In 1966, the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) set up an investigation committee for diving equipment, including dive watches, which back then were deemed not only “a vital part” of the diver’s equipment, but apparently also the most troublesome. In 1968, BSAC member Geoff Harwood concluded that “the majority of the complaints and allegations of faulty equipment and unsatisfactory dealings with manufacturers and distributors have been concerned with diving watches” — which led to the decision “to carry out a survey in order to determine the extent of the problem.”
Thanks to former professional diver, dive historian, author, and the U.K.’s historical diving society editor Peter Dick, whom I had the fortune of meeting at the last annual meeting of the German Historical Diving Society (see report here), we at DiveIntoWatches.com can now, nearly 50 years after its first publication, reveal the results of this amazing survey — so far the only such review I have ever come across and also a most unique opportunity to get a glimpse of one of the most important eras in underwater timekeeping.
Of course, we have to emphasize, as does the original report, “that since so few of each make are represented we cannot draw a conclusion as to ‘best buy’ or to definitely not recommend a certain watch.” However, upon looking at how those 93 watches from 17 manufacturers performed during an astonishing 7,260 dives, it is safe to say that you can definitely find much more reliable diving equipment for your wrist these days. At the time the survey was released, one of its conclusions was thus: “[E]ven if you buy an internationally famous watch costing over £50 you still stand a fair chance of finding it full of water when you come to start your decompression schedule after a deep dive.”
Without further ado: the results of the BSAC’s 1968 survey, as published in the BSAC diving officer’s conference paper:
“Completely satisfied” meant that owners made no adverse comments; “Completely dissatisfied” meant that watches failed from the start or weren’t satisfactorily repaired.