A nod to the heroism of the Royal Italian Navy, the grit of the long-distance channel swimmer, and even Jacques Cousteau's spirit of exploration, dive watches manage to be inherently inspiring.
In their first iterations in the 1920s, dive watches marked an important milestone. Advancements in water resistance helped popularize the use of the wristwatch (vs. the more typical pocket watch) by making them much more durable and practical for everyday wear. In the 1950s, when scuba diving was gaining popularity as a recreational sport, the dive watch became a truly necessary tool for keeping track of time while descending deep underwater, particularly when worn in tandem with a depth gauge. And as advancements in diving equipment and technology allowed for deeper dives, the watch industry kept pace with greater and greater ingenuity.
Today, for a watch to be to be officially certified as a "dive watch," it must meet strict guidelines from the International Organization for Standardization. A few of these essential elements: water resistance to a minimum of 100 meters, particular levels of visibility and legibility in total darkness, magnetic, shock, and chemical resistance, and a glowing second hand that indicates that the watch is working, even in complete darkness. And while most of the watches here were designed specifically to pass these tests, they're also incredibly good-looking—so it's entirely reasonable to fall in love with these watches purely for their dry-land aesthetics.
This year, many brands are looking to the past to interpret important heritage models, and a few took the concept of modern dive watch to new places entirely. Read on for the top 14 dive watches of 2017, but be warned: Picking just one favorite will be tough.
AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE DIVER
BREITLING SUPEROCEAN HERITAGE II 46
On its 60th birthday, the Superocean has been redesigned with a shock- and scratch-resistant ceramic bezel, giving the watch a shiny and clean new look. The self-winding chronometer, which is water-resistant up to 200 meters and uses the original Superocean logo, features Calibre B20 movement that was co-designed with fellow watch brand Tudor; it's available in black, blue, and bronze with leather, croc, rubber, and steel mesh bracelet options.
BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS TRIBUTE TO MIL-SPEC
First introduced in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms from Blancpain has some serious name recognition in the world of dive watches. The latest iteration (a 500-piece limited edition) replicates the design of the original 1950s MIL-SPEC 1 right down to the distinctive bright orange water tightness indicator on the dial, but also includes some key modern updates to its automatic movements.
OMEGA SEAMASTER PLANET OCEAN "BIG BLUE"
With a sturdy case made entirely from a single block of blue ceramic, the Big Blue is a combination dive watch with a second time zone (so you can keep tabs on the time in faraway places). The antimagnetic watch is water-resistant to 600 meters and comes paired with an orange-edged rubber strap textured to look like woven fabric.
omegawatches.com (available December 2017)
BELL & ROSS BR O3-92 DIVER
Bell & Ross adapts a classic watch—featuring the recognizable square shape of its iconic pilot watch—into a new diver that combines the diverse design DNA of its various collections. The self-winding stainless steel watch is antimagnetic and water-resistant to 300 meters.
bellross.com (available June 2017)
TUDOR HERITAGE BLACK BAY STEEL
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.