The 1950’s and 1960’s were something of a golden age for Dive Watches, and as well all know history loves to repeat itself. Watchmakers are re-realesing some of their most storied designs from their design vaults.
It all started with Blancpain releasing the Fifty Fathoms in 1953 and the venerated Rolex Submariner in 1954 became the must-have watch. These watches were originally designed with military and commercials applications in mind, for actual divers and professionals, but their rugged design and performance appealed to everyone. The 1960’s saw James Bond adopt the Rolex as his go-to wristwatch and more companies developed increasingly robust water resistant watches.
Dive watches have been seeing a revival of sorts in the past few years. Watchmakers are reviving some of their most classic designs with modern materials, movements and build quality to create Heritage edition type watches. Most of these watches are more than affordable for the average to access and can certainly become an heirloom piece if well maintained. We’re currently in a retro-dive watch watch renaissance and we’re seeing excellent designs from all the big industry players.
Oris Diver Sixty Five
Oris reached back in time and revived their most classic watch, an iconic watch over 50 years old. Named for the year it was released, 1965, it features the same classic design it sported when it came out but has been modernized with the latest watchmaking technologies.
The case is hewn from anti-corrosive stainless steel, the glass is made of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that has an anti-reflective coating to increase legibility and reduce glare under water. The Sixty Five comes in a 40mm or a 42mm variant, but at Lite Pursuit we would definitely go with the smaller variety, and it features an in-house modified Selitta SW200. In addition to this, it features 6 different funky dials from the traditional black, two shades and designs of blue, green, and silver that make them all unique.
What the Oris does so well apart from its competition is actually designed a watch that is probably more desirable than the original. This watch would be at home underneath the sleeve of your Chambray shirt or 100 feet underwater in the South Pacific and perform just as well in either scenario. What’s even better about the Oris, other than its amazing looks and ruggedness, is its price point. The Sixty Five can be had for less than $1,500.
Zodiac Sea Wolf 53 Compression
Zodiac, or the Sea Wolf watch, don’t have the same cachet as some of its competitors but they have just as long and as storied history as the rest. The brand has fought to re-establish itself after the quartz crisis and has released a sleuth of classic watches from their archives. Moreover, the Sea Wolf doesn’t look like your average dive watch with traditional styling, it pushed the edge of what a dive watch could look and perform like in 1953.
The Zodiac was the first dive watch to feature a rotating bezel and could be submerged up 660 ft, 360 feet more than the Blancpain Fifty Fathom. The modern iteration keeps with 660 ft of water resistance, well beyond the depth 99% of Sea Wolfs will dive and pairs this with a Fossil STP 11-1 automatic movement.
At 40mm in width, it’s an excellent everyday sport-watch that has an out-of-the-box design and isn’t on everyone’s wrist. Certainly an interesting watch for the person looking for an out of the ordinary dive watch and be sure to check out the limited edition Sea Wolf with the beautiful blue bezel. Like the Oris, the Sea Wolf is on the lower side of the pay scale with most variations coming in under $1,500.
Longines Legend Diver
The Longines Legend is the dive watch that would find itself most at home underneath a suit as well as on a sailboat. The Legend features a unique Super Compressor case design which relies on increased water pressure to further the case back and increase its water resistance and has an internal rotating bezel that is controlled by the upper crown outside the case.
The Legend is the biggest watch on the list coming in at 42mm which is much larger than most dive watches were in the 1960s and comes with an automatic ETA 2823-2 movement. It will also take you down to 300m but who’s really going that deep? The watch also has a quick date feature set that can really come in handy, spinning the crown on your watch seemingly a thousand times to properly set the date is maddening.
This is one of the more expensive watches on this list but is one of the most recognizable classic dive watches out there among aficionados, it can also hold its own as a dress watch if called upon. It breathes refinement and elegance that other watches just don’t have. The Longines Legend can be had for around $2,000.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape
This is the granddaddy watch to all other dive watches available and the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is the rebirth of that legend. Most people associate the Rolex Submariner with the genre of watches but it was the Bathyscaphe, released in 1953, one year before the Submariner, purpose built for the French military diving school that created an entire industry. Like the name implies, the watch is water resistant to fifty fathoms, around 91m or 300 feet.
The original Fifty Fathoms featured a quirky and large bezel with a small dial and the modern iteration tones that down with the more modern bezel to dial proportions, the original design was somewhat due to technical limitations of making a watch water resistant at the time. The new watch also comes with a Date feature in between 4 and 5 o’clock.
Blancpain has developed their own in-house automatic movement for the Bathyscape, Calibre 1315, that has an amazing power reserve of 120 hours (5 days), the longest of any watch on this list. It’s also fairly large coming in at 43mm while the original came in at approximately 35mm, though not terribly large by modern standards.
The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is also the most expensive watch on this list and has definitely entered into the luxury sport-watch category but certainly wears nicely on the wrist and will live up to its storied history as a tool watch.
Omega Seamaster 300
Omega finally got into the dive watch fray in 1957 with the Omega Seamster 300, aptly named for the depth it could go. The 300 is one of the watches that has tried to stay as true to the original design as possible and is still designed with the professional in mind. A beautiful dark dial with contrasting indexes and hands look nearly the same as the original and provide excellent legibility. Original 300s are considered to be prized possessions in the eyes of a horologist.
Paired with a leather strap or a NATO band this watch looks best when dressed down. On the reverse side is a see-through case back to the in-house Co-Axial Calibre 8400 automatic movement. It originally found wide success within the military, professionals and with civilians and its legend lives on today, I’d say that the 300 looks even better than the most well-known Submariner and is much cheaper coming in at around $4,000.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay
The burgundy dial, bronze detailing, snowflake hand and red 12 o’clock triangle perfectly harken back to a bygone era of dive watches. The Tudor Black Bay is the little brother to the Submariner but is a staple piece of any watch aficionado and an excellent entry point into the world of horology. This watch certainly has some of the most classic style of the various heritage options out there for the low entry price of around $3,000.
At the price point this watch finds itself in, it’s hard to beat for any collector or person looking to get involved in horology. Stainless steel, sapphire crown, and impressive gilt on the dial make the Black Bay a true standout. It fits into an appropriately sized 41mm case with an automatic 2824 caliber movement that can run for up to 38 hours.