Is Cartier’s recently released dive watch, the Cartier Calibre de Cartier Diver, more than just a pretty face? We sought to find out in this test feature from the WatchTime archives. Scroll down to read the full review, with original photos by Robert Atkinson.
Just about now, some of you are thinking “A Cartier dive watch? Great, I’ll wear it with my neoprene tux.” If something like that crossed your mind, read on, and be educated. The International Organization for Standards, or ISO, is well known to watch enthusiasts. Just about everyone knows the magic numbers -4 to +6. They are part of ISO 3159 governing mechanical wrist chronometers. ISO 1413 sets standards for shock-resistant watches, and ISO 764 covers antimagnetic watches. There’s also an ISO standard for dive watches: number 6425. We took an in-depth look at it in this article. Our test watch meets this ISO standard. Many so-called dive watches do not.
Dive watches are defined by their cases, so that’s where we will begin. Aesthetically, the case is clearly a member of the Calibre de Cartier family. At 10.92 mm thick in our calipers (and 11 mm officially), the Calibre Diver is slim. When designing the watch, Cartier prioritized a svelte profile. At 111 grams, it’s also light, but as we’ll see, it’s no lightweight. All its surfaces wear a fine brushed finish. A polished bevel along the outer edges of the lugs catches the light. Between the lugs, the top of the case band angles out to meet the bracelet’s end pieces. On our test watch, this angled lip covers the gap between the strap and the case. This gives the watch a finished look, and it creates the impression that the strap is attached with curved spring bars, which it is not. The lugs are steeply curved and, combined with the rubber strap, make the Calibre Diver very comfortable to wear. The screws at the end of each lug help secure the bracelet. When a strap is fitted, the screws play only an ornamental role. The oversize crown guard teams up with the bezel to make the watch wear larger than its specs indicate. The case is officially listed at 42 mm in diameter. At 43.8 mm, the bezel is larger than the case, making it easier to grip. Add the crown guard, and the diameter is just over 45 mm.
The smooth, seven-sided crown screws down, contributing to the 300-meter water-resistance rating. The crown’s polished finish and distinctive deep blue synthetic spinel give the watch a dressy demeanor. Some may feel the blue jewel is not appropriate for a dive watch, but keep in mind that a Cartier tool is going to be an elegant tool.
The solid caseback is held in place with eight small screws. As we’ll discuss below, to those in the know, the simple “diver’s watch” inscription speaks volumes. The case is topped by an eye-catching, compliment-inducing bezel. It’s black ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon) over steel or rose gold, depending on the model. The deep gloss gives the watch a top-quality look. The edge of the bezel is highly polished, and crenelated for improved grip. The unidirectional bezel adjusts in 30-second increments (120 clicks per rotation).
A slightly domed sapphire crystal with no nonreflective coating protects a dial finished in the Calibre de Cartier style. An oversize “XII” dominates, and does almost as much to identify the manufacturer as the brand name directly beneath it. The “California” style carries over, with Roman numerals on top and broad stick markers below. The outer portion of the dial, below the Romans, is snailed. The Roman “X” incorporates Cartier’s “secret signature” anti-counterfeiting feature: the Cartier name in microprint in the numeral’s crosspiece.
When viewing two-digit dates in the curved aperture, it appeared to our eyes that the triangle indicator protruded slightly into the left digit, though the date remains legible. The sword-shaped hands are part of the Calibre de Cartier aesthetic, and they function quite well, though some may regard them as too dainty for a dive watch. In the dark, all three hands glow, as does the small-seconds chapter ring. The small, square dots marking the hours are also treated with Super-LumiNova, though the oversize “XII” is the sole radiant Roman. On the bezel, only the inverted triangle glows, so the other bezel markings are not visible in the dark. In our test, the Super-LumiNova glowed brightly for about one hour. After two hours, the luminous output had declined to the point that it was visible only to eyes adjusted to the dark. Though the luminous output dropped off quickly, luminous elements remained legible for more than 18 hours. If you check your watch in the middle of the night, you will be able to read it.
