Expensive Dive Watch – 3 Reasons to Own One


Expensive dive watch - Rolex Submariner

In a previous post, I pretty much pronounced T.O.D. on the dive watch (The Dive Watch: Dead Genre Walking?). Obviously, I was premature. OK, wrong. But a recent article at Fratello (The Top 8 Awesome Desk-Diver Watches — Blancpain, Omega, Panerai, And More…) got me thinking. First, when is Fratello going to capitalize OMEGA? Second, the term “desk-diver” is unfortunate (think muff). And lastly, what are the pro’s of wearing an expensive dive watch (EDW)? Here are my three ideas on the subject . . .

An Expensive Dive Watch Lets You Talk About Diving

Expensive dive watch - Cartier

People who dive – actual scuba divers – don’t use an expensive dive watch. They use a dive computer. A digital device that monitors their exact location and depth, the amount of air left in their tanks and advises them not to ascend too quickly, lest they suffer horrible pain and maybe even die an excruciating death from what’s generally called “the bends.” (a.k.a., decompression sickness or Caisson disease).

Mares Icon HD Air Integrated Hoseless Computer, Black Edition - dive watches

Have you ever seen anyone wearing a dive computer in public? I haven’t. Sure, G-SHOCKs paved the way for public displays of LARGE DIGITAL WATCHES. And there are big ass dive computers that look like digital watches (e.g., the Oceanic Geo 2.0 Air:Nitrox Computer Watch). But “proper” dive computers (e.g., the Mares Icon HD Air Integrated Hoseless Computer above) aren’t shirt cuff-compatible. You know, discreet.

That said, scuba divers like to talk about diving; a dive watch opens-up the conversation. I’m not saying that a non-scuba person will see a Rolex Submariner on someone’s wrist and say “nice watch, do you dive?” Although they might. (Caution! That’s a conversation that will outlive a non-diver’s interest by several hours.) But I am saying that if a scuba aficionado starts talking about diving, they’ll want to be wearing a dive watch.

Dive watches Venn diagram

We’re talking about a very small demographic – that’s shrinking. “In 2019, there were approximately 2.71 million participants in scuba diving in the U.S.,” statista.com reports, “down from 2.85 million the previous year.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, you can round down to zero the number of scuba divers as a percentage of dive watches sold per year. But IF you dive, a dive watch is a badge of honor. So there is that.

An EDW Makes An Excellent Timer


People love chronographs. You can use them to time stuff! No one does, of course.

Older folks – the people who can afford expensive chronos – can’t read the tiny subdials without a magnifying glass. All of us live in a world where Alexa, Siri and Hey Google give us a heads-up – including elapsed time and time remaining – for our most frequent precisely timed indoor event (boiling eggs). Yes but . . .

Ulysse Nardin expensive dive watch

The dive watch’s rotating bezel is God’s gift to timing non-kitchen-related events. Rotate the little arrow at the top of the dial (a lemony snicket on the limited edition Ulysse Nardin “Lemon Shark” Diver 42 above) to your event’s start or end time and Bob’s your uncle.

OK, the indices marking the first (in practice last) 15/20 minutes on a “proper dive watch” – a throwback to avoiding underwater asphyxiation – can be difficult to discern. Expensive dive watches with a countdown rather count-up indices require mental adjustment. But twisting a bezel beats a digital timer; it gives you instant visual representation of both time elapsed and time remaining.

UL bezel

And who doesn’t love the ratcheting not-to-say-clanking sound of a dive watch bezel turning? The increasingly-singular mechanical sound cuts through our digital world of beeps and soft touch buttons with welcome clarity.

It may seem like a small thing, but the sonic feedback says “Stand back! I’m timing something!” A message that works especially well when you tell a car salesman “I’m giving you five minutes to give me your best price. Go!”

An EDW Enables Sprezzatura

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms MilSpec Limited for HODINKEE

For those of you who missed our man Klosoff’s excellent article Roberto Mancini’s Richard Mille, sprezzatura is the Italian term for “wearing an [outfit with] affected faux inattentiveness layered onto dandyism.”

Well, that’s Oscar’s entirely defensible take. According to Alfred “Fashionista” Tong at HoDinkee, sprezzatura means “the deliberate pairing of classical elements with something ultramodern.” Like an expensive dive watch with a Saville Row suit.

Expensive dive watch James Bond OMEGA

Is a dive watch ultramodern? No. Is wearing a dive watch with a suit or other dressy ensemble an example of sprezzatura? You betcha! If James Bond can pull it off . . .

Point of fact: you’re not James Bond (no one is, really). And die-hard (with a vengeance) horophiles will notice that Mr. Bond’s latest greyed-out, Milanese-braceleted OMEGA is a lot less dive watchy than his previous timepieces. But it still looks dumb distinctive. If you want to stand out in a crowd, an expensive dive watch with black tie is the ne plus ultra of sprezzatura.

And there you have it: three most excellent reasons to buy an expensive dive watch. I’m sure there are more, but I can’t think of any and I’ve got to take a shower – the one place you should never wear a dive watch. If you wear one.


  1. I thought one of the reasons was that they are kind of built to be a bit tough so you can use them in a variety of situations. It can go from dressy to inclement weather or some other activity easily.

    • ^This. An automatic dive watch is not as rugged as a G-Watch or even a quartz, but I’m impressed with the performance of an automatic dive watch I bought ten years ago which I use as a “beater”. A Seiko 6106 8110 was the G Shock of its day.

      The nice thing about vintage dive watches as opposed to other kinds of vintage watches is the sizing and styling. A 6309 Seiko slim case looked good in the 1980s, and still looks good today.

  2. Well, this one wasn’t particularly expensive. I used to be an avid diver. But, now this is as deep as I go:

  3. I have to give credit to something some Korean haberdasher said on a DinkyHo plodcast. Mark Cho talked about authenticity and honesty of self, and this is why I’m not a dive watch person. First, they are generally big boys for my small wrist. But I don’t dive, very rarely swim, and am pretty much would be “fronting” when not wearing mass-produced splashproof average-Joe shitters.
    But yeah, I do like spinny bezels, both for the visceral and tangible ratchety spin and the “countdown where it doesn’t matter (suck power) when you forget you were doing it” feature. As the article says, push a chrono pusher and nobody knows. Crank the bezel for when that one hour lunch is over and it gives that Mission Impossible/James Bond vibe. “Oh man, when did our one hour lunch start??” Ha, I set it on the bezel here, screw your stupid smart phone. No guarantees that this will have actual results, but it’s a very satisfying start.

  4. Really there is only one reason: Remind the peasantry that they are peasants, and that you aren’t. Though in all reality peasants put expensive watches on their credit cards to impersonate non-peasants.

    So it’s a wash, really.

    There’s not all that much reason to wear expensive watches. Unless you like to roam around in shorts and t-shirts and still look acceptable in expensive venues. Yes the dude looks vaguely homeless but also yes he wears a $40k white gold Rolex, so we won’t harass him about his dubious attire.

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