The Sport of Scuba Diving
By the 1960’s, the sport of scuba diving was growing in popularity. Sea exploration was expanding, technology was improving, and equipment was evolving. So, the enigmatic ocean was becoming a bit less mysterious. Coming face to face with the deep blue sea was no longer reserved for daring scientists. A scuba certification was the only thing that stood between man and the briny deep.
A Key Year for the Dive Watch
With the advancements in diving came the development of the dive watch. All dive watches have a few key features. First, it must have a water resistance of at least 100 meters according to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which regulate the guidelines for dive watches. Dive watches typically feature luminous hands, markers, or bezels for maximum legibility at great depths. Many dive watches also come equipped with a unidirectional rotating bezel to track elapsed time.
1967 was a key year for the dive watch. In this year, two of the world’s most elite brands debuted two of their most interesting dive models. Rolex introduced the Sea-Dweller and IWC released the Aquatimer
The Rolex Sea-Dweller
Rolex had already dabbled in the world of dive watches with models like the Seamaster in 1948 and the Submariner in 1953. But with the rapidly emerging diving technology in the 1960’s, there was a growing demand for more advanced diving instruments. An industrial deep-sea diving company called Comex approached Rolex about creating a dive watch that could operate at deeper depths for longer periods of time. At the time, their divers serviced offshore oil rigs. They needed watches that could withstand the conditions of their rigorous work.
Rolex started with one of their existing Submariner models and than began to modify it. They took the Ref. 5513 and started by adding a one-way escape valve on the opposite side of the crown to help relieve pressure. Then, they added a thicker profile crystal and a larger, reinforced case. The result was a brand new model called the Rolex Sea-Dweller, Ref 1665. It featured the brand’s 1575 movement and a Triplock crown. It also boasted an increased depth rating of over 600 meters.
Over the years, Rolex has continued to improve upon the Sea-Dweller. They’ve added a number of updates to features like the crystal, escape valve, and, of course, the movement. In turn, they’ve been able to more than double the depth rating to over 1220 meters. The most recent variation of the Rolex Sea-Dweller was released in 2017 for the 50th anniversary of the model. Most notably, it features a modern, oversized 43mm case and a Cyclops date magnifier.
The IWC Aquatimer
Unlike Rolex, IWC had never ventured into the world of dive watches before creating the Aquatimer. The original model was relatively sleek, straightforward, and simple. It epitomized a classic dive watch with a couple twists. First, they created an internal rotating bezel situated under the glass. This prevented it from moving accidentally during the dive. The original Aquatimer also featured a depth rating up to 200 meters, double the ISO requirement.
Since the debut of the initial Aquatimer, IWC has also continued to improve upon the now iconic model. In 1982, the brand partnered with the famous luxury car manufacturer Porsche to introduce a revolutionary new watchmaking material: titanium. With this groundbreaking advancement, IWC unveiled an all-new Aquatimer variation. It was the first dive watch made of titanium.
IWC has gone on to experiment with other innovative materials for the Aquatimer collection. In 1988, they created a special movement made from a non-magnetic material for the Ref. 3519. This model was designed specifically for mine clearance divers.
In 2009, IWC introduced the latest generation of Aquatimers. The most notable aesthetic update is the modern, oversized case measuring a whopping 46mm. Like Rolex, IWC also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Aquatimer in 2017. They commemorated the occasion with the release of the Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “50 Years Aquatimer.” This special model is the first to feature a case made of Ceratanium. This newly developed material combines the lightness of titanium with the hardness of ceramics.
Choosing the Best Dive Watch for You
The Rolex Sea-Dweller and the IWC Aquatimer are arguably two of the best and most interesting dive watches on the market. They both have the functions and features to serve avid divers. Plus, they both showcase a sporty design that’s equally suitable for everyday wear. If you have to choose between the two models, you certainly can’t go wrong.
Check out our other side-by-side comparisons, including Rolex Explorer I vs. Rolex Explorer II