The dive watch had its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, during scuba’s early days. Then, divers used watches to monitor dive time and time until surfacing. As dive computers have become common, though, the need for dive watches has lessened. Nonetheless they remain popular among divers. Some dive organizations even favor a dive watch (or other bottom timer) and depth-gauge combo over modern computers. Here are a few things to look for when you’re contemplating how to choose a dive watch.
What does “waterproof” mean?
A good dive watch must fulfill certain requirements. First of all, and most obviously, it must be waterproof. But waterproof doesn’t mean just waterproof. The word can cover everything from splash-proof (can survive being worn out in the rain) to waterproofness up to thousands of feet below the surface. It’s one thing to keep water out, but another thing entirely to keep water that’s under pressure out. Keeping water under dynamic pressure — such as when you move your arm quickly to reach a shotline — out requires even more protection. The general recommendation for a good recreational-dive watch is that it should be waterproof to at least 30 bar, or 1,000 feet. This ensures that it will be waterproof in any situation.
What’s it made of?
The watch must be constructed of materials that are suitable for use in water, including the saltwater of the ocean. Stainless steel is good, but not perfect, as it does corrode in spite of its name (it’s more stain-resistant than stainless). Titanium is better (although more expensive), as it’s much more corrosion-resistant, and lighter. Leather straps are a no-go, but metal bracelets or rubber straps work just fine.
A dive watch should also have a rotating bezel that allows you to monitor your dive time without having to remember at what exact minute you descended. Simply place the dive start marker over the appropriate minute marker and go. The watch should also be easily legible, making it easy to decipher your bottom time even in 100 feet of water.
Finally, in my opinion, a depth gauge is a big plus. It allows you to use the watch as a back-up dive computer in case of computer failure.
A great dive watch can represent a significant financial investment. While these are just a few factors to be conscious of when you’re choosing a model, they’re a good place to start before you make a purchase.