Deepest diving mechanical watch ever. That is one way to sum up the Swiss Military Watch 20,000 Feet Diver. Built by CX (Montres Charmex) in Switzerland, this has to be one of the greatest "man" watches of the year. I first wrote about the 20,000 Feet Diver watch here. What is stunning about the watch is that it is an incredibly well made and refined, in addition to it being an extremely successful execution of the concept. What does this mean? Well Swiss Military Watches (not to be confused with Swiss Army Watches) wanted to beat their old record of a watch that would survive 12,000 feet underwater. Upping the goal to 20,000 feet this time, the engineers in Switzerland spent copious amount of time planning, building, and testing on the new 20,000 Feet Watch concept until the vision was realized. The 10mm thick sapphire crystal alone can resist pressure of 750kg per square centimeter.
Just getting the watch to accomplish the goal of being able to survive that ridiculous amount of pressure and force on the case is impressive enough. I would have been happy and excited about the Guinness world record that the watch has alone, if that was all the watch has - but there is so much more to this watch than just having an impressive record. CX didn't stop at just incredible pressure resistance - oh no. In fact, aside from the incredible dimensions and capacity of the 20,000 Feet Diver, it is also one of the best functioning and made watches that I've had the pleasure of reviewing. Everything about it is refined and smooth in execution. From the quality of the watch and bracelet, to the operation of the features on the watch. Plus, the watch is a dedicated tool above everything else. This is really what people expect when they invest in a Swiss watch, and I am really proud to share it with you.
At first glance the 20,000 Feet Diver is nothing short of a beast. In a massive 46mm titanium case, the watch sits very tall off your wrist at almost 30mm high! Wearing the watch you smile like a kid at the novelty of it. The whole case is essentially designed to be a miniature diving capsule. Looking at it from the side you can see the round case of the watch when focusing on the intensely curved sapphire crystal that is 10mm thick to the curved screw-down caseback on the watch. If you didn't know better, looking at the watch from the side it would appear to be some Terminator-grade robotic eyeball. Another positive quality is that the case is totally anti-magnetic to protect the movement. There is also an automatic helium release valve on the left side of the case for deeper dives when gas need to escape from the movement to help equality pressure to prevent damaging the movement.
Although the watch case and bracelet is all titanium (very fine quality metal and finish by the way), it is not a "light watch." The titanium is mostly there for strength, but does help the watch be significantly lighter than it would be if it was done in steel. A lot of the weight comes from the sapphire crystal, movement, and case materials. Like I said, the titanium finishing is very nicely done. The grain is smooth, and the brushed finishing is as nice as good steel (I find that a brushed finish is hard to do right on titanium). Everything about the watch is a bit over the top, but that is necessary for the concept to work. It is the horological equivalent of a big custom 4x4 pickup truck. Rhino bars attached, heavy duty tires and wheels installed while the suspension has been lifted, and light are placed all over it. The design of the 20,000 Feet Diver communicates durability as much as its Guinness world record does. All over the watch you see large exposed screws in the bracelet and link ends. The bracelet clasp is chunky and functional, while the bezel is tall and easy to grip, as well as read. It is the first watch that I've gotten that literally makes me want to run head first into danger. I want to jump into the water or out of a plane with this thing on - with no doubts it will survive the journey (even if I don't).
CX has a lot of video that it make while testing the watch. They actually make for good marketing. Aside from the pressure test, CX shot the watch up with a shotgun, ran over it with an industrial truck, blasted it with a fire hose, among other things. They are actually inviting suggestions on new fun ways to test our its Superman like qualities. Suffice it to say that the watch survived it all. See the video located in the review.
While I didn't put the watch through torture tests, I did inspect it carefully with my watch snob eye (often as damaging to the spirit). This includes seeing how comfortable the watch is, operating each of its functions again and again, as well as giving the watch to non watch people and asking them to perform simple tasks. The results left me with a good feeling that CX learned most every lesson it needed to know about good watch making long before it make the 20,000 Feet Diver. The chronograph is a perfect execution of the Valjoux 7750 - meaning the pushers are smooth and precise, while their screw guards are flawless in operation. Winding the watch with the large crown manually was nice, as well as adjusting the time and date. The watch didn't miss a gear. The rotating diver's bezel is one of the best I've ever used. Strict professional grade. A perfect mix of being tight enough, but also being easy to turn. There is no wiggle or give to the bezel, and turning is smooth with 60 satisfying clicks. I do not embellish on any of these points. I've most never seen quality like this - even at this price level.
