The (Almost) Inexplicable Popularity Of The Diver's Watch
Ispent last week in Geneva, during which time it poured incessantly for four straight days, which gave me the time to consider a number of questions. Naturally, given the location a lot of what I thought about had to do with watches and watchmaking, and it occurred to me to wonder why exactly it is that dive watches, in general, seem to be so overwhelmingly popular as a general category of timepieces. (Maybe all the rain inclined me unconsciously to thoughts aquatic).The obvious answer is that they are as a rule, more durable and dependable than non-dive watches but the more I thought about it, the less clear it seemed to me that they are as a class better in a general sense for daily life away from actual diving, than other watches might be.
In fact, on longer consideration, it seemed to me rather remarkable that dive watches have become anything more than a very niche variety of timepiece intended for a very specific application. For a watch to be, so to speak, officially a dive watch, it must adhere to some fairly specific requirements, which are spelled out in the ISO 6425 standard (this is produced by the International Organization For Standardization, which is headquartered in Geneva and which has a whopping 163 member nations – everyone from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, which is surely the most remarkable example of buy-in in the history of international organizations). The fact that the organization has so many members, and that consensus is nearly universal on its utility, means that time pieces that can be called dive watches share to a remarkable degree, the same basic features. (Requiring actual testing of dive watches is both de facto and de jure Replica Watches impossible, but most major manufacturers, as far as I have been able to tell, do in fact subject watches billed as diver's watches, to actual testing of varying degrees of severity). The standard requires the ability to pass a number of tests, including of course a battery of water resistance tests, and diver's watches must also possess certain design features, including the ability to be read in total darkness at a distance of 25 centimeters, and as well, they must possess a unidirectional timing bezel – this has been an essential feature of true diver's watches going all the way back to the early 1950s, when the Rolex Submariner and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms debuted.This brings us to the first somewhat thought-provoking aspect of the overwhelming popularity of diver's watches, which is that they have, at the very least, a startling visual similarity; to someone not immersed (as it were) in the world of watches on a regular basis, many of them must seem virtually indistinguishable one from the other and there is often little at first glance to set them apart. Certainly from the standpoint of expression of personal taste, they present a relatively narrow range of options.The design homogeneity of diver's watches often seems to provoke brands to exert themselves, to find ways to design a dive watch which looks different enough from other offerings to attract attention as a unique effort, but this is a very tricky thing to pull off. A dive watch works or doesn't, on its most basic level, Replica Rolex Watches in terms of how successful it is functionally, and while you may want to make yours look different from those made by all the other manufacturers there is a very sharp point of diminishing returns – you simply cannot dress up a dive watch very much before it starts to look like an illustration of a dive watch, rather than a dive watch. At its most extreme, this syndrome produces watches that look like the drawings children (and some grownups, as far as that goes) make of racing cars or military vehicles – festooned with everything from extra tires of gigantic proportions, to turrets sprouting guns of five different and completely unrelated calibers, all of which features would make for not only a functionally disastrous vehicle but one which would in all probability be completely immobile as well (I made such drawings myself, as a kid). Thus it is that we often end up with so-called diver's watches which may fulfill the letter of ISO 6425 but which by no means express the real spirit of a diver's watch, which is to be a lean, mean, purely functional life-saving machine. It would seem that you can have a quote unquote real dive watch, or you can have one that is definitively distinctive in its design but you can't have both, or at least, you can't try to have both without compromising one or the other to some degree.This brings us to the second point, which is that thanks to their stated purpose, dive watches tend to be rather bulkier affairs than not. This makes them less suitable for everyday wear – you can only appeal to James Bond wearing a Sub with a tux so many times before it starts to feel like a the-lady-doth-protest-too-much situation. The fact is that dive watches don't generally tango very prettily with anything more formal than a polo shirt and khakis; they can depending on the person and the watch, look anything from slightly jarring to completely inappropriate with business attire and as for wearing one with semi-formal (tux) or formal wear (white tie and tails) I wouldn't do it. Of course in style there are very few absolute rules and as Melville says in Moby Dick, if you do anything cooly enough you can get away with almost anything, but that's not the way to bet.5, Grand Seiko And Seiko Will Not Participate In Baselworld 2020HODINKEE has just learned that Grand Seiko, and Seiko, will not be participating in the 2020 edition of the Baselworld trade show. Seiko has been a participant at Baselworld for several decades, and the departure of the two brands – which, of course also includes Prospex, Presage, and all the other Seiko families of watches – comes at a transition time for the trade show, which like many such shows is working to redefine itself in a rapidly changing media landscape.The original source for this information was the publication Chronos Japan.Asked about the departure, Seiko and Grand Seiko have communicated to HODINKEE that the primary reason for the departure is the alteration in the timing of the show. The two brands currently have not shared with us, whether a return in 2021 is a possibility. While Seiko has not yet announced any alternative plans for 2020, Grand Seiko has confirmed that it will hold a separate Grand Seiko summit, in March of 2020.The second answer is that like any other sort of watch, dive watches say something about us. A dive watch projects, in its broad-shouldered rejection of the unnecessary, the same trustworthy, here-to-get-work done vibe as rolled up sleeves, a loosened tie, and a (navy blue) jacket thrown over the back of a conference room chair with a devil-may-care disregard of wrinkles. It says that you're a person who, though you might spend the majority of the day warming a desk chair with your posterior, could outside the workplace be a person of physical bravery, if not outright daring, who just might need a watch that will tolerate, say, jumping off the side of the Staten Island Ferry on a muggy August afternoon to save a loved one's errant poodle (it could happen). A thinner, more understated (less overstated?) watch may speak to your sense of sober discretion, or your refinement of taste but these are probably secondary considerations in the minds of most dive watch lovers, who all things being equal would rather be thought of as the James Bonds of this world, than the Thomas Crowns (if you are unfamiliar with the latter film, Steve McQueen wears, at various times, a Patek Philippe pocket watch in gold, a gold Memovox, and a Cartier Tank).But the third and perhaps most important answer, I think, is that dive watches say something to us. The dive watch, as HODINKEE's most eminent dive watch expert, veteran diver Jason Heaton, reminded us in his Citizen Aqualand story, "Birth Of A Legend, End Of An Era," has been obsolete for decades, from a functional perspective. (He also has mentioned that on at least one occasion he's had a dive computer fail during a dive and was grateful to have a dive watch as a backup, but the general point remains). However in a time when mechanical watches are manifestly something no one needs, and which have for many years often striven for novelty effects in order to get attention, the purity and simplicity of dive watches is more appealing than ever. A dive watch, in its most classic iterations, doesn't particularly feel designed at all, so much as made simply and purely to suit a particular purpose and that purity of intent has long outlasted the intent's actual relevance, in either diving or everyday life. In short, dive watches feel authentic – they project an air of necessity which other categories of timepieces simply fail to match, on many levels. In a world full of timepieces whose designs seem more or less arbitrary, or at best present in order to appeal to highly subjective vagaries of taste, the dive watch, we feel, looks the way it looks for a reason. This solid grounding in reality that the best dive watches have, this absence of arbitrariness and subjectivity in their basic features, is I think the most substantial reason for their enduring appeal.