Sea Lovers: 5 Diving Watches For Summer 202021 July 2020
Life is a matter of days, months, years. Surviving, especially underwater, can be a matter of minutes or seconds. This is the reason why those diving for passion or profession, rely on diving watches with impeccable performance, since the timepieces have become familiar with water, achieving waterproofing: if you entrust your life to a tool tied to your wrist, this tool must be mechanical perfection.
DIVING WATCHES: A TECHNICAL CHALLENGE
That of technique and performance of diving watches is the playing field in which the biggest Maisons have challenged each other since this kind of timepieces has found a thriving market and enthusiasts in those who do not go underwater and never went there. At most in the pool or diving into shallow water. The goal was, and still is, to create pieces that, in addition to being reliable professional tools, can become a touchstone for competing brands over the years.
Over time, some Maison have specialized in the production of diving watches, linking their brand to this field or creating references which, within an already rich assortment, have contributed to identifying the brand with themselves, or vice versa. Power of suggestion, perhaps, but certainly of the technical capacity that the brands have developed starting more or less from the 1950s, when the boom in marine explorations has pushed significantly towards this type of watch.
So here we are: which are the best diving watches ever? What are the references that a fan worthy of the name cannot fail to have on his wrist (or in a safe …)? Maybe we couldn’t say “this yes, this no”, but we can suggest five scuba watches, contemporary or reissues, that have made the history of this kind of watches and that it would not be bad to wear in this strange summer of 2020. In strict alphabetical order: Blancpain, Omega, Panerai, Rolex, Seiko.
BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS BARAKUDA
Launched last year by Blancpain, this electrifying reissue of a piece from the 1960s has a fascinating story to tell. As fans are well aware, Fifty Fathoms was born in 1953 and was immediately appreciated by the elite corps of the Navy all over the world for its thoughness and reliability. Two features so dear to the Germans, who in the 1960s purchased the supply for their Bundesmarine through Barakuda, a company specialized in the production and marketing of technical material for divers.
The Bundesmarine immediately equipped itself with a top watch and Barakuda marketed part of these timepieces for civil customers, with two-colored rectangular hour markers, white hands and a date at 3 o’clock. The Barakuda of the 21st century winks to these latter timepieces.
The dial of this Blancpain is black with oversized red and white hour markers generously covered by Super-LumiNova with “old radium” effect, very 1960s; the date is at 3 o’clock where tradition wants. So far the heritage, to which the Maison has combined its famous unidirectional rotating bezel with domed sapphire glass insert and a satin-finished steel case, waterproof up to 300 meters, as for a professional instrument. The case size is 40 mm, intended for Fifty Fathoms in limited series.
The movement is the highly reliable automatic 1151 caliber which, thanks to the open rotor, recalls the historical watches of the Fifty Fathoms collection. To which, however, he puts the turbo boost with a 100-hour power reserve, which a timepiece of the 60s dreamed of. Speaking of history, this watch features a tropical-style strap like the original Barakuda one. Price: € 13.400.
OMEGA SEAMASTER PLOPROF 1200M
The myth among Omega diving watches is the PloProf, especially in its 1200M version. The cacophonic name of this Seamaster is nothing more than the union of the first syllables of the words “plongeur professionnel”, professional diver in French. The watch, launched in the 70s with a water resistance of 600 meters (which became 1,200 in the modern version), spoke and speaks to this customer.
Omega’s Seamaster PloProf was one of the watches with the longest gestation, since it went into production after about four years of development and numerous unsuccessful tests. However, it soon became, needless to say, highly appreciated also by non-professionals and had an unwitting testimonial in Giovanni Agnelli, owner of Fiat, who had been spotted several times with this massive timepiece above the shirt cuff, as his habit.
The modern edition of the PloProf differs from the ancestor of the 70s not only in the water resistance but also in the details of the case, the crown, the position of the date (now at 4.30, first at 3) and pusher that frees the bezel.
Also the caliber changes, which in the current Omega is an automatic caliber 8500 with Co-Axial escapement with 60 hours of power reserve. A bit the state of the art for the movements of the hippocampus brand, in a watch that gives its best in the version with the steel bracelet in Sharkproof mesh. Because even if no human can resist 1,200 meters deep, no enthusiast can resist wearing such a piece on the wrist. Price: € 8.200.
