Efforts to produce watches that could be worn underwater go all the way back to the 17th century. Successful diver watches first began to be produced for explorers and adventurers in the 19th century. These early water resistant timepieces were usually custom made for each individual customer and were quite expensive.
It wasn’t until the 1930’s that diver watches became a commercial success. The first commercial water resistant diving watch was officially certified by the Swiss Laboratory for Horology in Neuchâtel, Switzerland to be able to withstand a pressure of 443 feet without leaking and this quickly caught the attention of navies and professional divers around the world.
Many early commercial diver watches were made to military specifications and these watches were used extensively during and after World War II. Even though these military divers were successful, diver watches didn’t receive a lot of attention until they were popularized by Jacques Cousteau in the underwater film Le monde du silence. After this groundbreaking film won the prestigious Palme d’or at the Cannes Film Festival, everybody wanted a diver watch.
Lloyd Bridges frequently wore diver watches during his popular Sea Hunt TV series. Later, a diver watch became the favorite of James Bond and 007 was seen wearing his favorite diver watches during the first ten James Bond movies. It was probably the popularity of these movies that caused diver watches to achieve iconic status.
Diver watches characteristically feature a unidirectional rotating bezel that scuba divers can use to remind them of their remaining air supply. Since these timepieces were designed to be used underwater, they usually were equipped with large easily readable dials and luminous numbers. The case was typically larger than normal as well, so divers could easily rotate the bezel, even while wearing gloves.
This practical and functional style became so popular that many contemporary sports watches owe their design and popularity to diver watches. Over the years, the design of these iconic water resistant timepieces continued to be refined and now it is possible to find wristwatches that can withstand the pressure of a 2000-foot dive. Although timepieces certified for these extreme depths remain rare, there are many professional diver watches made by manufacturers like Fortis, Edox, and may others that have been certified for depths of up to 1000 feet.
Although the vast majority of divers now use sophisticated wrist worn dive computers to measure the time and depth of a dive, they still rely on traditional mechanical diver watches as backup instruments in case of computer malfunction. For divers and everybody who appreciates fine timepieces, diver watches are a style that will probably endure forever.
About Gevril Group
Gevril Group, directed by company founder and long-time creative force in the watch business Samuel Friedmann, is the exclusive US representative for select European watch brands, distributing and servicing luxury, fashion and sports timepieces at a wide range of price points. Additionally, Gevril Group operates a full-service watch repair department staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.