Well, when I go around many watch forums, it appears that one of the most asked questions by dive watch enthusiasts is: “Does a true diver need ISO certification?” Up to now, this debate hasn’t been settled yet. What is your opinion about it?
I believe a genuine dive watch isn’t necessarily marked as “ISO-certified.” Let me tell you the reasons why!
Firstly, what is the ISO-certification?
According to the official website of ISO:
“ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is an independent, non-governmental membership organization and the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards.”
As you can see, ISO’s first and foremost role is to set standards. They are not an inspector who is in charge of monitoring the testing process. It’s done by the manufacturers, indeed. Therefore, if a producer claims their products are ISO-certified, they mean, “We’ve put each of them through the ISO standards test ON OUR OWN!” That’s it!
Two different ISO-certified dive watches could have been put through 2 other testing procedures. That’s ok as long as the producers can ensure their watches meet all those ISO requirements in practical use, or else they will be blamed for making false advertising claims.
What are the differences between ISO & non-ISO dive watches?
Following are some main points of the ISO 6425 standard applied to dive watches (you can check out ISO’s official website for the full version. By the way, you have to pay, it’s not a free document!!!):
- 100m minimum water-resistant depth
- Have a time-preselecting device (a unidirectional bezel or a digital display)
- Transparent legibility at a distance of 25cm in the dark. These items must be visible in total darkness: the minute & hour hands, the tip or tail of the second hand, the lumed pip on the bezel, the digital display & the battery end-of-life indicator (if existing)
- Thermal shock resistance
- Shock resistance
- Saltwater resistance
- Magnetic resistance
And a few more criteria
Do you see? “True” dive watches must meet a dozen of requirements. Only a high water resistance rating is not enough. Each of them must be put through a complicated testing process to ensure they satisfy all of the ISO 6425’s criteria. Thus an increase in fabricating costs is inevitable!
That’s why many reputable brands must implement this testing process in each product. They accept to mark their diver-styled pieces as “Water resistance” rather than “Diver’s” because they know many consumers care about the price more than the guarantee. They only test a sample product and then implement the same producing process in mass.
On the contrary, if a watch is marked as “Diver’s,” you know that the producer has tested it against the ISO 6425 standard before releasing it to market. This is the most significant difference between an ISO-certified dive watch and a non-ISO one.
Don’t mistake me! Non-ISO-certified dive watches can be very reliable! Many diving pieces from prestigious brands have never undergone ISO6425 testing, but they still offer superb quality. The unqualified rate is extremely low as long as the manufacturing is a high standard and well-controlled.
Rolex, the No.1 luxury watchmaker in the world, never bothers with the ISO 6425 requirements. You would only see a few lines about ISO standards in their advertisements since people know what they should expect from Rolex, their brand reputation does all the talking! Their classic dive watch, the Rolex Submariner, had already earned professional divers’ trust long before the ISO 6425 was born.
Do you need all features required in the ISO 6425 standard?
Be honest with yourself, do you need your diver to have all of the features required in ISO 6425? I don’t. Magnetic resistance? No, I always avoid putting my watch in a magnetic field. Keep it away from electric appliances! A luminous second hand to indicate your watch’s still running in the dark? No, unless I’m working on a military task, most of my diving situations are usually not a matter of life and death. My bottom time is flexible, as I never dive too deep. If my dead watch makes me miss the turning point, I still have more than enough ascent time.
ISO 6425 is an industry standard. By following its requirements, manufacturers can make standardized fully-featured products that satisfy all customers’ possible demands. The problem is that we don’t always need all of these features, so why do we have to pay more to get what we don’t need?
At the end of the day, there’re only two things that affect my purchase decision:
- The brand’s reputation: Many watchmakers claim their dive watches are ISO-certified. I have their words on it, a little boost in trust, of course, but the most important thing is still their reputation. No other certification is more persuasive than that.
- My own demands: Many diver-styled timepieces are marked as “Water resistance.” They don’t claim themselves to be “real” dive watches. They might not meet some of the dive watches’ requirements, but as long as their imperfections are not a huge deal to me, they are still “true” dive watches!
Above is my opinion, how about yours?
Some reliable dive watches which are non-ISO (reviews):
Some affordable ISO-certified diving pieces (reviews):