PANERAI SUBMERSIBLE PAM1305
Panerai is THE diving watch. Stop, finished. We joke, of course, but it may not be a provocation. Thanks to its history and its timepieces made legendary by the deeds of the Italian Royal Navy during the Second World War, the Florentine Maison is truly synonymous with underwater timepieces. Thanks to its heritage, continuous development and cutting-edge manufacture in Neuchatel, today it creates pieces with few rivals, especially in the Submersible collection.
A collection that for Panerai is an experimental laboratory. Strengthened by a technological capacity developed in the abyss since the 1940s, the brand has used different materials in this collection, spanning from tradition to avant-garde: from steel to titanium, from the innovative Carbotech to vintage bronze up to the futuristic BMG- TECH, developing calibers such as the P.900 and P.9010 in 42 or 47 mm cases.
Among the Submersible collection, we have chosen the PAM01305 as well as being a Panerai in spirit and DNA, it is also the quintessence of functionality for a diving watch. 47 mm titanium case, as well as the unidirectional rotating bezel; indices and hands generously covered by luminescent material for perfect contrasting visibility on the deep black dial; water resistance up to 300 meters and the reliability of the P.9010 automatic manufacture caliber with 72 hours of power reserve. Perhaps the date is too much, not very useful in the abysses and discreetly placed, as if afraid to disturb.
The Panerai Submersible 47 mm PAM01305 is still one of the touchstones for anyone who wants to create a diving watch worthy of the name. And for those who love technical haute horlogerie. Price: € 9.300.
A similar argument to that of Panerai applies to the relationship between Rolex and the sea. With watches such as the Sea-Dweller and the Submariner, the crowned house has written memorable pages in the history of watchmaking, operating that leap from below to above the surface of the water (i.e. from technical instrument to daily use watch) before many other Maison. At the same time becoming a status symbol and a cult object.
In our opinion, the reference that best embodies this spirit is the 126600 from the Sea-Dweller collection, characterized by the famous red writing on the dial. And it embodies it better for many reasons, technical and aesthetic: unidirectional rotating Cerachrom ceramic bezel; sturdy 43 mm Oystersteel steel case, suitable for scuba divers but very comfortable on the wrist; screw-down crown with Triplock triple waterproofing system; waterproof up to 1,220 meters (20 meters more than PloProf …); classic Oyster bracelet.
Without forgetting, of course, the automatic manufacture caliber 3235 with 70 hours of power reserve, equipped with the high-tech regulating organ developed by Rolex, which makes it precise and reliable.
Although those who seek, love and wear the Sea-Dweller do it mainly because it is a beautiful watch. Status, history and technology can also come later: do you not fall in love with beautiful women in the same way? Price: € 11.150.
SEIKO PROPSPEX DIVER 55° ANNIVERSARIO SLA037J1
Let’s close our parade with the Japanese diver par excellence, a Seiko, of course. In this 2020, the Japanese brand celebrates the 55 years of its first diving watch, presented in 1965. It was characterized by an automatic movement and a water resistance up to 150 meters; since the Japanese are not joking, they immediately tested its performance by putting it on the wrist of the members of the Antarctic research expedition from 1966 to 1969. Mission accomplished.
In 1968, the water resistance reached 300 meters and 600 in 1975. But the watch that convinces us most is inspired by the timepiece of 1965, re-proposed by Seiko in a trilogy celebrating the 55th anniversary of its divers: the reference SLA037J1.
Made in a limited edition of 1100 pieces, the timepiece is powered by the automatic 8L55 caliber with 36,000 vibrations / hour (the same as Zenith’s El Primero) and sports a blue-gray dial inspired by the shades of the sea, but it also recalls its ability to perform at high depths. The delicate gradation of the color of the dial emphasizes the way in which the light gradually dissolves as you dive deeper and deeper.
The strap also pays tribute to the originals while being modern, both in the materials used and in the color: it has a texture similar to that of the 62MAS fabric of 1965 and is reproduced in silicone to ensure greater comfort and resistance. Put it all together in a 39.9 mm Ever-Brilliant steel case, shake and you’ll understand why we like this Seiko so much: discreet, wearable and technological, what else? Price: € 6.500.
By Davide Passoni