The Battle of the Uber Military Diver’s Watches

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The Battle of the Uber Military Diver’s Watches​

The Mighty Militare and Outstanding OVM
Published by: Samuel Ng
Dec 19, 2020

Introduction

Watch collecting has been popularised as a hobby for many years and this trend has prompted watchmakers to release a wide array of collections that saturate the watch industry. This calls for a thorough examination of the features that go into these timepieces. From unconventional designs to revolutionary themes, there is always something about each collection that caters to the preference of collectors from all walks of life, prompting them to satisfy their watch hunting instincts with an exquisite addition to their collection. Whilst surveying the various collections that watch enthusiasts gather, I came to an interesting revelation that there seems to be one universal dive watch with specific qualities and ethos that is included in almost every collection.

“A dive watch projects, in its broad-shouldered rejection of the unnecessary, the same trustworthy, here-to-get-work done vibe as rolled-up sleeves, a loosened tie, and a (navy blue) jacket thrown over the back of a conference room chair with a devil-may-care disregard of wrinkles.” - Jack Forster, Hodinkee 2019

That Sealed Look

The first ever military dive watch partnership originated from Rolex and its third Submariner iteration, Ref. 6538, which featured a handsome “explorer” dial. This timepiece had been requested by the MOD for its Royal Navy for its divers, during the post-war era. The Crown’s dive watch went through minor modifications for a period of time, including a larger bezel with pronounced grooves for better handling and utilisation of a different alloy of nickel silver instead of plated brass for better durability. The first British military diver served the Royal Navy until 1967 when they opted for Omega’s altered Seamaster 300 for four years.

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(Earliest example of the British Military - a 6538) (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

The modifications done on the short-lived Mil-Spec Seamaster 300 sealed the deal of what would become an icon of its own for many years. Since 1971, this particular iteration has maintained its position as the most recognized and coveted military diver in the watch industry. As the military watch for the Royal Navy during that time, the Seamaster differs from the civilian ones in a few distinct ways:
  1. The inclusion of a Pheon (arrow shape) on the case-back
  2. Features fixed bars instead of conventional spring bars
  3. Encircled “T” on the dial indicating the use of tritium luminance
  4. A mil-spec broad sword-shaped hour hand

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(Not your typical Seamaster 300) (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

These four elements conform strictly to the military purpose and are complemented by several other features on this watch namely the inclusion of its arrow-tip second hand and the use of an unconventional 60-minute marking bezel which sealed its iconic Mil-spec dive watch look for many years. This phenomenon is akin to the way the “Dirty Dozen” W.W.W. conformed to the Army Trade Pattern design and were delivered to the British Military in 1945.

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(The bunch with the Army Trade Pattern) (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

There is no other watch that better encapsulates a classic dive watch design than the “Submariner” look does. From 1971 to 1979, the MOD re-partnered with Rolex and commissioned the current Submariner Ref. 5513 which, of course, did not go without a couple of timely tweaks and improvements that resulted in a whole new army model, the Ref. 5517. The 5517 had not just gotten a sturdier case and wider bezel, it also, for the first time in classic dive watchmaking history, incorporated the above four elements from Omega Seamaster.



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