2020, The Watch Year in Review: 10 Dynamic Dive Watches

It goes without saying: 2020 was far from an ideal year for most of us. Looking back, however, it was also a year that brought many noteworthy watch launches despite the huge obstacles posed by the pandemic and its effects on the world economy. As we look ahead hopefully to 2021, it’s time for our annual look back at some of those timepieces, in various popular categories. Today, we showcase 2020’s most interesting dive watches.

Bell & Ross’s BR 03-92, its first divers’ watch fashioned in the familiar, square-shaped “Instrument” case, debuted in a new orange-dialed model that was offered exclusively in Bell & Ross boutiques and e-boutiques. Its squared ergonomic case, made of satin-polished steel, is 42 mm in diameter and water-resistant to 300 meters. Its “circle-in-a-square” design features a 60-minute unidirectional bezel with a luminescent dot at 12 o’clock for orientation. The painted orange dial, with luminous indices and hour markers, represents the color of maritime safety, used for the suits of rescue divers. Inside the case, a soft-iron inner cage protects the movement — the automatic BR-Cal.302, based on the Sellita SW 300.1 — from the effects of magnetic fields. More details and price here.

Bell & Ross BR 03 Diver Orange

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day-Date Desert Edition, limited to 500 pieces, features a new, sandy beige dial inspired by the desert sands of Death Valley, California, where Ernest H. Brooks II, a pioneer of underwater photography, made a famous dive into the underwater chasm known as Devil’s Hole in 1962. Its 43-mm case is made of satin-brushed steel and the dive-scale insert on its unidirectional bezel is made of brown ceramic. The dial’s bold Arabic numerals and markers and blocky syringe hands duplicate those from a classic 1970s model. The 300-meter water-resistant case houses Blancpain’s manufacture Caliber 1315DD, whose notable attributes include a five-day (120-hour) power reserve. Click here for more details.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Desert

The Breitling Superocean Heritage Automatic 42 ’57 Limited Edition II followed up its sold-out, black-dialed predecessor with a dial and a bidirectional rotating bezel in maritime blue ceramic. Remaining from the popular first edition are the rainbow-inspired design elements — color highlights at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock hour markers and graduated, multicolored Super-LumiNova coating on the hour and minute hands in shades of green, blue, indigo, violet, red, and orange. The 42-mm steel case houses the self-winding Breitling Caliber 10, based on the ETA 2892-A2 and amassing a power reserve of 42 hours. The solid caseback is engraved with ‘ONE OF 1,000″ and proceeds from sales of the watch go to charities supporting workers on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19. More details here.

Breitling Superocean Heritage 57

This year, Britain’s Christopher Ward became the first watchmaker to revive the so-called Super Compressor case, a popular style dormant since the 1970s. For its C65 Super Compressor model, Christopher Ward “reverse engineered” the original design by Ervin Piquerrez to create the barrel-shaped case equipped with the built-in 300-micron-thick compression spring that gives the design its name. Measuring 41 mm in stainless steel, the case has two screw-down crowns on the side — one for winding and setting the time, the other for setting dive times on the inner bezel, which rotates with 120 distinctive clicks. Inside the 150-meter water-resistant case, a Swiss-made Sellita SW200 automatic caliber beats at a brisk 28,800-vph frequency and amasses a power reserve of 38 hours. Click here for more details, history, and photos.

Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor - Front
Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor

The Doxa SUB 300 Aqua Lung US Divers bridges the historical design of the SUB 300, introduced in 1967, with an innovative and very contemporary case material and color scheme. The barrel-shaped 42.5-mm case is made of ultra-light, extra-durable forged carbon and has a screw-down for a 300-meter water resistance. The unidirectional rotating bezel sports both an inner 60-minute scale and outer “air dive table” to assist in timing no-decompression dives. Under the box-shaped sapphire crystal, Doxa’s “Sharkhunter Carbon” dial has applied markers for each hour, a white minute ring, a 3 o’clock date window, and a large yellow minute hand. Behind the solid caseback beats the chronometer-certified ETA 2824-2 with a 42-hour power reserve. Find out more by clicking here.

Doxa SUB300 Diver US Navy
Doxa SUB300 Diver US Navy

Inspired by, and dedicated to, the plight of the Hangang River in South Korea, the Oris Hangang Limited Edition features a 43.5-mm stainless steel case water-resistant to a professional-grade 300 meters. Its unidirectional dive-scale bezel has a green ceramic insert, reflecting the bright, gradient green tones of the dial — colors inspired, Oris says, by the waters at the source of the Hangang, South Korea’s second longest but most important river, which is now threatened by years of neglect and pollution. The back of the watch, which hails from Oris’s Aquis family, has an engraved map depicting the river’s path through South Korea. Behind that caseback, the automatic, Sellita-based Oris 743 offers 38 hours of power, a quick date corrector, and a stop-seconds function. Click here for more.

