While many watch brands claim to produce professional diver’s watches, few can claim legitimate roots in commercial diving. Enter Scurfa Watches, a microbrand founded in the UK in 2014 by commercial saturation diver and watch nerd, Paul Scurfield (known to his workmates as “Scurfa”). Sitting in a pressurized saturation system between diving-bell runs to depths of over 151 meters (almost 500ft), Scurfield conceived of a boutique watch brand to produce robust yet inexpensive quartz diving watches to fill the empty wrists of many commercial divers and support staff who sold their Comex Submariners, MilSubs, Double Reds, and 5513s when prices went crazy some 10-15 years ago.
After a few successful runs of quartz diving watches (the Scurfa Watches Diver One), each iteration more upgraded than the last, Scurfield designed a Miyota-powered, automatic flagship diving watch equipped with a helium-escape valve, sapphire crystal, and lumed ceramic bezel insert, which he dubbed the Bell Diver 1.
A Diving Watch Review by a Commercial Diver
Each prototype in the Bell Diver’s production process was personally tested in the austere environment of North Sea saturation diving by Scurfield and his fellow divers. As a commercial diver myself, I was excited to spend some time with the Scurfa Bell Diver 1 Black, both at work and play.
In a sea of microbrand diver’s watches, the majority of which have black dials, Scurfa has done something really interesting with the Bell Diver 1’s matte gray dial with red accents. You simply do not see a lot of gray dials and seeing how well it works on the Bell Diver 1, I am unsure as to why. Gray as a dial color provides a high degree of contrast for the dial and hands to ensure legibility, a diving necessity, while also giving the Bell Diver 1 as a whole a totally different vibe than your average black-dial diver. The gray is interesting, different, and works equally well with the PVD version of the Bell Diver reviewed here and the stainless steel model.
While the hour markers are straight Rolex Submariner (Scurfield is an unabashed Rolex guy) in shape, they are applied, rimmed in gloss black, and thickly inlaid with the good stuff, Grade A Super-LumiNova SL-BGW9 in blue. Raised, gloss-printed “Scurfa Watches” occupies the usual 12 o’clock spot, with “Bell Diver “ in red at 6 o’clock. At 3, a simple date cutaway reveals a welcome white-on-black date wheel. The chapter ring’s minute track is printed in alternating red and white, both of which fade away in the dark, giving emphasis to the all-important hour and minute hands divers are searching for in the ocean’s murky depths.
To match the hour markers, the Bell Diver 1’s large sword hands are also rimmed in gloss black, each with a healthy smattering of the same blue Super-LumiNova. Red is again used for the sweep seconds hand, which features a lumed lollipop configuration. Overall, the dial and hands are legible, allowing for instantaneous time-reading at a glance. At night, the whole thing comes alive. This is some of the best lume I have seen, regardless of price point. It’s bright, lasts all night (or the whole dive), and is evenly applied, even for the loupe-toting few out there.
At work underwater, the watch is still easy to read, even in poor visibility. Clearly, Scurfa’s deep-sea design vetting process is working. These watches work well in our line of work because they were designed in commercial diving, making them overqualified for life’s more mundane operations. Of course, a well-executed diver-watch dial is only as good as the rest of the watch’s ability to survive the abusive commercial-diving work environment.
Scurfa has long utilized sapphire for its crystals for the material’s almost unmatched scratch resistance and longevity. For the Bell Diver 1, Scurfa went with a slightly domed crystal with a blue anti-reflective coating on the underside only. While the crystal isn’t terribly tall, it does add to the 16mm height of the watch above the wrist, and can (like virtually all domed crystals) also create some reflection-related viewing challenges in direct light despite the AR coating. Still, at the very reasonable (approximately) $400 price point, the crystal is well done.
Adding to the durability of the forward-facing Bell Diver 1 elements is a curved ceramic bezel insert, with its own full Super-LumiNova treatment. The blue lume adds to the light show provided by the Bell Diver 1 at night and also assures easy legibility for the few who actually use the elapsed time bezel in low light conditions.
Matte black PVD coating is employed for virtually the entire Bell Diver 1 case (a brushed stainless steel model is also available), with polishing only on the bevels. At 43mm in width, a lug-to-lug of 51mm, and a 16mm thickness, the Bell Diver 1 is not small, but the case wraps the wrist nicely and is very wearable even for my 6.25” wrist. While I generally prefer a smaller lug-to-lug measurement, my wrist is smaller than average, and I’d wager most will find the Bell Diver 1 fits right in the sweet spot, size-wise. For the price, the case is well finished. This isn’t a $10,000 Rolex but rather an attainable tool watch with far fewer niceties.