We all love a good old dive watch… There’s something rather inexplicable about dive watches, as it is clear that most of us never use them as they really were designed to perform (except the occasional jump in the pool). Still, they are attractive. However, there’s one issue with this category of timepieces. Most of them look the same (the Submariner-like market is huge…) Yet, there’s a very good reason for this: a norm, the ISO 6425 standard, regulates the concept of a dive watch. However, some watchmakers have decided to think outside the box and to offer cool, original and unique watches to occasional sportsmen or simply to those who would love to mix original design and robustness. Here are 5 of the most unusual dive/aquatic watches recently introduced.
Note: the following list is based on a consensus among the MONOCHROME redaction team. If you have other examples of recent sports/dive watches with a different feel than the rest of the crowd, feel free to share them with us in the comment box.
De Bethune DB28GS Grand Bleu
Why choosing this watch…? Well, first of all, it is a De Bethune and as such, it is already far from the rest of the crowd. The shape of the case and lugs alone would be enough for this watch to make every “original design” list. Then there’s the incredible finishing of all the elements: titanium case, in-house movement, blued hands, balance bridge. The movement, visible through the dial, incorporates multiple innovative features, such as the in-house oscillator (optimized titanium/white gold balance wheel, De Bethune balance spring with a flat terminal curve), balance wheel triple shock-absorbing system and self-regulating twin barrels.
Then there’s the nautical side of the watch… Take De Bethune signature design and add toolish elements and you end up with a super-cool, unidentified object. It does not feature the traditional diving graduation and marking on the bezel. Instead, these appear on the crystal that is driven by the bezel. Finally, a lighting system allows you to illuminate the watch, in order to read the time in the darkest depths. Fully mechanical and made with James Thompson’s Black Badger Advanced Composites, it works with no electronics or batteries. A small gear train is driven by the watch’s twin barrels.
Quick Facts: 44mm diameter x 12.80mm height – black zirconium and grade 5 titanium case – water-resistant to 105m – Calibre DB2080, in-house – hand-wound – rubber strap and extra canvas/leather strap – CHF 85,000
MB&F HM7 Aquapod
What else than this jellyfish-shaped piece of horology could we expect from MB&F‘s vision of an aquatic watch? Would you see Max Büsser coming with a Submariner-like watch? No, instead the brand came with this HM7 Aquapod, so-to-say THE weirdest dive watch on the market. It looks like no other piece on the market and that’s exactly why it’s so desirable. The Aquapod is shaped around a vertical automatic tourbillon movement, with a case mostly made of domed sapphire crystals and a rubber strap that looks like tentacles…
Still, it is an aquatic watch – not per se a dive watch – and this features a rotating bezel with 60-minute scale… which is, of course, unusually designed and floats around the central case. Several versions have been launched, included a recent red-bezel model. The coolest for us is this titanium/green version.
Quick Facts: 53.8mm diameter x 21.3mm height – grade 5 titanium case with 95 components – 50m water-resistant – 3D vertical architecture tourbillon movement, in-house – automatic – rubber bracelet – CHF 108,000
Ming 18.01 Abyss Concept
Ming is a young brand created by famed photographer Ming Thein. Known for his pure and minimalistic shots of watches (and many other things too), his abstract vision of things has been transcripted into a growing collection of timepieces. Clean, original, unique, Ming’s creations are first and foremost superb objects of modern design. And his vision of what could be a dive watch is no exception to the rule.
If the Ming 18.01 Abyss Concept doesn’t stand out because of its high-end movement or its unusual display, its design is truly unique and has real personality. The funniest thing about this watch: it was never meant to be. It was only supposed to be an internal project. There were never any plans to make this watch available for sale. However, with prototype cases on hand and a design they were too in love with to abandon, the Abyss Concept was born. The first batch of 10 watches has been quickly sold but stay tuned, as we wouldn’t be surprised if Ming offers a new version of its Abyss concept.
Quick Facts: 40mm diameter x 13.8 mm thick – stainless steel case – water-resistance of at least 1,250m – top-grade ETA2824-2 automatic movement – 5-link quick release bracelet – CHF 6,500
When the brand introduced its first models a few years ago, the idea was clear: to offer a mechanically interesting watch with a unique display for a relatively reasonable price. Inspired by ancient dashboard gauges, all Reservoir Watches features a retrograde minute/jumping hour indication of the time, provided by a proprietary module based on a simple ETA movement. The second step in the brand’s strategy was to adapt this to a dive watch, this time inspired by analogue diving manometers.
The result is this cool, unique and fresh Reservoir Hydrosphere, which puts the most important indication for a diver – the minute hand – under the spotlights. This, of course, implied the development of a new bezel, which features a clever graduation that takes into account the retrograde minute. Best of all: this white version has a fully luminous dial! The Hydrosphere really is a dive watch like no other, with mechanical pedigree for a price that remains relatively accessible.
Quick Facts: 45mm diameter – stainless steel case – water-resistant to 250m – patented proprietary 124-pieces module on top of an ETA 2824-2 calibre – automatic – 3-link brushed stainless steel bracelet and rubber strap – EUR 4,250
Ressence Type 5 Night Blue
When the team at Ressence started to develop its oil-filled watch, the Type 3, they quickly discover that this scree-like display was offering more than one advantage. Besides avoiding reflections and resulting in a visually almost digital-like watch, when plunged underwater, the oil-filled case was also killing all of the usual distortions found on a standard dive watch (the crystal acting like a mirror under a certain angle). Here’s the main reason behind the Type 5, the brand’s vision of a dive watch.
The result is a modern piece of horological art, that could easily be confused with a smartwatch if there wasn’t inside a super complex display module based on convex discs to display the minutes, the hours and a running seconds. The shape of the case, the bezel’s design, the display… Everything is unique and modern, but still horologically relevant. Modern watchmaking at its paramount.
Quick Facts: 46mm diameter x 15.5mm thickness – Grade 5 titanium case – 100m water-resistance – specially customised 2824/2 calibre with patented ROCS module on top – automatic – blue Cordovan & blue rubber strap – CHF 29,500