Though the dive watch category is quite specific, brands playing in the category have drawn inspiration from an interesting cross-section of places, people, and things.
Since their development in the mid ‘30s—and subsequent boom in the late ‘50s brought on by the likes of Blancpain and Rolex (among others)—dive watches have become a mainstay in modern watchmaking for brands big and small. Considering that 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, there seems to be an endless supply of sources of inspiration the fuels new dive watch designs year after year. Whether paying tribute to a special underwater location, ocean-based conservation efforts, or a particularly significant deep-water expedition, many dive watches are blessed with interesting talking points that stretch far beyond their mechanical inner workings or reported diving depth rating.
Once again, we`re taking a closer look at some of these sometimes unorthodox sources of inspiration, as well as how they have been executed. Our list includes a well-known classic from Rolex, a recent unveiling from Panerai, as well as a pair of slightly unexpected selections, one with a much less direct relation to the open water.
Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue Watch Ref 116660 For James Cameron
When it was first unveiled in August of 2014—a surprising time for a Rolex unveiling, considering the brand seldom launches a new watch outside the halls of Baselworld—the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller reference 116660 immediately struck a chord with collectors and enthusiasts at large. The 44mm beast features a unique gradient dial that changes from a rich blue to black as it descends from 12 o’clock to 6, a purely aesthetic design feature created as a nod to James Cameron, and his incredible solo descent into the Mariana’s Trench—some 10,900 meters below the surface. The green text color used on the dial used for the word Deepsea is the same as that of Cameron’s submersible used on the 7h journey to the bottom of the sea. While the dive itself took place two years prior in 2012, the release was timed alongside the launch of of Cameron’s documentary, Deepsea Challenge 3D, that followed in 2014. Though recently discontinued, the 116660 Deepsea James Cameron remains a highly desirable and collectible timepiece.
Panerai Luminor 1950 PCYC Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Titanio PAM 652
Though the Panerai has been title sponsor of the Panerai Classic Yacht Challenge for 13 years running, 2017 marked the first year where an entire line of watches was unveiled to commemorate the occasion including the Panerai Luminor 1950 PCYC Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Titanio (PAM 652) seen here, as well as two versions of the Luminor 1950 PCYC 3
Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Acciaio with either a black dial (PAM 653) or a white dial (PAM 654). A total of 11 races made up the 2017 season, taking place in North America, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean, with each regatta including an eclectic pack of race-worthy sailboats from decades past. Given the vintage nature of the event, Panerai’s PCYC watches all have a particularly vintage-inspired aesthetic. The Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback is easily the champion of the pack, as the flyback chronograph boasts a regatta countdown feature, allowing the wearer to back up the chronograph starting point on the fly to properly time the 5-minute countdown leading to the start of each race.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe 5000-1110-B52
When launched in 2013, the idea behind the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe was simple: to pay homage to the 60-year anniversary of the first real modern dive watch (the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms), without simply crafting a reissue of the original—that came this past year. The Bathyscaphe is certainly a modern diver, but at its root it boasts all the key traits of the original. Effective legibility in all conditions (thanks to wide hour and minute hands and simple indices all featuring a healthy dose of luminous material), a utilitarian 43mm brushed steel case, and a slightly oversized crown that would be conducive to operation while wearing a wetsuit are all crucial traits that speak to the the brand’s first dive watch. As the line has continued to expand, more variations of the Bathyscaphe have hit the market boasting the same basic DNA, including a more modestly sized 38mm variant that was unveiled earlier this year.
IWC Aquatimer Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau IW329005
Another long standing industry partnership, IWC has remained a strong supporter of the Cousteau Society since 2004. The first Aquatimer the brand unveiled as part of this partnership—the IWC Aquatimer Jacques Cousteau IW354806—was limited to 1953 pieces, commemorating the launch of his much adored book, The Silent World. Ever since then, IWC has continued to maintain special versions of the Aquatimer in their current collections dedicated to supporting Cousteau’s marine preservation efforts. Among others, the list has included the IWC Aquatimer Cousteau Divers Chronograph IW378101 with a bright orange rotating inner bezel, the bold blue IWC Aquatimer Cousteau Diver Tribute to Calypso IW378201 chronograph, the IWC Aquatimer Cousteau Divers Chronograph Limited Edition IW378203 which adds punchy yellow accents to the design of the Calypso tribute, a slate grey IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition Jacques-Yves Cousteau IW376706 dedicated to what would have been the legendary explorer’s 100th birthday (also the first of the series to feature an external rotating bezel), and of course the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau IW376805, which is the sibling to the 3-hand model, also part of IWC’s current collection.
With the sale of each new piece, a portion of the proceeds of its sale go directly to the society. As with its predecessors, each model features a rich blue dial with some level of contrasting detail, though in this latest edition, only a very faint punch of orange is present in the tip of the running seconds hand of this otherwise understated diver.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas 4500V
Many of you may be staring at your screens with a puzzled look at the moment, and we can appreciate that. The Vacheron Constantin Overseas is by no means a dive watch, however when the brand’s product development team took on the task of creating what has become the brand’s leading contemporary casual watch, the contemplation of water was a bigger part of the equation that you may well think. The idea behind the Overseas was to create an elegant and wearable casual watch that could travel (hence the name), which is why over the years the Overseas has been offered on a rubber strap (one of three strap/bracelet options offered with the watch when purchased), why it uses a screw-down crown, and of course why it features a water resistance of 15 Bar (roughly 150m). The Overseas is meant to be a travel watch, and more importantly for the sake of our conversation, it’s meant to follow you into the pool, the ocean, or wherever your waterborne adventures may take you.
Author: Justin Mastine-Frost