Apple just had its big event, and dive watch fans should pay attention.
Apple Watches have always offered exponentially more functionality than traditional watches, but old-fashioned dive and tool watches had an edge with ruggedness. Now, Apple is coming for your beloved diver.
The smartwatch has steadily improved features like water resistance, but the new Apple Watch Ultra is an entirely different beast. A beast indeed, the Apple Watch's familiarly curvaceous case silhouette now features somewhat less elegant but purposeful protrusions protecting the righthand side crown and button. Instead of a rounded screen is a flat one on a raised bezel, and its lightweight titanium case is a chunky 49mm tall — the biggest Apple Watch yet.
There's no rotating dive bezel, but the Ultra's design and features are reminiscent of the function-first durability and mean looks you'd expect on your badass, analog dive watch. Just like many traditional dive watches, everything is supersized: the crown and buttons are bigger so they can be more easily operated in situations where your hands might be cold, shaky or clad in thick gloves. The screen is also bigger, brighter and made from sapphire crystal — just like your badass Doxa, say, or Rolex Submariner.
Apple wants to do everything those beloved dive watches do, and more, of course. The Apple Watch Ultra is water-resistant to 100m and includes actual dive computer functionality through a partnership with the Oceanic+ app and a built-in depth gauge. Water resistance of 100m might not sound like as serious as your average Seiko or Omega diver with 200m, 300m or even sometimes much more, but those ratings often aren't literal, and Apple clearly intends for this watch to be used underwater in SCUBA situations — it's even made to comply with EN13319, the international standard for recreational SCUBA dive computers.
And other situations, too. The Ultra isn't just a dive watch: it's meant as an all-around rugged outdoor watch with features like resistance to extreme temperatures. The new "Action Button" on the case's lefthand side can be customized for different activities from the above mentioned dive computer to compass mode, maps and more with a new GPS system and algorithms. Even the battery is bigger, and that means 36 hours on a single charge or 60 hours in low-power mode (coming in the fall). Even a couple of new bands are made for more than casual outdoorsiness.
Traditional dive watches have long been obsolete and yet remained attractive, but Apple is progressively stealing away your excuses to strap one on. With materials like sapphire crystal and titanium, and only available in cellular models, the Ultra is the new premium Apple Watch — yet far more affordable than many traditional watches with a price starting at $799.