1. Bell & Ross Hydromax 11000 m: It’s not mechanical, it’s not haute horlogerie, but it goes deeper than any other watch. The Bell & Ross Hydromax, rated to 11,000 meters, resists the crushing pressures at extreme depths by filling the case with the oil Hydroil® for perfect water resistance and readability from all angles. 2. Blancpain fifty Fathoms: Initially created for the elite French Special Forces Combat Swimmers unit, and built to operate to a safe depth of 50 fathoms, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms went on to be used not only by SCUBA pioneer Jacques Cousteau, but also by elite underwater special forces units, including the US Navy SEAL teams. The modern version shares the classic beauty of the original and Blancpain’s new in-house automatic cal. 1315.
15. Omega Marine 1932: Arguably the first true diver’s watch, being intended specifically for use by divers, rather than simply to be water resistant, the Marine passed static water resistance tests up to 135 m. With its two-piece hermetically sealed case and sealskin strap, it was worn by pioneers of the deep, including aqualung pioneer Yves Le Prieur and bathysphere inventor William Beebe.
3. Blancpain Leman Repetition Minutes Aqua Lung: While technically not in line with the ISO definition of a diver’s watch, which specifies a resistance of 200 meters, the creation of a minute repeater capable of passing a 100 meter water resistance test is, nonetheless, a milestone in the technology of water-resistant watches. The use of an ingenious sliding rack and transmission system activates the minute repeater train without allowing the entry of moisture into the case.
16. Omega Seamaster 300 M: In 1957, the Omega Seamaster name (originally launched for rugged, water-resistant automatics) was applied to the dive watch. The Seamaster 300 appeared in a huge variety of configurations, all sharing the black dial, high contrast hands, and timing bezel of the classic dive watch design. The Seamaster 300 and its modern day descendants of the same name have remained among the top choices of intrepid explorers of the deep.
4. Doxa SUB 300: The first diver’s watch designed for the recreational diving market in the ‘60s, the Doxa SUB 300’s signature high visibility orange dial was tested, in the words of its designer, in the “quite polluted” waters of Lake Neuchâtel. The inclusion of the no decompression limits dive table on the rotating bezel makes the Doxa SUB one of the great innovative dive watches of all time.
17. Omega Seamaster 600 Ploprof: Introduced in 1970, the Seamaster 600, nicknamed “Ploprof” (for plongeurs professionnels, or professional divers) was Omega’s entry into the saturation diving watch arena. If there were ever a watch that looked the part of a timepiece for the abyss, it was the Ploprof. An American diving research center that tested the watch commented that, with proportions taken into account, the Ploprof was “more watertight than a submarine”.
5. Girard-Perregaux Sea Hawk pro 3000 m: The original Sea Hawk was simply a water-resistant sports watch, but with Girard-Perregaux’s experience in creating diver’s watches starting in 1957, it was a matter of time before the name found its proper home in the heavily built, clean-lined watches we see today. As the most recent incarnation attests, technical watchmaking is a GP specialty. At a rating of 3,000 meters, with titanium case and power reserve indicator, the Sea Hawk Pro 3000 M is the dive watch at its most highly evolved, no-nonsense best.
6. IWC Aquatimer 1967: The original IWC dive watch houses the IWC 8541 automatic movement also found in the original IWC Ingenieur. It is fitted with an internal rotating bezel operated by a crown, which allows accurate timing of dive intervals without risk of the crown’s position being altered by accident. 7. IWC GST Aquatimer: The first Aquatimer with an external rotating bezel, the GST Aquatimer has a 2,000 meter rating and is one of the great classics of modern dive watch design. It is the design basis for most subsequent IWC dive watches. 8. IWC Aquatimer Split Minute Chronograph: The diving watch with the unique split minute feature allows the diver to time another action besides overall dive time, such as an ascent or the length of a decompression stop.
14. Omega seamaster Apnea: Created with champion free diver Jacques Mayol, the Apnea is designed specifically for timing the underwater interval in free diving competitions. The usual chronograph displays have been stripped away in this watch, and the sole remaining indication is the regatta timer derived red discs, which gradually turn from red to white and back again over a 14-minute interval.
