The Internet is an interesting place. It brings people together from opposite ends of the planet. It helps keep everyone informed about the news and helps aid citizens against totalitarian regimes. It also is a place where misinformation happily spreads as fact.
Today’s topic of dive watches is not as severe as fake news, or governments putting up firewalls against social media and news sites. It is a topic that suffers from a lot of misinformation, however. As someone who frequently dives, I have found some of these false facts hilarious. Here is a simple guide as to what a diver looks for in a watch.
The watch I have seen most frequently on the wrists of professional divers may disappoint many readers. Professional divers prefer solar-powered Seiko divers simply because they are reliable. They tell the time accurately. They do not require any maintenance. They are most importantly a tool that a diver does not have to think about.
A dive watch is useful for divers because they have to coordinate with boats, other dive teams, and tour groups constantly. Not only does one need to know the time but keeping track of a group underwater and their elapsed time at depth is essential for the crew on the boat or shore. Furthermore, a watch is essential in rescue scenarios where one must be aware of the time in which the incident took place. The rescuer would also have to be aware of how long they have been applying CPR or rescue breaths, and for when professional health professionals have arrived, among many other things. This is vital for filling out the Accident Management Workslate. Be mindful of those who say they only need their dive computer once underwater or for when they go diving. They are not responsible for anyone other than themselves, and probably are not very advanced in diving. There are of course exceptions to this.
Often many say that you need a dive watch with a certain depth resistance rating, anywhere from 200 to 300 meters, to take it diving. There are many reasons given for this and all of them are false. All that is required is a screw-down crown and a water resistance of 100 meters. Going past 40 meters is beyond the point of advanced diving and entering the realm of technical diving. My Garmin Descent, a technical dive computer, is only rated to 100m.
A high-contrast dial with easy-to-view hour and minute markers is a must. Avoid a reflective dial that can cause glare underwater. All of the hands should be easily deciphered as well, including the seconds hand. Many think that this is so the diver knows if the watch is still operational. In reality, having a clearly defined seconds hand can help when training other divers with timed exercises.
Decent Luminous Hands and Markers
The lume on a dive watch does not need to be insanely strong. In night dives or situations with low light, a diver usually has multiple lights; thus the immediate area for the diver is always lit sufficiently. Simply charging your watch’s lume with a dive light is enough for at-a-glance timing. A typical dive on a single tank will last anywhere from 25-45 minutes. Having a watch that holds a luminescent charge longer than this is not mission-critical.
While underwater, divers should never come into contact with anything. If they do, it is because of an emergency or that their buoyancy skills are not at an acceptable level. Not coming into contact with the bottom or coral is vital to maintaining the integrity of our environment. Avoiding rocks, wrecks, and underwater cliff faces is essential in keeping suits and gear undamaged, and historical sites intact.
Activities above water are where toughness comes into consideration. If on a boat on unsettled seas, it is very easy to get knocked around. When loading the boat with equipment, impacts may happen as well. Also loading equipment such as air tanks out of a truck may result in scratches and unwanted collisions.
As a result, a mechanical watch is not too desirable. A quartz watch is best suited for these occasions. This is simply because of the increased durability of high quality quartz movements. There are fewer moving parts which can be affected by shock. If you are a vacation diver who relies on others to handle your equipment, this may not be a concern for you.
A Functional Bezel
There are many dive watches which have either an overly stiff bezel, or one that is difficult to grip. The difficulty with these bezels increases when the watch is wet. If you are on shore, floating at the surface, or on a boat, a slippery bezel or one that is too stiff will present problems. Some older Omega Seamasters and the current Casio Duro are examples where the diver will have to exert a lot of force on top of the watch in order to get the bezel moving. This force is then transferred onto the wearer’s arm and is not pleasant. An easy-to-grip-and-operate bezel will go a long way towards actually being used effectively in the water.
Having standard lugs facilitates using custom extra-long and durable straps. This is required for thicker wetsuits and drysuits. Many companies such as Oris and IWC in the past used proprietary lug designs. They are fine for those who only dive in tropical climates with only a rash guard on. If you require varying exposure suits however, these lug designs will cause issues resulting in the watch being left on shore because it won’t fit. Making custom straps for these watches can become a sizable expense.
Diving is a very gear-intensive sport. Having to put on and take off your gear multiple times throughout the day can damage any watch. The bigger the watch, the more likely it will get caught on your BCD (buoyancy compensation device). A slimmer profile is better.
A Humble Appearance
Due to desirable dive sites often being remote or in unsafe regions, a humble image is often advised. Having a recognizable luxury watch such as a Rolex, Omega, or even an IWC is usually just asking for trouble. Many suggest that handing the watch over in a robbery is not an issue. This is not accounting for the violence which may be used in advance before asking for your belongings. As an aside, just recently in a populated mall in Toronto on a Friday, a man was robbed of his watch. The watch was a $27,000 Breitling and he was attacked using bear mace. Criminals do not always ask first before taking. You must remember the price of these items. Many of the public now have direct knowledge of how much these watches cost. This is because of e-commerce and the prices now being viewable on websites. These watches can easily pay for a few months of rent for someone in a rural area. It helps to be mindful of this before packing your watch for any trip. Furthermore, damaging or losing an expensive watch during a dive is a risk not worth taking.
Watches such as the terrific Oris Divers 65, a Seiko, or a Citizen quartz/solar watch are all the dive watch that you will ever need. Do not listen to the brand marketing materials. They are there to upsell you on functions and a greater power fantasy. Do not listen if they say that you need certain extreme functions from extreme water resistance to helium escape valves. They are just parroting false information from online forums, marketing materials, and others. Simply get what you love. While diving, take the tool with you that will be least problematic – whether this be underwater or on your way back home.