The Aquatimer is IWC's diving watch. The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer offers the Aquatimer with a titanium or bronze case as well as a mechanical depth gauge. The timepiece functions perfectly in depths up to 2,000 m.
You can immediately recognize watches from the Aquatimer series by the look of their rotatable bezel, one of their most important features. It has multiple large indentations to improve the grip; the standard Aquatimer Automatic has 10 of these indentations. In this respect, the bezel is different than that of important competitors with ridged bezels, such as the Rolex Submariner, Omega Seamaster, and Breitling Superocean. The ridges on the bezels of these diving watches fulfill the same purpose as the larger indentations on the Aquatimer's bezel, however, they create a different look and feel than those of the IWC.
IWC's bezel also functions a bit differently. The outer bezel is a bidirectional bezel. Technically, a full-fledged diving watch must have a unidirectional bezel that rotates counterclockwise. This way, divers can only accidentally shorten their dive time and not lengthen it. If the bezel was accidentally rotated right, then the diver risks using up all of their air too soon, as the watch would display an incorrect dive time. However, the Aquatimer doesn't pose that risk: The dive time is set via a second inner bezel, which is connected to the outer bezel in a clever way. The outer bezel can be freely rotated. However, it only causes the inner bezel to rotate when it's rotated left. When the outer bezel is rotated right, it doesn't affect the inner ring with its minute markers. IWC calls this system the IWC SafeDive System.
The standard Aquatimer model is the Aquatimer Automatic, which comes with a black or white dial. Its stainless steel case has a diameter of 42 mm, a thickness of 14 mm, and is waterproof to 300 m (30 bar). It's powered by the caliber 30120, which is based on the ETA 2892-A2. So, although the Aquatimer Automatic doesn't have an in-house caliber, the 2892-A2 does have a very good reputation amongst professionals. The ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse is the largest ébauche manufacturer worldwide. The IWC 30120 runs at 28,800 alternations per hour and has a 42-hour power reserve.
The Aquatimer Automatic 2000 is the high-performance watch in the series when it comes to depth. It's waterproof to 2,000 m, which is equal to a pressure of 200 bar. Even professional divers don't dive that deep; usually, they don't go deeper than 200 m, and recreational divers rarely ever reach 40 m.
Thus, the Aquatimer 2000 is primed for almost every underwater assignment. It doesn't, however, have a helium escape valve like Rolex's Sea Dweller models and some Omega Seamasters. However, helium escape valves are only necessary when professionals perform a special type of diving called saturation diving. In certain pressurized environments, divers breathe a special gas mix with a high proportion of helium for days, sometimes even weeks, at a time. The helium in this special mix can find its way into a watch. During the decompression process, the gas remains trapped in the watch and can damage it. Usually, the glass pops out. To avoid this, a helium escape value equalizes pressure. However, since this problem won't ever affect more than 99% of all people wearing diving watches, it's mostly just a fancy extra. There's no disadvantage to IWC having foregone a helium escape valve on the Aquatimer.
The Aquatimer Deep Three has a feature that is much more useful than a helium escape valve: a depth gauge that functions to a maximum depth of 50 m. Here's how it works: Water pressure acts on a spring membrane through tiny holes in the pressure converter cover, where the depth gauge is located. This pushes a shaft towards the interior of the case, and the movement goes through a system of levers, shifting both gauge indicators. A blue hand indicates the current depth. The red hand serves as a marker for the dive's maximum depth. Pushing a button resets it to zero. The Deep Three is a large watch; its titanium case has a diameter of 46 mm. It is waterproof to 100 m, equal to a pressure of 10 bar.
Another interesting version of the Aquatimer is the Expedition Charles Darwin model. It's named for the naturalist and evolutionary researcher Charles Darwin and his expeditions to the Galapagos Islands. This Aquatimer is a chronograph, a watch with an integrated stopwatch. It's powered by the in-house automatic caliber 89365 from the caliber family 89000, which is wound by the motion of the wearer's arm. Once fully wound, it has a power reserve of 68 hours. However, the real treat is the case made of bronze. The alloy is made mostly of copper, though some tin and aluminum is added. In the art world, bronze is often used for sculptures. Moreover, it's a coveted material for underwater use. Ship propellers are cast in bronze. Bronze Aquatimers develop a layer of patina that darkens over time - a characteristic trait of the alloy.
Are you looking for a diving watch from a Swiss luxury brand that isn't Rolex? The Aquatimer is a great alternative, both visually and functionally, to more well-known watches like the Rolex Submariner and Omega Seamaster. This IWC watch is a bit of a hidden treasure.
You should be prepared to spend around 4,000 euros for a new stainless steel introductory model. The Aquatimer Chronograph is a bit more expensive, as is to be expected. New, it costs around 5,000 euros. The model meant for extreme depths, the Aquatimer 2000, costs 6,000 euros. Models with a gold case or the Deep Three (depth gauge and titanium case) cost over 12,000 euros.
The GST Aquatimer (reference number 3536), introduced in 1998, is a bit more affordable. This vintage watch in good condition costs around 4,000 euros. However, the vintage market for the Aquatimer is thinning, as IWC hasn't produced any diving watches under this name for around 20 years.
The Aquatimer is a latecomer amongst diving watches. IWC first premiered it in 1967. Rolex and Blancpain had already introduced the Submariner and Fifty Fathoms, respectively, in 1953. Omega and Breitling released their Seamaster 300 and Superocean, respectively, in 1957. Thus, the Schaffhausen-based company got into the diving watch scene comparatively late. However, they had an innovative rotating bezel system from the very beginning. The dive time scale wasn't located on a rotatable bezel, but rather behind glass on the edge of the dial. It could be turned via a second crown. The original Aquatimer can be identified by the reference number 812 AD, which was continued as 1812. Subsequent models have reference numbers 1816 and 1822. The waterproofness increased from 200 m (20 bar) to 300 m (30 bar) in later models.
When IWC began producing the Aquatimer in 1967, the company had already been in existence for 99 years. The American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones had founded the International Watch Company in 1868 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland He wanted to produce watches for cheap in Switzerland and then export them to the USA for profit. His business rapidly failed. In 1880, Johannes Rauschenbach took over the company. The Rauschenbach family lead the company for many decades and generations. After a few more management changes, the Richemont Group acquired IWC in 2000. The Swiss luxury goods concern also owns brands like Panerai and Cartier.