The bezel itself is in black with an inner section without black coating where there are individual minute markers. Each five minute marker on the bezel is applied with luminant. Going back to the chronograph operation, the pushers have screw down guards for watch resistance. Still, the watch is water resistant to 300 meters even with the guards in the "open" position. When open, there are red bars on the pushers reminding you up this. When the screws are tightened, they move up. and cover the red sections to let you know it is safe to go even deeper than 300 meters. By the way, the grooving around the pushers and screw-down crown are all cut really well, nice and sharp feeling, but not in an uncomfortable way at all. You can see the red colored Swiss Military watch logo engraved into the side of the crown.
As the watch case is so large, the bracelet needs to support it on your wrist and be comfortable. It connects tightly at the curved lugs with a screw bar and gently tapers a bit as you get closer to the fold-over double locking deployment clasp (also in titanium). Literally all bars are screw bars. Only think that it doesn't have is a diver's extension, but I am not sure that it needs one in this case. Swiss Military supplies two natural rubber diving straps with the watch in addition to the titanium bracelet. Why two? Because they come in two sizes. One that is made to go around your wrist, and another that is longer and meant to go around a diving suit. I am pleased that the watch comes with these. Still, this chunky watch is just begging to be paired with its companion metal bracelet when not on serious diving duty.
Speaking of what the watch comes with, the presentation box is extremely impressive. The large case has a lot of paper works. Warranty guide, all sorts of certificates (such as for the depth rating, Guinness world record, and COSC certification). There is also a nicely made instruction manual, tool, and cleaning cloth. I've not seen too many watch presentation or storage boxes this nice. However, it is a big package!
After all this I'd like to discuss the two most important areas of the watch, the movement and the dial. Swiss Military places a perfectly executed COSC Chronometer certified (for accuracy) Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement in the 20,000 Feet Diver. What I mean by perfect execution for the movement is that it works and is displayed with the epitome of legibility and easy of operation that the movement was designed for. I already discussed how well the chronograph pushers are to use, and on the dial you will notice that Swiss Military separated out the chronograph hands (in red) with the time hands (in white) by color for easy of reading. The Chronograph subdials are framed by a metallic red ring with black colored interiors complete with a concentric circular texture. The are easy to read and attractive, but harder to see in lower light.
Alternatively, the white hands and hour markers for the time are easy to read in all lighting conditions. I like the use of the large arrow shaped minute hand that works perfectly as intended - to be the easiest and more prominent aspect of the dial. Each hour marker is applied and framed in polished steel and filled with C3 SuperLumiNova. Swiss Military correctly gave the 12 o'clock indicator a different shape for dial orientation, and even supplied smaller lume covered indicators at the positions where they are intruded upon by subdials. The watch dial itself is black carbon fiber. I've mentioned before that I don't always like carbon fiber dials, but here it works. This is because the inherent shininess of carbon fiber dials does not interfere with reading the hands and markers on the dial. The applied Swiss Military Watch shield logo is a nice touch.
To be honest, when I first saw images of the 20,000 Feet Diver watch, I was concerned that the depth of the dial and the curvature of the thick sapphire crystal would make it difficult to see or read the dial. This because such curved crystal can act like a lens and heavily distort the dial. This is thankfully not an issue with the watch. While there is some visual distortion while looking at the watch dial from extreme angles, it is much less than you'd think. Plus, the high contrast of the dial and the large hands and hour indicators make it surprisingly easy to read. Many of you are very concerned with having high quality levels of luminant in their watches, while diving or otherwise. The 20,000 Feet Diver is very visible in the dark. This does not really extend to the chronograph (aside from the lume tip on the chronograph seconds hand), but the hands for the time and the numerals on the bezel are all coated with thick, wide amounts of SuperLumiNova. The darkness viewing on a watch like this is on par with what you would expect from a professional instrument.
