Saturday, February 14, 2009

How to choose the perfect dive watch

Years ago, when you saw a scuba diver wearing a dive watch, you considered that diver a professional. The watch was the mark of a grizzled diving veteran; a medal of sorts, earned with experience. Any diver who wore one must surely have known what they're doing submerged in the dark waters of the ocean. But, times have changed. Most divers have traded their dive watches for dive computers that are capable of much more. But, there exists a culture who enjoys the nostalgia a dive watch offers. Eschewing the computers used by others, these divers buy and wear their watches like a vintage timepiece. Below, we'll discuss what to look for when shopping for the perfect dive watch.

Understanding water resistance
When you see a dive watch that is water resistant up to 100 meters, you may think that the watch should be good enough for local, shallow dives. But, before you take your wallet out, understand that water resistance is measured without many of the external forces and pressures a watch experiences during a dive. They're tested in a controlled atmosphere. To ensure your dive watch is sufficient for the dives you're planning, only buy a watch that is water resistant to at least 200 meters. Also, the watch should be either titanium or stainless steel because these materials are resistant to the ocean's pressure (as opposed to gold).

The undirectional bezel
Despite its long name, the unidirectional bezel is simple in its operation. Most high-quality watches include the bezel. Its main purpose is to allow the diver to measure how long they've been submerged. Because the air in a diver's tank is limited, not knowing the length of time they've been underwater can be dangerous. The bezel sits atop the dive watch and includes a pointer that can be aligned with the minute hand of the watch at the beginning of a dive. It rotates counter-clockwise and is typically used to measure the length of the entire dive (though some divers use the bezel to monitor different dive profiles).

Solutions for less-than-perfect vision
Because the main purpose of a dive watch is to monitor the duration of time spent underwater, the ability to actually see your watch (and the bezel) is critical. Older divers and those with minor vision problems should consider wearing contact lenses during their dive. Some dive watches are available with larger bezels that are easier to see underwater. So, if a diver has trouble focusing their vision, the larger bezels can help them monitor their progress. Also, look for watches that are uncluttered. A clean display with few distractions may be a better choice than a dive watch with a cluttered face.

Consider it an investment
Your dive watch will look great and provide an air of experience. But, most importantly, it will help you monitor the time you've spent underwater. That way, you can avoid running out of air or having to make a rapid ascent to the surface. If you're planning to buy a dive watch, avoid cheap models. Spend the extra money to buy a Citizen, Swiss Army or Tag Heuer watch. They're constructed well and have little chance of failing. Remember, the main function of your dive watch is to keep you safe. Saving a few dollars by buying a cheaper watch could literally put your life in danger. Buy a good watch that is water resistant to at least 200 meters and learn to read the unidirectional

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