Diver's watch has become more and more popular in the mechanical watch market these years because of the prevalent trend of sports and leisure, as well as the popularity of modern people's strong self-expression. Every summer, there are many articles about the introduction of diving watches in the newspapers, magazines and horological journals. Of course, people who wear diving watches may not be those who love diving authentically; and the watches that divers really wear into the water are probably mostly professional diving quartz watch with capabilities of calculating the depth of water, time of decompression and keeping a record of diving, rather than expensive mechanical watches. Nevertheless, diving mechanical watch has both masculine appearance and extraordinary taste which keep up with the fashionable trend, furthermore, it has excellent waterproof performance and its practicability enable itself suit for the suburban activities, bathing or even swimming occasions. There is no wonder that it can become a great option on the modern watch candidate list.
The diver’s watch, as its name suggests, refers to the wristwatch which is accepted waterproofing process and only for the diver, but it doesn’t mean that it can be called diver’s watch for its powerful water resistance. Usually diver’s watch should have the following characteristics:
1, Waterproof performance must reach the depth of at least 200 meters.
2, There is the unidirectional rotating bezel for measuring the diving time.
3, Diver is usually under deep water, therefore, the hands and hour markers of diver’s watch are usually coated with luminous material to allow users to read time easily.
4, Strictly speaking, only the watch that meets the specifications, standards and tests made by ISO international organization can be called diver’s watch, and the control of such standards, of course, is for the safety of divers. However, owing to the market acceptance and popularity of diver’s watches, the high end mechanical watch factories which are not only selling for divers will compete to launch diving watches, and the watches does not necessarily meet the standards set by the professional organizations.
Compared with the watches and pocket watches hundred years ago, the advancement of science and technology has brought much progress on the waterproof performance of modern watch. Today, most of the sports watches possess 100 meters of water resistance, and diver's watches generally have water resistance more than 200 or 300 meters. However, if we review the history of the watch's waterproof performance, we will find that the waterproof performance that we take it for granted today is hard-won sweet fruit after a long trip of developing, it is really worth being tasted bit by bit by watch fans. Therefore, we do not intend to introduce the new diver's watches by some articles like other media, and we just make a brief introduction of the history about the development of the diver's watch as well as share the happiness of understanding the present by reviewing the past with you.
Since the advent of watch hundred years ago, water, dust, magnetism and shock are four enemies of watch. In the 1920s and 1930s, watch manufactures began to study the measures against these external forces intensively to increase the watch's durability and endurance. Although before the 1920s, there were a few watchmakers, such as Francis Baumgartner, Paul Perregaux and Georges Peret, they could produce the case with high quality which was well sealed, and thus it had good waterproof performance, then Omega and Longines adopted this case one after another. However, Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, was the first one who understood the potential of waterproof watches thoroughly, he made further devotion and indeed launched waterproof watches to public, and he won the popular acclaim. At present, the vast majority of watches experts have recognized the fact that Rolex and Omega are pioneers and promoters in studying waterproof performance of watches.
Hans Wilsdorf continually improved the precision of the case, the adaptation of crystal face and crown system. In 1927, Mercedes Gleitzes swam across the English Channel wearing the Oyster watch of Rolex, and it took her 15 hours and 15 minutes, and Rolex became famous overnight by the reports from media and the advertisements. Durability, accuracy, water resistance, with incomparable athletic breath and the symbol of courage made the image of Rolex leave deep impression in people's mind. Marine was launched by Omega in 1932, and it was worn by the adventurer Charles William Beebe who was diving up to 10 meters under the water and setting the record at that time. Louis Cartier granted Pasha of Marrakesh's request to make a watch that could let him know the time when swimming. Cartier invented a kind of brand-new screw-in crown, and applied it to The Pasha launched in 1932. It could be said that it was the first luxury waterproof watch in the world.
It is generally believed that mode of battle and the prevalence of military watches during the World War II is another reason to promote the rapid progress of diver's watch. The US Navy adopted Hamilton's Sea Bees Diving Watch at that moment, and its waterproof depth had been made up to 50 meters and its technology was mainly known as using twin-lock crown to strengthen its water resistance, and the Russian Navy also had similar military watch, the opposed countries like Germany and Italy adopted Officine Panerai which used its unique pressurized crown system to make the diving watches'effective working depth reach 30 meters. The scope of the use of these watches and the impact on the war was actually far less than other military watches in the same period, such as famous British WWW (waterproof wristwatch, its water resistance was at least 10 meters) or legendary Mark IX and Mark X, etc.
