There’s a quote, possibly apocryphal, attributed to the great J. B. S. Haldane in response to questions about what could be learned of the Creator from the study of nature; Haldane responded only that he could deduce that He must have had an “inordinate fondness for beetles.” I’ve previously used this quote to describe my enjoyment of cephalopod mollusc-related watches, but it might more accurately be misappropriated to cover my fondness for dive watches.
When IWC announced earlier this year that they were planning to update their Aquatimer range, there were rumours that this might include a new depth gauge watch, perhaps a Deep Three. This was substantiated recently by SJX late last year (yesterday) and confirmed today by IWC themselves, although no photos of that model have so far been released. What has been announced is an innovative internal bezel system (SafeDive) that appears to be set using the enlarged, chunky external bezel; a neat trick that appears to have been applied to all the watches in the range (the 2000m Aquatimer, the Automatic, the Chronographs, the massive Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month and the Deep Three).
IWC uses the same language to describe the capabilities of the Deep Three (Ref. IW355701) as previous models, so it’s likely to be more of a cosmetic / incremental improvement than a wholesale redesign – a thought echoed by Goris Verburg, Director Marketing & Communication at IWC:
“THE 2014 AQUATIMER COLLECTION PERFECTLY EPITOMIZES THE CONCEPT OF EVOLUTION:** REMAINING SUCCESSFUL IS ALL ABOUT CONTINUOUS DEVELOPMENT.”
Certainly, the watches look quite different from the previous models; bezels are seemingly enlarged, while the colour of the Super-LumiNova® appears to to have been altered, so that functions have be more easily identified in poor / low light (blue for time, green for dive-related information). The bezel is reminiscent of one of the classic IWC watches, the iconic Ocean 2000***, produced in collaboration with Porsche Design in 1982****. The SafeDive mechanism has done away with the two crown approach seen on previous models, replacing the second crown with a “clutch system”; while the ratcheting external bezel is bi-directional, it will only move the internal bezel in one direction, in one minute increments.
In another update, IWC has added their first bronze watch to the range: the Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Expedition Charles Darwin” (Ref. IW379503). This is the watch that, in many ways, I was most looking forward to seeing: firstly, the watch is named for one of my personal heroes; secondly, a proportion of the profits will be donated to the Charles Darwin Foundation; and finally, bronze watches are cool. The rubber strap visible in the IWC photos seems to be modelled on the woven-looking harder plastic straps that used to provided with watches in the 60s and 70s. However, despite falling into the sweet spot on my “Ideal Dive Watch Three Circle Venn Diagram”, I find the caseback to be a little disappointing, based on initial photos. Unfortunately, due to a freak clash between real life and #watchnerdery, I’ll be unable to attend SIHH this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to send a proxy to take a look.
The new Aquatimer range also includes possibly the largest dive watch IWC has ever released: the Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month (Ref. IW379401). Not only is this watch 49mm in diameter, but it also contains the IWC manufacture Cal. 89801 with perpetual calendar and large digital display for the date and month, a feature “very much in the Pallweber tradition of 1884*****” (Pallweber pocket watches often included jump hour and jump minute complications, although this movement doesn’t).
It’s a gloriously bonkers thing to do, but I suppose there’s no point wasting such a lovely movement. If the pilots and engineers can have one, why can’t we have one too?
**And this is where the #watchnerd and those terribly clever chaps in Schaffhausen begin to diverge. This might seem a little petty, but if you are going to name a watch after Darwin, you should probably get the details 100% right. It’s important to remember that Darwin wasn’t the first to propose a theory of evolution by natural selection; Lamarck, for example, had suggested a process through which simple forms became increasingly more complex. It seems to me, that IWC’s approach to the Aquatimer range is far closer to Lamarckian theories (use and disuse; transmission of acquired characteristics; increasing complexity; and no extinction) than Darwin’s. But there we are. I’m probably wrong; I usually am.
***If I were to be uncharitable, I might say it looks a little like the Eterna / Porsche Design P6500 chrono
****Keen-eyed viewers may note that this date differs from the article to which I linked, and from many others. Internet lore records the date of production of these watches as 1983/4, while IWC say 1982.
*****They’ve done it again. Previous articles had made mention of Pallweber / IWC pocket watches being manufactured from 1885-1887. Hey ho.