Preferences for larger or smaller case diameters, specific colours or even specific complications, may change over time, yet the robust and resistant diver’s watch remains a perennial favourite. We take a look at some new models for the 2017 season that were presented at Baselworld.
Anniversary Eterna Kontiki models
It’s 70 years since Thor Heyerdahl made headlines by crossing the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft. It is only fitting, therefore, that the watch named after this very raft, the Eterna Kontiki, should make a strong statement this year. It does so with the new Kontiki Bronze Manfuacture model, with a bronze case and the in-house Eterna 3902A calibre. This limited-edition of 300 watches is available for 2,890 Swiss francs – a price so attractive that most of the limited-edition models were sold during Baselworld. The Kontiki Diver Gent models offer an alternative with the same design but with stainless-steel cases and the Sellita calibre SW200 self-winding movement, which brings the price down to a downright aggressive level. Note the unusual markings on the bezel, which indicate decompression stops rather than elapsed time.
Eterna has also extended the Kontiki range with some rare diver’s watch models for ladies.
Price: 1,790 Swiss francs on rubber strap or 1,890 on the stainless steel bracelet
Spoilt for choice at Seiko
Seiko has long been a brand of choice for fans of diver’s watches, but 2017 yields an exceptional crop from the Japanese company. At the top of the pile is the first-ever Grand Seiko diver’s watch, which is being used to announce the new status of Grand Seiko as an autonomous brand that will henceforth act independently of Seiko. The Grand Seiko Hi-Beat Diver Professional comes with a black dial or, as a limited edition of 500 pieces, with a blue dial. The case is in titanium and the dial in soft iron, which ensures resistance to magnetic fields up to 16,000 A/m, and water resistance down to 600 metres is guaranteed. The high-frequency movement ensures an accuracy of -3/+6 seconds per day – figures better than those of an officially certified COSC chronometer – and Grand Seiko offers an extended warranty of three years for these new models. But at a price of €12,100 (€12,300 for the limited edition) it is an expensive proposition, especially when compared with the sought-after new Rolex Sea-Dweller 50th anniversary model, which offers better accuracy (-2/+2 seconds per day according to Rolex’s Superlative Chronometer standard) for 10,200 Swiss francs.
On a more affordable level, Seiko is offering a faithful recreation of its first-ever diver’s watch from 1965 using the calibre 8L35 movement as a limited edition of 2,000, plus two more modern interpretations of the original design using calibre 6R15 with a larger 42.6mm diameter case.
Prices: Limited edition SLA017 €3,800; Standard edition SPB051: €1,100, SBP053: €990
Back to the roots at Blancpain
Blancpain also tantalises diver’s watch fans and collectors with a reproduction of a firm favourite: the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC models, which were also known under the Tornek-Rayville TR-900 name. These models were so called because they were developed to the military specifications of the US Navy. One of the requirements in these specifications was that the wristwatches have a water-tightness indicator. Sixty years after the first such model appeared, Blancpain presents a reproduction as a limited series of 500 watches with a two-colour disc on the dial. In the event that water enters the watch, the white portion of the discs changes colour as a clear indication of the problem. Water resistant to 300 metres, its 40mm stainless-steel case is equipped with Blancpain’s in-house self-winding calibre 1151 with a solid-gold, NAC-coated winding rotor and (unlike the original) a silicon balance spring.
Price: 13,200 Swiss francs with sail canvas or NATO strap, 15,200 with stainless steel bracelet.
The first square Bell & Ross diver’s watch
Diver’s watch fans will remember the Bell & Ross Hydromax® watch launched twenty years ago, which still today holds the record for the greatest (theoretical) water resistance, since it can withstand a pressure of 1,110 bar, which is equivalent to a depth of 11,100 metres. The Bell & Ross diver’s watches have since evolved from the classic round shape to the barrel shape of the BR 02, launched in 2007, to finally adopt the brand’s characteristic square shape for the new BR 03-92 Diver. Compared with the standard BR 03-92 models, the Diver model has a reinforced case back (2.80 mm compared with 1.80mm), a soft-iron inner cage and a sapphire crystal that is 2.85mm thick, compared with 1.50mm on the classic steel BR 03-92. These important modifications transform the BR 03-92 into an ISO 6425 compliant diver’s watch.
Price: 3,400 Swiss francs