Our Predictions In The Diver’s Category Of The 2022 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): 6 Watches, 5 Judges, 3 Predicted Winners
Welcome to the 2022 edition of Quill & Pad’s early Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève predictions in which the team picks favorites and explains why.
The panelists are:
Elizabeth Doerr (ED), co-founder and editor-in-chief
Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical director
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
The Diver’s category contains watches linked to the field of diving, whose functions, materials, and design are suited to this activity.
JM: Ahh, good old dive watches. What a very narrow focus to pit watches against each other. Unlike some other categories, the Diver category is very specific to function, so it is easy to say objectively whether a watch does or does not beat the capabilities of another piece. If there are two watches with very similar specs, then we get into the more subjective aspect of deciding which piece is more successful in its design and application of features. But that is much more fun than arguing over whether a piece even makes sense within a specific category.
ED: All of these watches in the shortlist are C.O.S.C. chronometer certified except the Grand Seiko, which is powered by a Spring Drive movement. And even if that movement could be certified, the C.O.S.C. would not certify it because it was made in Japan rather than Switzerland.
All of these watches also have at least 200 meters worth of water resistance – perfect for a diver’s watch – and the TAG Heuer even boasts 1,000 meters (which no one really needs except professionals). So the most important criterion is already fulfilled by all of the watches to choose from. Much of the rest comes down to personal preferences, I think.
GG: Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m not really that interested in dive watches. I do own a vintage Omega Seamaster Ploprof just because, but otherwise one clicky bezel more or less underwater (or not, in some cases) watch is pretty much like another to me.
MG: What a pleasure to find a majority of real diver’s watches in the shortlist this year. While they can be worn without any worries behind the desk, as they most likely will be in 99.99 percent of cases, they are also up for some serious diving.
IS: The thing to always bear in mind when judging these categories is that, seeming paradoxically, the winning watch does not have to be the best tourbillon, best chronograph, or best dive watch out of the six finalists. The category rules are only for qualification, then it’s just a matter of picking favorites on any criteria you like from the finalists.
Artya Depth Gauge
JM: Since we are focusing on dive watches it must be said that a dive watch, a true diving watch, needs to have at least 300 meters of water resistance as anything less than that could experience problems at full diving depths. Luckily the ArtyA Depth Gauge has that, so the first requirement is checked off.
After that I like to see large, bold markers and hands, and this is where we have the first issue. The hands on the Depth Gauge seem more at home on a regularly classic watch, not something needing to be seen 300 feet below the surface. Still, it also has a very unique depth gauge that relies on physics and our perception of color to make a 100 percent analog depth gauge. My main issue with it, however, is that it relies on consistent or ideal conditions as well as the wearer to have great color perception for the concept to work accurately and repeatably.
From my perspective, having a crucial scale for diving safety that can be misinterpreted or simply inaccurate as the only indication of depth feels like it provides all sorts of exceptions where safety could be compromised due to the method used to indicate. For that reason, I’m not sure if this watch will take the crown but I definitely think that the concept is fleshed out enough to make it my second runner up.
GG: In 2009, independent watchmaker Pita introduced the Oceana, a watch with the tremendously clever idea of using different-colored elements on the dial side that would, as they lost their apparent color due to blockage of light of different wavelengths at different depths, tell the wearer how deep he or she was beneath the surface. Only 13 years later, ArtyA has magically invented exactly the same thing and claimed it for its own on the Depth Gauge watch, which isn’t at all bad looking but gets a serious tsk-tsk from me for appropriating Pita’s idea without credit.
ED: Wow, Gary, I did not remember that. Good catch! I like the visuals and clever thoughts of this Artya and am kinda shocked to learn that that part might not be original.
MG: I have always been a fan of this brand’s creative approach, but this one is lost on me. It looks like a Kickstarter watch, with perhaps one of the most unreliable depth gauges ever seen on a watch. It only works approximately at best and below water that can get you in serious trouble. The power reserve is a novel feature on dry land that adds a generous dash of color. Unfortunately, the font on the bezel looks quite like that of the previous generation Breitling Superocean. As you perhaps already guessed, not my favorite in this category.
IS: I like the Artya Depth Gauge because it offers a completely different look to the typical dive watch, but as Gary noted the fading colors’ depth indication was first seen on the 5,000-meter depth-rated Pita Oceana. And the Oceana also pioneered the crownless magnetic winding and setting system as seen in Ressence. But my main gripe with the color chart depth gauge is that it’s so unreliable. How much color is filtered out by water at depth depends on how clear the water is so the indication is only a rough approximation at best.
