A Brief History of the Dive Watch

Impenetrable Depths: A Brief History of the Dive Watch

What is a Dive Watch?

Dive watches (such as our Franck Dubarry divers watches) are made to withstand a variety of trials and challenges, such as water resistance, high pressure, and shock-resistance. They have many useful features, such as luminescent index markers and a rotating bezel that can be used to calculate a dive time.

Popular with divers, sportsmen & women, sailors, and ocean lovers alike, true dive watches can be submerged underwater by up to a few hundred meters. Their style and durability have allowed them to evolve into luxury timepieces, worn by anyone who requires a watch that can face the many challenges of modern-day life.

Diving Into the Impenetrable Depths

The history of water-resistant watches is a little unclear, due to the sheer amount of competing manufacturers, inventions and the many contradicting sources. However, it is possible to reach into the depths and piece together a rough history of the dive watch, starting with the creation of portable timepieces.

When (Portable Watch) Time Began

Portable timepieces started as cumbersome clocks worn around the neck. In 1675, these developed into pocket watches, which remained in favour until World War I. Soldiers quickly realized that they required a more “hands-free” approach to telling the time and wristwatches for men began to gain popularity. However, trenches are not the most pleasant environments and it soon became clear that watches worn around the wrist would have to withstand the elements they were exposed to.

And so the race to create the perfect wristwatch began...

Ready, Set, Go!

Dust, humidity, and water are just some of the elements that watches face whilst worn around the wrist. Consequently, inventors, such as Wilsdorf, Borgel, Perregaux and Perret, focused on finding solutions by creating a variety of cases and seals. However, real progress into creating a water-resistant watch wasn’t made until Mercedes Gleitze’s second swim across the channel in 1927. Rolex had provided the daring swimmer with an Oyster watch, which was able to withstand 10 hours of submersion!

News of this incredible feat spread fast and it wasn’t long before other manufacturers were able to engineer similar timepieces. These expensive watches were all developed into luxury styles, to suit the fashion of the time.

Diving Deeper

Water-resistant watches in the early- to mid-twentieth century were ingenious pieces of engineering, but far from impervious. Anyone hoping to dive deeper into the water would require a watch that was able to withstand much higher pressure, amongst other challenging conditions. However, the demand for this was relatively low until Yves Le Prieur invented scuba diving apparatus in 1926.

Demand grew even faster after 1943, when Cousteau and Gagnan co-invented the Aqualung. This breathing regulator enabled divers to swim freely underwater for much longer periods of time and allowed them to dive even deeper than before.

Numerous brands stepped up to fulfil the need for dive watches and created a variety of new generation pieces. For example, Omega released its Marine Standards collection, which used rubber gaskets to seal the crystal and the case. Unfortunately, the pressure at lower depths was still an issue and, as it increased, it caused the water-resistance to weaken.

It wasn’t until later years that dive watches were created with stronger and more effective seals and cases to protect the watch from this pressure.

The Deepest Challenge Yet

As humans, we have achieved some pretty incredible feats and explored places our ancestors would never have dreamed of - climbing Mount Everest, travelling through space, landing on the moon, etc. However, arguably the most challenging environment we have come across (and have yet to explore completely) is underwater, right here on Earth.

The incredibly demanding conditions in the depths of our oceans require exceptional equipment. During the late twentieth century, scientific exhibitions were venturing further down to the deep sea and watch companies were keen to send along their dive watches in order to test their latest improvements.

The Ultimate Dive Watch

Many brands claimed to be the first creators of dive watches that could withstand the challenging conditions of the deep sea. Ultimately, it was due to the collective invention of different features from various manufacturers to improve resistance, legibility, and durability that have led to the ultimate modern-day dive watch.

The very best of these are now able to withstand depths of up to 100 meters, have the ability to time dives and provide complete legibility in the dark. To find out more about these amazing features and how they can even save your life, then keep an eye out for our next post!

The Luxury Dive Watches of Today

Once you understand the history of a dive watch’s creation and its ability to withstand such demanding conditions, it’s incredibly empowering to strap one around your wrist. Not only are they powerful feats of engineering, but they are also designed as luxury accessories.

Our Swiss-made, avant-garde DIV-02 comes with a composite carbon bezel and a skeletonized dial, made using a revolutionary translucent epoxy resin. Elegant, but powerful. Franck Dubarry passionately believes that the wearer of a dive watch can master their own destiny. The future is here, and you are wearing it.