Dive watches come in all shapes and sizes, and are available at all different price points. Most watches with a uni-directional rotating bezel and the ability to fit over a wetsuit claim more water resistance then most of us will ever need: usually around 100-200 meters. But the watches I cover in this article go way deeper than your typical diver; deeper than the current 1,220 meter Rolex Sea Dweller; deeper, even, than the Breitling Steelfish which maxes out at a comparably casual 2,000 meters. There are a handful of watches out there that can literally scrape the bottom of the deepest known parts of the ocean, and I call these watches “extreme divers”.
The TechnoMarine Abyss
First up is the TechnoMarine Abyss. This avant-garde brand throws down an interesting looking watch that is ready to dive. The Abyss is a 42.5mm quartz-powered stainless steel dive watch which, at $650, represents the cheapest of the extreme divers. Although suspiciously light on details, TechnoMarine claims the Abyss can withstand 12,000 meters of water, or about 39,600 feet, which is about as deep as deep gets. This model comes in a choice of dial colors (blue, black, orange, silver, and yellow), and is outfitted with a mineral crystal. Something that sets the Abyss apart from the other extreme divers is the day of the week in additional to the date. Like all the extreme divers, the case of the Abyss is filled with silicone oil to keep the pressure equalized, and it has a very prominent air bubble which will undoubtedly draw bewildered looks and plenty of questions from perfect strangers.
The Bell & Ross Hydromax
Bell & Ross has a beauty of a diver called the Hydromax which they claim (and back up with details) will withstand a depth of 11,100 meters, or about 36,500 feet. While not the most extreme of the extreme divers, that still makes it capable of reaching the bottom of Challenger Trench, one of the deepest known points in the ocean. There is, as you might expect, some impressive engineering going on in this timepiece. In additional to an oil-filled case, the caseback of the watch has a rubber button which helps accommodate the changing properties of the oil under extreme temperatures and depths. The button can become convex or concave as the oil expands or contracts. While I will concede that a $2,400 watch that can go as deep as one of the deepest points in the ocean may be a little overkill, the watch is more of a proof of concept and a brand statement for Bell & Ross professional watches.
The MTM Black Seal
Next up is the MTM Black Seal (read the full review here). This one is defiantly worth a few minutes of your time. With an oil-filled case, the MTM Black Seal claims to be completely waterproof to 12,000 meters (39,000 feet), and even adds some interesting features like a high-end Swiss quartz movement, a sapphire crystal (much harder then the mineral crystal found on the Abyss), and Tritium-filled glass tubes on all the markers. Tritium gas is electro-phosphorescent meaning it glows all the time, and the tubes have enough gas to glow for 25 years. This is far more useful then luminous paint because it glows brightly and constantly without the need to charge from ambient light. At $1,800, the Black Seal is a serious watch with a serious look and a very comprehensive set of features.
The Sinn UX
We now head north from Switzerland (or at least Swiss made) to Germany where the Sinn UX is a serious extreme diver contender. The silicon oil filled Sinn UX is certified to 12,000 meters (39,000 feet) and is built from steel designed for submarines which is five times harder than regular stainless steel. A seven-year battery, thick anti-reflective sapphire crystal, German engineering, and a stark and understated professional look make the UX stand out in the extreme diver lineup. (For more details on the Sinn UX, see Introduction to Sinn: a Convergence of Watchmaking and Engineering.)
That’s four watches that are nearly impervious to pressure. For the typical desk-diver, these are extremely interesting watches that will entertain friends, family, and perfect strangers as you explain every last feature and nuance. For the watch collector, some sort of over-engineered diver is a must, so why not one-up your fellow collectors and make it an extreme diver? And for the serious diving professional, God help you if you should ever end up deep enough to put any of these watches to the test.
- Review of the MTM Black Seal
- Introduction to Sinn: a Convergence of Watchmaking and Engineering
- Bell & Ross: Watches for Professionals
By James Stacey