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The history of diving watches

Dear friends of mechanical watches,

Dear customers!

Two-thirds of the earth's surface is covered with water. Even today we only know a fraction of what lies underneath. In fact, the oceans are the largest habitat on our planet, and at the same time they are less explored than almost any other habitat - more people have set foot on the moon than visited the deepest point of the seas! The fascination of diving, whether as a hobby or professionally, is absolutely understandable.

The 1920s: Rolex launches the world's first waterproof watch

While the development in diving took a long time, things are different in the watch industry in relation to diving: Rolex was able to present the first watch that was proven to be waterproof in 1927. The company was the first manufacturer to permanently protect a Rolex Oyster from water on the base, glass and crown. The corresponding marketing succeeded by the British shorthand typist Mercedes Gleitze, who attempted to swim the 30 km wide English Channel. It was just an attempt, after 15 hours she canceled the project due to the weather conditions. However, countless pairs of eyes rested on her, accompanied by journalists and paramedics and equipped with the said watch, she at least provided proof of Rolex's skills.

The 30's: Omega's introduction of the first diver's watch

In 1931, Rolex launched the first watch with an automatic winding system under the name 'Perpetual'. The principle of the rotor was to change watch development in the future, thanks to which the screw-down crown rarely had to be opened. Long-term water resistance was thus guaranteed and represented another milestone in the history of diving watches.

The Omega Marine, introduced in 1932, is the first diving watch. Even then, it had sapphire glass and a “slip case” whose purpose was to make the watch robust and resistant to external influences. Moreover, and to the astonishment of the developers, a simulated diving depth of 135 meters was reached, absolutely outstanding at the time!

The Mido brand drew attention to itself in 1934 with the Aquadura seal. The sealing system, based on cork, is still used today.

The 40's: The Rise of the Seamaster

In 1948 the first Seamaster models from Omega conquered the market. Exceptionally tough and reliable, but first and foremost classic, they are quickly gaining a reputation as a watch for every occasion.

Half a decade later, in 1953, the Swiss Auguste Piccard managed to dive to a depth of 3,150 meters in a diving capsule. On the outer wall of the capsule, Rolex attached a watch made just for this purpose: a DeepSea Special, which survived the descent unscathed. Almost the same venture in 1960, this time Jacques Piccard went to the deepest dive to date. 10,916 meters we went down in a diving capsule (Trieste). On the outer shell there was again a Rolex Deep Sea Special, which mastered the dive again with ease. In addition to this pilot project, Rolex launched another diver's watch in 1953 and also its perhaps most famous series: the Submariner was the first watch to be able to guarantee a water resistance of 100 m. Today's models offer a water resistance of up to 300m.

Further developments in the diving watch industry in the 1960s

The constant development contributed to the fact that in 1964 the first diver's watches with a water resistance of up to 1,000 meters were mass-produced. The Jenny Caribbean 1000 goes down in watch history as the first watch to reach the 1,000 meter mark. Well-known manufacturers such as Seiko and Breguet followed in quick succession in 1965, Omega launched the Seamaster 300 in 1966, IWC followed with their Aquatimer in 1967. Zenith and Jaeger-LeCoultre launched a diving watch in 1968, while Rolex and Omega maintained their pioneering positions continue to refine and improve.

Also in the 1960s, Rolex developed the helium valve with the French diving company Comex, which prevents the glass from jumping out during decompression. In this context, Rolex launched the Sea-Dweller Comex series, which are still considered icons of diving watches today. These models were only produced for three years and are as rare as they are expensive today. In 1970, the Sea-Dweller finally became the independent model of the Rolex brand.

The top dogs in the industry only joined the 1,000-meter club later, with the Rolex Sea-Dweller (Ref. 16660) succeeding in 1980. The model was the first watch in the world to have a triplock crown. By combining different high-quality materials, it closes the housing as tightly as a submarine hatch.

TAG Heuer followed suit and introduced the Super Professional 1000 M (Ref. 840.006/349/M) in 1986.

A leap into the present

A small jump in time to 2022: Great depths are no longer a challenge, at least for the watches. And today almost every luxury watch is water-resistant, maybe not up to 1,000 meters, but honestly – how many of us expose our watch to such a depth every day?

Features that every diving watch should have

The unidirectional rotating diving bezel

The bezel is distinguished by the dive time scale on it. In addition, it has a luminous dot at zero minutes, which you align with the minute hand before diving. Under water, you can read how long the dive has been going on at any time.

Unidirectional rotation is purely a safety measure: If the bezel is accidentally adjusted, the diving time can only be extended in this way, so that if the worst comes to the worst, you will only be reminded to surface too early and never too late.

A water resistance of at least 20 bar

This value corresponds to a water column of 200 meters. However, the meter specification does not refer to the actual diving depth, but to the test pressure, which was applied according to ISO 2281. You can take a shower with a watch below this value, and possibly even swim, but the watch should have a test pressure of at least 20 bar for snorkeling or diving.

The waterproof bracelet

A waterproof bracelet is almost self-explanatory. A leather strap is not intended for permanent contact with fresh or even salt water. A professional diving watch offers a metal or rubber strap, these are extremely durable and easy to clean. In addition, such a bracelet will not discolour or become porous, which should be taken into account when freediving in salt water.


Luminous material is necessary for reading the dive time, decompression intervals or simply the time - luminous coated hands and indices are simply a must. Remember, the deeper you dive, the less light there is. Some waters are murkier than others, so lights make sense here too. Since one's own life may depend on the diver's watch, both hands and indices are always coated with illuminants.

Screw down crown

A screw-down crown prevents water or dust from getting inside the watch. This is done by a sealing ring on the inside of the case, which is “pulled” towards the crown itself through a thread. In this way the housing is completely protected against the ingress of water. This principle is an unwritten law in every diving watch today.

What else you should know about diving watches

You will also find a large selection of diving watches in our online shop. Among the different watch categories, diving watches are one of the most popular timepieces. In addition to fascinating functionality, they often also offer impressive looks.

Even if they call themselves diving watches, the built-in seals are subject to wear and tear. Depending on the wear and tear on the watch and how it is cared for, the sealing elements wear off in daily use. In any case, a regular check every one to two years is recommended. is particularly aggressive

Credit: Manuel Lütgens

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