Some time ago, divers were easily identified out of the water not by their flashy dive resort t-shirts or dive flag bumper stickers, but by their watches. Those individuals sporting a timepiece with spinning silver bezels and sophisticated movements implied they were adventure-seeking aquanauts; disguised cleverly as mechanics, secretaries, teachers and bank tellers. These were the people who went to great depths at sea in their spare time, risked getting the bends and could possibly even have encountered – gasp – sharks! Men and women of action, those who donned a dive watch were unique by default.
Over the course of time, these trademark watches with artfully cluttered dials became stylish and coveted by even the driest land-dweller. Elite businessmen, equestrians, plumbers and even pilots wear them now regardless of if they’ve ever set foot in salt water. Bezels are used more frequently to mark time before the next business meeting rather than to indicate how much time is left before your tank reaches 500 PSI.
Not all of us choose to afford gold-plated extravagant waterproof timepieces like the legendary Rolex Submariner, nor do we wish to risk dropping several thousand dollars accidentally into the depths of the abyss on our next dive. Luckily for you and I, there are some more wallet-friendly options for dive timepieces that won’t sacrifice style or functionality in the process. This year, the Freestyle watch company unveiled two new dive watches just for us: The Aquanaut and the Immersion.
On a recent dive trip, I tested both watches myself and allowed neighboring divers to give them a whirl for their feedback and opinions. Basic, durable and delightfully affordable, these analog watches are great for everyday use and make a good back-up timer for any diver. If they get banged up, so be it. The Freestyle Immersion (around $110) features a simple, unpretentious design that comes equipped with a “NightVision” backlight display. This is perfect for deep dives, low light situations or night diving. I do wish the light would stay on a bit longer after I depressed the button, as it turns of almost immediately after release. The Freestyle Aquanaut (around $100) is a heftier and seemingly more robust model. It doesn’t have a backlight feature, but boasts large luminous hands, numbers and markers that glow for up to 8 hours after seeing the light of day, or your torch for a few minutes.
Both feature the one-way ratcheted timing bezel, which is tight and smooth so it won’t move if accidentally rubbed or bumped during your giant stride entry. They also have the date on the face…an essential when you’re on a dive trip and the days melt blissfully into one another and you just can’t keep track (or don’t want to). Rated to 200 meters, the Immersion and The Aquanaut can more than satisfy the depth needs of any recreational diver. My deepest dive on the trip was only about 85 feet, so I didn’t even come close to testing the 656 – foot depth limit. Another great design consideration is the strap holder. The strap won’t slip out and flop around because of the small oval notch that fits snugly into a hole on the strap-keeper. It works so well, it’s almost difficult to pull out when you want to remove the watch! But this also means the chances of it falling off accidentally are near impossible. We like that!
The first leg of my dive trip was in the Pacific off Southern California, and then we traveled east to the Atlantic and Key Largo, Florida. Naturally, I had to compensate for the three-hour time difference. To my dismay, the Aquanaut’s seemingly cool “oversized locking crown protector” was more fun to look at than to use. The protector worked so well, I found it difficult to change the time and date even with my tiny, nimble fingers after unlocking it. I can only imagine a man with tough, callused fingers trying to accomplish this same task. The other downside is these models were too large for me to wear on my bare wrist. Over a wetsuit sleeve they were fine, but men and women with smaller wrists may have to punch some extra holes on the polyurethane band for best results. These two watch models are not gender-specific, and it seems they may run a bit large for some women.
Twenty-one dives, two oceans and several dive boats later, my cohorts and I concluded that these timepieces will do exactly what they are meant to – keep time in and out of the water in simple analog fashion. Oh, and in case you aren’t satisfied with the bezel as a classifying feature, there is a telltale dive flag imprinted on the face to confirm your identity as a depth-defying adventure seeker! Which watch did I prefer? The Immersion was the best fit for me.
To see Freestyle’s full collection of Dive Watches, visit their website.