluminum and vanadium, making the watch impressively durable and the ability to be polished to a brighter luster than other grades of titanium. The Planet Ocean boasts a striking blue ceramic bezel, with Liquidmetal scaling and numbers. Omega was the first watchmaker to blend ceramic and Liquidmetal in 2009 when it released a limited edition Seamaster with a black ceramic dial and the unique alloy.
The Seamaster Planet Ocean 45.5 mm Titanium Liquidmetal Chronograph is driven by the Co-Axial calibre 9300, Omega's first in-house Co-Axial chronograph. It has a Si 14 silicon balance spring, which Omega is so confident in that they sell the watch with a full four-year warranty. Perfectly suited to fit the needs of contemporary divers, each new Planet Ocean is fitted with a helium escape valve and is water resistant to an impressive 600 meters.
The extraordinary timepiece is presented on a blue integrated rubber strap, but is also available with a titanium bracelet. The new collection comes in a wide range of case metals and configurations with a rainbow of color choices for the bezel.
PANERAI LUMINOR SUBMERSIBLE 1950 BRONZO PAM382
As mentioned before, Panerai has a very rich history when it comes to diving watches. The brand produced the favorite instruments of the elite Navy SEALs during WWII, and vintage pieces from that time period have developed an extremely strong following. So much so, in fact, that some go at auction for over $100,000.
So, last year Panerai created a new watch with the ability to cultivate a distinct vintage feel by using the live metal bronze—which will develop a patina over time—for the oversized 47mm case. The piece quickly became the darling of the 2011 SIHH, and soon every Panerai dealer had hoards of Paneristi (Panerai enthusiasts) flocking to get a glimpse of the most sought-after watch of the year. It was a very limited production, only satiating 1000 very lucky clients.
The watch is powered by Panerai’s in-house manafattura automatic P.9000 movement, which has a 3-day power reserve visible through the exhibition back. It sports a bronze uni-directional professional rotating bezel and crown guard, a Panerai trademark design. A manufacturer-aged calfskin strap with an oversized tang buckle completes the vintage look. It includes an interchangeable rubber sport strap for those wearing it to dive. The “Bronzo” is water resistant up to 300 meters.
HUBLOT KING POWER OCEANOGRAPHIC 4000
Hublot unveils the first diver’s watch able to withstand the pressure exerted at a depth of 4,000 meters, pushing the limits of what is rational and possible. This professional instrument required 18 months of research, development and testing to complete. For the first time, the prestigious Oceanographic Museum of Monaco has agreed to partner with a watch brand. The Oceanographic 4000 was unveiled on June 2011 in the main aquarium in Monaco before HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot.
The piece is exceptional in terms of design, development and manufacturing. Hublot tested the seal to 5000 meters in a Roxer tank; in order to resist the pressure resulting from going this deep, the watch boasts a synthetic sapphire crystal that is 6.5mm thick. The robust 48mm carbon fiber case and black dial set off by blue markers to match the water resistant crocodile strap with contrasting black stitching is new for 2012 and limited to 500 pieces.
The crown, which sets the dive time on the inner bezel ring, is at two o’clock and protected by an oversized crown guard for extra safety and easy operation when operating with diving gear on. The second crown, used for winding and setting the time and date, is positioned at 4 o’clock to avoid obstruction. Finally, the Oceanographic 4000 has a stainless steel helium valve positioned at 10 o’clock, visible on the left side lug.
The watch comes with two tongue and buckle straps (“Town” and “Diver”). The buckle design is original, as is the method of attachment to the case. Small push buttons are built into each end of the case, allowing the strap to be changed instantly without the use of a screwdriver. The “Town” strap is black rubber. The “Diver” strap is a blend of rubber and nylon, and longer than a standard strap. It was designed to be worn over a diving suit up to 8 mm thick.
HARRY WINSTON OCEAN SPORT CHRONOGRAPH
One of the most significant details to note about the Ocean Sport Chronograph is the innovative 44mm satin-finished Zalium case. Ronald Winston, a noted chemical engineer and the son of the brand’s founder Harry Winston, developed Zalium. It has a lustrous gunmetal finish and is known for its hypoallergenic and anti-corrosive properties, allowing for the creation of watches with ultimate durability and design.
The watch has an openworked dial with a smoked finish, revealing a view into the beautiful skeletonized movement. The hour and minute hands are both coated with SuperLuminova for luminescence. Just below the “Harry Winston” logo sits an aperture displaying the date. The unidirectional rotating bezel is also made of Zalium, with DLC-coating. This kind of coating is created through a process of bonding high-energy carbon, which is then rapidly cooled down on the surface in order to create an extremely durable finish highly resistant to scratches.
The Ocean Sport Chronograph comes on a heavy black rubber strap detailed with the famous “HW” logo. This extremely well-crafted timepiece is water resistant up to 200 meters.
AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE DIVER
It has been two years since the launch of Audemars Piguet’s widely successful Royal Oak Offshore Diver. This year, they have decided to add to their diving line for 2012 by offering AP wearers the same timepiece in a carbon fiber version. The 42mm watch features a ceramic outer bezel and an inner rotating bezel to measure dive time. The watch has a bold, sporty appearance highlighted by white and yellow accents against the traditional mega-tapisserie motif on the dial. Like its stainless steel counterpart, it features the Audemars Piguet caliber 3120 automatic movement with a 60-hour power reserve and 300-meter water resistance.