Dive watches: Where do they come from? Part -I

Dive watches, today, are almost something we take as granted. Water resistance has always been a much discussed topic in the horological world, but the recent trends have followed the path of ‘the more, the merrier’. Thus followed a slew of wrist-wears that certainly talk the talk regarding this aspect but don’t necessarily walk the walk, barring only just a few! And these come with sky-high price.

The concept of Dive watches started materializing back in the 1920s, but it was not until later that serious water resistance diving watch came into existence. Today dive watches are the most popular type of sport watch, not necessarily because people use them to dive, but because of their style, promise of durability and utilitarian value. They also denote the transition of delicate pieces of art into workhorse instruments. There are a great number of different watches that stand as testimonies to the above claim; some downright popular while some are not. All of them detail differently at different aspects and diving head-first is often not a good idea. Save some like the FreeDiver.

The hands-free way of telling time became necessary for the soldiers of the 1800s and WWI and it helped wristwatches shed the stigma of being womanly jewelry with need for soft handling with excessive care. The watch hence started losing its notoriously poor reliability (like accuracy issues and breaking) and became more resistant towards significantly greater amounts of shocks, dust, humidity and temperature. An increasingly fierce competition resulted with some important technological developments occurring, creating revolutionary solutions to engineer newer designs more tolerant of harsh surroundings. The Rolex Hermetic or Submarine from 1922 is a small, round and chunky example of this advancement. Its screw-down lid works like a jar! But, this isn’t what the civil consumers now wanted. So, this time, more practical and more durable solutions were offered. I was a huge leap forward, making IWC, Longines and the likes fall in, albeit at a slower rate. Threaded case designs and screw-in waterproof crowns appeared by 1925, bringing in two most breakthrough developments in the watch industry. Rolex improved the latter by relocating the led seal from the outside of the case.  Lead adds to the weight and offers an enhanced durability.

The engineers of Rolex and C.R. Spillman SA (case suppliers for Rolex) further brought considerable changes to the way the movement winds by enabling wearers set the time on a fully wound mainspring. The Rolex Oyster was born.

The 1930s thus had a new market segment.  The waterproof watches that time also came from major brands like Omega and Cartier, the latter creating for the Pasha of Marrakech a waterproof watch to wear for his occasional swims. It was 1932. Cartier made the Pasha a unique piece, built the way he wanted it to be, not just fully waterproof. The watch has a screw-on cap (joined by a tiny chain to the case) that seals the crown. From 1943 till today, this watch is available as Pasha de Cartier; an iconic, waterproof timepiece.

 

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