Is there anyone out there who doesn't fancy the look of a punchy dive watch on the wrist? Early in my sufferings as a watch fanatic my dream was to own a diver, preferably a Rolex, but anything with a beefy bezel and black dial that would prove a happy antidote to the weedy Oris and over-polite Cyma then populating my watch wardrobe.
Actual diving was the last thing on my mind, the look was the thing. I soon found myself strapping on a marvellous tool that came with a name I'd never heard of but a price I was happy to familiarise myself with. The Aveos, or similar, was a fraction the cost of a Rolex but had a similar aura if one didn't look too closely. I should have left it at that, but given the absence of any depth rating on the dial I determined to do a small test, and gave it a spin in our twin-tub washer. Sadly at the end of the cycle I discovered more water inside the Aveos than in the Hoovermatic.
Lesson learnt; since then I've made sure any dive watch I look at is rated water-resistant to a depth at which no living organism could possibly survive, just to be sure. Even if the deepest you'll be diving is into the washing-up, no-one wants moisture or mist fogging things up.
With that in mind what are the stand-out divers that would serve you equally well by the breakfast or boardroom bar or the barrier reef?
The diva of divers
First up is the obvious choice, a Rolex. The diva of divers, it's the one to contemplate in the unlikely scenario you don't already have one, and there are three dive models to choose from, the Submariner, Sea Dweller and Deep Sea, all offering more water resistance than you'll ever need and internals that will tick on for years. As to which one of these you'd choose, our favourite Sumbariners are the vintage models, say a 5512 or 5513 model, up to $10,000 for a good one; the Deep Sea moves things into overkill territory – James Cameron wore one on his expedition to explore the Mariana Trench which is almost 11 kilometres deep. It leaves the Sea Dweller as the favoured one to order over-the-counter. 2017 sees a new version, Ref. 126600, spanning 43mm with a black ceramic bezel, auto movement with 70 hours power reserve and water resistance rated to 1220 metres. Perfect, and priced around $15,000.
The retro newcomers
If it's retro you want – and can't locate a 5513 – two interesting options are newcomers from Seiko and Blancpain. Seiko has this year re-released a 'tribute' version of its very first dive model, the 1965 Prospex Diver Watch, one that's now a hand-assembled limited edition with vintage looks but a modern rating of 200 metres, yours for around $5500. It looks great.
As for Blancpain, the famed scuba pioneer Jacques Cousteau no less wore one, and the brand's Fifty Fathoms model has been called "the very first dive watch." While you'd pay a fortune for one of those – if you could find one – Blancpain has just released its Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC, a 1950s look-alike with down to an orange and white dub-dial that acts as a moisture-alert indicator. The watch spans 40mm, power is an impressive two-barrel mechanism and it's water resistant to 300 metres – more than enough for a pro diver – with a price a tad under $18,000.
Omega for their part will have you hitting the water with something completely different, a watch that could never be mistaken for a vintage piece, the Planet Ocean Big Blue. Cased in ceramic with bright orange touches for an additional GMT hand and other bits, the Omega might be a 45.5mm showboat but has the credentials to back things up. Its co-axial movement has master-chronometre certification and magnetic resistance to 15,000 gauss, the depth rating is 600 metres, and there's a helium escape valve should you be serious about taking the plunge, one that will set you back around $15,000.
The best value
Which brings us to the relative bargain in dive watches and a performer to boot, the Sinn U1 SE. This 44mm self-winder is cased in German submarine steel with a hardening process giving it an all-over scratch-resistant black finish that contrasts nicely with biscuit-coloured hands and markers. Tested to more than 1000 metres, the Sinn is certified to meet European DNV GL diving standards and lands for under $4000.
The unmistakably elegant
Still not satisfied? You might be in the running then for possibly the most elegant member of the dive-watch squadron, the Calibre de Cartier Diver. While unmistakably a Cartier, this timer is also a serious 42mm instrument that Cartier designed from the outset to meet stringent ISO 6425 requirements for dive equipment. Good for 300 metres the Cartier comes in a variety of finishes – steel to carbon and gold – looks perfect with a polo shirt and of all the dive watches here is unquestionably the one for the golf club. From around $11,000 to just under $40,000.
Check out the gallery above to see six of the best under-water watches.