Have dive watches just received official formalwear approval? Have dive watches just received official formalwear approval?

Have dive watches just received official formalwear approval?

Jason Marsden

Ever since Sean Connery’s Jame Bond emerged from the ocean in Goldfinger and peeled off his wetsuit to reveal a tuxedo beneath, the question has always been there: should you wear a diving watch with formalwear? (Bond was wearing the Rolex Submariner ref 6538 by the way.) The question arises following the recent launch of the Seiko Prospex SLA053 and SLA059, two new diving watches with special dials that, significantly, happen to come complete with matching cufflinks.

The traditional Seigaiha wave dial pattern is presented in a blue and red version in the SLA053 and SLA059 – both of which are US-release only.  The Seigaiha pattern was first used on ancient Chinese maps to indicate areas of ocean.  Under the tinted lacquer this pattern lends itself very well to both applications from Seiko adding a textural dimension to the dials.  The red dial comes on a traditional steel bracelet and rubber strap, however the 500-piece, limited-edition, black cased and blue dial version, is relegated to just the black rubber strap.


But it’s the pairing of cufflinks with a dive style watch that is intriguing, too, apparently giving some major watch brand endorsement to the dive watch with formal attire trend. It’s particularly notable on the blue dial watch that only comes on the rubber strap – a black bracelet or waterproof leather strap would’ve been more in keeping with the formal luxe theme.

There is perhaps a bigger strategic move for Seiko here, repositioning themselves in the American market.  I recall trips to the States where you barely saw Seiko in watch stores.  These new models were launched on the Seiko Luxe USA website, indicating a higher end positioning and a commensurate prices – the SLA053 is $3,200 USD and the SLA059 is $3,300 USD.  If you are outside the States and try to access without anti-geoblocking you will be quickly redirected to the appropriate site.

But the bigger question here is whether Seiko’s endorsement is another sign than the stylebook balance is tipping.

Today the world is less formal.  Whilst suits are still to be seen, workplaces have all but forgone the tie and everyone is on first name terms.

We are also very technology-immersed, so much of our attention, work and recreation is digitally enabled.  A mechanical watch that is built tough such as a dive watch is the perfect counterpoint.  It will not run flat, break easily or become obsolete in six months.  With many corporate wrists sporting a fitness tracker or Apple watch, a dive watch still conveys an active lifestyle without the technological shackles.

Historically the dress watch would have been the default first, main and perhaps only watch for many.  Truly waterproof dive-capable watches did not become available until arguably the 1950s with the Blancpain Fifty Fathom and Rolex Submariner.  They remained the tools of serious professional divers for nearly another 20 years until Seiko followed up their 1965 62MAS with the now classic 6105, available to US soldiers during the Vietnam conflict and thus bringing a truly waterproof watch to the mass market.

We can’t ignore popular culture either.  Sean Connery’s Gruen Precision 510 was replaced in very short order with a Rolex Submariner in the 1962 screen Bond debut, Dr No.  Meanwhile the more recent Omega Bond partnership further built on the Bond / dive watch association.  Of course, when you are in Mr Bond’s line of work a sturdy, water-capable watch makes a lot of sense. And provides room for an extra gadget or two.

Fashion these days does seem to be increasingly about breaking rules, some may cringe at the faux pas of a dive watch with a tux when a simple time-only dress watch would have been a lot more in keeping with traditional aesthetics.  However, as the Oscars’ red carpet shows, today no one is going to question a Rolex Submariner, GMT, Explorer, or Omega Seamaster paired with a suit or even more formal attire.  Precious-metal dive watches further elevate their formal standing.

My first, and still one of my favourite watches is my stainless-steel Omega Ploprof (pictured at top of the page).  At 279 grams it is about as far away from a svelte, wafer-thin, dress watch as you can get, however, I have on multiple times worn it with formal attire and, in my own twisted sense of style, it kind of works.