The dive watch is one of the most popular and iconic watch designs on the market today. Dive watches are exactly what they sound like – watches made for diving. And they originally started to appear on the market in the 1950s when watch brands started developing timepieces for professional divers who needed functional tools that would help them keep track of the time underwater. This meant that the watches had to be water-resistant. But during this early period, another feature in the watches became crucial, which is a unidirectional rotating bezel.

This dive watch bezel was meant to help divers keep track of the elapsed time. The primary purpose of this bezel was to see how long they have been underwater, and more importantly, to check that they have enough oxygen in the tank.

But as you have probably seen, dive watches are extremely popular on the market today. Virtually all brands have their own dive watch collections and it has become a go-to watch for most watch owners. So how come a watch design that was originally intended for professional divers has become highly popular amongst virtually everyone and has become a watch that people wear on all kinds of different occasions? How come it has become one of the most popular, if not the most popular and iconic watch designs ever made?

That’s what we’ll be looking closer at in this article.

What Is a Dive Watch?

First and foremost, we need to define what a dive watch is. As discussed, a dive watch is a watch that is meant for diving. Interestingly, different people have different criteria and definitions for what a dive watch is. A lot of watches on the market today have dive watch designs but do not have the proper performance to be classified as dive watches. But regardless, the designs of dive watches have become iconic and instantly recognizable, and whether or not you actually need it to be water-resistant depends on how you intend to use it.

In general, a dive watch is required to have at least 100 meters of water resistance. But technically, in order for a watch to be suitable for diving, it should have a water resistance of 200m/660 feet. In addition, it should also have a unidirectional rotating bezel to measure elapsed time.

That’s pretty much it.

But others have other requirements to define a watch as a dive watch, such as glow in the dark, shock-resistance, and so on. But whilst these are elements that are normally found in most dive watches, they are not crucial.

Let’s look closer at some of the most common characteristics and traits of a dive watch.

Water resistance

The water resistance is the most crucial and central aspect of a dive watch. After all, a watch is meant for diving and therefore needs to be able to withstand water. Some people argue that for a watch to be classified as a dive watch, it needs to be ISO certified. International Organization for Standardization is based in Geneva and is a standardized way of measuring and confirming the water-resistant capabilities of a watch. An ISO certification also looks at other factors, including legibility in the dark, amongst other things.

Most professional dive watches have a water resistance of 200m-300m. Watches that primarily focus on capturing the iconic design of dive watches and are not necessarily meant as professional tools can be found with anything from 50m to 100m of water resistance. This means that they are not suitable for diving but swimming at the most. And for a lot of people, this is more than enough. Because the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people who own dive watches never actually go diving with them.

But if you are planning to actually go swimming and diving, you should look for a watch with a water resistance of at least 200m or 300m. There are however watches that offer a substantially greater water resistance such as 1000m or even 3900 meters like the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller. The most extreme dive watches feature helium escape valves to make this possible.

Some of the elements that are crucial to ensure safe and secure water-resistance of a dive watch include a screw-down case back, a screw-down crown, a thick crystal for withstanding the extreme pressure of the deep dives. They also need to feature rubber gaskets to prevent any water from leaking into the watch.

Rotating bezel

A unidirectional rotating bezel is an iconic feature of dive watches and an element that help make them instantly recognizable. As discussed earlier, a unidirectional bezel is used for measuring the elapsed time up to 60 minutes. The purpose of this bezel is to keep track of how long the diver has been underwater as well as the amount of oxygen that is left in the oxygen tank. Of course, there are many areas where a rotating bezel can be practical to have on land as well, not just when diving.

Legibility

The legibility is crucial for the performance of a dive watch. It’s obvious why this is so important because when diving, it is usually dark and murky, and to use a dive watch, you need to be able to read it. This is the reason why most dive watches are equipped with large, luminous markers that make it easy to read the time in any environment. They should have large hour markers and large hands, paired with a generous amount of luminescent material.

Good legibility is not only practical when diving but essentially anytime and anywhere. Who doesn’t want it to be easy to tell the time?

Why are dive watches so popular?

There are many good reasons why dive watches are so immensely popular. Now that we have defined what a dive watch is all about, let’s look at the main reasons why they have come to become so popular.

Versatile

The first reason why dive watches have become so popular is that they are so versatile. The interesting part about this is that even though dive watches are intended as sports watches, they work surprisingly well for many different occasions. As James Bond has proved, a dive watch works surprisingly well with a suit, but it is also tough and sporty to work for casual and sporty occasions. When people look for their first watch, they often gravitate towards dive watches due to the versatility they offer. For those who only have one watch in their collection, it’s a perfect choice because it works perfectly for essentially any occasion.

