EVEN in the age of smartphones, iPads and all the other digital accoutrements that happen to tell the time among their other functions, the essential job of a watch is still intact. People who wear watches, whether it’s a £10 quartz job or something far more splendid, look at their watches to see what the time is. Always will.
But functionality is something of a sliding scale. Not many people with chronographs (the stopwatch function) in their watches use them for measuring time, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who has ever used the rotating calculator in the bezel of Breitling’s famous aviation watch, the Navitimer, to calculate whatever the heck it is it’s meant to calculate.
And if you’re a scuba diver, there are now more sensible, computerised devices to strap to your wrist than a luxury mechanical watch.
That, however, is no reason not to own a diving watch. As a stylistic category, they’re rugged, sporty and cool. They suggest a spirit of adventure, but they’re generally sophisticated and sleek enough to work with a suit as well as when you’re dressed down.
In engineering terms, they’re good platforms for technical one-upmanship – why else would Hublot’s new diving watch, the Oceanographic 4000, be waterproof to 4000 metres? (For those unacquainted with wetsuits and flippers, standard scuba equipment takes you to a maximum depth of around 60 metres).
Arguably the most beautiful diving watch released this year is not actually a new design at all, though it’s inner tech is bang up to date. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Memovox Deep Sea was its first diver’s watch, developed in the 1950s, was the first underwater watch with an alarm system. The highly limited re-edition reveals the stunning elegance of this true classic.
At the other end of the scale, Richard Mille’s remarkable RM032 chronograph must win the prize for the coolest new diving watch, all interesting angles and a customary skeletonised dial. Seiko, meanwhile, counters the rugged sportiness of the diving watch with a dial jet black dial that’s been hand-lacquered by one of Japan’s most renowned artisans, Isshu Tamura.
Panerai, the brand whose military diving watches have become such fashionable icons in the past decade, goes for a stealthy black look too with its ceramic Radiomir, while Omega’s Planet Ocean comes in a chronograph function with the brand’s legendary co-axial movement.
Omega seamaster planet ocean
Seiko Ananta automatic chronograph
Panerai, radiomir 8 days ceramica
Hublot Oceanographic 4000
Richard Mille RM032
Jaeger-LeCoultre memovox tribute to deep sea