As previously mentioned, Marine was launched by Omega in 1932 and it was worn by Beebe who was diving up to the depth of 10 meters, and Omega launched famous Seamaster in 1948. However, seriously speaking, Marine and Seamaster of that day, both of them could not be called real diver's watches. So far, most horological people have recognized the fact that diving watches came into ordinary people's real life should be started from 1954 when Rolex launched its revolutionary Submariner Ref. 6204. In 1956, Rolex launched Ref. 6538 which is now known as James Bond Submariner, and its waterproof depth could reach the standard of 200 meters (660 feet). During the postwar years, sports and adventure had prevailed in civil society, with the addition of the far-reaching promotion from media, the popularity of diving and sports watch had became unstoppable. After Rolex produced the world's first waterproof watch in 1926, it spared no effort to develop the diver's watches. In 1960, Rolex had ever produced a few diver's watches called Deep Sea Specials which were only for experiments, and hung it on the US navy ship which was called Trieste, and then the ship dived into the world's deepest trench - Mariana Trench which is amounted to the depth of 10,908 meters. After that, Rolex had laid the leading position in the field of diver's watch. In 1971, Rolex invented Sea-Dweller which possessed helium escape valve and its water resistance reached the depth of 2000 feet (600 meters). At the beginning of next year, M. Patrice Chemin and M. Robert Gauret worn this watch under the environment of helium and oxygen mixture and dived into the water of 2000 feet (600 meters) depth, furthermore, they continuously did that for 18 days and set the official world records.
Blancpain declared that the time it launched 50 Fathoms was a few months earlier than the Submariner, that was the end of 1953. The performance of 50 Fathoms was indeed well-reputed. Famous diver Jacques Cousteau created successful grad wearing the diver's watch of Blancpain. (However, nowadays, people strongly believed that Submariner is the pioneer of diver's watch, it can not be changed only by the illumination of historical argument). After that Blancpain launched famous diver's watches called Aqualung and Bathyscaphe one after another. Otherwise, do not forget that Omega launched Seamaster 600 and Seamaster 1000 in 1970 and 1971 successively, and their waterproof depth reached the standards of 600 meters and 1000 meters respectively after it launched Seamaster 300(waterproof performance was only 200 meters) in 1957 and got great response. Leave the argument and confusion about who is the No.1 in history alone, we can fairly say that it was the efforts and innovation of these watch companies that created the vast world for the diver's watches and other sports watches jointly.
Ten or twenty years later, except a few watch companies like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, etc, almost all of the Swiss big brands put into the production of diver's watches. For example, Eterna launched its famous Kon-Tiki in1955; in 1964 , IWC launched its first generation of Aquatimer, JLC launched its diver's watch Polaris which was equipped with alarm, and Vulcain launched Cricket-Nautical which was equipped with depth gauge. Even the top luxury watch brands Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe who took the wait-and-see attitude originally launched sports watches Royal Oak and Nautilus which were full of the breath of marine theme in 1972 respectively. It was a matter of course that these two watches were not really diver's watches, but both of them had reflected the charm and the trend of sports watch and diver's watch.
The invention of helium escape valve is a very important milestone for the development of the diver's watch. General diving (also can be called scuba diving), the ingredients of the compressed air that divers take when they dive into the water are the same as the natural air, including 1/5 of the oxygen, and 4/5 of the nitrogen (N2). The nitrogen in the gas cylinder would integrate into the neurons under the high pressure and cause different levels of anesthetization. After having stayed in the water about 30 meters depth with its pressure for one hour, human's body would begin to produce so-called “nitrogen drunk” in paralysis. Whereas, if one is under the pressure of the water of 30 meters for more than one hour with using pure oxygen, it will also lead to the oxygen toxicity of human brain. Therefore, if divers have to stay in the water for a long time, they must replace nitrogen oxides with helium oxides, and according to the appropriate proportion to use helium-oxygen gas mixture when diving, which is called helium-oxygen diving. However, the volume of the helium molecule is very small, even several times smaller than the water molecules, so when using helium-oxygen gas mixture in diving, even though the water does not penetrate the watch, helium is also possible to enter the wristwatch under the high pressure from outside. On this occasion, no matter how powerful and professional for the diving watch's water resistance it is, it can not avoid that.
The probability of the invasion of helium to watch is higher when using the PTC─DDC during the gsaturation diving. In the deep sea, helium would enter into the case due to external high pressure, and the process of this gas flow would make the pressure inside the watch be the same as the outside world. On the contrary, once divers rise, it will form the situation that the pressure inside the case is greater than the outside. The major brands began to attach importance to the exclusion of the nitrogen during the developing of the diver's watches.
In 1971, Rolex produced Sea-Dweller that was equipped with helium escape valve and water resistant to 610 meters (2000 feet). Since 1980, the waterproof depth of Sea-Dweller had enhanced to 1220 meters, and today it is 3900m. Now Sea-Dweller is equipped with sapphire crystal, self-winding movement which is authenticated by COSC, and date display window. Its helium escape valve is on the left case, when the pressure inside the case is greater than the outside, the valve will automatically open to exhaust gas, while maintaining its water resistance. The characteristic of automatically opening the valve makes the divers do not have to take a toothpick to poke it, it can also automatically exhaust helium. In addition to SeaDweller, the Seamaster 300 of Omega is also equipped with helium escape valve.