At 44 mm the Artya Depth Gauge is a little large for me, but that’s acceptable for a tool dive watch. I wish that it didn’t have a date (or at least the date wheel was black like the dial), but that’s a minor gripe. I don’t think the Artya Depth Gauge will win, but it well deserves to be a finalist.
Quick Facts Artya Depth Gauge
Case: 44 x 14 mm, stainless steel, 300 m water resistance
Movement: automatic Caliber Artya Aion; 42-hour power reserve; 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, visual depth gauge
Limitation: 9 pieces
Price: CHF 7,900
Breitling Superocean Automatic 42
ED: I thought the bronze wave was pretty much over?
JM: The Superocean Automatic is definitely a very capable diver’s watch with a clear and bold dial and adequate water resistance. But right off the bat it has a few issues that I think preclude it from winning. Firstly, the fact that it is made from bronze, a material known for corroding over time, so maintenance on this watch will be much higher to ensure that it stays in the best operating form. I know there have been other diving watches made from bronze and early diving helmets were bronze as well, but the material just doesn’t match something like stainless steel, titanium, or ceramic for longevity.
The next main issue is that there is a double bezel: an inner stationary bezel that has the minute markings and an outer bezel that rotates with the standard diving scale on it. That keeps the important information a bit disconnected from each other, meaning the minute hand and the scale that is keeping track of it have a non-luminous gap between them that could hinder the in-situ functionality of the Superocean. For those main reasons I feel enough justification to look to another as a winner this year.
IS: With its 42 mm case diameter the Breitling Superocean Automatic 42 isn’t overly large for a diving watch (or nearly any watch these days), but I’m turned off by how much potential dial space is wasted by the double rows of numerals around the dial and bezels. After water resistance, legibility is the most essential attribute of a dive watch and a large dial means larger numerals and larger hands. The Superocean Automatic 42 appears to have the dial size of a 36 mm watch, not a 42 mm. And then there’s the suitability of bronze in salt water. A 300-meter depth rating is impressive though.
GG: The Breitling Superocean Automatic 42 draws on Breitling’s “Slow Motion” dive watch of the 1960s and is certainly made for legibility; too bad about the bronze case that despite claims of corrosion resistance isn’t really suited to underwater use and the brand’s promotion of it as a watch to “hit the beach bar,” which positions it more as a dive-y watch than a dive watch.
MG: This Superocean is a tad over the top, which results in a distinct and appealing character. It is a diving watch unlike any other, and that is quite an accomplishment as these types of watches tend to look very much alike. Bronze is not such a novel material anymore, but the way that Breitling used it is very appealing. While the green dial trend is getting quite worn out, it actually looks very good on this Superocean. I surprised myself, but this is my winner in this category.
Quick Facts Breitling Superocean Automatic 42
Case: 42 x 12.56 mm, bronze, 300 m water resistance
Movement: automatic Caliber 17 (base ETA 2824-2) with 38-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: CHF 5,350
Doxa Army Limited Edition
MG: The Doxa Army is another creative diver’s watch with an atypical color scheme. It is, again, a very original creation, despite or perhaps because it was based on a vintage model. The combination of titanium and ceramics for the case further enhances its appeal.
GG: The Doxa Army Limited Edition is modeled after a watch from 50 years ago designed for use by elite Swiss divers. That’s all great, but the watch itself is quite clunky looking and the crosshair “army” target on the dial is too creepy for me.
JM: Doxa has always been synonymous with dive watches, so this entry is no surprise. The dial is clear and largely uncluttered (though it does feature a date window), the bezel is clear and bold with an counterclockwise minute scale for navigation, just like the Tudor, and the case is a tough and durable black ceramic.
And while it has the requisite 300 meters of water resistance, I have two main concerns. Since it is functionally similar to the Tudor Pelagos FXD, I feel it is fair to compare the two directly. The Doxa dial is not as clear and easy to read as the Tudor and the applied lume is a lot smaller on the dial and hands, making it logically darker and harder to read at depth.
The second concern is the strap attachment, which is technically less secure than the Pelagos FXD, which sports integrated solid strap bars, making it a slightly more secure tool watch. I’d be happy to rock the Doxa down in the depths, but I don’t know if it stands out enough to beat the Tudor, let alone the watch I picked as my winner.
ED: This is a very attractive watch to my eye, mainly because it forgoes some of that “diver’s watch” look that I tend to find a bit blah stylistically even if it means that the watch is functionally very much on the ball. I would like to call this one my winner because of its groovy design, but I do believe that another is perhaps better suited to the crown this year – one without such a nice dial.
