What’s The Point Of Precious Metal Dive Watches?
Unexpectedly robust, the category of precious metal dive watches is brimming with tales, tumult, and a healthy dose of, well, why not?
The first gold dive watch arrived in 1969 courtesy of the Rolex Submariner. The latest, Tudor’s duo of Black Bay Fifty-Eight models in 18K and 925 silver, debuted at the Geneva edition of Watches & Wonders 2021 earlier this month.
Although much can be surmised by the bookends, there’s an ocean’s worth of precious metal dive watches to fill the in-between. A sampling: the 2014 re-launch of Ulysse Nardin’s rose-gold Marine Divers, the 2015 Graham Prodive Black & Gold Limited Edition, and the massive 44.6mm Carl F. Bucherer rose gold Patravi ScubaTec Two-Tone from 2020. Plus, there’s the 2007 duet of launches – Omega’s 135-piece limited edition gold re-issue of the Marine 1932 and Blancpain’s rose gold Fifty Fathoms Automatique. More recently, in March, Omega announced its Seamaster 300 Bronze Gold.
“For decades, watch brands have been using precious metals,” said Reginald Brack, an industry expert and former watches and luxury analyst for NPD Group, one of the largest market research firms in the world. “But now they’re reimagining, creating corrosion-resistant alloys and proprietary solutions so you can get all the benefits of stainless steel without the pesky low price."
Some precious metals, like Panerai’s Goldtech, a proprietary alloy that features high percentages of copper and platinum, have yet to make it into the brand’s dive watches. Others, like Tudor, debuted in the dive segment.
“It was a mission the design department took upon themselves,” said a Tudor spokesman, “to find an alloy that would be a 925 silver alloy, but that would keep that incandescence, that white and luminous glow, in the long run. It’s easy to find resistant to corrosion silver alloy, but it’s more difficult to find one that would remain bright. That was the tricky part.”
Prolific watch collector and management consultant living in Portola Valley, California, Gary Getz refuses to test the waters. “In a really good watch, everything fits. Nothing is jarring; the form of something and its utility should match,” the 65-year-old said. Adding, “It’s just not right to me, taking precious metals underwater and banging them into stuff. Clearly, this is a fashion thing.”
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925
Riley Hynes, 24, an e-commerce merchandise analyst living outside of Boston, Massachusetts, tends to agree. He purchased the Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925 the day after it launched. Although he has no intention of taking it to sea, he explained its allure, saying, “One of the things that struck me first about this case was how light in color it is. I wear other silver jewelry, and it’s almost a perfect match, which is an interesting and compelling selling point.”
In fact, Hynes sought out this particular timepiece for its aesthetics, telling Watchonista, “There’s only so much you can do to stainless steel to make it look different.”
Tudor would be pleased to hear that. “With this piece, we are driving away from the purist tool watch, not only using precious metals but adding extra refinement,” said the Tudor spokesman. “It’s still a dive watch, but it also becomes a special precious object with a variety of little details to enjoy as an owner.”
Good as Gold
As is the case throughout periods of crisis, people look to hard assets as a tangible form of wealth. Something else to consider: In August 2020, gold surpassed the $2,000-an-ounce barrier for the first time ever. Since it’s been an undeniably heavy year, why not use lighter, albeit expensive materials?
“It’s absolutely absurd, the concept of gold or platinum in a dive watch,” said Leonardo Solís, 52, the owner of International Guest House Inc. And yet, those sentiments won’t stop him from putting his all gold 40.6mm Rolex Submariner through its paces this week in Hawaii. “I, for one, think yellow gold is the most beautiful metal in the world, but it’s kind of silly,” said the accomplished diver. He went on to note, “Sports watches and gold don’t mix; dive watches don’t fit underwater anymore. I certainly don’t need one and it’s almost a liability to bring something of this nature underwater. But it’s technically beautiful, and it makes me happy. That’s what matters.”
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)