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Pre-Owned Picks — 5 References Of The IWC Aquatimer

HomePreowned PicksPre-Owned Picks — 5 References Of The IWC Aquatimer Preowned PicksIWCPre-Owned Picks — 5 References Of The IWC Aquatimer Five picks in the history of the IWC Aquatimer for week 18 by Ben Hodges May 01, 2020 MIN READPre-Owned Picks — 5 References Of The IWC AquatimerThis week I am highlighting five of my picks of the IWS Aquatimer, ranging from 1968 to the present day.
The concept of a bespoke, wrist-worn timing device for deep ocean diving began earlier than most people appreciate. Omega and Hamilton had novel ideas to retain waterproofness in the 1930s. Most famously, Panerai provided a luminescent and over-sized wrist-watch, with a case made by Rolex, for the Marina Militare. Not often were these watches commercially available outside of naval use.

Turning the tidesBut there was a seismic shift by the middle of the 20th Century with the introduction of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms in 1953. Soon after came the Rolex Submariner. At the time, these watches were a neces..

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Pre-Owned Picks — 5 References Of The IWC Aquatimer Five picks in the history of the IWC Aquatimer for week 18 by Ben Hodges May 01, 2020 MIN READPre-Owned Picks — 5 References Of The IWC Aquatimer

This week I am highlighting five of my picks of the IWS Aquatimer, ranging from 1968 to the present day.

The concept of a bespoke, wrist-worn timing device for deep ocean diving began earlier than most people appreciate. Omega and Hamilton had novel ideas to retain waterproofness in the 1930s. Most famously, Panerai provided a luminescent and over-sized wrist-watch, with a case made by Rolex, for the Marina Militare. Not often were these watches commercially available outside of naval use.

Turning the tides

But there was a seismic shift by the middle of the 20th Century with the introduction of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms in 1953. Soon after came the Rolex Submariner. At the time, these watches were a necessity that bred innovation. For instance, the unidirectional bezel with 60-minute graduations served a crucial purpose for deep divers: Stabilising their pressures with timed pauses while descending or ascending through the big blue. Consumers also gravitated to diving watches for everyday use. The notion being, if it’s good enough for 100-meters, then it’s good enough for a quick dip in the pool.

Pre-owned picks

By the ‘60s, many more brands had thrown their hats into the ring. Some were keen to put their own spin on the formula. Watches including the subject for this selection of Pre-Owned Picks, the IWC Aquatimer.

Deep down double crown

IWC’s first Aquatimer reference was the ref 812 released in 1967. The 38mm Super-compressor case added the standout feature of the Aquatimer; the internal rotating bezel. For Blancpain, the solution for controlling and monitoring dive pauses was to include an external rotating bezel. The idea is to line the 12 o’clock lume pip with the current minute hand position and wait for the hand to reach the 15-minute mark on the bezel. Then descend or ascend accordingly.

External bezels are prone to detach when snagged on underwater rocks and reefs

For IWC, they identified this external element as a vulnerability. By not having the function sealed within the case, the bezel could be prone to detach when snagged on underwater rocks and reefs. Instead, the lower crown turns to rotate the scale beneath the crystal. The double crown look was undoubtedly attractive and proved a great solution, but has come and gone and come again in the history of the Aquatimer.

There is a great example of a later reference 1812 from 1968 on Chrono 24 with original papers (no box) here.

IWC Aquatimer 3536

Fast-forward to the 90s

I’m going to gloss over the Porsche Design Ocean 2000 Diver’s Watch by IWC in 1982. The Ocean 2000 is heating up in the pre-owned market, but it was not explicitly labeled as an Aquatimer. IWC resurrected the Aquatimer name in the form of the reference 3536 in 1997. Executed in a titanium case and bracelet, this watch features a traditional external bezel and dial layout similar to the ubiquitous Submariner. Mike Stockton did an excellent #TBT here on this reference. Mike noted how the ref 3536 had some serious dive-watch credentials, namely the 2000-meter water resistance. Yet the functions were intuitive to operate. For me, the Aquatimer was defined by the double-crown aesthetic, and ref 3536’s resemblance to the Rolex didn’t resonate.

However, a good example, with minimal gunk, can be found on Chrono24 here.

Cousteau Divers

Not long after, IWC released my personal favorite — ref 3548. It comes in a 42mm steel or titanium case. Along with which came IWC’s first partnership with the Cousteau Society, the Cousteau Divers watch. This version reinstated the double crown look with a satisfying bezel rotation of 60-minute clicks. Along with the double crown, the IWC 3548 Aquatimer Cousteau Divers also featured a beautiful deep blue dial and orange hands. In the color spectrum circle, blue is the complementary color of orange, so, the dial had great contrast for legibility.

IWC Aquatimer Cousteau Divers

I used to own one of the these and have seen the value increase quite surprisingly. You can find a good example on Chrono24 here.

The Aquatimer model briefly brought back the external rotating bezel in the ref 3568 in the early 2010s.

The ref 3568 was short-lived but Chrono24 has some knocking about.

Modern-day Aquatimer

The current ref 329001 Aquatimer merges both solutions with a knurled external bezel that rotates an internal rotating scale. This solution is a great engineering feat that relates back to the ref 3536 for complex yet intuitive operation. In recent times, IWC has spread its various complications across its lineup, but in my mind, the Aquatimer should only be time and date.

These are still available from IWC boutiques but worth sniffing around Chrono24 for a good deal.

Happy Hunting!

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About the author

Ben Hodges

Ben has been working in central London for 7 years. In that time, Ben has developed an interest in watches after being gifted his father’s Breitling at 25. He explores the weird and wonderful in horology at all price ranges,… read more

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