IS: The Doxa Army Limited Edition was one of the most talked about watches at Geneva Watch Days 2022 and with such atypical design and colors, it is both a watch that stands out and one you are unlikely to forget. And that’s unfortunate for me because the look doesn’t work for me on any level yet I can’t get it out of my mind.
Quick Facts Doxa Army Limited Edition
Case: 42.5 x 44.5 x 11.95 mm, titanium and ceramic, 300 m water resistance
Movement: automatic Sellita SW200-1 COSC with 38-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Limitation: 100 pieces
Price: CHF 4,500
Remark: delivered with two straps
Grand Seiko Spring Drive 5 Days Caliber 9RA5
MG: The Grand Seiko is, without a doubt, the most sophisticated diver’s watch of the bunch. With its Spring Drive movement it is a technical delight, which is quite rare for a diver’s watch as these are usually powered by workhorse movements. We also find this sophistication in the design, in particular on the beautiful dial. Its wearing comfort is amazing, as is the finish on the case and bracelet made of high-intensity titanium.
GG: The Grand Seiko Spring Drive 5 Days Caliber 9RA5 is an assertive and pleasingly styled piece, with a textured dial meant to evoke the powerful current in the seas surrounding Japan. I can easily imagine the jury picking it, and it’s my second choice. The only thing I can find to pick at is that it is on the lower end of water resistance among the group of finalists, while still within the ISO spec, at 200 meters.
IS: The Grand Seiko Spring Drive 5 Days is the epitome of a superb dive watch and it could easily win here. At just under 44 mm it’s an imposing, but not unwearable, size and the legibility is excellent: you only see what you need to see. The power reserve indicator and Spring Drive movement are bonuses, and I don’t think the 200-meter depth rating will go against it. The Grand Seiko Spring Drive 5 Days is my pick for second place.
JM: I never thought I would say that a Grand Seiko Spring Drive would be nothing more than an honorable mention yet here we are. With a five-day power reserve and super accurate Spring Drive caliber inside, we know the watch can keep you safe with precision. On the outside, the case is a ruggedly bright design that could feel just as good on your wrist during a wedding or a tropical dive. The hands and markers are bold and should stand out well from the dial. The piece does sport a power reserve and a date window on the front, which, for a manual winding everyday watch makes sense, but for an automatic dive watch it could be left out and not hurt the practicality of the watch.
The awesome dial texture, like the waves out on the ocean, doesn’t make up for the fact it also only has 200 meters of water resistance. But honestly the Grand Seiko is an amazing watch, and in a different category or against a different group I might think it could win. However, it is in this category, and I don’t know if it has what it takes to pull it off.
ED: Despite the lovely dial of this watch, I must agree with my colleagues’ remarks.
Quick Facts Grand Seiko Spring Drive 5 Days Caliber 9RA5
Case: 43.8 x 13.8 mm, high-intensity titanium, 200 m water resistance
Movement: Spring Drive Caliber 9RA5, 120-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, power reserve
Price: CHF 12,000
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver
MG: My watch collection tends to change, but a staple for over a decade is my TAG Heuer Aquagraph. I simply love that watch and see a lot of it back in the Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver. No diver needs 1,000-meter water resistance, and a 45 mm diameter is a tad too large, but I still love it! It is bold and beautiful as the dial features a rather sophisticated design, and I even like the quirky crown protector. If it wasn’t for the Breitling, this would be my winner in the category.
ED: That is a mighty range of water resistance!
JM: One thousand meters of water resistance, more than three times any other watch in the category, is hard to beat in my eyes. The Aquaracer 1000 Superdiver is just that: a super capable diver that does everything a good diver’s watch should do. It has a clear, bold dial with large markers and hands, and the bezel features a bright orange section for the 15-minute scale to improve visibility, though at 1,000 meters you won’t be seeing any color without light you bring yourself.
But, you might ask, can divers even go that deep? Not without saturation diving, which is exactly what this watch is designed for as well as tested to do, meeting the ISO 6425:2018 standard for saturation diver’s watches. This specification also brings along magnetic shielding requirements, resistance to corrosion and other technical requirements.
While I won’t say it is my absolute favorite aesthetic, it also can be argued only the Tudor has as cohesive and well-proportioned style as the Aquaracer. I really like the protected crown and the faceted dodecagon shape of the bezel, with 12 sides matching the hours. It’s an interesting watch with extreme capabilities and I don’t think another watch could be said to be a better diver this year.
GG: Left figuratively adrift, I’m placing special emphasis on the technical qualifications associated with a dive watch and therefore will pick the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver as my winner this year. It’s not a particularly attractive watch, and that tiny date window too close to the center of the dial tells me something I don’t want to know about the diameter of the movement, but every feature of the watch from its 1000-meter water resistance rating to the shape of the crown protector is made for serious diving.
