Diving has been a sport and science that dates back to the early 20th century but its popularity really started to soar in the 1950s. It’s a demanding activity and necessitated specific tools …….. enter the dive watch.

Long before there were computers, every divers “must have” was a reliable watch as it could literally mean the difference between life and death. The watch tracked the length of time underwater, calculated decompression stops (to avoid the bends), and helped monitor the amount of air in the tank.

There are a few standout models in the early years of the dive watch and it will be no surprise to learn Rolex was at the forefront in this area of innovation. In 1926 Hans Wildorf, the founder of Rolex, filed a patent for the Oyster with its screwed crown and case back it was the world’s first truly water and dust-resistant case. This was put to the test in October 1927 when a swimmer wore the watch during an attempt to swim across the English channel. After more than 10 hours, the watch held its seal and kept accurate time.

OMEGA also joined the party with their Marine model, a watch that could slide in and out of a waterproof casing and withstood a 70-metre submersion in Lake Geneva.

In the 1930s, the Italian Navy commissioned Panerai to begin the development of a water-resistant watch. The result was the Radiomir which was water resistant to 30 metres.

By the time the sport was at its height in the 1950’s Rolex had debuted the Submariner while other brands such as Blancpain and Breitling hit the market with the Fifty Fathoms and the Superocean. Then in 1967, Rolex made its mark again with the Sea-Dweller, a deeper diving version of the Submariner.

Several of the early models of dive watches remain on the market, all with updated looks and technology. Watchmakers are constantly pushing innovation on dive watches, allowing us to explore deeper ocean depths than ever before.

There are a few specific characteristics that make a watch, a dive watch:

Water Resistance
To be considered a dive watch, it must be water-resistant to at least 100 metres, however, more advanced models can cope with depths of at least 200 metres.

A dive watch has to be legible underwater, for obvious reasons. Many contain larger minute markers and are luminous for low or no-light conditions.

Rotating Bezel
Dive watches come equipped with a rotating bezel that enables the wearer to know how long they have been underwater and, consequently, how long they still have.

Durable Strap
The majority of dive watches have a rubber or stainless steel strap. These are the most resistant to seawater and can withstand pressure, direct sunlight, and humidity

Helium Escape Valve
This feature allows professional divers operating at great depths for prolonged periods of time to release the trapped helium as they resurface, protecting the watch

If you’re intending to take the plunge, (excuse the pun!), and buy a dive watch, get in touch. We might not go into the water with you, especially around South Africa, but we’ll certainly help you make the right choice!

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