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A Guide To Dive Watches

Dive watches have meandered a long way since the first ever model – argued to be manufactured from Rolex – was launched back in 1926.

Today, dive watches are not just an essential for diving and sports enthusiasts to record the amount of time they spend underwater. Instead, they are seen as generic sports watches that can be donned at different occasions. From professionals to adventurers to everyday office workers, dive watches can be spotted on almost anyone’s wrists.

With the primary purpose of ensuring the safety of divers hundreds of feet underwater, it is crucial that dive watches have exceptional design and execution. And of course, highly accurate timekeeping.

A common misconception is that any water-resistant watch can instantly be considered as a dive watch. A dive watch is indeed water-resistant, to varying degrees, but it possesses other features that gives it its name.

We will introduce the features that make up a dive watch, and you can decide for yourselves if dive watches live up to their popularity.

The most accurate standard to hold a dive watch to, is the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 6452 standard. According to the ISO 6452 standards, mechanical dive watches have to possess these features:

1. A rotating bezel that allows divers to accurately track the total time elapsed under water from the start of their dive

2. Luminescent features on the dial, hands and even the bezel, to allow for maximum readability in low light situations underwater

3. A screw-down crown to prevent water from entering the watch

4. A case of water-resistant material to prevent corrosion and rusting

5. A movement that is both shock-resistant and magnetic-resistant

6. A water resistance of minimum 100 meters (330 feet)

Interestingly, the depth ratings for water resistance is deliberately set significantly higher than the depths that a non-professional diver can dive. Depth ratings refer to how deep you can take your watch before water will enter it or before it stops working. Non-professional divers do not typically dive deeper than 40 metres (130 feet). Beyond 40 metres, divers will need extensive training, special mixed gases to breathe, long decompression stops etc.

This disparity serves as an additional safety precaution.

When the dive watch is being tested for water resistance at the factory, it is in an artificial environment which differs from the environment of an actual dive. For example, in the artificial environment, the watch stays stationary, the gaskets are brand new and components of the watch are newly assembled.

Other factors that affect pressure and temperature are not considered.

Over time, accidental knocks and frequent usage will also cause the gaskets or other components to fit less tightly, affecting the water resistance of the dive watch. Hence, manufacturers and companies seek to ensure safety in the long-run by providing greater depths of water resistance than needed.

Of course, for experienced and professional divers, it’ll make sense for you to choose dive watches with a higher water resistance (perhaps at least 300 metres). But if you dive recreationally or just want a water-resistant and high-functioning watch, a basic dive watch that meets the ISO 6245 standard of 100 metres will be more than sufficient. In short, buy a dive watch with a depth rating that exceeds the depth you intend to take your watch and you'll be good.

Keeping the ISO 6542 standards in mind, dive watches also have other characteristics and designs tailored for their primary purpose:

1. Bezel

· Uni-directional, rotates counter-clockwise

· This enables the diver to set the index to the minute hand at the beginning of the dive and easily see how long he has been underwater.

· If the diver accidentally further turn the uni-directional bezel counter-clockwise, it will show that he has spent greater time underwater rather than less. By erring on the side of caution, it prevents the diver from exceeding his available air or having insufficient decompression time.

2. Specific case and band material

· Case material is typically stainless steel or titanium

· Band material is silicone or rubber

3. Straps/Bands

· Length usually longer (or comes with extensions) in order to fit over wetsuits

4. Crystal

· Hardened mineral glass crystal is opt for as it is more resistant to breakage

· Anti-reflective crystal to minimise underwater dial distortions

6. Dial

· Simple, without many complications for easy readability

With dive watches having to resist water at incredible depths, resist pressure and also function with accurate timekeeping, it is no wonder that they are considered the most reliable and well-built timepieces around.

What’s your take on dive watches? Share with us in the comments section – we would love to hear from you guys!

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