Rolex Submariner: the global icon
Let’s get this out of the way. It is simply impossible to talk about dive watches without mentioning Rolex. Indeed the brand has seen many crowning achievements since its inception, starting with the first ever waterproof watch in the Rolex Oyster. The first Submariner (or Oyster Perpetual Submariner as it was originally named), launched in 1953, took it a step further and was among the first commercially available dive watches that was capable of reaching a depth of 100 meters, or 330 feet.
This technological feat is nothing short of amazing, but the single most important driver to its stunning popularity is its becoming the “James Bond watch” from 1962. Sean Connery was the first Bond to wear the iconic watch, in Dr. No and 3 subsequent Bond films. Subsequently, on Roger Moore’s wrist the Submariner entered the secret agent’s dazzling arsenal of special gadgets, equipped with a circular saw that eventually saved his life in Live and Let Die.
Since its birth, the Submariner has seen many updates and iterations, including the classic ref. 5513. Even though the original technological achievement has long been superseded by the likes of Deep Sea Dweller, thanks to its appearance on the silver screen, the Rolex Submariner is still arguably the most famous watch that has ever existed.
2. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms: the blueprint dive watch.
As you may discover soon, the history of dive watches is basically a history of who can lay claim to the many of the “firsts”. While many would consider the Rolex Submariner as the first diver watch ever, there is a legitimate contender for that claim: The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, released in 1953, the same year when Submariner came out. One could even argue that Fifty Fathoms is THE original dive watch, as it debuted many innovations before the Submariner.
This is all made possible by the then Co-CEO of Blancpain Jean-Jacques Fiechter, who was one of the early pioneers of scuba diving, a leisure sport then in its naissance. As a passionate diver, Fiechter was troubled by the lack of a proper diving watch, which was deemed too niche a market by watch companies to invest time and money into. He took on the task himself and engineered many features that would become the staple of many dive watches to come, including case back and crown gasket, rotating bezel that can only be turned when pressed down, and legible and luminous markers.