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Dive watches; Should you go Swiss or Japanese?

Posted on June 08 2020

Dive watches; Should you go Swiss or Japanese?

 

It would be an understatement to say that the Swiss and Japanese watch industry have had a bit of a bitter rivalry with each other for decades. For those who find this information as news, here’s the crux of it. Back in 1927, American inventor Warren Marrison discovered that if you run an electrical current through a quartz crystal, the piezoelectrical properties of the crystal would cause it to beat at a highly precise frequency, allowing it to regulate an electronic oscillator to regulate time. And even more accurately so than mechanical watches. It was this piece of technology that allowed Seiko to beat the Swiss in the Swiss accuracy trials in 1969 and ultimately leading to the decimation of traditional mechanical watchmaking in the 1970s with quartz being the future. It’s safe to say that the quartz crisis triggered by Seiko’s Astron in 1969 nearly wiped out mechanical watches along with many Swiss watch brands that we know and love today as well as many others who were unfortunately relegated into the annals of history, never to be seen or heard from again.

 

 

Fortunately, the art and practice of traditional mechanical watchmaking survived this massacre, thanks largely to the iconic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak designed by one Gerald Genta, it was an angular industrially designed stainless-steel sports watch that at the time (and even now) cost more than a gold watch. What Genta did with the Royal Oak was turn the mechanical wristwatch into a luxury and not a necessity and that, along with a few other bold releases sharing similar design styles such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Vacheron Constantin 222 (Now known as the Overseas) were the saving grace of traditional mechanical watchmaking.

 

 

Needless to say, the Swiss watch industry still has a bit of a chip on its shoulder from this near-death-experience triggered by the Japanese and the rivalry between these two horological giants still rage on till this day. Right off the bat, we’re not here to say who is superior to the other, both of them are equally respectable and coveted in their field of watchmaking, but they both have their own unique way of getting things done. With watches like the Seiko Credor Eichi II, a time only quartz three hander (granted one that was created and developed by a studio established by Philippe Dufour himself) knocking on the door of $100,000, that’s dangerously close to Patek Philippe Annual Calendar money now, being sold out everywhere, you’ll be lucky to even get one in your local A.D there is certainly a demand for high-end Japanese time pieces. Though watches like these are reserved for those who can afford to play the game, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a slice of this beautiful heritage without having to sell your children.

 

 

Enter brands like Seiko, Tissot and Edox, these manufacturers offer you a piece of that colorful history for a fraction of the price of the aforementioned Credor. Similarly priced they are, similar they are not, with 2 of the watchmakers being Swiss and one being Japanese, choosing the right watch for you might no longer just be a question of which one is better than the other, rather which one of these (and by that I mean in the way that they are built, the values and the focuses of each of them as well) relates more to you, your preference and values. To help make that decision less headache inducing, we’ve laid out 3 dive watches, the Seiko Prospex diver SPB071J1, the Tissot Seastar 1000 T1204073705100 and the Edox Skydiver 70s Automatic ED80112-3NM-BUI. Why Dive watches? Well its simple, they’re immensely popular and timeless in design and it’s the design that most if not everyone thinks of when asked about what a luxury watch is (thanks to the Rolex Submariner that has ingrained itself into the minds of practically everyone as the staple/model luxury watch) and also because, well they’re damn good watches and we all love a good diver.

 

 

Granted wearing a watch with an abysmal water resistance rating and never taking it anywhere near the water, apart from maybe a tap when you’re washing your hands seems to be pointlessly overkill. But that doesn’t stop watches like these from being so irresistibly appealing to us. We don’t need a watch with 300m of water resistance, hell we barely even need 50m, we want one and as long as we know this, then that’s alright. Right with that said, let’s get on to the watches and boy are we in for a treat.

