Let me make something crystal clear: I’m not a watch fundamentalist. I don’t live by the strict rule that you can only wear an X-type watch when you are doing an X-type of activity. If I did, I probably couldn’t wear any of the watches in my modest collection. Since I’m not flying a spacecraft, I wouldn’t allow myself to wear my Speedmaster, for instance. But — yes, there is a “but” here — there are limits when it comes to the initial function and purpose of a watch, the execution of it, and the way it’s being worn. After seeing the unveiling of a classic dive watch in an exotic alloy last year, I first thought of putting together an article about dive watches for shallow people. Visiting Watches and Wonders 2024 made me decide it was finally time to write it.

It’s probably not hard to guess when I decided to write “Shallow Dive Watches For Shallow People.” Did the lead image give it away? There’s a big chance it did. Still, if you watched the news coverage on Watches and Wonders 2024, I’m quite sure you also saw Rolex’s latest version of its Deepsea and had a few thoughts on it. In so many ways, it is a mind-boggling watch. In steel, the Deepsea is already something special. Rolex calls it an “extreme diver’s watch” on the brand’s website, a watch that was specifically designed for those who push the boundaries of underwater exploration.” The Deepsea, launched in 2008, is indeed a very capable dive instrument. It can dive as deep as 3,900 meters/12,800 feet, for instance. And there’s more that says “tool watch.”

Dive Watches

Dive watches for shallow people: withstanding peer and water pressure

The spec list of the Rolex Deepsea is impressive. There are many features professional saturation divers seek in a mechanical dive watch. For instance, it is outfitted with a helium escape valve. There’s also an abundance of luminous material on the dial that helps in the ocean’s dark depths, and the practical and patented Oysterlock safety clasp with the Glidelock extension system is also handy for divers at work. The watch can withstand three tonnes of pressure, but in most cases, the Deepsea needs to withstand the pressure of its wearer’s peers; is this the “right” watch to show up with at the beach club?

The Deepsea is a statement. It is not only a statement of excellence from its creator but also a statement of style and status. That’s the case for a lot of Rolex models. But a 40 × 12.5mm Daytona in steel — what about this watch as a style and status statement? — wears objectively better than a 44 × 17.7mm Deepsea, which is also significantly heavier than the famous chronograph. I can’t help but see the Deepsea on someone hitting the boulevard instead of the ocean floor as a misplaced expression of style and status. In everyday situations, it’s just too much in every way. And then, in a meeting room inside the Rolex headquarters in Geneva, someone with decision-making power said, “Hold my beer.”

Dive Watches

What was on Rolex’s mind?

When I called the Deepsea heavy, I was referring to its 212g weight. Now, that’s heavy for a watch. But that didn’t stop Rolex from building the 322g yellow gold Deepsea ref. 136668LB. Why did Rolex create this watch in a precious metal with a blue dial and matching blue ceramic bezel? Also, who is this €54,200 creature aimed at? Well, when I asked, the answer was that different markets have different tastes. I didn’t hear that professional divers found out that a large gold watch scares away the monsters of the deep while performing their hazardous work.


Image: Christie’s

There was also no mention of the experimental 1950s Deep Sea Special made of steel and gold. When I asked about a possible logical connection between the old and the new watch, I learned that a connection was never on Rolex’s mind. Hey, I was just trying to make sense of the madness.


Yes, I know gold dive watches from Rolex are no novelty, but at least previous precious metal releases had standard proportions. The 41mm yellow gold Submariner Date ref. 126618LN might be a bit much for my taste, but it can slip under the cuff. The 44mm Deepsea in the same material is the equivalent of a gold-wrapped John Deer tractor that won’t fit in any parking garage. Wherever it goes, people will gawk at the gaudy monster that puts all other John Deere tractors to shame.


The underwater tourbillon and other specimen

This article focuses on a 2024 novelty from Rolex, but it doesn’t single it out. There are many more examples of thought-through, well-engineered, and capable dive watches that only serve as ornaments for shallow people (or, at least, non-divers). How about the Breitling Superocean Automatic 42 in pink gold? And maybe the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Paris 2024 also qualifies because of its Olympic association. The €32,500 Tudor Black Bay 58 18K on its solid gold three-row bracelet is also not to be overlooked.

Dive watches

When looking to the past, the 44mm titanium Girard-Perregaux Seahawk Flying Tourbillon comes to mind. Indeed, questionable watches are by no means a new phenomenon. And that leads me to dive watches with tourbillons. As silly as it sounds, I did see a dive watch with a tourbillon put to good use once. It was a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon 8 Jours in a 45mm white gold case on a black NATO strap on the wrist of Marc Hayek while doing a little diving off the coast of Nice. The President and CEO of Blancpain is the exception that proves the rule.

The tourbillon Hayek’s wrist leads me to two other Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watches. The first is a full-blooded, innovative dive watch that can’t be used as a status symbol in any luxurious setting and is a logical evolution of the original Fifty Fathoms dive watch. It’s the 47mm titanium Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa, which, thanks to the combination of the three-hour hand and bezel, allows tech divers to track dives lasting up to 180 minutes. But I seriously doubt if the recently introduced 42mm Fifty Fathoms Automatique in red gold will ever see some serious underwater action, even though it comes on a rubber strap.

Dive Watches

Dive watches for shallow people: the final plunge

So, yes, the dive watch is the ideal “daily beater,” and it’s okay if you never go diving with it. I mean, most experienced divers these days will produce a large frown, look at you like you’re crazy for wearing a dive watch underwater, and probably ask if the thing is waterproof. Why? Because divers use dive computers to aid them underwater instead of a luxury watch.

The gold Deepsea crossed a line like no other exotic/obnoxious/hyperbolic dive watch before. It shook me and left me dead in my seat during the press conference, and the explanation from the Rolex staff also didn’t help me understand why this watch had come to exist. Now, after finding some time to organize my thoughts, it was time to express myself. I’m sorry if I offended anyone or hurt someone’s feelings with this article. The “blame” really is on Rolex for launching such a provocative watch. I just had to get my thoughts out of my system, and I’m sure you’ll do the same in the comments below.