SCUBA diving has always been a sport of measurement. Whether it’s getting a reading on depth, determining the correct gas mixture, or recording time spent underwater, accurate calculations can mean the difference between a successful dive and a potentially fatal one. Because the stakes are so high, the majority of contemporary divers leave little to chance and rely on digital dive computers for both technical and basic dives. But this wasn’t always the case.

Not all that long ago divers put their faith in dive watches with specially designed dials and bezels. These tools, used in conjunction with depth charts, helped divers measure their no-decompression time (the time they could spend at a particular depth without needing to decompress before ascending) as well as their decompression time (time spent at depth stages before resurfacing) for technical dives. You’ll be hard-pressed to find too many new examples of a watch with these kinds of markings, but they were common enough in the 1960s through the late 1980s that with a little bit of digging, you can find some real gems still floating around out there.

Mido Exotic Powerwind Diver

What we like: One doesn’t have to know all about decompression charts to know why this watch is remarkable. The unique multi-colored pastel rings around the watch paired with the single-piece steel case make for a watch that pops off the wrist like few others. But more than just being a looker, the dive watch still has the capacity to work as a trusty companion for technical dives.
From the seller: Housed in a high-pressure one-piece 38mm steel case, these watches are a true rarity, and likewise, adorned by collectors. This is the more desirable “no date” and non-lume variant.

Vulcain Cricket Nautical

What we like: Along with the striking (and very 1970s) dial, what sets this wristwatch apart is the unique Vulcain Caliber 120 Alarm Movement at its heart. Developed in the late 1940s, it was the first alarm caliber to be put in a wristwatch. This still-functioning (and very loud) buzzing alarm adds a truly unique quality to an already handsome and stand-out wristwatch.
From the seller: Case brushing is deep and crisp. Dial is in fantastic condition with bright, vibrant colors. Shows light even patina to the luminescent elements on the hour markers and a faint scratch near 6:00.

DOXA T-Graph Sub

What we like: Unlike the other two picks on this list, the decompression markings on this watch are located along the rotating bezel. Not only is this unique to Doxa watches, but combined with the rare orange dial and solid condition, this piece is a great find for those looking for a unique vintage dive watch with decompression markings.
From the seller: These are extremely rare, with orange being even less common than black. Vaunted because of rarity and design, the unique hands and subdials are totally specific to this watch. It also nails the era it hails from 100%.

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