Now, there are extremely tough and professional dive watches that are only suitable for diving, but most dive watches have a classic and iconic design that will work just as well with a suit as they will with jeans and a t-shirt. There are actually few watches that are as versatile as dive watches, so it is a perfect choice when you want a timepiece that you can just put on without having to think about what you are wearing and where you are going.

Durable

Dive watches are despite their versatility extremely durable. This is something that makes them practical to own and wear. It’s nice to own a watch that you know you can wear to any occasion and any challenge that you may face without having to worry about it breaking down.

Dive watches are built to be tough, durable, and robust. They are meant to withstand water, shocks, bangs, dirt, and other harsh environments. Of course, you want to be careful with watches that do not have dive watch performance but those that are built according to dive watch specifications will have no issues to withstand these harsh environments.

Many people just appreciate having a trusted companion that they can rely on. And that’s exactly what dive watches offer.

Iconic design

Dive watches can be instantly recognizable with all of their distinct design features such as a rotating bezel, large hour markers, sporty case, and so on. There are many design elements that have become closely associated with dive watches, but a watch doesn’t become an icon overnight.

When something has become so classic and iconic, people naturally gravitate towards them because they have been ”taught”, either consciously or unconsciously to like them. We, humans, have a tendency to like and appreciate designs that we see often and that are promoted to us. Dive watches originally came about in the 1950s, and thanks to consistent marketing, promotions, and overall growing popularity and interest in dive watches, it has become something that is the first thing people think about when they think of a watch.

For example, one of the most iconic dive watches ever made is the Rolex Submariner, and as a result of heavy marketing and promotions, it is the watch that a lot of people first think about when they think of a watch.

With this said, when people are considering buying a watch, they naturally tend to gravitate towards a dive watch. It’s just the way we humans are wired – we tend to choose things that look familiar, and because of the iconic status that dive watches have gotten in the watch world, its popularity is just continuing to grow.

Timeless design

Continuing on the same theme as above, iconic designs have usually stood the test of time and proven to be truly timeless. This is yet another factor that helps boost their popularity because the popularity of a particular design is not just something that comes overnight – it’s something that tends to be developed over decades. There are actually relatively few designs that have proven to be truly timeless, but the dive watch design is certainly one of them.

Dive watches are not just a fashion trend that will be popular for a few years. It’s a design that has been popular for half a century, and that will likely be so for many decades or even centuries to come. Iconic and timeless go hand in hand, but a design will not become iconic if it is not timeless.

Marketing and branding

To also continue on what we discussed above, marketing, branding, and promotion are always important for the popularity of watches whether we like it or not. Dive watches can be seen worn by some of the most iconic and prominent people in the world including individuals like James Bond, James Cameron, as well as professional divers and other prominent individuals. With this said, this has contributed to the popularity of dive watches and established their iconic status. And as this goes on, their popularity further increases and it becomes a positive spiral that increases the interest and appeal in dive watches.

Part of this has to do with the fact that diving was considered very cool in its early days. The professional divers had a lot of respect, and people found diving very appealing. A lot of people looked up to divers and naturally, they also found the tools and equipment they used very interesting as well. This of course also included their watches. And this is part of the reason why dive watches soon after became highly popular amongst other people than just professional divers for whom they were originally intended.

Heritage and history

Something that a lot of people love and appreciate about watches is not just their looks and design but also their heritage and history. The history and heritage of a watch add a layer of appeal to a watch and make it much more interesting. This is obviously particularly true for watch enthusiasts who are passionate about watches and really want to learn more about the background and history of a watch before they buy it. This doesn’t of course only go for watches, but essentially any collectible item.

And dive watches are a type of watch that certainly has a long, rich, and interesting heritage and history. From their very early background of being developed for professional divers in the 1950s to being used by countless organizations and professionals not solely as a means of telling the time but as crucial tools for performing the challenging task of diving.

If the history and heritage behind watches is something that you find interesting, then dive watches are the given choice.

Water resistance

Water resistance is something that a lot of people appreciate in a dive watch regardless if they actually intend to go diving or not. And it is a very practical feature to have since you never know when you feel like going for a swim or when you’ll be subjecting your watch to water. Even though there are many other watches apart from dive watches today that are water-resistant, the most natural choice if you are looking for a water-resistant watch is of course dive watches.

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