Lesser Known Dive Watches
Fifty Fathoms, Submariner and Seamaster are names that need little introduction. The first, the famous and the fruitful, this trio has ruled the roost since they appeared on (and started) the scene, sparking an industry that still commands a loyal and almost religious following. That industry is of course diving, and since Jacques-Yves Cousteau's genius idea of packing air in a can and taking it underwater (without it fizzing out all in one go like a rocket) it has become one of the fastest growing sports of the century. But, like our mothers told us, its time to share; time to let someone else have a turn. So here we have the alternatives, the new kids on the deck, to see whether they have feet big enough to fill the well-worn boots of their ancestors.
It's a vibrant trio, and what's immediately obvious is that these are no pared-back, function-only tools. Gone are slender dimensions; in are chunky proportions and vivid, retina-searing colours. There isn't a single watch here less than 44mm, but then, why would there be—if the former is what you want, then look elsewhere, because they already exist in abundance and have done since the 1950s.
Bell & Ross BR02
The veteran of the group, the Bell & Ross made its debut just over five years ago touting a distinctive tonneau case. That's good, but what's better is the orange script on the dial; '1000M.' That's a serious number—ten times the one that graced early Submariners in fact—which brings us to the elephant in the room, and his name is, 'But Why?' Why indeed—a dive watch that can withstand fifty times the pressure of an inflated car tyre, the equivalent of having a Toyota IQ balanced on top seems perhaps… unnecessary. But then, a car that can do 250mph is unnecessary. The tourbillon is unnecessary. The mechanical movement altogether, is unnecessary. From the Olympics to the 829.8m high Burj Khalifa, we are a species of non-necessity, doing things because we like the challenge. 500 million people watched the moon landings, not because of its societal benefits, but because it was awesome. Being able to safely submerge an inch-wide mechanism that requires tweezers to construct down 1000 metres is also awesome, particularly for just £2,600.
Watch Spec | Bell & Ross BR02
Case: Stainless steel Dimensions: 44mm dia Crystal: Anti-reflective coated synthetic sapphire Water Resistance: 1000m Movement: automatic Strap: Black rubber Functions: Time, date, internal timing bezel, decompression valve
Linde Werdelin Oktopus II Titanium Yellow
Linde Werdelin have taken a different approach for their new Oktopus II, and a clue comes in the form of what's missing—a timing bezel. Without one, a watch is completely impractical for even the most basic diving, but diving's where the Oktopus excels, thanks to the attachable 'Reef' dive computer module. In an approach that fulfils both the passion for watchmaking and the need for proper instrumentation, the Oktopus/Reef combination is a no compromise solution that really works, offering a sporty watch cake and letting you eat it, whilst diving. Dive computer aside (which is extremely intuitive), the watch itself is excellent, the faceted titanium case and grained ceramic bezel looking fresh and functional. The stark design leaves the dial free for some of Linde Werdelin's excellent skeletonisation, which carries off an industrial cool whilst retaining instantaneous clarity, particularly with the big date wheels that match the colour of the lemon sherbet-yellow strap.
Don't think for a second that the Reef is a merely passable attempt at a dive computer, because you'd be very, very wrong. Developed in-house by Morten Linde and Jorn Werdelin, this attachable module boasts everything a serious diver needs, and then some. The 55mm transflective LCD colour screen (a world first for diving) is protected by scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and reflects light when there is too much and glows when there isn't enough, for ultimate legibility. The four button-operated menu system is intuitive to use, even without instructions, and allows easy control of the logbook, real time diving profiles and setup. Information is sourced using pressure, water and temperature sensors, plus a three-axis internal compass with tilt compensation. A charger and computer interface is included to download dive data to a PC, and the device can even be worn on the supplied Velcro strap.
Watch Spec | Linde Werdelin Oktopus II Titanium Yellow
Case: Titanium/ceramic Dimensions: 44mm dia, 15.25mm thick Crystal: Anti-reflective coated synthetic sapphire Water Resistance: 300m Movement: Modified Dubois Dépraz calibre 14580, automatic Frequency: 28,800 vph Power Reserve: 40-44 hours Strap: Yellow rubber Functions: Time, big date, fittings for 'Reef' module
Perrelet Turbine Diver A1066/3
Unlike the other two, the Perrelet doesn't really have a diving party trick, although it has a party trick nonetheless. Those who haven't worn a Turbine, diver or otherwise, would call the spinning dial rotor a gimmick, but those who have often sing a different tune. The effortless glide of the sculpted blades is mesmerising, and the inclusion of a luminescent dial underneath adds an extra dimension to the effect. The main addition is the internal timing bezel, operated by the crown on the top left, but even that extra growth doesn't detract from the comfort of the 47.5mm case. The largest of the three here, it somehow wears like the smallest, hugging comfortably around the wrist. If weight is what you want, you can have it in steel, if not, titanium is also available, and it is fitted with an in-house (well, in-group) P-331 twin-rotor movement too.
Ultimately, you can't hope for the Blancpain's heritage or the Rolex's collectability with this motley crew, but that's not what's on offer. These are watches that you buy because you like the look of them and admire the engineering, because the slot in your watch box has or once had a Seamaster in it already. These are watches you buy because you love them, because they give you that feeling of anticipation and excitement when you hand over the plastic to make the exchange. Heck, you can even dive with them.
Watch Spec | Perrelet Turbine Diver A1066/3
Case: Stainless steel Dimensions: 47.50mm dia, 14.82mm thick Crystal: Anti-reflective coated synthetic sapphire Water Resistance: 300m Movement: Soprod Calibre P-331, exclusive for Perrelet, automatic Frequency: 28,800 vph Power Reserve: 40 hours Strap: Blue rubber Functions: Time, internal timing bezel, turbine dial rotor