18. oris carlos coste chronograph limited edition: Massive at 47 mm in diameter, but exceedingly light and tough, with titanium case and bracelet, this Oris diver boasts extreme water resistance, up to 1,000 meters. Its automatic chronograph and day-date also makes it practical for everyday wear. 19. Panerai Radiomir: The first Panerai Radiomir watches were made in 1936 for the Italian Navy with full production beginning in 1938. It is one of the most iconic and recognizable watches today, scarcely modified from the original version. While the dial is now seen as a bold design statement, its genesis was the pragmatic need to read time in murky waters in which military operations often took place. 20. Panerai Luminor: Like the Radiomir, the Luminor takes its name from the patented luminous material used to create a dial legible under poor lighting conditions. The Luminor, created in the 1940s, was also a product of pragmatic instrument requirements. Its unique features are now among horology’s most instantly recognized, including the patented crown lock which gave the Luminor its 200 meter water resistance. Among the rarest Luminors are those made for the Egyptian Navy in 1956, equipped with an Angelus eight-day movement.
9. IWC GST Deep One: Introduced in 1999, the Deep One was the first diver’s watch to be equipped with a mechanical depth gauge that can be adjusted to the ambient atmospheric pressure at the surface, depending on the altitude of the water surface (sea level, vs. the surface of a deep mountain lake, for example).
21. Panerai Luminor 1950 Submersible Depth Gauge: The Panerai Submersible Depth Gauge is the world’s first electromechanical dive watch, in which an automatic wristwatch mechanism is paired with an electronic depth gauge, providing an absolute standard of accuracy, as well as the ability to correlate maximum depth reached with current depth during the dive itself.
10. IWC Porsche Design Ocean 2000: The first 2,000 meter rated titanium diver’s watch was not only a significant aesthetic design and technical achievement, it was also the basis for IWC’s “Ocean Bund” watches, special diver’s watches made for the West German Navy, as well as its antimagnetic minesweeper diver versions, the last watches made by IWC under actual military contract in the ‘80s.
22. Rolex Submariner: One of the first true diver’s watches ever made; with features that have become the standard for diver’s watches the world over since its official Basel launch in 1954: the watch has a dial designed for legibility under poor lighting conditions and a unidirectional turning bezel for timing dive intervals. Its appearance has been often imitated, but the Sub still stands alone.
11. Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Deep Sea: Launched in 1959, this was the first dive watch equipped with an alarm; the watch, ref. E857, took the revolutionary step of not only offering the diver visual information on the duration of a dive, but also an audible cue that the time had come to begin the ascent to the surface.
23. Rolex Sea-Dweller: Created in collaboration with French diving company Compagnie Maritime d’Expertise, the Sea-Dweller was the first dive watch to meet the demands of saturation diving, through the use of a helium escape valve designed to allow the helium gas in saturation diving breathing mixtures to escape during decompression without damaging the watch. The original COMEX labeled Sea-Dwellers are fiercely sought by collectors worldwide.
12. Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris: Successor to the Memovox Deep Sea, the JLC Polaris is one of the most coveted vintage watches, and is set to be relaunched this year (look for it, according to rumor, at Basel/SIHH 2008). Equipped in its original version with the JLC cal. 825, the Polaris took the innovations of the Memovox one step further, adding new features, including a calendar and a unique case construction designed to prevent the alarm from being muffled against the material of a wetsuit. It was unusually large for the period, at 42 mm. 13. Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving Pro Geographic: Introduced in 2007, the Master Compressor Diving Pro Geographic is fitted with a mechanical analog depth gauge, which is unique in that it functions through sensing the distortion of a diaphragm mounted on an external projection on the case, not through allowing the entry of water into a sensor internal to the watch, thus avoiding the risk of contamination of the sensor mechanism by debris.
24. Sinn U2: Made from the same steel used to make German subs, the case is resistant to salt water corrosion with excellent antimagnetic qualities. The bezel has been hardened using the company’s “Tegiment” process to be virtually scratchproof, and the watch itself has an argon-filled cavity and water absorption capsule, resulting in a tough dive watch rated pressure proof to 200 bar. 25. Zenith Defy xtreme Tourbillon: Looking more like something spawned in the ocean deeps than conceived above them, the blackened titanium case and ferociously dynamic dial of the Zenith Defy Xtreme Tourbillon make as powerful a statement visually as the watch does technically — water resistant to 1,000 meters, this is the deepest rated tourbillon regulator-equipped dive watch in the world. H
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