Oris Hangang Limited Edition

The “Azzurro” in the Panerai Submersible Azzuro – 42 MM refers to the matte blue ceramic ring, with graduated dive scale, which is fitted into the unidirectional ratcheting bezel (“Azzurro” is Italian for “light blue”). Its steel cushion-shaped case has a satin-brushed finish and its 300-meter water resistance is ensured by the familiar (and trademarked) locking crown protector device on the right side of the case as well as by the screw-down steel caseback. Continuing the “Azzurro” theme, evocative of both the ocean and the unofficial color of unified Italy, the lume on the hands and indices glows in a bright green-blue. Powering the watch is the automatic manufacture Caliber P.900, with 23 jewels, a 28,800-vph frequency, and a power reserve of three days in a single barrel. More details and price here.

Panerai Submersible Azzuro – 42MM

What’s “new” about the 2020 Rolex Submariners? As is typical of Rolex, the differences are subtle to the naked eye but oh-so-significant to avid collectors. The case dimensions have been bumped up slightly to 41 mm from the previous models’ 40 mm (just 2 mm smaller than the revamped Sea-Dweller). The Oyster bracelet has been “remodelled” with a patented Oysterlock folding safety clasp and Glidelock extension, which can add or subtract up to 20 mm of bracelet length in 2-mm adjustments. The dateless version of the Submariner is now equipped with a new in-house movement, Caliber 3230, while the Date models (Ref. 126610LV, with mega-popular green bezel pictured) contain the existing Caliber 3235, introduced in the 2017 revamp of the Sea-Dweller and used subsequently in the Yacht-Master. Much more detail and other versions of the watch can be found here.

Rolex Submariner Date

Seiko’s U.S.-exclusive trio of Prospex Ice Diver models take their colorway cues from the colors of natural light reflecting off glacial ice — and by extension from Seiko dive watches’ history as the watch of choice for the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition team since the 1960s. Their wearers include Yuichiro Miura, the oldest man to scale Mt. Everest in 1970; Naomi Uemura, the first person to complete a solo dog-sled run to the North Pole in 1978; and many others. The 44-mm “Sumo” case is in polished and brushed steel, with a thick screw-down crown at 4 o’clock and a matching steel triple-link bracelet with a diver’s extension. Lume-filled indexes occupy each hour marker except at 3 o’clock, where a date window, is highlighted via a magnifying “Cyclops” lens. Seiko’s automatic Caliber 6R35, with a 70-hour power reserve, ticks behind a solid caseback. Click here to discover more detail and other versions.

Seiko Prospex Ice Diver Blue
Seiko Prospex Ice Diver Blue

The latest watch from maritime-focused Ulysse Nardin represents not only the brand’s most aggressive effort yet in combating marine pollution, but also a true first in the watch industry: the Diver Net features an entire case — middle, back, and bezel insert — constructed from recycled fishing nets recovered from the oceans. The strap is also “upcycled,” made from sea-polluting PET plastic pressed into threads, and the crystal, made from transparent ceramic glass rather than sapphire, also represents an environmentally friendly upgrade, as it uses less energy to produce. Distinguishing this unique version of Ulysse Nardin’s Diver model (still a concept piece, though a commercial version has been teased) are the white-and-gray dial with white “UN” lettering as its background motif, and its numerous details in green. It’s powered by Ulysse Nardin’s Caliber 118, the in-house movement that powers many nautical-themed Ulysse Nardin watches. Click here for more background on the Diver Net’s creation.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Net
Ulysse Nardin Diver Net
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  1. Danny Simenauer

    All of these watches except Rolex belong in this article. Rolex does not belong in this article because it is unavailable from an Authorized Dealer. It makes no sense to continue to write about a product that is essentially unavailable! Enough wasting ink on a product that can be purchased at or near the price from an AD. I have no interest in reading about a Rolls Royce in a car magazine for the same reason.

  2. I was struck by the increase in the use of simpler, even less expensive non-manufacture movements, while the retail prices keep on going up at pace.

    If the 1st league manufacturers hold their prices for a few years, then a lot of these offers will face a tough time

  3. Michael Taylor

    I’ve owned a Rolex Submariner date and Sea Dweller, Panerai Submersible, Breitling Superocean 44 and an IWC Aquatimer. The Panerai Submersible, Breitling Superocean 44 and an IWC Aquatimer we not very comfortable and I sold them after about a year. I wanted to buy a new dive watch earlier this month and considered the Bell & Ross BR 03-92, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and Ulysse Nardin Diver. I ended up buying a new Omega Seamaster Diver 300M. I know the best day of owning a watch is the day you buy it, and/or the day you sell it, never sure in which order, but I love my new Omega Seamaster Diver 300M more than any watch I’ve acquired in recent memory. Right now I can’t imagine ever wanting to get rid of this watch and getting anything else.

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