The strap is soft rubber, and at 120 mm by 74 mm, it will fit over a wetsuit only if your wrists are small. The strap is 23.5 mm wide at the lugs, limiting precise-fitting aftermarket options. The pin buckle is solid and attractive. It has the same fine brushed finish as the case, with the Cartier name engraved on the frame. The upper, outer edge of the frame displays a fine, polished bevel. Behind the solid caseback is Cartier’s in-house automatic Caliber 1904 MC, which debuted in 2010 in the original Calibre de Cartier. This movement was designed by Cartier’s resident horological mastermind, Carole Forestier-Kasapi, and the architecture emphasizes chronometric stability. The twin, series-coupled barrels do not increase the power reserve, which is 48 hours. Rather, they smooth out the energy flow as the mainsprings wind down. Cartier claims that this design also improves movement durability, as the barrels generate less friction-inducing force. The movement runs in 27 jewels at 4 Hz, or 28,800 vph.
A bidirectional rotor mounted on ceramic bearings winds the mainsprings. The bearings need no lubrication and increase longevity. Cartier uses a V-shaped pawl in place of a standard reverser to increase winding efficiency and improve shock resistance. The rotor and automatic winding bridge are finished with Geneva stripes, while the mainplate wears perlage, or circular graining. The smooth Glucydur balance wheel, flat Nivarox balance spring, and Etachron fine adjustment system regulate the release of energy.
Given Cartier’s goal for the twin mainspring barrels, we tested the Calibre Diver on the Witschi machine at full wind and again after 24 hours, or halfway through the power reserve. Our test watch appears to have been regulated to run consistently fast. Fully wound, the Calibre Diver averaged +7.1 seconds per day in six positions, with each position in positive territory. After 24 hours, that figure increased to +9.2 seconds. The greatest deviation of rate at full wind was 5.1 seconds (+4.8 seconds crown left and +9.9 seconds dial down). After 24 hours, that figure improved to 4.9 seconds (+7.5 seconds crown up, +12.4 seconds crown down). The Calibre Diver performed much better in real life, running +2 seconds over 24 hours on the wrist. The complete timing results appear in the Specs box. Most of our tests end at this point, but as noted, our test watch meets the ISO-6425 requirements, and because many dive watches do not, we’ll touch on what that means.
ISO 6425 sets out physical requirements for dive watches, such as water resistance to a given depth, and it defines specific tests to ensure the requirements are met. The physical requirements for mechanical, analog dive watches include a device to pre-select a period of time of up to 60 minutes (usually a rotating bezel), legibility in the dark, an indication that the watch is running (usually satisfied with a luminous seconds hand), salt-water resistance, resistance to external forces, reliability under water, resistance to magnetism (ISO 764) and shocks (ISO 1413), and resistance to thermal shocks (rapid changes in water temperature). Among the tests spelled out in ISO 6425, the most significant is the requirement that every watch must be tested to 125 percent of its rated depth. This is the so-called “overpressure” test. This “test every watch” requirement is much more demanding than that set out in ISO 2281, the standard for watches that are merely “water resistant.” That standard requires testing production samples, not every watch. If your watch meets ISO 6425, you can be sure it was tested to 125 percent of its rated depth before leaving the factory. If it does not meet ISO 6425, you may be wearing an untested watch.
We asked Cartier to outline its Calibre Diver testing procedures. It provided a summary of “some” of the tests it performs: Water resistance at rated depth: 100 percent of watches are individually tested for water resistance at 375 meters, or 125 percent of the rated depth.
The following tests are applied to a statistically significant sample of production watches:
- Pressure change test: The watch is submerged to 375 meters in one minute. It remains at that depth for two hours. It is then quickly brought up to a depth of three meters, where it remains for one hour. This is repeated twice to test resistance to both overpressure and sudden changes in pressure. Following this procedure, the watch must pass a condensation test to ensure that no water has penetrated the case.
- Sand in the bezel test: The watch is submerged in a solution of salt water and sand. The bezel is then turned at a rate of two complete turns per second for 1.5 hours (a total of 10,800 turns). Bezel function must remain unaffected.
- Temperature change test: The watch is placed in water at 40 degrees Cº, or about 104 degrees Fº, for 10 minutes, then moved to water at 5 degrees Cº, or about 41 degrees Fº, for 10 minutes, then back to 40 degrees Cº. Following this procedure, the watch must pass a condensation test to ensure that no water has penetrated the case.
