Are Dive Watches Getting Too Fancy?

gold rolex submariner dive watch

Dive watches are arguably the most popular watch category. You’ll find them from luxury brands such as Audemars Piguet and Rolex all the way to mass consumer brands like Seiko and Citizen. They’re versatile, rugged, and the perfect mix of style and function. Over the years, dive watches have evolved as new materials and technologies have been introduced into the watch industry. Today, you can find dive watches made from a wide range of materials like precious metals, ceramic, sapphire, and precious stones. This begs the questions, are dive watches getting too fancy?

shirtless italian hunks from panerai

Panerai Radiomir Frogman - Image Courtesy of Panerai

The wristwatch was born out of necessity as the need to accurately tell time became increasingly important. Especially for those in dangerous professions such as the military. Any miscalculation in time could have meant the difference between life or death. Rolex and Panerai were among the earliest brands to make progress towards a dive watch. In 1926, Rolex released the Oyster Case. It was the first waterproof case that used a bezel, caseback, and screw down crown to hermetically seal the movement to protect it from water, dust, pressure and shock. Ten years later, Panerai released its patented Radiomir Luminescence with the Radiomir prototype--a watch that was developed for the Italian Regia Marina and was worn by the frogmen. 

vintage rolex advertisement

Vintage Rolex Ad - Image courtesy of Rolex

vintage rolex Ad

Vintage Rolex Ad - Image courtesy of Rolex

The modern dive watch as we know it today made its first appearance in 1953 with the release of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and the Rolex Submariner. These watches featured specific design elements such as a rotating bezel, luminescent markers, and a highly legible dial. Before its launch, a Submariner prototype was tested by Auguste and Jacques Piccard on whether it could handle a 10,000ft deep dive. The watch returned to the surface in perfect working order and thus the Submariner collection was born.

yellow gold rolex submariner dive watch

Gold Rolex Submariner - Image Courtesy of

In today’s world, the need for functionality and accuracy have been eclipsed by the consumer's need for luxury. Watches are considered jewelry for both men and women and the watch industry has priced their pieces accordingly. What was once a practical instrument used for diving can now be found in white or yellow gold for close to $40,000. Have a good relationship with your AD? You might be lucky enough to be offered the bejeweled off catalog Submariner 116659SABR! 

rolex SABR dive watch

Rolex SABR - Image Courtesy of

Precious metal and jewels aren’t the only things found in today’s dive watches. The most interesting dive watch materials have been coming out of Panerai’s Laboratorio di Idee. The PAM 616 features a Carbotech case made completely of layers of carbon fiber that have been compressed under immense pressure. Their latest innovation, Fibratech, uses strands of volcanic rock that are heated and pressurized to create a material that is 60% lighter than steel and 100% corrosion proof.  

panerai fibratech

Panerai Fibratech - Image Courtesy of Panerai

Going back to the original question - Are dive watches getting too fancy? They may have gotten a little too fancy for their intended purpose, but that is not really what they’re about anymore. Over time, watches have evolved from tools to statement pieces. Wearable pieces of luxury, fashion, and art that many collectors share an appreciation for.

In a world of highly accurate digital diving instruments there is no real need to take your yellow gold Submariner for a weekend dive. And most of today’s luxury watch buyers are so scratch and risk averse that their watches barely make it into a shower, let alone the ocean. So in my opinion, watches have gotten fancy enough to meet the needs and mindset of the current watch buyer. For the best of both words, I like to add a curved end rubber strap to a submariner to get the perfect blend of style, luxury, and function.

I wear my watches daily, add love marks often, but still haven’t used my Submariner for its intended purpose. Not saying that I wouldn’t, but for now it's just my snorkel companion, and when I'm not wearing it, it stays nice and dry and cozy in my watch box. 

everest watch box for 4 watches

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