Whether you're actually exploring the ocean or just love the look, 2020 is a very good year for the classic tool watch.
Water is the eternal nemesis of mechanical watches. Once moisture gets inside, it's pretty much curtains. Dive watches are subjected to the most stringent tests in watchmaking because they must survive potentially life-threatening situations below the waves. If your watch passes all those tests, it’s probably going to be robust enough for you. Call it an abundance of caution, but a watch rated for a dive to 200 or 300 meters will probably not cause you any bother while you're washing the dishes.
Not that that's the only thing that really gets to us about dive watches. There's also the whole mythology of the great subaquatic adventurers, post-ww2, after the aqualung became a viable tool for working (or playing) underwater. As the oceans became the new exploration zone, the watches designed for it were predicated entirely on legibility—any extra embellishment just got in the way of safety—which is why good dive watches are perhaps the best illustrations of the mantra "less is more."
In truth, dive watches resonate best with us (thank you, James Bond) because they smell of adventure. In the 1950s they were among the first (along with pilots' watches) to be made on a larger physical scale than traditional dress watches; more mass meant more strength to resist increased pressure underwater. More mass also made them noticeable from a distance. And of course, what they say about you from a distance is that you're a certain type of tough. Hopefully.
One might quibble forever on what makes a great dive watch and how deep it should go, or how important a helium escape valve is when your most ambitious plunge is a belly flop off a diving board at your folks' pool. The reality is that any serious diver these days would not strap on a scuba tank without also strapping on the kind of digital dive computers—from the likes of Suunto or Cressi—that will convey a hundred more vital things about your dive than simply what time it is. Yet tellingly, many divers still take an analog diver watch with them strapped alongside. Because, you know, just sometimes, batteries run out.
Here are 12 of the best right now.