- Magnetic field test: The watch is subjected to a magnetic field at 4,800 A/m for four cycles of 1 minute each. Following the exposure, the watch must keep time to +/-30 seconds per day, and amplitude must be within 20 degrees, compared with figures obtained before the test.
- Pressure on the case, strap and crown: The watch is exposed to simulated daily shocks including accidental drops, sports practice, and sharp movements. The strap is subjected to a force of 200 newtons, or about 45 pounds, for 1 minute. The watch is then submerged to 375 meters, where it stays for 1 minute. Finally, while at 375 meters, a force of five newtons, or about one pound, is exerted directly on the top, or dial side, of the crown for 10 minutes. Following this procedure, the watch must pass a condensation test to ensure that no water has penetrated the case.
In addition to the tests Cartier identified, ISO 6425 also requires these tests:
- Salt water resistance: The watch spends 24 hours in a salt solution that closely matches sea water, after which it is examined for oxidation. The watch is then disassembled to make sure all components function properly.
- Underwater reliability: The watch spends 50 hours under water, after which it is examined for correct function.
- Low light visibility: Indications must be visible at 25 cm, or about 10 inches, in the dark.
ISO 6425 provides that a watch that passes all of the tests may be marked with the word “Diver’s” followed by the depth rating, for example “Diver’s 300m” (or similar terms in other languages). Watches that have not passed the ISO 6425 test may not be marked “Diver’s.” Note that the manufacturer is not required to put any specific mark or language on the watch to indicate that it satisfies ISO 6425.
The Calibre Diver’s looks received uniformly positive comments while we had it, and the movement is a solid manufacture piece. At $8,200 in steel on a strap and $8,900 on a bracelet, the price is right there with other top-drawer dive watches. As a new model, the Cartier can’t match the provenance other brands offer, but meeting the ISO 6425 requirements goes a long way toward establishing the Calibre Diver’s bona fides. If you’re looking for a tough dive watch that will stand out in a crowd, Cartier’s Calibre Diver may be for you.
Manufacturer: Cartier SA, Chemin des Alisiers 10, CH-2300, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Reference number: W7100056
Functions: Hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds, date
Movement: Automatic manufacture Caliber 1904 MC, 186 components, decorated with Geneva waves, 28,800 vph, 27 jewels, twin barrels, Glucydur balance, flat Nivarox hairspring, Incabloc shock absorber, Etachron fine regulation, diameter = 25.6 mm, thickness = 4 mm, power reserve = 48 hours
Case: Stainless steel with domed sapphire crystal, solid caseback secured with eight screws, water resistant to 300 m, complies with ISO 6425
Strap and clasp: Black rubber strap with stainless-steel pin buckle
Rate results – Deviations in seconds per 24 hours (Fully wound/after 24 hours)
Dial up +9.4 / +10.8
Dial down +9.9 / +7.9
Crown up +4.9 / +7.5
Crown down +7.3 / +12.4
Crown left +4.8 / +9.1
Crown right +6.4 / +7.8
Greatest deviation of rate 5.1 / 4.9
Average deviation +7.1 / +9.2
Flat positions 304° / 276°
Hanging positions 272° / 252°
Dimensions: Diameter = 42 mm, height = 11 mm, weight = 111 grams
Variations: Steel on bracelet ($8,900); rose gold and steel on strap ($10,600); rose gold and steel on bracelet ($13,000); rose gold on strap ($28,100)
Timing tests performed by Wempe Jewelers, New York City
Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): The rubber strap and pin buckle are well made, and they pass the ISO 6425 “strength test.” 8
Operation (5): The polished, seven-sided crown is slightly slippery. The uni-directional bezel is precise and well made. 4
Case (10): The in-house case is slim for a dive watch and it passes the ISO 6425 tests. 9
Design (15): The Calibre de Cartier look translates well to the world of the deep. 13
Legibility (5): All indications are clear. The luminous coating could be a bit more powerful. 4
Wearing comfort (10): The soft rubber strap is comfortable and the watch sits well on the wrist. 8
Movement (20): An automatic manufacture caliber with twin barrels 16
Rate results (10): Our test watch ran consistently fast, and the greatest deviation was only average. Timekeeping on the wrist was good. 7
Overall value (15): A distinctive diver that is clearly Cartier with ISO 6425 cred 12
TOTAL: 81 POINTS
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of WatchTime Magazine.