We see four dive watches. Three are digital and one is analogue. What is a dive watch
What is the difference between a dive watch and dive computers?

A dive watch was and is the epitome of wealth, class, and good taste. It is a watch that is rugged, durable, and looks damn good. But what is a dive watch and how was it used underwater? Here we look at dive watches, and how dive computers have now replaced this item in recreational scuba diving.

What is a Dive Watch

According to The Berner’s Illustrated Professional Dictionary of Horology (horology being the study and measurement of time), a diving watch is a ‘watch designed to withstand immersion to a depth of at least 100 m and to satisfy requirements specified in ISO standard 6425.

The ISO’s (the International Organization for Standardization) standard includes having a measuring system to indicate time and duration that needs to be visible in the darkness. In a dive watch, this is the bezel that can be adjusted underwater. It also includes other factors such as shock resistance, salt-spray resistance, anti-magnetic, water resistance, and a condensation test.

An orange faced Doxa Dive Watch
Dive watches need to adhere to strict ISO standards. Photo / Down to Scuba

Diving watches were very popular in the day. It signified wealth, class, and adventure for the wearer. These diving watches were produced under high standards as seen above and by well-known jewelry brands. The dive watches were also used by scuba divers (when diving was a seemingly exclusive sport) along with a depth gauge. By using a time-measuring device and a depth gauge, divers could use the Dive Tables to work out their No Decompression Limits to dive safely.

Read More: What is Decompression Sickness or ‘The Bends?

A Doxa Dive Watch side on
This Doxa dive watch has an extended band to accommodate a wetsuit or dry suit. Photo / Down to Scuba

What is a Dive Computer

Nowadays, a dive watch can be referred to and known as a dive computer. This computer can be worn on the wrist like a dive watch. It will have a digital display and at a minimum, it will tell you the following things underwater:

  • The date
  • The current time
  • The water temperature
  • The current depth
  • The maximum depth you reached on the dive
  • The time elapsed so far during the dive
  • Your No Decompression Limit (NDL) the time you have left at that depth before you absorb too much nitrogen and run the risk of Decompression Sickness (DCS)
  • The oxygen percentage that you will set yourself (most dive computers will automatically be set to Air 21%, but you can change the percentage if you are diving on Enriched Air (nitrox)

Read More: The Best Dive Computers for Beginners

When reading a dive computer after the dive, your dive watch/computer will tell you the following:

  • The date of the dive
  • The time you descended for your dive
  • The average water temperature
  • The maximum depth
  • The duration of the dive
  • The average depth of the dive
  • The oxygen percentage from that dive
  • The surface time that has elapsed since you came up from the dive

Other options in a dive watch/computer can include:

  • A stopwatch
  • A graph to show you the depths of your dive
  • Your No Decompression Limits for your next dive
  • A digital compass

The difference between a dive watch and a dive computer

Nowadays, a diving watch will be left at home in a safe and secure place while you go for a scuba dive. This is because they are often highly expensive items that are worn on-land, and made to be seen and not actually get wet. Brands that make diving watches include; Rolex, Victorinox, Le Jour, Doxa, and Longines.

Divers, nowadays, want their information to be easily and clearly read underwater. So a digital display that can light up; with NDLs, temperatures, oxygen percentages, and of course, depth, is better than a flashy, solid piece of metal. However, that’s not to say that I would say no to wearing both a dive watch and a dive computer!