As a watch lover, I have pretty much always been attracted to diving watches. It was not until recently, however, that I was actually able to dive. After a fantastic time in Grand Cayman learning to dive and becoming certified by Divetech at the Cobalt Coast dive resort, an entire new world of diving experiences has now opened up for me – and the process further allowed me to truly appreciate the purpose of a good dive watch and the crucial role that telling the time plays in being a human underwater.


This all started last year in 2014, as I approached one of my favorite Swiss sport watch brands – Oris – with an idea: “How about we giveaway a trip where an aBlogtoWatch reader goes with us to get their diving certification? We all talk about the purposes these high-end sports watches are meant to serve, so how about we actually go do some of them?” Oris, if you’ll recall, was the clever brand that took me to Ambri, Switzerland, to test out the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter watch while flying vintage military aircraft. After writing about that experience here, the resulting feedback and commentary from you, the readers, allowed me to appreciate just how much the aBlogtoWatch audience is not only interested in watches, but also the context within which these watches are designed to be used. Of course, that makes sense, as our love of timepieces is as much about owning something nice as it is about items that help us enjoy the lifestyles we have or the lifestyles we want.

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I am happy to report that it didn’t take much to convince Oris that our idea was worth pursuing. We proceeded with our “Learn To Dive With Oris Watches Giveaway” in December 2014, and in May 2015, we assembled a small team along with our giveaway winner, Zach P. from Northern California, to go to Grand Cayman and not only receive our diving certifications, but also experience some of the world’s most impressive diving locations such as Stringray City and the sunken USS Kittiwake ship – both just off the coast of Grand Cayman.

Why Grand Cayman? That is a good question. There are many places around the world to learn how to dive and, of course, no one would argue with doing it at Grand Cayman. Oris helped us choose Grand Cayman because it is the home of one of their special dive-world-related partnerships, as well as the subject of a limited edition watch. Oris produces sport watches across all the major sport watch categories such as racing watches, aviation watches, and of course, diving watches. It is in this latter category, however, where Oris has some of their most important partnerships which are frequently memorialized in specially designed and limited edition watches such as the Oris Carlos Coste free-diver limited edition watch (hands-on here) or the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge (hands-on here). Another notable piece is the Oris Pro Diver USS Kittiwake, which bears the international diving flag and honors Grand Cayman’s purchase and use of the retired US naval ship as an artificial reef. Placed underwater just a few years ago, to date, the USS Kittiwake is the only US military ship sunken outside of US waters.


Of course, it takes an American to get an American ship outside of the US – it seems. While Grand Cayman is technically connected to England, many of its residents are Americans. One such influential person is Mrs. Nancy Easterbrook. A humble and intelligent woman, Nancy and her family have been residing in Grand Cayman for a number of years after running a successful software company in the United States. A diving enthusiast and former instructor, Nancy began Divetech – a duo of dive centers in Grand Cayman where we learned to dive. Divetech has become an international destination for new and veteran divers looking to explore the water of Grand Cayman. The main Divetech location is located at the Cobalt Coast Resort where we stayed during our time on the island. If you are a diver, you’ll love the sheer proximity to the water and convenience of diving at Cobalt Coast. Not only is the Divetech staff friendly and knowledgeable, but the facilities allow for easy diving day or night either on dive boats or right off the dock.

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Going back to Mrs. Easterbrook and the USS Kittiwake – her name is actually engraved in large letters on the ship. Inside the ship is also a commemorative Oris plaque. Why is her name there? Well, she traveled to Washington D.C. and bothered the US Congress so much to sell the ship to Grand Cayman (just so that they could sink it for an artificial reef). The issue was simply low on the US’ priority list, and it was thanks to Nancy’s efforts that Congress finally gave the approval. Oris came just a bit later with the limited edition Pro Diver USS Kittiwake watch – a limited edition model, the sale of which has $200 going to a fund to support marine preservation in Grand Cayman.


So let’s get back to this whole matter of learning to dive – something that I’ve wanted to do for a while. I suppose, for a number of years, I was a bit hesitant because diving is inherently dangerous. It doesn’t need to be high risk, but you are going underwater and relying on equipment to stay alive. About three years ago, my concerns about things like learning to dive went away, and I’ve been trying to involve myself with as many new experiences as possible – and diving was very high on the list. It also helps that I’ve been passionately interested in marine biology since I was a kid. Our winner Zach will detail his own experiences in a separate article about learning to dive with Oris, but I think he has shared the same interest for diving and came into it without much more experience than having snorkeled.


