TIME CAPSULES
Watch Time|February 2021
An overview of some of the dive watch re-editions that have recently surfaced on the market, and why the industry, and the collectors’ community, simply can’t resist them
Roger Ruegger
Since 1967, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) has issued almost 30 million diver certifications globally, or one million certifications annually in recent years. Needless to say, as a result of the introduction of the first commercially viable dive computers in the ’80s, a majority of today’s divers mainly rely on dive computers when spending time underwater, even though there is a tight community of divers that are indeed into mechanical watches and/or have learned from experiencing some sort of equipment malfunction in the past. More importantly, the luxury dive watch category has not only gone through the industry’s first “smart watch transformation” almost without a scratch (Quartz Crisis aside), dive watches have perhaps never been more popular on dry land than in recent years. They have, in fact, become so influential that — like Tudor’s Black Bay (2012), or Rado’s Captain Cook (2017) have shown, for example — a successful re-edition of a historical dive model can quite often have a huge impact on a brand’s overall standing among influencers and collectors. Or, like in Breitling’s case with the Superocean Heritage (2007), also commercially overtake the brand’s quintessential range of pilots’ watches.

Because, quite often, a dive watch with heritage represents a huge business opportunity. The three most popular brands among Chrono24 users in 2019 were Rolex, Omega and the aforementioned brand that even added wings to its logo in 1952. In terms of their most-searched models, Rolex dominated the platform’s internal data analysis with the Submariner, Datejust and GMT-Master II, with the Submariner also being one of the most recognizable watches of the industry. When it comes to Omega, the various Seamaster dive watch models (including the Planet Ocean range) come right after the perhaps most popular chronograph model among astronauts, the legendary Speedmaster. Even the prestigious and often haute horlogerie-favoring Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) decided, in 2019, that it was finally time to dedicate a whole category to watches that are “linked to the world of diving, whose functions, materials and design are suited to this activity.” So far, the Breitling Superocean Automatic 48 Boutique Edition (Ref. V17369241L1S2) emerged in 2020 as the winning entry; the Seiko Prospex LX Spring Drive SNR029 had won in 2019.

Brands like Panerai, most likely the world’s first supplier of watches that were ordered exclusively to meet the needs of extensive underwater use (1936), have built most of their entire current collection on dive watches, and it is almost impossible to imagine Citizen’s rise to success without the Aqualand (1989), Oris without the Sixty-Five Diver (2015) or Seiko’s Prospex range without the hugely successful re-editions from the last three years, to just name a few. Even Blancpain, creator of the first modern diving watch (1953), would most likely be in a very different place today without having relaunched the Fifty Fathoms in 2003 and 2007, and the Bathyscaphe in 2013.

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