Victorinox Swiss Army’s (VSA) new Dive Master 500M watch is a worthy timepiece as solid as the titanium it is fashioned from. Considered one of the lightest and strongest metals available for many types of hardware, the titanium watch case, screw-in case back, and bracelet are remarkably comfortable and easy on the wrist.
Most legitimate diving watches, with deep-water capability are milled out of stainless steel. While stainless-steel is extremely strong and durable, it is also fairly heavy. And for some people, the weight and bulk of a dive watch makes it cumbersome. The VSA Dive Master 500M does carry the bulk needed to withstand the pressure of deep dives, yet the lack of weight inherent in titanium takes away the heavy feel, which translates into a comfort level you can enjoy and live with.
The case diameter is 43mm and about 12.5mm thick. Yes, you can knock out your adversary with a moderately powered, but well placed shot to the chin with this watch. But it is no larger or bulky than any competitive purpose-built watch in its category. Yet the watch case and bracelet are lighter than any dive watch in its category not milled entirely out of titanium.
Considered the hardest natural metal on earth, titanium is highly scratch resistant and will not readily bend or deform. Titanium’s coloration of silver-gray-white is exactly the color of the Dive Master 500M we reviewed. In its purest form, titanium is completely hypoallergenic which also makes this a viable choice for active outdoorsmen and women who are hard pressed to find a watch they can wear without the metal reacting to the skin on their wrist.
So naturally we liked the overall appearance and lightweight of the Dive Master. Aesthetically, the Dive Master is just as functional and easy to wear in a business environment as it is on a dive, surfing session or water-born athletic application. While its design and purpose are meant to function beyond human eyesight below the surface of the sea, only a small percentage of Dive Master owners will ever really put this watch through the rigors it is built for.
A rigorous build is an understatement, the Dive Master 500M is overkill in an excellent way. And it’s guaranteed no human will ever wear this watch to 500 meters below the surface of the sea without being twisted into a cinnamon bun and forever unable to even describe the submarine beauty to a forensic physician on a CSI show. A depth of 500 meters is not survivable in terms of a human being operating on a deep sea dive.
The Dive Master is rated for water resistance down to 500 meters (or 1,640.4 feet). To say “waterproof” would be to tamper with a legal term that in reality, no mechanism could claim. At some depth, the enormous pressures of the ocean water will implode the glass and breach the moisture seals of any instrument. Being water resistant to 500 meters simply indicates the watch is designed to withstand water pressure of 50 ocean atmospheres. Now consider this: the human body can only operate around the 100 meter depth. So the Dive Master is simply capable of functioning in an ocean pressure far beyond human capacity. That’s a huge status boost for the Dive Master 500M priced at $725.00 (Item # 241262).
What makes sense to us is the astute use of titanium to design a watch that can go where no watch may have gone before. By engineering a dive watch using all the best design practices and pressure-sealed components, it stands to reason how such a depth of 500 meters can be attained strictly on the merits of the timepiece alone. So how does one objectively test a product like this?
We toyed with the notion of getting on an overnight deep-sea fishing charter boat and asking the captain to let us know when we had 1,640 feet of ocean below. We could use the watch as a sinker, then fling the Dive Master over the side to see for ourselves how well it fared at maximum depth. But that’s not realistic and the Dive Master is on loan. We don’t even want to know the result if we were wrong. Yet somehow we don’t think we would be disappointed.
Besides, our evaluations on outdoor gear is measured against how well a product or service performs in everyday life whether in the backcountry or in a more urban setting. However, what we did do was to wear the Dive Master in every cold, wet, and a potentially case-seeping water intrusion scenario we found ourselves in. And there is no question this watch is water resistant for most extreme outdoor activities that most folks are going to truly experience.
The Dive Master 500 has a sapphire crystal, of the kind only found on fine watches. Although it is not impervious to scratching or abrasion, sapphire will hold up far longer than most other watch-crystal options. For example, if you were intent on scratching your initials into the watch crystal of a Dive Master 500, you would have to use a diamond or another type of sapphire stone. A nice blue sapphire with a chiseled point will work nicely, but why?
We appreciated how the date magnifier block is below the sapphire crystal rather than on top like a Rolex Submariner. The functionality is the same, but it leaves the crystal surface uncluttered. You might also appreciate the single-direction bezel (it only rotates counter clockwise), with a crisp and quiet ratchet mechanism. You will also note the robust titanium shoulder design protecting the watch crown.
Here’s another big plus we enjoyed about the Dive Master, you don’t need two hands to see what time it is at night. The glowing capability of this green-white florescent feature is often indicative of the element called tritium. But nothing in owner’s manual or the VSA website confirms this.
In low-light environments, such a night time or cave dwelling, the illuminating treatment on the Dive Master can be clearly viewed on the watch hands, hour points, and the 20-minute dive time indicator on the watch bezel. It actually “pops” in low light. This is one characteristic we look for in all outdoor watches we get our wrists into. When you cannot see what time it is at night merely by glancing at your wrist, all other features are just digital fluff.
Time accuracy is hard to beat with the quartz movement such as used with the Dive Master. Rather than using synthetic gems in the watch movement, an electrical pulse (from the battery) is sent to a minuscule quartz crystal that precisely vibrates at exactly 32,768 cycles per second. The accuracy of a quartz movement pivots on the reliability of this straightforward interaction between the electrical pulse and the known characteristics of the quartz crystal to run the watch.
As you may know, a Swiss made watch is legitimate when the watch movement is installed into the watch case in Switzerland. That’s really all it means. But it sounds cool. And of course we like the fact that this watch is Swiss made. Far more cache’ is associated with a Swiss-made product than one made in any pacific-rim country. That’s not a slight, prejudice or insensitive slap to anyone. It’s a generally accepted conclusion.
This idea of the importance of the country a product is made in does matter to many individuals when it comes to a purchase decision. Victorinox Swiss Army vociferously protects their brand name, image, and perceived quality, and the Dive Master appears to be a product with the pride of a nation standing behind it.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed the Dive Master 500. It is a watch you can wear any place from the most severe conditions to the heights of luxurious social circles. It’s not out of place anywhere. It’s also an investment in a piece of gear that you hopefully won’t have to replace for many years. Because it is battery powered, we can see a down side when someone decides not to produce a battery that will run the watch. You know, like how the Japanese and American manufacturers constantly outdate last year’s model so you can’t use whatever it is or get replacement parts for it, thus forcing you to buy the latest piece of merchandise. If this watch could be set up to receive its electrical needs from exposure to the sun, the Dive Master 500 would last a lifetime and then some…to say the least.
By Rick Shandley
Photography, Scott Anderson