Does that mean a mechanical dive watch is nothing but a retro affectation?
I always wear a dive watch on the wrist opposite a computer. First off, should the battery in the computer fail, you have a backup. Secondly, there are things an analog watch does better than a digital dive computer, such as helping time swim distances for navigation. At worst, it’s ornamental. When you’re back at work, you can always look down on your wrist and smile and think, “I just took this down to the wreck of the Hermes two weeks ago.”
That does not stop watch brands from pushing the engineering frontier. Several high-end dive watches, for example, come with a “helium escape valve.” Sounds cool, but what is it?
Saturation divers — like guys welding oil pipelines in the North Sea — live in a habitat pressurized to the same depth as the seawater in which they’re working, and the gas they’re breathing is high in helium content, which seeps into watches. The valve helps the gas escape. But those valves are utterly worthless to 99.9 percent of the people who buy them.
What about all the watches with crazy depth ratings? Citizen just came out with an Eco-Drive Professional Diver 1000M rated to go an insane 1,000 meters. Who needs that?
The fact is, most recreational divers don’t go deeper than 50 or 60 feet. A high-water resistance is a badge of honor, like a 200-mile-per-hour sports car.
What is a good example of a forward-looking dive watch done right?
The Tudor Pelagos. They really thought it through with the ceramic bezel, the titanium case and bracelet, and the spring-loaded clasp on the bracelet that compensates for the compression of a wet-suit sleeve. It’s very sleek, very modern — sort of the analog dive watch for the 21st century.
In the end, is a dive watch just a fantasy object for most guys, like an aviator watch?
Pilot watches feel even more aspirational to me. You put on this big Breitling Navitimer, and no one even knows how to use the slide-rule function. I’m sort of an aviation geek as well, but if it’s one or the other, I’m reaching for a dive watch nine out of 10 times. Water resistance just trumps all other functions. You never know when you’ll have to jump in a pool to save a drunken party guest.
This interview has been edited and condensed.