In the latest in our series of dive watch Q&As, Squale brand manager Andrea Maggi talks about the history of diving watches and the brand’s considerations when it comes to diving watch design.
WatchPro: How have divers’ watches evolved through their history and how do you think we will see them continue to develop?
Andrea Maggi: The evolution of diving watches is something recent compared to other segments of the watchmaking sector and coincides with the beginnings of scuba diving. Squale, which is one of the most outstanding leaders in this unusual world of watchmaking, has been the leading player in this evolution. This adventure really got started in the 1950s with the discovery of the freedom offered by using cylinders in underwater diving. A watch is an indispensable instrument for safe diving and for keeping to the tables during diving. For this reason watches were tested on the wrists of divers who then reported on how the watches performed. Consequently, the design changed from watches with bidirectional bezels, which ran the risk of changing position with a wrong move, to bezels which were safer – known as unidirectional – and then tables were established, which made it possible to design a professional watch for scuba divers. One detail in particular was the automatic movement, which withstood thermal shocks due to sudden changes from hot to cold much better than quartz and another was the water pressure resistance tables. Computers with their many functions have now overtaken the watch in its function as an indispensable instrument. However, a good scuba diver must always use a watch in order to avoid problems. The mechanical mechanisms and their strength do in fact guarantee reliability. In the future we predict that the function of the diving watch will remain indispensable and that its evolution will be in terms of practicality and ease of reading.
WP: What are the fundamental functions that separate a diver’s watch from a standard or outdoorsy model and what are diver’s priorities in a watch?
AM: The basic function of the diving watch is for it to be a reliable instrument that the scuba diver can rely on under water and to calculate immersion times and residence times in the case of decompression. For this purpose, the rotating bezel is essential so that these times can be calculated from the moment the descent begins. Another essential requirement is that the watch can be read clearly even in poor light conditions such as those found in deep waters or the dark waters typical of a lake.
WP: When designing divers’ watches how do you make them commercial and combine a diver’s requirements and elements that will appeal to the general consumer?
AM: In our opinion the priorities listed above – ease of reading the dial in different conditions and reliability should always be borne in mind. These features should never be neglected in the design of a diving watch, which must remain functional for diving when attempting to capture a broader range of clientele. Sometimes we are amazed by certain watches, which are supposed to be for diving and yet they have dials or functions that have nothing to do with the sector. In our latest designs, we are developing watches with more sophisticated features but that are still connected with professional use. For example, I could mention the power reserve indicator or the GMT which, although adding extra functions and making watches more attractive, never lack in the basic requirements of clarity and legibility. Experience and direct contact with scuba divers is the best guarantee. We have always had contact with professional scuba divers (coral fishermen, workers in underwater stations etc) and at the moment we hold the world diving record breaker Michele Fucarino who, in spite of his young age, is not only a record holder for free diving distance but also has extensive knowledge of the diving world and continues to stimulate us to develop products that meet the needs of the modern diver.
WP: When a retailer is thinking about stocking brands with a strong diver’s watch offering what do they tend to be looking for in the watches and why?
AM: The world of diving watches is really full of products and initially one must not deny that the choice also depends on the bracket of the market that our retailer wishes to satisfy. We believe that a serious retailer should find the best to offer his clientele regardless of his spending capacity. We think he should also have a little courage in offering products of independent makes, which can give his clients the sensation of possessing something truly exclusive and sought-after
WP: What do you think has been the most exciting recent development in diver’s watches and why?
AM: There are characteristics that are evident to the consumer such as the use of anti-glare glass, which make it possible to read the dial well and that meet the need for safe reading. In more technical terms, when checking waterproofing, the introduction of new machines, which make it possible to simulate immersion by varying the pressure a number of times and creating thermal shocks, really give great safety as regards waterproofing. They give increasingly reliable products. Of course, behind all this there must always be brands that make a diving watch something beautiful, perhaps even to wear to the theatre, but which still remains basically a reliable instrument.