There are a few highly specialized brands that have always kept a low profile. Instead of embarking on the dangerous path of expensive marketing campaigns and celebrity endorsement deals, they spend all of their capital developing great timepieces. These brands are, for the most part, unknown to watch collectors and enthusiasts. They are the types of brands that only a few know about. One such brand is Ollech & Wajs, a Zürich-based maker of fine professional tool watches founded in 1956. A few years ago, ownership of the brand was passed on to a collector and businessman who has modernized and reinterpreted a few of O&W’s key models. One of which is the C-1000, the brand’s rugged diver that comes with a long and interesting heritage.
The Precursor: the Ollech & Wajs Caribbean 1000
When you think about “professional dive watches”, your mind likely goes to the likes of Rolex, Omega, Tudor, and Blancpain. All of these brands created solid divers made for those who make a living going deep underneath the surface. Jacques Cousteau, the famous French underwater explorer, as well as James Bond (who many of us wish actually existed) wore dive watches made by one or several of the aforementioned brands. While the debate of which brand made the first professional diver has been agitating the watch community for a few decades, Ollech & Wajs had, back in 1964, quietly engineered a watch that could go deeper than any other diver at the time: 1,000 meters. That’s 700 meters deeper than the best Rolex Submariner of that time period.
Ollech & Wajs didn’t accomplish this miracle alone, however. The brand partnered with Jenny Watches, the inventor of the mono-bloc case and triple gasket crown. The mono-bloc case insured the most water resistance since there wasn’t a case-back that had to be screwed in, making for one less opportunity for water ingress. As a side note, today, Seiko is the best-known brand for using mono-bloc cases on their Marine Master line. The triple gasket crown was used by many brands but not to the extent Jenny Watches did. Jenny and O&W accomplished the manufacture of a 38mm diver capable of withstanding 100 atmos of pressure. This was unheard of at the time and this model is the one that sealed Ollech & Wajs' reputation as a maker of fine tool watches used by NASA, the military, and explorers.
The New Model: the Ollech & Wajs C-1000
The Caribbean 1000 was such a hit and such a marvelous feat of engineering that a new version had to be made: the C-1000. As its name indicates, the watch is also water resistant to 1,000 meters and comes equipped with an ETA 2824-2 caliber: slightly decorated for the brand. It measures 39.5mm in diameter, 49.5mm long, and comes with a thickness of 15.8mm. I know, that’s quite thick, but for good reason: to withstand 100 ATM of pressure, the C-1000 comes with a thick and hyper domed piece of sapphire crystal and a concave case-back. This particular construction is unique to Ollech & Wajs and it enables the watch to reach this incredible depth rating without having to add a helium escape valve or make the case 45mm in diameter.
Visually, the two watches look different, however the C-1000 does have an air of vintage horology which can also be found on all other modern Ollech & Wajs models. The C-1000 is a tool watch, and appropriately, it looks like one. From its rectangular hands, sturdy bezel construction, and monochromatic dial design, it is not the type of watch that I would feel comfortable wearing at a black tie event, but would feel more than comfortable wearing in other situations—which I do. Beyond its looks, the C-1000 is interesting because it is one of the few 1,000 meter divers currently available on the market. I know, we don’t need that much depth rating on a daily basis but the history behind this model is quite fascinating.
Given its history and specifications, you might be surprised to learn that the Ollech & Wajs C-1000 “only” costs $1,700 on a strap and $1,870 on a bracelet. I dare say “only” because professional divers from reputable Swiss brands tend to fetch between $2,000 to $5,000 (at least), so finding a legitimate tool watch for less than $2,000 feels a little bit like a bargain to me. Moreover, and unlike many other “Swiss Made” watches, more than 90% of the C-1000 is made in Switzerland, which is also true of all other models from the brand. Although the C-1000 looks different from the Caribbean 1000, they both share the same heritage, a know-how and great specs that few modern divers can offer at this price point.