 

Seiko Prospex SPB071J1

https://www.h2hubwatches.com/products/seiko-prospex-automatic-spb071j1-mens-watch

 

Being the only Japanese here, the Edox and Tissot being Swiss of course, the Seiko might seem like a bit of a dark horse, and considering the history that Seiko has had with the Swiss watch industry; what with bringing about the equivalent of an apocalypse to the traditional mechanical watches, it’s safe to say that there’s still a bit of bad blood between the two of them. But old grudges aside, the new-bloods will say to let bygones be bygones and we should, otherwise, we’d be too busy crying over spilt milk to have the time to properly appreciate watches like this. And this is it, the new Seiko Prospex diver SPB071J1 PADI special edition. The watch is inspired by Seiko’s recent ‘re-interpretation’ of the classic 62-MAS, their original dive watch that made its debut in 1965. Right off the bat, the most stand-out and eye-catching feature of this watch is unquestionably, the dial. Decorated with a fine gradient wave pattern that fades from blue to an inky black, much like the ocean that starts off blue on the surface but turns into a deep black closer to the abyss. Matching the very blue dial is a blue-rimmed serrated bezel which I must say really gives a lot more to look at on this already handsome watch. Powering the SPB071J1 is Seiko’s proprietary in-house 6R15 automatic caliber. It operates at 3Hz (21,600 VPH) offers a respectable 50 hours of power-reserve and can be hand-wound with hacking seconds as well. The watch comes at a very comfortable 42.6mm in diameter which should fit nicely on most wrists, with a water resistance of 200m and protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal as well for added sweetness.

 

 

Of course, no Seiko diver is complete without a generous application of lume and in this case, unlike most of Seiko’s models, the watch features 2 shades of the brand’s proprietary Lumibrite material. And this results in an incredibly legible and visually enjoyable time-telling experience when the lights go out. Of course, unless you’ve been reading this article with your eyes closed, the watch is also a special edition, made in collaboration with Seiko’s long-time partner and diving association PADI. The SPB071J1 exemplifies everything there is to love about Japanese watchmaking, which is often stereotyped as a very spartan and utilitarian no thrills and frills affair. With a beautifully patterned dial and multi-colored lume pips, paired with a proper performance diver that is built and finished with uncompromising quality and control, the SPB071J1 might just be the watch that’ll make you fall in love with Japanese watchmaking. 

 

Tissot Seastar 1000 Powermatic 80 T1204073705100

 

https://www.h2hubwatches.com/products/tissot-seastar-1000-powermatic-80-t1204073705100-mens-watch

 

Moving away from Japan, to the quiet town of Le Locle, home of an industry giant; Tissot. Tissot as a brand needs no introduction, founded in 1853 just 5 years after Omega and over 50 years before Rolex, the brand has been producing reliable high-quality mechanical timepieces for over a century and a half. The brand is now known more for being a creator of affordable and reliable Swiss-made luxury timepieces, and for good reason. With the brand being acquired by the Swatch group in 1983, which was at the time the largest watch producer and distributor in the world, meant that it had all the budgets and resources that it needs to create and develop properly good timepieces, which it has done over the years. And that brings us to this, the Tissot Seastar 1000 Powermatic 80 T1204073705100, a proper example of a fine affordable Swiss made diver.

 

 

The Tissot Seastar 1000 is an elegant watch for watersports lovers, though that term might be a bit of an oxymoron considering the large bezel, relatively large case size at 42mm, and on a rubber strap or stainless-steel bracelet. It certainly isn’t a brash watch nor is it exactly reserved either, it’s just a well-balanced sporting timepiece from one of the best affordable swiss luxury names in the market. With a uni-directional rotating bezel, simple and legible dial and a water resistance of 300m the Seastar 1000 is a proper no-nonsense diver that would fit right in beneath the waves or under the cuff of a suit. Powered by Tissot’s Powermatic 80 automatic movement with as the name suggests, 80 hours of power reserve no less, the Seastar 1000 is certainly a strong contender carrying the values and traditions of proper Swiss watchmaking in this modern era.