IS: I can easily see the (take a deep breath) TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver winning here. At 45 mm it’s on the large size, but the Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver is a looker, a practical diver’s watch, and its depth rating of a very impressive 1,000 meters makes it stand out here. Pity about that tiny white date wheel blemishing the beautifully textured black dial and revealing that the movement is much smaller than the case.
Quick Facts TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver
Case: 45 x 15.7 mm, titanium, 1000 m water resistance
Movement: automatic Caliber TH30-00 (produced by Kenissi Manufacture), 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, 70-hour power reserve, officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: CHF 6,500
Tudor Pelagos FXD
JM: I recently wrote about how much I enjoyed the new Pelagos FXD and how it has made me actually consider picking up a Tudor for the first time in my watch career. I’ve always liked Tudor, but I never put too much thought into the idea of actually purchasing one among all the other watches out there.
That is no longer the case, thanks largely to the case of the FXD. It features integrated, solid strap bars that only allow for a NATO-style strap and I just love the military practicality of removing any option to have a standard strap on it. It’s clear that this is purpose built, especially with the counterclockwise bezel that is intended to be used for underwater navigation. It is just such a cool variation from Tudor that I was almost going to choose it to win this year. Alas, I think it is a bit of a specialist’s watch so in this group I can’t give it the win, but I can happily say it is my first runner up and I would not be surprised at all if it took the crown.
GG: I wanted to pick the Tudor as it’s the most elegant looking piece and the French Navy connection adds appeal, but the brand’s lengthy narrative about using a bidirectional bezel rather than a unidirectional one required by ISO specs, ostensibly to allow for underwater navigation by military frogmen, seems a bit fishy to me.
ED: Not only is the Tudor the most reasonably priced watch in this bunch by far – which has no bearing on my picking of it – but it seems to be to be at least as well thought out as the TAG Heuer and better thought out for its purpose than the rest. I also quite like its visuals and comfortable sizing.
IS: Two brands to bank on when it comes to winning GPHG prizes: Kari Voutilainen in Artistic Crafts (or whichever category he’s in) and Tudor in the Diver’s category (or any other). I feel we have seen Tudor (admittedly it’s usually been the Black Bay) win prizes every year at the GPHG, but they just keep coming out with superlative, great-looking watches and competitive prices – and this Pelagos FXD is no exception. I don’t give a toss about the collaboration with a specialist unit of the French Navy or the underwater navigation-friendly bidirectional bezel. Blue dial and bezel, great legibility, 42 mm, titanium case, automatic Tudor movement, and 3,700 Swiss francs. This is not just the watch I want for myself from this selection, it’s the watch I predict to win the Diver’s category of the 2022 GPHG.
MG: While I would personally choose a regular Pelagos over this FXD, I can understand the added appeal. The strap and case construction carve out a nice niche for this unique diver’s watch. As I said, for me it would be a reason not to buy it, but Tudor has plenty of other watches for this in the Pelagos collection, and they do add something different to the world of watches. To win this category of the GPHG, I feel that you need to bring a bit more to the table, although the combination of offering a familiar look with a twist might also go far.
Further reading: Tudor Pelagos FXD: Is It Better Than The Black Bay?
Quick Facts Tudor Pelagos FXD
Case: 42 x 12.75 mm, titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber MT5602 with silicon escapement, power reserve 70 hours, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; diver countdown via bezel
Water resistance: 200 meters
Price: CHF 3,700
Elizabeth: Tudor Pelagos FXD
Ian: Tudor Pelagos FXD
Joshua: TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver
Gary: TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver
Martin: Breitling Superocean Automatic 42
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Yawns… In the absence of something really innovative or at least highly useful for diving (like a real depth gauge), I will choose the Pelagos FXD.
That Arty farty did nothing for you !? I would love to have that kind of fashion watch cash, I would buy one asap ! ( well maybe not as it way too big but still love the design).
The Breitling SuperOcean is a hodge/podge of design ques based on a vintage design, but poorly executed. It is hard to fathom what was going through the designers’ heads when they came up with this. It’s a design by committee and it’s simply atrocious. Reception in the watch forums is suitably lukewarm at best, in fact that would be overstating it. It is just bad.
“it must be said that a dive watch, a true diving watch, needs to have at least 300 meters of ”
“ One thousand meters of water resistance, more than three times any other watch in the category, is hard to beat in my eyes…”
What’s next? Skull watches for the 7 year olds among us?