“Did you see the dead whale?” the woman at the dive shop asked. “It was drifting just outside the harbor, and the Coast Guard pulled it out to sea so it wouldn’t attract sharks.”
No, I hadn’t seen the whale, or sharks. I’d heard reports of the odd great white swimming offshore of Catalina Island and had seen sea lions — shark bait — bobbing on the surface near the popular Casino Point dive site. So I kept a wary eye out while diving in the eerie kelp forest, imagining the man in the gray suit appearing from the gloom at the edge of my 40-foot visibility. And though I was relieved (and disappointed) not to see one during my weekend of diving there, it would have been fitting, since I was wearing the new Aquatimer Chronograph “Edition Sharks” ($12,200) from IWC, a watch that pays tribute to these most misunderstood animals — along with one of their biggest advocates, photographer Michael Muller, whose book Sharks was recently published by Taschen.
The Aquatimer family of diving watches has been in IWC’s arsenal since 1967, with several generations of evolution in that half century. The latest version is the most highly evolved one yet, with the most striking feature being the timing bezel. Marrying a timing ring, which rotates under the sapphire crystal, with a grippy external bezel required some serious engineering. A geared clutch mechanism on the left side of the case allows a diver to turn the bezel to align the descent marker with the minute hand, ratcheting the inner ring counter-clockwise. It is incredibly smooth and secure, and a pleasure to use, either topside or underwater. Though I had my doubts about its long-term durability in silty water, IWC Chief Designer Christian Knoop, assured me that it was tested for 20,000 rotations in dirty water at the factory in Schaffhausen.
Under the hood, the Aquatimer Chronograph is powered by IWC’s calibre 89365, an in-house movement that tracks seconds with a sweep hand and minutes up to an hour on the upper subdial. Power reserve is an impressive 68 hours, though on the wrist, IWC’s vaunted Pellaton winding system keeps it running as long as you’re wearing it. The watch is water resistant to 300 meters, including the chronograph functions, which can be stopped and started to the full rated depth. A quick-release strap system allows for swapping between rubber and velcro dive straps without the use of a tool.
The “Edition Sharks” is distinguished from other Aquatimer Chronographs by its shimmering gray dial and bezel, which conjure the flanks of Carcharodon carcharias and a case back beautifully engraved with a school of swimming hammerheads. The watch is limited to 500 pieces and comes packaged with an oversized, signed copy of Michael Muller’s book enclosed in its own hinged metal cage. Muller has been photographing sharks for a decade while always wearing an IWC, and he also did the photography for IWC’s Aquatimer campaign in 2009. So the special edition was a natural fit.
Diving with the Aquatimer Chronograph “Edition Sharks” off of Catalina Island confirmed the watch’s prowess as a diving instrument, tracking my bottom time in the chilly 59–degree water. The long rubber strap fit easily over my thick wetsuit sleeve and the oversized hands proved easy to read even in the dark shadows of the kelp forest. After the Aquatimer counted down the three-minute decompression stop on my last dive, I surfaced, giving one last glance over my shoulder. Though I didn’t encounter any of the watch’s namesake inspiration, I knew they were out there somewhere, probably devouring a whale carcass.