What Is A Dive Watch? | Crown & Caliber

Dive Watches

What is a dive watch? Well, they are watches designed to withstand at least 100 meters of water resistance. Though they were made for underwater exploration, they also have found their place on dry land. Below, we will take a look at what makes a dive watch a dive watch.

History of the Dive Watch

Diving has been a sport and a science going back to before the 1950’s, but by the mid-20th century diving’s popularity was soaring. For this, divers needed specific tools. Enter, the dive watch. Long before there were computers, divers needed a reliable watch to wear as it could mean the difference between life and death. This device could help track how long a diver was underwater, help calculate decompression stops (to avoid the bends), and help the diver keep track of how much air was in the tank.

There are a few standout models in the early years of the dive watch. And, like many innovations in horology, it starts with Rolex. In 1926 Hans Wildorf, the founder of Rolex, filed a patent for the Oyster. The Rolex Oyster with the screwed crown, caseback, and crown was the world’s first truly water and dust-resistant case. OMEGA also took a stab at this with the OMEGA Marine, a watch that could slide in and out of a waterproof casing and withstood a 70 meter submersion in Lake Geneva.

From there, in the 1930’s, the Italian Navy commissions Panerai to begin development on a water-resistant watch. This model evolved into the Radiomir and was water resistant to 30 meters. This was the turning point for dive watches. By the time the sport was at its height in the 1950’s Rolex 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.

Characteristics of a Dive Watch

There are a few specific characteristics that make a watch a dive watch or scuba dive watch.

  1. Water Resistance
    In order for a watch to be considered a dive watch, it must be water resistant to at least 100 meters. However, more advanced watches will have a water resistance of at least 200 meters.
  2. Legibility
    A dive watch must be legible underwater. Many contain luminosity for low or no-light conditions.
  3. Rotating Bezel
    Dive watches come equipped with a rotating bezel that lets the wearer know how long they have been underwater. In some models, it will also show the diver’s depth.
  4. Durable Strap
    Most dive watches have rubber or stainless steel straps. They are the most adaptable to seawater and can withstand pressure, direct sunlight, and humidity.
  5. Helium Escape Valve
    Not all dive watches come equipped with a helium escape valve. However, this feature allows professional divers operating at great depths for prolonged times ensure their watch can release the trapped helium during resurfacing, protecting the watch.
Characteristics of a Dive Watch

Where dive watches conquered the seas, pilot watches conquer the air. Take a look at our guide to pilot watches including history, characteristics and some of the most popular models.