HANDS-ON: The return of the Rainbow Diver Limited Edition! The 2021 Mido Decompression Timer 1961Zach Blass
Let’s take a quick dip into diving watch history. The brands who really birthed the category as we know it today are Rolex/Tudor and Blancpain – who each began production of their dive watches in 1953 (it should also be noted that Zodiac introduced their Sea Wolf diver in 1953 as well). Brands such as Omega with their Seamaster watches, Panerai with the Radomir, and Mido with the Multifort (1935) and Ocean Star (1944), had created watches prior to the 50s that were described as “waterproof”, but their designs did not have the purpose-driven characteristics we have become familiar with today (i.e timing bezels).
Following on from the Rolex/Tudor Submariner and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, which became a framework for many brands to re-interpet, came the Breitling Superocean ’57 (1957), LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm (1959), Longines Skin and Super Compressor Divers (1959), and Omega Seamaster 300 (1957). Aesthetically they were all very distinguishable in certain respects, such as the hands, fonts, and case shapes/diameters, but they all leveraged rather plain utility-driven designs that typically had black colour schemes. Mido, however, understood that playful colour and functionality could go hand in hand.
While the Mido Ocean Star, and its revolutionary AQUADURA sealing system that protected it, had the visual cues of a standard wristwatch, in 1961 Mido officially introduced their decompression diver with retrograde division bezels and black and white dials that framed a central rainbow decompression scale. The colorful dials really stood apart from many of the dive watches of the 60s. In the wake of its rainbow-schemed dial, some brands like Edox would bring some aspect of colour to their divers in the mid 60’s and DOXA would close the era out with its debut of the colorful SUB 300T at Baselworld in 1967.
To be fair, the Mido Ocean Star didn’t just stand out aesthetically, but technically as well. At the time, cases were usually made in three sections, but Mido developed a case made as a single piece, known as a “monocoque” case. – eliminating one of the three crucial water ingress points found in standard watch constructions at the time, the caseback in particular. According to Mido: “The legendary monocoque case has been constantly in production since 1959 and still exists today on the brand’s current models. This invention, and that of the Aquadura system, secured the brand’s fame as the ‘King of Waterproof’ watches at the time.”
The moral of the story is the Mido Decompression Timer of 1961 and its modern reinterpretations introduced over the last couple of years, still remain distinct and durable divers to this day. Let’s dig into the 2021 Mido Decompression Timer 1961 Limited Edition to find out why.
The Mido Ocean Star Decompression Timer 1961 Limited edition clocks in at 40.5mm in diameter and 13.4mm thick (partly due to the vintage-inspired boxed sapphire glass that protects the dial). These are wrist-manageable dimensions that wear well on many wrist sizes. Its fully polished stainless steel case has elegance to its finish, but remember this watch means business with a crown guard protected screw-down crown that ensures its water-resistant to 200 metres. The watch deviates from its original design with a aluminum turquoise retrograde division bezel that is arguably more legible than the black on steel bezel found on the vintage model. The timing scale is inverted to better correspond with the decompression scale on the dial, numerals, dashes, and dots surrounding the beige SuperLuminova® filled luminous pip that matches the neutral SuperLuminova® found on the flat diamond-cut hours and minutes hands, as well as the horizontal rectangular hour indices that run the full perimeter of the dial (including 3’).
Speaking of the dial, with the 2021 limited edition we are treated to a silvered white configuration that frames the highly legible rainbow decompression scale. Having a rainbow colour scheme may seem like an aesthetically driven choice, but it is in reality a utility-driven decision – colour coding the various decompression scales for the diver wearing it to quickly discern.
Mido explains: “There are four concentric coloured rings, from the centre: yellow, green, pink and blue. Each ring corresponds to a dive depth. A vertical scale at 12 o’clock is used to select the ring corresponding to the dive depth. The depths are indicated in metres 25/30/35/40, with the corresponding depth in feet 80/95/110/130. The retrograde division rotating bezel can be used as a Timer for decompression. Turn the bezel until the numeral corresponding to your decompression is aligned on the minute hand. When the minute hand reaches 0 (luminescent spot on the bezel), you can return to the surface.”
Due to its proximity in colour, the date complication at 3’ blends well into the dial with its black on white disc. In the innermost central medallion of the dial, you’ll find quarter hour Arabic numerals, with the remaining hours signalled by hashes, and the original Mido logo applied to further add the air of elegance to this robust vintage-inspired watch.
A huge value-add for the price point, the Mido Decompression Timer 1961 Limited Edition is bundled with three straps: a polished stainless-steel mesh bracelet, a turqouise blue fabric strap to match the bezel, and a light brown leather strap with “Patina” finishing. The strap is not integrated, which may irk some modern taste pallets, but it is befitting of a re-issue as the original watch also did not have a bracelet that sat flush to the case. As someone who likes to wear a watch snug, I really appreciate the switch to a mesh strap with a safety catch. This means you can really fine tune the size to the millimeter, and you are not beholden to the spaces of buckle/pin holes.
The strap that will most modernize the look is the turquoise blue fabric strap, which you would have not seen on dive watches of the era. While a re-issue, there is no shame in playing it off as a modern watch – because ultimately it is a watch made in the present. It injects even more fun into the aesthetic, creating a bold splash of colour that really ties into the case and dial aesthetic well. Look closely, you will even notice the stitching at the top of each end of the strap is executed in the four colours of the scale – a small yet welcome playful detail. As a fabric strap, it is also a robust and comfortable alternative to the mesh bracelet should you prefer it. It is secured to the wrist via a familiar pin/buckle system, the buckle machined in case matching polished stainless steel
My one critique, of this whole package really, would be the patinated light brown leather strap. I know Adrian at Bark & Jack probably wants to call a hit on me every time I say this, but I just don’t understand dive watches worn on leather. For me it has always been a case of someone buying a vintage diver that didn’t include the bracelet. Ultimately, I guess it is an option to dress up a watch but I think, as a third strap, a tropical rubber strap would have been more befitting of dive watches from the era and the purpose this modern watch ultimately serves.
Whichever of the three straps you enjoy most, the good news is that you can quickly switch between them with ease thanks to quick release spring bars anyone can master. Simply pull the tab with your finger, and the strap will detatch from the case. This means you don’t have to commit to any of the three, within seconds each day you look to put it on you can quickly detach then attach whichever strap picks your fancy that day. An easy, yet still solid and secure, system strap monster lovers will definitely appreciate.
Beneath the solid screwed caseback, decorated with a stamped sea star logo in relief, is the Mido caliber 80 (based on the ETA C07.621). It ticks away at 21,600 vph and boasts a power reserve longer than what you would find with Rolex, Tudor, and Omega with an incredible 80 hours of power reserve. Spoiler alert: this watch is priced at $1,300 USD and $1,800 AUD, so the fact it boasts eight or more hours of power reserve than many watches over three times its price is a genuine testament to the value of this limited edition. In terms of accuracy, the watch is not listed as COSC certified, but Mido has disclosed that the watch is adjusted in three positions so there should be a quality level of accuracy afforded to the wearer. While you can’t see it, the Elabore-grade movement has industrially finished Geneva stripes and perlage, with a decorated oscillating weight that carries the Mido name.
2021 Mido Decompression Timer 1961 Limited Edition pricing and availability:
The Mido Ocean Star Decompression Timer 1961 Limited Edition is limited to 1,961 pieces and is priced at $1,800 AUD.
Time+Tide Watches will have a limited number of the Ocean Star Decompression Timer 1961 available for sale to Australian customers from October 15th, for further information please contact [email protected]
For more information on the watch click here.
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