The dive watch, a history linked to adventurers
They certainly have a sportier look than many other types of watches, but they are no longer reserved only for professionals of the sea: the diver's watches occupy a special place in the world of luxury watchmaking, and are increasingly favored by lovers of sporty chic timepieces.
The "diver" therefore emerges from the deep waters for which it was imagined. A waterproof watch is indeed the ambition that has driven watchmakers since the 17th century when sailors came to them asking for a water-resistant timepiece - and for good reason! But for decades, they had to make do with unique, custom-made models.
Mass production only began at the dawn of the 20th century, and even then! At that time, diving watches were reserved for a discerning public, military, sailors, explorers and other professional divers. But it was to a woman that Rolex, a pioneering brand in the field, entrusted its first waterproof case: in 1927, the British swimmer Mercedes Gleitze crossed the English Channel with the watch on her wrist.
The "firsts" then followed in quick succession. In 1932, Omega launched the Omega Marine, when Mido marketed the Multifort Aquadura, the first waterproof and shockproof automatic watch. In three decades, watches went from being able to withstand a pressure of 135 meters to 500 meters with the Benthos 500, then the Deep Star designed by the Aquastar company of Geneva watchmaker Jean Richard for the divers of Commander Cousteau's team.
This Deep Star, in addition to its pressure resistance, has the advantage of offering five calculations on its internal bezel: dive time, decompression time, ascent rate, nitrogen desaturation, and increase in stop time for successive dives. With Seamaster 1000, in 1971 and still for Commander Cousteau's team, the same Omega House signed an iconic watch whose different versions are still highly sought after by collectors. The Swiss watchmaker is still one of the reference brands when it comes to divers, along with Rolex, Blancpain or even Seiko.
What (really) characterizes a dive watch
And yes, alongside the Swiss, the Japanese brand has distinguished itself since the 1960s-1970s with its models of diving watches such as the Professional 300 or the 6159. In particular, the segment owes Seiko the introduction of titanium in diving watches and the first rubber gusseted straps.
However, these creations still predate the standardization of diving watches. Indeed, the ISO 6425 standard was first published in 1982, updated since. It defines the characteristics of such a timepiece, including its resistance to isostatic pressure (10 bars, i.e. 100 meters deep), to shocks, to corrosion by sea water, to temperature variations... The unidirectional bezel mostly meets the requirement of measuring diving time.
The size of the hands and indexes, necessarily more imposing than a standard watch, facilitates the readability of the time, but this is not the only requirement. A dive watch must be visible from a distance of 25 centimeters in total darkness. In the dark, too, the user must be able to see that the watch has stopped. Hence the use on this type of watch of Super-LumiNova®, a non-radioactive material based on phosphorescent pigments.