Snorkeling is a logical prerequisite to diving and there are shared skills. In fact, everything you use in snorkeling you also use in diving – which includes a snorkel, mask, and fins. In diving, however, you simply have a lot more stuff. There is also a lot of science you need to appreciate when learning to dive. You may or may not be aware that learning to dive isn’t just becoming familiar with the equipment and practicing with an instructor, but there is actually a classroom and test-taking component. We went in for PADI Open Water Certification which is a pretty standard form of diving certification that allows us to rent or purchase diving services and equipment all over the world. There are many additional, higher levels of certification that go up to becoming a Master Diver, as well as a number of distinct specialties. As I mentioned earlier, it feels like an amazing world of potential experiences and skills is now open for us.


The path to getting your diving certification varies from place to place and, depending on who is teaching, you can take from a few days to a few weeks. We jammed everything into just a handful of days, which felt fast, but I never felt like I was missing anything. It involves a combination of being in a pool, being in a class, and of course being in the open water (which could be the ocean or a lake, as I understand it).

Diving is really about keeping track of a few important things at once. These include your air supply, adjusting buoyancy, and keeping track of various timing related matters to ensure safety. While we do exist in an era where dive computers take a lot of the historical math-work out of diving, a backup watch is actually extremely useful. I had an experience myself that proved this fact to me.


On my second time in the ocean wearing a dive computer, it decided to fail on me. Dive computers are typically worn on your wrist like a watch and offer a lot of very useful information. Most important are dive times, depth, and how long you can remain at various depths so that you don’t have to make decompression stops. If you do need to make decompression stops, then your dive computer will tell you how long to stay at various depths as you ascend back to the surface. Dive computers are designed to automatically turn on and track your dive as soon as you are in the water. The dive computer I was wearing on my second dive with one decided to simply not activate upon getting in the water. I did, however, have an Oris Aquis Depth Gauge on my wrist – and I felt lucky for it.


In diving, you pretty much need a backup for all essential systems, and a watch is one of them. These aren’t just pretty accessories to put on like toys while diving, but very real tools that come in handy during dives. With a traditional mechanical watch, I was able to track my total dive time using the rotating bezel, and with the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge, I was able to know my depth. It is true that I had a mechanical depth gauge attached to my air pressure gauge, but it was a lot more convenient to read that information on my wrist (the gauge is attached to a hose on your tank and clips to your BCD – buoyancy compensator device – vest).


Why do I mention how useful it is to have a dive watch while diving? Isn’t that obvious information? Not really. As watch lovers, we tend to exist in a world where traditional watches for things like racing or flying are more or less fun, albeit obsolete toys. You don’t need a mechanical watch to fly plane. In fact, most professional pilots use highly functional digital watches. Still, they like fancy pilot watches because it makes them feel good about their profession/lifestyle. The same goes for racing watches. Dive watches, however, continue to have a very real, and very practical use for many divers as a backup instrument while diving – as well as something to enjoy when out of the water.


I’ll be the first to say that there are a great many good dive watches out there. Dive-style watches are easily the most popular type of watches – perhaps beyond the everyday dress watch – and for good reason. Dive watches are legible, durable, meant for adventure, and cool looking. For these reasons, their qualities and allure have transcended far beyond the diving community. However, to test a good dive watch, you need to strap it on with SCUBA gear and go into the depths.


Perhaps the least important thing a watch can offer is super deep water resistance. While the notion of a 500- or 1000-meter water resistant watch is super cool, this functionality is more fantasy than reality. Recreational diving means you can dive to about 18 meters, and even pros don’t go past 100 meters or so. 300 meters is totally adequate for even the most serious diving professional, and even super star record holders wouldn’t need anything much more than that. With that said, once you get into a serious gear addiction, the tendency is to take it as far as possible. Hence, we end up collecting a vast world of diving watches with features we don’t use and durability we don’t need. But hey, how fun is life when all you have is what you need?


Legibility and comfort are, however, very important in a good dive watch, and I like the ethos Oris has when designing their divers. There sure are enough of them. At least a few new Oris dive watches come out each year – because I think they, too, are addicted to diving gear. Oris was nice enough to bring along a slew of their modern dive watches such as the DLC-coated black with yellow Oris Aquis Depth Gauge that I preferred to wear most. It was also great to see other divers react to the Oris dive watches – eagerly asking about them. The diving instructors also were quite taken by the Oris dive watches and how nicely they seemed to fit into the world of diving equipment that they are used to. It was nice to see such a hearty round of approvals from the non-watch world when it came to what was on our wrists.


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