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Dive Time

Elizabeth Doerr
From the Print Edition:
Joe Mantegna, July/August 2011

The dive watch now seems so timeless that it’s hard to recall that the style once explored uncharted waters. Today, these watches that love to get wet (to at least 100 meters) are classics, with their rotating bezels that feature highly visible markings for keeping track of time spent underwater. The three recent releases shown are excellent timekeepers that are powered by in-house automatic movements.

In 1959, demand from American enthusiasts of the burgeoning sport of scuba diving prodded Jaeger-LeCoultre to daringly launch a diver’s watch. Now it makes a limited edition (above)—the retro-styled Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea LeCoultre Spécial Amérique 1959—that faithfully replicates that timepiece. The new watch differs from the original in only two respects: its stainless-steel case has been increased in size from 39.8 mm to 40.5 mm and its movement is now automatic.

The American adaptation—there’s also a European version—is distinguished by its two-tone black/gray color scheme with prominent minute markings and the simple signature “LeCoultre,” reflecting that this was how the company was known in the U.S. until the 1980s. Both versions display hours, minutes, seconds and an alarm, the time setting of which is indicated by a luminescent triangle on the dial. A crown at two o’clock winds and sets the alarm, while another at four o’clock is for the time. Paying homage to heritage, the crystal is replicated in the original Plexiglas—a stark contrast to today’s standard of sapphire. Water-resistant to 10 atmospheres (100 meters), it retails for $11,950.

Girard-Perregaux's Sea Hawk watch.

Girard-Perregaux has used the name Sea Hawk for its robust and highly water-resistant sports watches since the 1940s. A recent incarnation pushes the envelope of submergibility to 1,000 meters thanks to a helium decompression valve, which releases gas trapped inside the case to avoid deformation and malfunction. The Sea Hawk Pro 1,000M (center) is part of the current diver’s series born in 2002 and carries a bold look, a generous 44-mm stainless-steel case and a protected screw-in crown at four o’clock. A unidirectionally rotating bezel acts as a monitor for the dive time. The time, date and power-reserve functions stand out against the matte black dial thanks in part to the use of dynamic bright orange elements that ensure optimal legibility even in murky conditions. The Sea Hawk Pro 1,000M is available with a rubber strap whose folding safety clasp is outfitted with an extension system so it adjusts easily in rapidly changing underwater temperatures and can be worn over a wetsuit. ($8,820).

Seiko's Ananta diver's watch.

The Ananta diver’s watch celebrates the 130th anniversary of Seiko. This Commemorative Collection (limited to 700 pieces) also honors the ancient Japanese art of hand-painted lacquer. Isshu Tamura, a world-renowned lacquer artist, created the jet-black dial to ensure legibility under water. Tamura paints each dial layer by layer and then polishes it by hand in his studio in Kanazawa, located on the western shores of the Japanese mainland. His use of a nonreflective coating on the sapphire crystal further enhances the effect. This automatic timepiece, which displays hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph functions, is water-resistant to 200 meters. It comes in a 44-mm stainless-steel case on a stainless-steel link bracelet and retails for $4,700.

Visit jaeger-lecoultre.com, girard-perregaux.com and seikowatches.com.

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