The phrase ‘diving watches you can actually dive in’ probably sounds like a tautology. Of course you can dive in diving watches. Well, yes and no. It all depends on what you mean by ‘diving’. If it’s splashing around in a snorkel then that’s generally fine. When the tank and wetsuit come out, most diving watches need to stay on dry land.
That’s because a lot of what constitutes a so-called diving watch is aesthetic. The unidirectional bezel, the case shape, perhaps a rubber strap; all hint at underwater adventures, yet the majority of men who buy them don’t go deeper than their bath. For those who do, most important is the ability to plumb the depths without bursting under the pressure.
Watch water resistant ratings are tested in still, freshwater. But add salt and movement and the pressure increases. Which means your 30m resistant watch isn’t one to strap on to explore shipwrecks.
For proper scuba diving, you need a watch with a water resistance of at least 200m, or 20 atmospheres (one atm is the pressure at sea level; the deeper you go, the more pressure the water exerts, the higher it climbs). If you see the word DIVERS printed on the dial, then it’s been independently tested to the promised depth, plus 25 per cent. If not, then you’ve only got the manufacturer’s word. Which is best taken with a dram of saltwater.
Many diving watches, such as the Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition, are only suitable to 100m. For serious divers, that’s an expensive way to not know the time underwater. So if you don’t want your watch to sleep with the fishes, strap on a timepiece that isn’t so shallow.
Good To 200m
Citizen Promaster Professional Diver’s Watch
You don’t expect to get change from £200 for a proper diver’s watch. But Japanese brand Citizen excels at offering lots of punch for very little pound.
The Promaster Professional has a real no-nonsense look about it and is pleasingly chunky on the wrist. Its polyurethane strap and 42mm stainless steel case are functional rather than fashionable, however, making this a beach watch rather than one that could convert to the boardroom.
It also contains Citizen’s acclaimed Eco-Drive technology, which means it’s powered by light. So you’ll never have to worry about running out of battery when you’re 30 fathoms down.
Available at Amazon, priced £149.
Good To 300m
Tag Heuer Aquaracer 300m Calibre 5
If you want a diver that also doubles as an everyday timepiece, then this Tag Heuer ticks all the boxes.
The fine-brushed and polished steel strap gives the Aquaracer an elegance not normally associated with watches you can get wet in, while the black dial works with both a wet- and three-piece suit.
The automatic movement does up the price, but also earns you extra horological points. Just in case those tales of the giant squid you saw aren’t quite landing.
Available at TAG Heuer, priced £1,600.
Good To 500m
Squale 1521 Satinato Black
Not a brand everyone is familiar with, Squale has diving in its DNA (the name means ‘shark’ in Italian for starters).
In order to create his range of watches, founder Charles Von Buren attended some of the world’s most challenging dive competitions and met extreme divers such as Jacques Mayol and Jean Tapu to find out what they needed from a timepiece. The result is robust, retro and eminently wearable on both land and sea.
Available at Page and Cooper, priced £690.
Good To 600m
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Deep Black
The ‘Deep Black’ in the name refers to the colour of the ocean at the depths to which this watch can go.
But going deep wasn’t the real challenge for the brand – Omega wanted to create a timepiece entirely from ceramic. Mission completed; in a first for a Planet Ocean, the case of each Deep Black model is monobloc ceramic, which means a 45.5mm watch that feels like a 39mm.
It’s also a GMT and features a unique bezel made from rubber blended with ceramic. Makes the 600m water resistance seem almost an afterthought.
Available soon at Omega, priced approx £8,000.
Good To 2,000m
Bremont Supermarine S2000
For a brand more readily associated with pilot’s watches, Bremont’s decision to bring out an underwater timepiece seemed a bit strange. But this Supermarine is a diver’s watch with bells on.
It can head down happily to 2,000m below sea level, by which point you’d have been poisoned by the gas in your breathing apparatus and suffering some particularly unpleasant pressure effects. Although at least you’d know what time it was.
Fortunately, it’s styled to look equally impressive out of the bathypelagic layer.
Available at Goldsmiths, priced £3,850.