The Growing Complexity of High-End Dive Watches
It's not that they're practical, but they've never looked so good.
The diver is among the simplest tool watches: The dial is simple, legible, and the case is waterproof. Add some lume and the rotating bezel, and you're set to go. There's no denying that it's a simple recipe for a utilitarian timekeeper, but for watchmakers looking to showcase their haute-horology skills and sell the timepieces at a premium, that simplicity has hampered their ability to fully capitalize on the huge market.
Diver watches are less suited to, well, diving because many high-end complications are not only unnecessary underwater, but also make them difficult to read. In spite of this, many brands are elevating submersible tool watches with mechanisms typically associated with vault-worthy dress watches.
In addition to a GMT function, Panerai's EcoPangaea, announced last year and available this month, has the first tourbillon in its Submersible line, in case you need to check the time in Zurich while diving under the ocean. In addition to the $189,000 price tag, each of the five watches comes with an exclusive opportunity to accompany professional explorer Mike Horn on an arctic expedition and test the watch's technical prowess in the wild. Later this year, we can expect more iterations.
Despite Panerai's tradition of outfitting the Royal Italian Navy since 1938, this is not an entirely new category. MB&F HM7 Aquapod, Roger Dubuis Easy Diver SED, Richard Mille RM 025, Angelus U50, and U51, and Richard Mille RM 025, all set off a seemingly perpetual quest to create the most extravagantly ornate dive watches possible. Since each of those watches costs five to six figures, perhaps it is understandable.
A $110,000 De Bethune DB28GS Yellow Submarine with a dial that is illuminated and an interior movement that took as long to develop as the timbre of a minute repeater. A titanium-and-zirconium case resembling the warmth of sunlight underwater houses the watch, limited to 25 pieces. Doxa, known for its sub- $5,000 Subs, reached deeper pockets with its Sub 200 T.Graph, from 2019. For a bit less money, you could buy eight Rolex Submariners or a Patek Philippe Nautilus with an automatic chronograph and date function.
The gold prospect is particularly daunting for underwater adventures. However, like all these other examples, think of it as a triumph of form following function, with the function now being to stand out from the crowd.