The world as we know it is mapped to the last detail. Even before the ubiquity of satellites and global travel, the earth was a seemingly known quantity. Explored, charted and tamed over hundreds of years. And, more recently, even the skies above us have become much less mysterious thanks to massive and increasingly sophisticated telescopic arrays, which have evolved rapidly from the first-ever image captured of the moon — a daguerreotype taken in 1851, a few years before TAG Heuer was founded — into incredibly complex space telescopes finding earth-like planets hundreds of light-years away. It’s surprising then that over 80 percent of our world’s oceans are unexplored and largely unknown. This is largely because of the incredible challenges posed by deep sea exploration. In many ways, it’s easier to put a rover on Mars than on the bottom of the most inhospitable parts of the seafloor.
The vast majority of the known underwater world — and underwater life, for that matter — exists in the so-called sunlight zone, which, like most commercial dive watches, extends to a depth of around 200 meters. Deeper down, we enter the twilight zone. Here light is more scarce, and life has to adapt to harsh conditions. Giant, predatory sperm whales hunt giant squid in this dim realm — like something out of a Jules Verne novel. Once the depth gauge clicks to 1,000 meters, we enter the evocatively and aptly named midnight zone. This sparsely populated underwater world is dominated by a lack of sunlight and intense pressure, making what life can be found down here incredibly unusual, offering strange shapes and bioluminescence.
Designing the Superdiver
Into this inhospitable environment enters an incredible 45mm slab of titanium, the TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver. From first glance, it’s clear that this watch is a physical manifestation of TAG Heuer’s promise not to crack under pressure. The crown guard and helium escape valve are early indicators that this is not a watch to be messed with, and the vivid orange highlights on the hands and the ceramic bezel, as well as the sheer quantity of luminous material, indicate that this is a watch made for the extremes. Given all this, it’s somewhat surprising just how much this Superdiver looks like its less pressure-proof cousins in the Aquaracer family, and how well this larger and exceptionally serious bit of dive kit fits on the wrist. And that’s because, unsurprisingly, TAG Heuer has taken a lot of care and consideration in making this watch a natural (if extreme) extension of the Aquaracer.
Guy Bove, TAG Heuer’s Creative Director, explains just what went into making this diver super. “Well, we start with the case. Obviously, the material thicknesses are quite different, especially the sapphire glass, which is quite a bit thicker. Some of the work that goes into designing it is trying to keep a watch that will look right on the wrist, but adjusting a few angles here and there to make sure it sits properly, since it’s getting thicker.”
While making a case that can handle the intense pressures found 1,000m down isn’t too hard, achieving it on a watch that’s wearable top side is a little trickier. But Bove discovered that some structural elements, like the thick crystal, add to the aesthetic appeal. “What’s interesting is the sapphire glass gets a bit more of a box glass look because it gets thicker. It brings a bit of charm to the watch. On top of that, we’ve added details to make it more readable at depth. The first place you can see that is on the bezel. We’ve included the orange marking on the first 15 minutes. From there, moving in towards the dial, you can see the orange seconds hand; we’ve added some visibility to that. And then, if you look at the hour hand, it’s actually the same hour hand that we have on the [Aquaracer] Professional 300. But here, we’ve extended the angle coming back from the tip and brought it in to create the arrow shape to have an even clearer differentiation between the hour and the minute hands. If you look at the Professional 300, it has a dagger-type hand; this is the same geometry, except that we’ve extended the edges, the segments of the tip further back and brought them directly inwards to create the arrow. There’s a huge difference between the hour and the minute hand. The minute hand has gone orange as well.”
The revamped Aquaracer Professional 300, released last year, was a strong starting platform for TAG Heuer to create the Superdiver, but it was only a start. Bove explains, “The 300 was an excellent base for the Superdiver. We’ve adjusted a few things around the dial and the case, like adding a helium escape valve. Obviously, on the right, you can see the crown protector. What we’ve done is, the part of the guard on the right of the crown is basically connected to the crown, and it rides with it. When the crown screws in, it pulls that with it. When you unscrew the crown, it pulls it to the outside. So, that means the crown is always in a position where it can’t be knocked off. The main thing the crown protector does is make sure any blows that would hit the crown, and either could break the seal or could actually break the crown off, are deflected. And in this case, it protects 360 degrees around the crown.”
This system is the result of several rounds of prototyping, with the main challenge for TAG Heuer’s design team being balancing the utility and, for want of a better term, “grip ability” of the crown with the crown protector’s ability to effectively do its job in shielding the crown. On top of that, this watch is the first from the brand utilising the chronometre-certified TH30-00, and exclusive calibre made to TAG Heuer’s specifications by Kenissi Manufacture SA, offering 70 hours of power reserve and five years’ warranty. It’s difficult enough to create a watch capable of surviving the crushing pressures found 1,000m down. But the real design challenge is to create a watch that does all this and remains wearable. In both regards, the Superdiver can stand proud.
Tag Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver Reference WBP5A8A.BF0619
Movement: TH 30-00, automatic, chronometre-certifed, 70 hours of power reserve
Function: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case: 45mm across, 15.4mm tall, grade 5 titanium fine brushed finish, rated to 1000M with helium escape valve, ceramic bezel and crown protector
Strap: Grade 5 titanium bracelet, folding clasp with double safety push-buttons with fine adjustment system
Price: CHF 6,000