No watch is perfect and if I had to find any quips with the watch I would mention two things. First is with the sapphire crystal, and it is merely a side effect of the intense curvature of the crystal done for its pressure resistance. While curved crystals are stronger, they also reflect more light. This crystal reflect a lot of light which give means that despite a lot of anti-reflective coating on the dial, there is still a healthy amount of glare. The upside is that this does not really interfere with viewing the dial as the hands and markers are most always visible despite the light reflecting on the crystal. Next is an issue with the tools provided with the watch. The bracelet requires special tools because each screw in the bracelet that holds the links together is double sided. This means that you need to hold one end of the screw bar to unscrew it from the other. CX throws in a high quality Swiss Bergeon 2mm screw driver with the watch, but that alone isn't enough to adjust the bracelet. Meaning that you need an extra tool to complete the job. Given that you have metal bracelet or rubber strap option, it would have been helpful for CX to supply a full strap changing kit. Having said that, this watch is nothing less than a professional instrument. It is a worthy investment to get the parts needed to change the strap if you have the skill to do so. I have the tools and was able to do it just fine. Otherwise, if you aren't skilled with screw bar strap changes or bracelet adjustments, I do recommend taking the watch to someone who can do it. As a tangent, I want to remind you always to remind people working on your watch to be extra careful and NOT scratch your precious timepiece. Don't take for granted that people working on your watch care as much about it as you do. Once, again, both the crystal and bracelet adjustment issues are minor and do not prevent this watch from being a standout winner as well as being a standout watch.
20,000 Feet Diver specs direct from CX Swiss Military Watches:
* Chronometer-certified automatic chronograph ETA cal. 7750 Valjoux COSC
* 25 jewels
* 28'800 oscillations/h
* Power reserve 48h
* Etachron regulator system
* Glucydur balance bridge
* Nivaflex mainspring
* Anti-shock with Incabloc shock-absorber
* Hour; minute; small second at 9h
* Chronograph with 30 minute counter at 12h, 12 hour counter at 6h, central second counter
* Date at 3h
* Solid titanium case/bracelet, Ã˜ 46.0mm, thickness 28.5mm, weight 265gr total
* Water-resistant to 7’500 meters (25’000 feet; 6’000 meters or 20’000 FEET & 25% safety margin according to ISO norm 6425)
* X-large crown with side-guards, allowing for diving with thick gloves
* Screw-down crown and pushers
* Red safety marking on pushers (visible when unscrewed)
* Domed, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, thickness 10mm
* Unidirectional rotating bezel, 60 minute graduation, Superluminovaâ„¢ indices
* Solid titanium bracelet, lug-ends and links screwed
* Solid titanium folding clasp with safety catch and micro-adjustment
* Separate genuine rubber strap & rubber extension strap for dry-suit diving (wrist circumference up to 35cm)
* Screw-down caseback, Limited Edition engraving
* Helium relief valve
* anti-magnetic ISO 764
* Silver, black carbon, blue or yellow
* Superluminovaâ„¢ indices
* Counters sunburst decorated
* Oversized minute hand
* Superluminovaâ„¢ coated
* All chronograph hands in red
There are four versions of the Swiss Military 20,000 Feet Diver watch, each is available as a limited edition of 1000 pieces. In addition to the pictured black carbon fiber face, there is a white, metallic blue, and yellow dial available. You choose which one is right for you. Price for the watch is 2,998 euros, which is about $4,100. Given the quality, functionality, and limited manufacture of these watch, I proclaim that this is a good value for a watch that no person will regret having. Sure, the watch is capable of doing things that no one will really never need, but that only strengthens our desire to get one. The best things in life do what we want them to do, and then some. That is why we like fast cars, big TVs, powerful computers, and ultra durable deep diving watches. All this awards the CX Swiss Military 20,00 Feet Diver watch an aBlogtoRead.com Seal of Approval award.
Thanks to CX for the review unit. Editorial is 100% independent.