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The Millennium Watch Book
IWC Schaffhausen - IWC Aquatimer Cousteau Divers

IWC Schaffhausen IWC Aquatimer Cousteau Divers

IWC and the Commander's Legacy

As an aviation chronograph specialist IWC may have its head in the clouds, but it also has hidden depths. Its first Aquatimer was released in October 1967, and there have been many variations on the theme since then. In 2003, one particular model heralded the present-day rebirth of the collection — and the brand’s commitment to sustainability.

The name of Cousteau is bound to catch the attention of lovers of underwater exploration and ocean conservationists alike. It’s also a name that’s jealously guarded, but some 20 years ago now, IWC earned the right to use it. In 2003 the watchmakers entered into a partnership with the legendary Cousteau Society on the occasion of the latter’s 50th anniversary that resulted in an iconic timepiece of which only 1953 were made. 

Practical Engagement

The Special Edition Aquatimer Cousteau Diver marked a watershed moment and embodied the contemporary Aquatimer. Over and above the fact that it’s the fruit of a commercial partnership, this rare piece is also a testimony to IWC’s practical commitment to the conservation of the world’s oceans. The Aquatimer Cousteau was at the heart of a scientific expedition to the Red Sea between November 2003 and February 2004. For a period of almost 80 days, the condition of the coral reefs in various diving areas was surveyed — just where Cousteau himself had worked as a marine researcher in 1953, and where he filmed the award-winning documentary The Silent World. The expedition embarked on 50 years later was also filmed, accompanied by details of the condition of this marine biotope — one of the most beautiful diving areas in the world. The Cousteau Society and IWC have worked hand in hand to preserve it. 

IWC Aquatimer Cousteau Divers :

Aquatimer Special Edition «Cousteau Divers » © IWC Schaffhausen

Just as functional as in 1967

This Aquatimer is nothing if not contemporary, but is just as clearly a direct descendant of the original 1967 timepiece. It features the same two hallmark crowns at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock, an IWC particularity. The broad, luminous, rectangular hands are also very similar to those on the original: a simple and functional design that offers maximum readability in poor light. 

The minutes track is also still no-nonsense and minimalistic in style: one index marker per minute, plus a luminous marker every five minutes. There’s no need to clutter up the dial with seconds counters: diving doesn’t involve measuring such small increments. Here too, IWC’s emphasis is on efficiency. The profile of the two finely-grooved crowns remains the same as on the 1967 model. This isn’t merely some vintage throwback: it’s simply the best profile for operational use, even when wearing gloves. The date window is still at 3 o’clock, and in 2003 as in 1967, makes the Aquatimer suitable for day-to-day urban wear too.

Ready for the 21st Century

The Cousteau Divers version has adopted only those aspects of modernity deemed useful and necessary. The strap now uses rubber rather than synthetic material, and is now integral, providing better continuity with the case and making the piece sturdier. Several dial markers and the minutes hand now have orange luminous coating. This wasn’t an option 50 years ago, but it’s now been determined that it’s precisely this shade that’s the most visible at depth. 

The watch houses a 30110 calibre, based on the tried and tested ETA 2892-A2 automatic movement, beating at 28,800 vph and optimised by IWC. The same movement is to be found in a large number of IWC timepieces, from Pilot’s Watches to Portofinos and Ingenieurs — and of course many other Aquatimers. 42 millimetres in diameter and water-resistant to 100 metres, the timepiece is engraved with the original seal of the Alcyone, the Cousteau Society’s research vessel during the period in question. It’s a lovely collector’s item that looks as good today as ever. 

This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the divers watch since 2000 in The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch is available in both French and English here:

 

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With a clear emphasis on technology and development, IWC Schaffhausen has been manufacturing timepieces of lasting value since 1868. Its philosophy, based on a passion for watchmaking, aims to maintain a spirit of indefatigable initiative and impeccable craftsmanship.

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