Diving watches have been objects of curiosity for generations. Though it’s difficult to pinpoint the cultural marker that prompted these timepieces to shift from utilitarian devices to “desk divers,” Sean Connery’s iconic run as James Bond with the Rolex Submariner is the first to come to mind. Ever since, diving watches have become bestsellers in an industry known for ignoring trends and for selective taste. Apart from fueling the macho, corporate contest of who can wear the diver with the largest case, heavy investments from watch brands in R&D and design have cued the production of some of the best looking sports watches in horological history. Here, we feature our favorite divers from the past year, from vintage-inspired legacy pieces to watches that feature revolutionary new technology.
Watch Wednesday: Diver's Digest
The top diving watches of 2017.
The top diving watches of 2017.
Photography by Bryan Edwards
Styled by Elyse Remenowsky August 09, 2017
The Bulgari Diagono Scuba, with its eye-catching color scheme, makes a seamless transition from lounging next to the pool, practicing your backhand on the tennis court, or hitting the golf links. Bulgari Diagono Scuba, $6,550; bulgari.com
LEFT: The Panerai BMG-TECH™ boasts a proprietary new bulk metallic glass that utilizes a disordered atomic structure to become near-unbreakable. One Panerai insider told us earlier this year that “if you drop the watch on its crystal, it will bounce right back up.” Panerai BMG-TECH™, $10,200; panerai.com
RIGHT: Perhaps the supreme example of a luxury sports watch, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver has been updated in three shockingly bright colorways for this year, making it the ideal beachside companion. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver, $19,900; audemarspiguet.com
Tag Heuer’s Aquaracer, water-resistant up to 300 m and powered by the brand’s automatic Caliber 5, is enclosed in a 43 mm titanium case and an anti-reflective flat sapphire crystal. The all-around hunter green look draws on military influences that are perfect for adventurous watch enthusiasts. Tag Heuer Aquaracer, $2,800; tagheuer.com
The Crown cast a noticeable shadow at this year’s Baselworld by celebrating the Sea-Dweller’s 50th anniversary. Not every brand can fulfill fan expectations every year, but Rolex did an excellent job of pleasing its followers with a bold 43 mm case, the powerful new Caliber 3235, and, for the first time in a Sea-Dweller, a Cyclops lens at 3 o’clock. Rolex Sea-Dweller, $11,350; rolex.com
LEFT: Upon its release in 1953, Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms was the first automatic dive watch to hit the market. The house’s former CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter, an avid diver, perfected the timepiece with the MIL-SPEC 1, which included a circular water-tightness indicator. At this year’s Baselworld, Blancpain unveiled a new iteration, the Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC, complete with a scratch-resistant sapphire bezel and SuperLuminova indexes. Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC, $14,100; blancpain.com
RIGHT: The Le Locle Diver provides a retro aesthetic reminiscent of divers built and sold by Ulysse Nardin in the mid-1960s as well as an in-house caliber that uses a silicon lever and escape wheel. The watch is extremely legible and gives credence to the fact that excessive lume and an oversize case are not always necessary for today’s diver. Ulysse Nardin Le Locle Diver, $9,600; ulysse-nardin.com
The sole chronograph on our list, the Breitling SuperOcean Héritage II Chronographe remains as large and in-charge as ever. The attractive Milanese mesh bracelet makes the oversize bezel look and feel as graceful as possible. Breitling SuperOcean Héritage II Chronographe, $6,040; breitling.com
After the news from Baselworld that Grand Seiko will be breaking off to form its own brand, the Japanese manufacture redesigned the watch’s dial with repositioned branding. Now only the elegant ‘GS’ logo and Spring Drive system remains, meaning the rechristened SBGA229 is as accurate and smooth as ever. Grand Seiko SBGA229, $6,000; grand-seiko.com
This story previously appeared in the June/July issue of Watch Journal, a Surface Media publication.