What is a Dive Watch & How Do They Work?

What is a Dive Watch & How Do They Work?

Updated July 2022

For many watch enthusiasts, a diving watch (or “dive watch”) is considered a staple in a well-rounded collection.

With its sleek, elegant silhouette and unmatched functionality, the diving watch is an impressively versatile timepiece that is unlikely to ever go out of style. And of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be the watch of choice for James Bond in many of the iconic 007 films.

But exactly what is a dive watch, and what are its key characteristics? We’re taking a closer look at diving watches and discussing everything you need to know about this classic style, including how a diving watch works, what it looks like, and where and when it got its start.

History of the Diving Watch

While there are historical records of water-resistant watches dating back to the 19th century, the first example of the modern-day diving watch was Rolex’s “Oyster,” created in 1924.

Designed with a specialized waterproof case, the Oyster promised to be fully-submersible thanks to a screw-down crown, case-back, and bezel. In 1927, an English swimmer put the Oyster to the test in a 10-hour attempt to swim across the English Channel – and the watch passed with flying colors.

By 1932, Omega unveiled its take on the concept, the pressure-resistant Marine watch. Just a few years later, it received official certification for depths up to 135 feet. The next few decades saw an influx of watchmaking innovation, with standout designs including the Panerai Radiomir (the 1930s), Rolex Submariner (1950s), Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (1950s), Breitlin Superocean (1950s), and the Rolex Sea-Dweller (1967).

Today, you can still find many of these early dive watches (albeit with updating styling and technology) available for sale.

What Makes a Watch a "Dive" Watch?

Interestingly, there are very clear-cut specifications for diving watches, as outlined by the International Organization for Standardization.

The ISO 6425 states that, in order to be considered in compliance with standards, a diver’s watch must:

  • Have a water-resistance rating of at least 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Feature a time, bezel, and some type of indication that the watch is running (such as a seconds hand) that clearly legible from 25 centimeters in the dark
  • Have a secured measuring system that indicates the dive time (usually a rotating bezel)
  • Be shock-resistant
  • Be anti-magnetic
  • Be resistant to saltwater (made with anti-corrosive materials)
  • Offer reliable performance underwater

Of course, there are many popular “diving watches” that don’t actually fit these criteria. Rather, these versions are inspired by the aesthetic design of a dive watch, not necessarily the performance details.

How Does a Diving Watch Work?

The inner workings of a diving watch vary from model to model, particularly because there are many different forms and movements. Usually, diving watches fall into one of three categories:

  • Quartz movement watches utilize a battery that contains a quartz crystal, which vibrates at a highly specific frequency. The accuracy of quartz watches is outstanding, and they are generally inexpensive to produce. However, most quartz watches don’t have quite the same level of craftsmanship you would find in a mechanical watch.
  • Manual movement watches are 100% mechanical, requiring the wearer to regularly wind the watch to keep it running.
  • Automatic movement watches are comparable to manual watches in terms of internal mechanics, but they are equipped with a mechanism that automatically winds the watch.

What Does "Water-Resistant" Mean?

Water resistance is a core feature of diving watches, and many modern versions have a rating that far exceeds the minimum 100 meters. There are different ways a watchmaker can construct a water-resistant diving watch, including design elements such as:

  • Gaskets that create airtight seals to prevent water from entering the watch’s internal structure
  • A screw-down crown to keep water out
  • Helium release or escape valves, to allow the watch to withstand high water pressures
  • Thick crystal on the watch face for extra durability

What Does a Diving Watch Look Like?

Every diving watch is unique, but many share a handful of common characteristics:

  • A larger, more commanding silhouette compared to other watch styles
  • Materials such as stainless steel, gold, silver, and even silicone or rubber
  • A large watch face with oversized, usually luminous hands

The effect of these features lends an undeniable air of class to the diving watch, making it an excellent choice for anyone that appreciates a polished, high-end style.

Shop Swiss Microbrand Diving Watches at Serket Watch Company

If you’re interested in adding a diving watch to your collection, we invite you to browse our limited-edition Swiss diving watches. Crafted for the style-conscious wearer that expects exceptional-quality craftsmanship and original designs, Serket Watch Company is a one-of-a-kind boutique watch brand.

Explore our curated collection of luxury diving watches to find your newest timepiece today.

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