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Is your dive watch REALLY so tough?

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Published on 08-18-2010 04:43 PM

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So you just received that totally macho hunk of stainless steel which you've lusted after for months or even years. It's the coolest dive watch ever. This thing has got to be the sturdiest piece of horological testosterone ever made! You're thinking "Chicks will instantly dig me". It'll make those sissy gold dress watches cower in fear when you post it in the daily wrist check thread, right?
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dive watch fantasy life:
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Not so fast tough guy. Let's inject some fact into your fantasy that dive watches are more rugged than dress watches - or any other watch.

The first and obvious argument is water resistance. This is a no-brainer since a real dive watch has a minimum rating of 100 meters but is actually tested to 125% of that depth per ISO 6425 standards. This is a much more stringent series of tests than what's done per ISO 2281 for simple water resistance. ISO 2281 allows batch sample checking for a certain model, while ISO 6425 requires each individual watch to be certified. That's a definite benefit... if you actually dive. But what if you aren't a real diver? It's a safe estimate that 95% of the people who own dive watches will never go deeper than the bottom of their pool, and most only to the dark depths of a desk drawer or file cabinet. Kind of defeats the purpose of increased water resistance, doesn't it Mr. Pseudo-Cousteau?

Per ISO 6425, the spring bars are also checked by pulling the strap with 45 lbs of pressure. Since pretty much the same spring bars are used on all watches there isn't any real advantage shown with that test.

Gotta be the screw down crown then. Everyone knows that's money when it comes to sealing out the elements. Uh, nope! That's just another myth. It's about the seals and gaskets. Lots of watches can pass dive watch testing with regular old push-in crowns.

dive watch reality check:
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But there's a lot more to it, isn't there? Why, yes.... there sure is. For instance, shock testing is exactly the same for every watch. The standard is defined by ISO 1413 and nearly every watch meets this requirement no matter what their designation is (flieger, diver, dress, etc.). The test is a simulated drop of 1 meter onto a hardwood surface using a pendulum-mounted plastic hammer. The hammer strikes the case on the 9:00 side once, and then strikes the crystal once with the same force. The watch is then tested to see if it's accuracy is consistent. Furthermore, ISO 764 is the criteria for anti-magnetism and all modern watches pass this too. There's no need to modify or improve the key components involved since parts like hairsprings are already made from alloys that go well beyond the minimum standards set.

beauty and the beast - but which one is which?
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Okay, so there's no advantage to owning a dive watch when it comes to anti-magnetism and shock resistance. Hold on! How about that hardy stainless steel case? It SURELY can take triple the abuse of a solid gold dress watch, right? Well, um..... no it can't. While gold in it's pure state is very malleable and soft, it can be nearly as hard as stainless steel when alloyed with other metals. Even more surprising is that 18 ct gold can be harder than stainless steel if the case is annealed after casting. A typical stainless steel watch case has a hardness of approximately 200 Vickers compared to 170 - 230 Vickers for an annealed 18 ct gold case. The actual hardness of the gold depends on what other metals are used in the alloy's formula.

So in the end, exactly what extra benefit does that 1,000 meter mass of manliness get you? If you're the average Joe you can time steaks on your grill with that awesome rotating bezel. Woo-hoo!
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Is your dive watch REALLY so tough?
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