 

Edox Skydiver Automatic ED80112 3NM BUI

https://www.h2hubwatches.com/collections/edox/products/edox-skydiver-automatic-ed80112-3nm-bui-mens-watch-1

 

And the last representative on our list today is the Edox Skydiver 70s ED80112 3NM BUI, which to the untrained eye, might look, at first glance to be yet another Submariner clone. And you wouldn’t technically be wrong to make that assumption especially with the dial layout, with the circles, triangles and bars and even the Mercedes hour hand as well matching that of the Submariner. So, what is this then? If not a copy of an already highly faked and replicated design, what exactly does this watch have to offer? Before we delve into that, we might need to look back in order to understand the conception of this watch better. The name Edox might carry as much gravitas as its other Swiss counterpart mentioned previously, and that is because it was one of the few who was nearly wiped out by the quartz crisis. It traded hands and moved from location to location, between the 1970s to 1983 during which the brand was more or less trapped in limbo, not yet dead, but not exactly alive either. And at the end of the Swiss downturn in 1983, Edox finally regained independence and has been recovering from the crisis since, though like many others, it never truly managed to recover its former glory.

 

 

And now on to the watch, styled like the most popular luxury watch in the world (don’t deny it, it just is) and christened a rather, opportunistic name which might sound like a bit of a misnomer under the presence of the Tissot and even the Seiko. Yet there is more to this watch than meets the eye, firstly, the name; Skydiver 70s I’d imagine you’re picturing a Marine or SAS hurling themselves off an AC130 and into the ocean behind enemy lines. And you’d be half right, well sort of, it all started with a saying that a drawing was found in Edox’s archives with a note that read; “1973 Special production in strictly limited edition”. Then more light is shed by an undisclosed watchmaker revealing that it was made at the request of an undisclosed Colonel who wanted a watch for his unit but swore the brand to secrecy. And well I guess the cat is out of the bag now, and in this we’ve got a brand that has actual intriguing military connections taking a nod at their own history. Either that or it might just all be fluff, but there might be some grain of truth there? I don’t know and I doubt many would know either but what this does leave us with is a watch with a narrative that makes you want to take a closer look at it. I’ve already mentioned the dial design of the Skydiver 70s and yes, the parallels with the Submariner are bright as day, but it’s a design that works and keeps things highly legible. The bezel is, like the Submariner as well in scratch resistant ceramic (a rather uncommon sight for a watch especially at this price point) with a lume pip to top it off. The watch is powered by the Edox Caliber 80 which is based off of a Sellita SW200 giving the watch a respectably high frequency of 4Hz (28,800VPH), 38 hours of power reserve, with hacking and hand winding as well. If you’re looking for a proper Swiss made diver with a rather intriguing history and with classic (Submariner) aesthetics, the watch could be one hell of a deal, all things considered.

 

 

You may have noticed, that all of these watches, although rather similar on paper, 42mm in diameter, divers, automatics and with only the time and date, they are in fact, vastly different. The Seiko may be the most flamboyantly designed of the three (ironically) thanks to its blue colored dial and bezel, but is still a proper modern tool watch that you can truly count on. The Edox and the Tissot are capable of the performance that the Seiko offers (more in fact with an added 100m of water resistance) and yet they offer something a bit more than being just tool watches, they offer an almost artistic and intriguing insight into what traditional mechanical Swiss watchmaking was and is today. These watches can trade blows all day long, the Edox’s 4Hz frequency beating out both the Seiko and the Tissot’s 3Hz but sacrificing power-reserve as a result and the Seiko being the only one powered by an actual in-house made caliber. So, what does this mean then? Do we simply go for the Seiko because its in-house movement puts it at an inherent advantage over the Tissot and the Edox? No, it’s much more than that, to be able to have these watches and have a dilemma like this is truly a moment to savor after all, if we all bought watches with our heads, we wouldn’t even have a watch at all in this day and age, and who would want to live in a world like that?

By Miguel Ang

Being fascinated with watches since he was 16, Miguel has always been looking to share his passion and knowledge in horology with a like minded community. Over the years, he joined H2hub as a Community Manager, and is able to share his passion and thoughts on horology through our platforms and blog-posts that we hope that you will enjoy, and gain something out of.