22 August 2010

Cheap diving watch for the working class

Humans have a thing for technology. We get amazed with the myriad of gizmo's and gadgets the world has to offer nowadays. However, one of them is already a secular fascination: watches.
Watches were born first as an important tool. It allowed us to organize our time and to interact with each other, pardon the pun, in a timely basis. In my profession, seamanship, it was more important than that. In its chronometer version, maritime clocks were the revolution that succeeded the Portuguese "astrolábio" (the precursor of the modern sextant). No more navigation in latitude or by sheer dead-reckoning. The maritime chronometer gave us with great precision the coordinate that was missing: longitude.
From those days until now, a lot has changed. Clocks are still important. Chronometers also. But for our daily life wrist watches became a tool of relative need. We do now have the chance to check the time in our laptops, in our cellular phones or in our I-pods. So, wrist watches were condemned to extinction? No. Although their function as a tool became less indispensable, their affirmation as a symbol of status of the owner started rising. I remember, many years ago, in a interview, a Portuguese musician of the eighties saying that he might be walking in the streets with just a simple jeans and a t-shirt. Anonymous. But if he was wearing a Rolex in his hand, he was already somebody. At the time, owning a Rolex (even a stainless steel one) seemed to me an impossible dream. Much like owning the moon. I remember walking with my mother on the Amoreiras Shopping Center in Lisboa (1984? 1985? I don't know for sure) and entering in a jewelery shop with the firm decision of tasting a Citizen Aqualand, at the time the most advanced diving watch in the world. In those days this watch was priced (in today's money) at 280 Euros. Still to much for a kid studying in the secondary school and with the available money more important for other things. Regardless of that, the shop assistant was a pal and, noticing that I was truly interest in diving watches, had the idea of showing me a Rolex. The pure stainless steel Sea Dweller. Until those days, that watch existed only in my dreams and in the pictures of the Newsweek, at the time subscribed by my father. Believe it or not, the watch had a price tag at that time of 1150 Euros. I still dream of it. And until the present days, it was the only Rolex I've held in my hands. However, the dream of owning a true diving watch was still alive. More mature now, I also think that spending thousands of Euros in an artifact that, by itself, requires an insurance policy to walk around with it in the streets, doesn't make any sense. So I started looking for the cheap alternatives. Still ignorant about the characteristics that a diving watch should fulfil, I made some research on the net. And I've found a very nice and comprehensive article about that on the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diving_watch). Reading all about the ISO 6425 standards for the manufacture of diving watches, I began to understand that, although they are now exhibition pieces more than anything, wrist diving watches are still made with very tough specifications and with a primary vocation as a working tool. Watches like this abound. Rolex, Panerai, Omega, Technomarine and so on. But they are also overpriced. And one can always ask if the quality they have justifies the over prices. In my modest opinion, it does not.
Particularly when I've set my eyes on the Citizen Eco Drive Professional Diver, model BN0000-04H. One and a half year ago this watch was priced at 130 British pounds. But regardless of its relative low cost, this watch is packed with all the characteristics that makes it a very reliable tool.

For starters, you have:
Screw-down crown
A solid one piece case (no way you can access to the mechanism)
A one-way rotating bezel
Case in stainless steel
Water resistant to 300 Mt's (30 atmospheres)
... and last but not least... never needs a battery, because it comes with the Eco-drive mechanism (the watch display is actually a photovoltaic panel that drives and stores energy for the quartz mechanism).

The watch comes with this elegant, although simple, case, bringing inside two booklets. One is the instruction manual for this specific model and the other one being the international five year warranty and general instructions. Please pay attention that there is another model on the market, very similar, but with a case width of 33mm. It's the Citizen Eco Drive Professional Diver, model EP6000-07H. That's the ladies version of the watch here shown.

The watch, outside of the case (case width: 43mm), showing the rubber bracelet with the No Decompression Limits table.

The aft part of the watch. The crown protection is easily seen here and also the engravings around the symbol. Between those engravings lies one that separates children from men: the word "Diver's". This means that this watch fully conforms with the rigorous ISO 6425 and is recognized as a diving watch by the industry. Not a bad achievement for such an accessible watch.