Bulova Oceanographer Snorkel 666 Feet — The Return Of The Devil Diver
There are several divers from the ’60s and ’70s that are still charming today. Think of the Doxa Sub 300, the Longines Skin Diver, or the Bulova Oceanographer, for example. These are fantastic vintage pieces that are sturdy and rugged vintage tool watches. There’s something else they all have in common too — they all have re-editions.
The Longines Skin Diver came out a few years ago, and the market loved it. Doxa has made many reinterpretations of the Sub 300 as well. Lately, we have seen the release of the carbon Sub 300. Bulova has an extensive vintage portfolio from dive watches to LED watches and more. It was only a matter of time before the brand reached back and pulled out one of their fantastic vintage timepieces like the Oceanographer.
The story of Bulova’s quest to create excellent diving watches is a long one. To understand this release, there are a few key moments in that fascinating history. The brand released its first dive watches in 1961. This was the dawn of recreational diving, and Bulova realized the opportunity of this expanding new market. The Snorkel came seven years later and quickly became the most popular model in the brand’s catalog. It featured a crosshair dial and applied pearl-like luminescent indexes.
…the Oceanographer Snorkel was also a Devil Diver.
Like the models before, the Oceanographer Snorkel was also a Devil Diver. The name referred to every dive watch by Bulova with a depth rating of 666 feet (203m) instead of 600 feet (which was the standard at the time). We covered the original vintage model in this article.
The early Devil Divers came in compressor cases built by legendary case maker Ervin Piquerez SA, also known as EPSA. The new Oceanographer doesn’t have a compressor case anymore, but the depth rating remains 200m. The size has grown a bit from 41mm to 44mm. As such, the Oceanographer is a prominent watch on the wrist, no question about that. 46mm is the lug tip to lug tip length, and it comes in at 15.9mm thick.
…the crown and the case back are screw-down.
Other than the size, the watch looks virtually identical to the vintage model. It has the same C-shape case with polished surfaces, which can be a bit of a scratch magnet. The back has brushed and polished parts. As you’d expect on most dive watches, the crown and the case back are screw-down. There is no unnecessary helium valve or any other structural weak spot in the case construction.
From Resin to Acrylic
The case back design is also very similar to that of the vintage model. This time we have much more information. The usual suspects are there, such as the glass (sapphire crystal) and case (steel) materials, alongside the depth rating. Furthermore, you can find the reference for the timepiece there as well.
The vintage Oceanographer had a resin bezel insert; the new one has an acrylic inlay.
Let’s go back to the front of the case for a second. The original Devil Diver had 2-color bezel, matching the dial. In this case, it was black (like the dial) and red for the first 15 minutes (the same color as the crosshair). The new edition is just the same with only one difference. The vintage Oceanographer had a resin bezel insert; the new one has an acrylic inlay. It looks just as smooth and shiny as resin, but it’s more durable and won’t crack.
Black and Red
The number one requirement of a dive watch is legibility. The dial, bezel, and hands must be easy-to-read in low light conditions. As such, the Bulova Oceanographer has lume filled large hands. While the vintage model had a red second hand with a lollipop, this 2018 version has the same style hand but in silver. A shame really, as I think the red hand works well aesthetically with the red crosshair and the 120-click bezel.
…the three-dimensional lume-filled indexes that resemble little pearls
Speaking of which, the same crosshair pops up on the new version. Another remarkable detail of the dial is the three-dimensional lume-filled indexes that resemble little pearls. You can find 11 of them on the dial. Only the 3 o’clock marker is missing to make way for the date. For easier readability of the date window, the sapphire crystal has a square cyclops in it.
Bulova used to be Swiss Made, and the vintage Devil Divers had an in-house movement. Since Bulova belongs to the Citizen Group now, the caliber inside the Oceanographer is not Swiss any more. It’s a Miyota’s 821D-21B. Although purists may find this detail off-putting, the 821D-21B does, at least, have a couple of similarities to the vintage caliber.
…it should be comfortably up to the task.
The 821D is also a mechanical, self-winding movement with a date complication. Unfortunately, that’s about it. The Miyota is Japanese-made, has an operating frequency of 21,600, 21 jewels, and a power reserve of about 42 hours. But don’t worry: The caliber 821D is a workhorse movement. Its performance is not going to win any awards but it should be comfortably up to the task.
We need to talk a bit about the bracelet as well. Just like the rest of the watch, the bracelet is also an accurate aesthetic replica of the vintage. The center-links are satin-brushed while the side links are polished. The butterfly clasp has safety buttons and an extra fold-over protector as well.
Price et al
One of the best features of the Bulova Oceanographer is its price. You can get one for €599. This is a lot of watch for the money. The Devil Diver is sturdy and wears great. To tell you the truth, it feels like a quality, higher-end piece. If you can get used to the size, you’d love this piece. Bulova offers an additional green Oceanographer in this size for a pop of color. There, the dial is green with a green and black bezel.
…you will not be disappointed if you are a fan of throwback tool watch design…
For those of you who love smaller watches, the Oceanographer comes in a 41mm version in 2 colors. Both smaller models come with a black dial and are fitted with either a black or red bezel. However, if you fancy the vintage look, you have to settle with the topic of this article in the larger size. Either way, you will not be disappointed if you are a fan of throwback tool watch design like I am. If you’d like to visit Bulova’s website, please click here.