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Retro Divers

Laurie Kahle
From the Print Edition:
Liev Schreiber, November/December 2013

For years, watch brands have been pushing technical limits with extreme divers that can go to previously unfathomable depths. Nevertheless, a dive watch is a wardrobe staple more often worn with jeans than neoprene. When 300 meters is sufficient, this trio of new dive watches delivers the rugged performance and requisite features of the genre with retro styling that looks sharp above and below the waves.

Blancpain marks the 60th anniversary of its Fifty Fathoms collection with the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe ($10,500), taking design cues from late-1950s Bathyscaphe models named for the deep-sea-diving vessels developed by Jacques Piccard and his father Auguste. In 1960, Jacques, along with U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, piloted the Trieste (with a Rolex Deep Sea Special wristwatch strapped to the exterior) to a record depth of 35,814 feet in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench. Last year, filmmaker James Cameron made a record solo submarine dive of 35,756 feet into the Mariana Trench’s deepest point, similarly accompanied by an experimental Rolex Deep Sea Challenge watch.

The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe recalls the original with clean and crisp contours, broad Superluminova-treated hands, and a luminous dot at “00” on the unidirectional rotating bezel for enhanced legibility. On the inside, the automatic Caliber 1315 movement is outfitted with a state-of-the-art antimagnetic silicon balance spring that resists corrosion and wear and tear. The watch’s graduated scale on the bezel is made of Liquidmetal, a super-hard, scratch-resistant, zirconium-based alloy that seamlessly bonds with the corrosion-resistant ceramic. Liquidmetal was first used in sister brand Omega’s Planet Ocean range.

Visibility is crucial for any dive watch, so Alpina’s Extreme Diver 300 Orange ($1,695 on bracelet) applies luminous orange, the color most easily seen underwater, to the graduated scale on the unidirectional rotating 60-minute diving bezel, the border of the luminous white minute hand, and Alpina’s signature triangle at the base of the second hand. A mesh metal bracelet heightens the retro flair. An extra nylon strap is included in the presentation box, which is shaped like a scuba tank.

Orange also highlights the diving scale on Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore Diver ($21,800). Marking the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore collection, it takes its primary design direction from the original Royal Oak designed by the late Gérald Genta in 1972. The new Diver stays true to Royal Oak Offshore’s legacy of robust watches with use of high-tech materials, with its 42 mm matte black ceramic case, bezel and crown. The automatic AP 3120 movement is revealed through a sapphire crystal case back housed in titanium, making it the first Audemars Piguet dive watch to show off its inner-workings—and without compromising the 300-meter depth rating.

Though they may never go deeper than the bottom of a swimming pool, these vintage-informed divers are ready for action on land or sea. 

Visit blancpain.com, aplina-watches.com, audemarspiguet.com

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