Besides the helium escape valve, there are other ways to overcome the limitation of water-resistant depth. IWC, which always stress the combination of performance and sports, launched a series of highly sporty watches with FA Porsche in the 1980s, among them, the most prestigious watches were the Ocean 2000 and Ocean 500, whose water resistance reached the standard of 2000 meters and 500 meters respectively. Ocean 2000 set record of the highest water resistance in the mass production of mechanical watches and maintained the record nearly two decades, and until 2002, it was broken by Breitling Avenger Seawolf that adopted the same titanium case and waterproof to 3000 meters.
Ocean 2000 did not possess any designs like helium escape valve, IWC declared that there was a metal gasket in its titanium case to prevent the heat expansion which would affect the tightness ofcase. Although it could not resist the helium from entering, the helium could be evaporated quickly, so the helium escape valve was needless because the time of exudation of helium was sufficient to meet the time of rising. After finishing the partnership with Porsche for 20 years, IWC launched a new series of professional GST sports watch, GST was available in 18K Gold, Steel and Titanium. IWC GST Aquatimer possessed the waterproof performance of 2000 meters, which inherited the excellent waterproof tradition from its early Aquatimer, to replace the Ocean 2000 of Porsche Design by IWC which was very popular even had been out of print.
And then IWC launched GST Deep One in Basel Fair in 1999, this was the first fully automatic diver's watch which could allow water to flow into the inside of the case and measure the depth of the water of 45M. With regard to Deep One, the crown located at 2 o'clock position was responsible for adjusting the depth gauge on inner bezel, while the button at 4 o'clock position was the Inlet valve. It could also caution the time consumption of oxygen cylinder. The design of patented stainless steel or titanium bracelet made this extraordinary diving sports watch become greatly valuable. Interestingly, this deservedly "professional" diving watch was only water resistant to100 meters. IWC claimed that 100 meters has far exceeded the limits of human non-mechanical diving, it's enough. When IWC gave Porsche Design Ocean 2000 (BUND) that was the first water resistance of 2000 meters in the world to the German Navy divers in that year, it was marked only 300m conservatively.
Argon movement protection device and self-testing system of movement's humidity are the mentionable inventions in dive's watch developing history. These two inventions first appeared in Sinn 203 diving watch. All well-designed movements need the protection of lubricant grease to ensure the accuracy of operation. However, all-pervasive dampness will accelerate the aging process of the lubricant grease and movement, such damage is especially obvious for diving watch which is necessary in the water for a long time. Sinn developed an unique argon movement protection system. It poured the argon into the case, and after the case was sealed, it could resist the invasion from the oxygen and other extraneous dampness substances to prevent the aging of movement and maintain the high degree of accuracy. Sinn is specially equipped with a small tube which is filled with cupric sulfate powder and covered by transparent sapphire crystal, it will turn to blue from white when moisture is invading. When it turns to dark blue, the watch owner will know that the watch should be sent to do inspection and maintenance.
Finally, we are going to talk about another interesting situation, which is also another reason for explaining why the diver's watch can be rooted in the people's hearts deeply and become popular watch: the film and media. In 1956, the Submariner Ref. 6538 and its follow-up watches launched by Rolex were widely popular because it appeared on the screen as it was worn by intelligence agent 007, and was even nicknamed James Bond Submariner.
Omega Seamaster 300 replaced Submariner of Rolex and became agent James Bond's watch since the 007 movie named "Golden Eye" in 1995, and this mode of cooperation also continued to the later "Tomorrow Never Dies"(1997) and "the World"(1999) as well as "Die Another Day". In the 007 series, the Omega Seamaster had portrayed as life-saving magic that rescued him from desperation, even it had been given weapons capabilities that could cut steel plate with laser performance, or have detonated device, or could pull the cable wire to hang on a helicopter for escaping and so on, and these performances deepened the impression of doughty performance of diver's watch in the masses's mind. Whatever the Submariner of Rolex or the Seamaster of Omega, smart and brave James Pound climbed a mountain of swords or plunged into a sea of flames in the company of it during the series of 007 movies, the diver's watch always could be considered the symbol of having the courage to take adventure. Although part of the reason that Submariner and Seamaster could become James Pound's secret weapon was commercial operation and publicity, its excellence in its professional diver's watch field is recognized as quite an achievement that complement with the fictional smart character in the film.
No matter how many you know about the diver's watch, we hope that you can become interested in diver's watch though you have never worn it after we have reviewed the history and interesting news of diver's watch, and we hope the readers who have owned the diver's watches can cherish the memory of the history and treasure, enjoy the free, colorful, inconstant life that watches have brought about.