Divers! We love ’em. I’m wearing a technical diver as I’m writing this — helium escape valve and all. Does it mean I’ve got a diver’s kit packed up, in the boot of my car, ready to go? Not unless you count the defunct photo props I have in a box, dry since 2010. It’s not about the action itself, it’s about knowing you can. We’ll show you some of the best dive watches of 2020 over $10K, safe in the knowledge that you can jump on a plane, charter a speedboat out to an atoll in the Pacific, and jump in. Specially this year, we deserve it, if only for the tingly rush of pre-adventure. But remember, even bone dry, these watches are tough enough to climb that peak too (what do you mean you haven’t got crampons or rope?).
Seiko Prospex 55th anniversary SLA039
Let’s take the bull by the horns: yes, this is a very expensive Seiko, at more than $10K, and you will surely not understand why until you try it on, as I did here. It might still seem expensive, but will blow you away with its Grand Seiko finished Ever-Brilliant steel, and seem way too perfect to strap on for a dive. But trust me, this Grand Seiko in Prospex tool watch clothing might be Japan’s answer to the Fifty Fathoms, with a delicious Hi-Beat movement, but damn, it’s tough. The next move is yours. Seiko Prospex SLA039 is available for $10,500 AUD.
Rolex Submariner 41mm Black
If there is ONE diver impossible to look at without having preconceptions, the Submariner is it. With its metamorphosis into status symbol, and a suited-up image of being the dress watch of 2020, it’s an image equally unfair as it is true. I’ve got news for you, this is a diver, a bona fide tool watch icon. If you concentrate and view the Submariner through an objective lens, you will find a perfectly sized everyday companion, comfort, impeccable build quality and a toughness that will live through any adventure you have packed for. Available for $12,900 AUD.
Grand Seiko SLGA001
THIS. IS. BIG. You can forget about me waxing lyrical about svelte 38mm cases and vintage perfection here, because, frankly, the SLGA001 intimidates me. But try this beast of a diver on, and you are destined to fall for its charms. At 46.9mm x 16mm thick, this is too big for my arms, but I love it: the perfect Zaratsu of the case equally mind-boggling as the light weight. Titanium has a knack of making a watch shrink 2-3 sizes, and with Seiko being the masters of ergonomics, it sits like a glove. A mighty big, armoured glove. But with the new 9RA5 Spring Drive movement and a gorgeous blue dial, it will entrance you. Big is beautiful. The Grand Seiko SLGA001 is available for $16,500 AUD.
Panerai Submersible Azzurro 42mm Limited Edition
42mm can be classed as a small watch in Panerai’s catalogue, and the legendary Submersible is here made more accessible to the lithe of wrist, in a year when the diameter-reduction vibe is still strong. A tasty, fresh blue ceramic bezel insert sets the tone, in this limited edition classic tool. An unashamedly bold case, with the classic Panerai crown protector hiding the strong P.900 in-house movement with a 72-hour reserve. Sleek and battle-ready, with a minimalist highly legible dial, this is robust made metal, Italian style. The Panerai Submersible Azzurro 42mm Limited Edition is available for $9800 USD.
JLC Polaris Mariner Memovox
What a year for Jaeger-LeCoultre — from strong formality to the fresh Polaris Mariner Memovox diver. In an unusual move from JLC, the brilliance of the iconic Memovox alarm function is present in a tough, steel diver with a 300m depth rating. An entrancing blend of two worlds, with a superb dégradé dial intersected by the rotating centre that marks the alarm with a delicious orange-framed lume triangle. The razor-sharp details of the trapezoid indices, the big 6 and 12, and some fresh pops of orange win it for me. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox is available for $27,300 AUD.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Mokarran Limited Edition
Just when you think that a legendary shape can’t be beaten, Blancpain dropped a high-tech dazzlingly green version of the Bathyscaphe, one of the purer visions in the Fifty Fathoms range. With an admirable conservationist theme and a ceramic case, here is a light, tough and unusually bright olive green no-date Bathyscaphe. At only 50 pieces, on its tough NATO strap this undoubtedly sold out rather quickly, and deservedly so. In the dial colour of the year, this 43.6mm diver is a radiantly green take on a icon. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Mokarran Limited Edition is $15,500 USD.
Glashütte Original SeaQ
Delicate, traditional German watchmaking from Glashütte Original, but not as we know it. Their only sports watch is a pitch-perfect rendition of the Spezimatic from the ’60s, a classic skindiver by nature in 39.5mm. The dial captures you, with its navy blue perfection in a sunray finish from their own dial manufacture. Large, crisp lume-filled polished Arabic numerals vie for attention with the bold sword and arrow hands, a swirl of white logo accentuating the bold contrasts. It is the perfect picture of a tool watch, right down to the brushed case with a squared-off lug opening, and almost too pretty to take on a dive. Oh, I forgot to mention that it has the world’s best tool watch coin-edge bezel, studded with diamonds, and a sapphire at 12 o’clock. It’s still a tool, right? The Glashütte Original SeaQ in steel with diamonds is available for $24,550 AUD.
Omega Seamaster Bond 300M
Designed in dialogue with the watch-collecting Daniel Craig, it is idiosyncratic brilliance, with a pure vintage look and the high-tech lightness of grade 2 titanium. There’s 42mm of Omega sharpness: a matte black dial warmed up by the sweetness of tan lume with superb legibility. One of the best details here is the specially constructed Milanese mesh titanium bracelet — tough as steel yet soft as leather — on a secure fold-over clasp. I would go as far as nominating this obsessively detailed and distinctive Seamaster as the best 007-themed Seamaster produced by Omega. Ever. Full stop. The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition is available for $14,025 AUD.