The IWC Automatic Aquatimer 2,000 Meters is a fake watch designed to withstand the pressure found at a depth of two kilometers. It looks and feels every inch the part, but could anyone ever ?even theoretically ?wear it that far down and not instantly (and messily) implode? Let's look at the fake watch itself, and at the same time conduct a little thought experiment on what might happen if you tried to go as deep as the replica rolex day-date watch can.
This particular version of the Aquatimer has the greatest depth rating of any model in the current Aquatimer collection, but it's not the first 2,000 meter rated IWC watch. The very first was the IWC Ocean 2,000, which was a collaboration with Porsche Design made back in 1982. Despite the extreme depth rating, the fake watch ?also the first wristwatch with a titanium case and bracelet ?was not especially big, at 42mm x 12.6mm; not a dress fake watch by any means, but still not terribly beefy by modern standards.
The IWC Automatic Aquatimer 2,000 Meters is the latest in a long line of extreme-depth IWC diver's watches.ADVERTISEMENT
The IWC Aquatimer Automatic 2,000 Meters, on the other hand, wants you to have no doubts as to its toughness. It's 46mm x 20.5mm, although the SafeDive bezel system probably involves some extra girth and thickness as well. The SafeDive system consists of an outer bezel, which rotates an inner bezel via an internal gear linkage; the idea is to combine the ease of use of an outer bezel with the legibility of an inner bezel. A dive fake watch with a SafeDive system is actually rather similar in construction to a modern submarine ?subs, in general, have an outer hull which provides good hydrodynamics and streamlining, and an inner pressure hull which contains the living and work spaces for the crew. Likewise, the SafeDive system involves an outer case (on which the outer bezel is mounted) which allows the ingress and egress of water, and an inner case, which is responsible for protecting the movement. The protrusion at 9:00 houses the coupling gear mechanism linking the inner and outer bezels.
The domed sapphire crystal stands quite prominently above the bezel (whose design mirrors that of the IWC Ocean 2,000) at least 3-4mm, and of course the movements used in the original Ocean 2,000 and the Aquatimer 2,000 Meters are quite different. The Ocean 2,000 used the IWC cal. 3752 (an ETA 2892-based movement) which is quite a bit thinner than the IWC cal. 80110 used in this Aquatimer. Caliber 80110 was launched in 2005 in the then-new Ingenieur Automatic, and it's 30mm x 7.26mm, including IWC's Pellaton winding system. This is quite a bit thicker than the 3.6mm-thick ETA 2892, although arguably a more robust choice for a technical dive watch.
IWC's SafeDive bezel system features an inner timing bezel, controlled by a one-way outer bezel.
Now, let's talk about depth. Every meter of water exerts an additional amount of pressure above what air pressure is at sea level; the exact amount is an extra 1.422 pounds per square inch per meter. The deeper you go, the harder the water pushes on you. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) recommends 30 meters as a limit for recreational scuba diving, at which point pressure is 42.67 p.s.i. If you are breathing normal compressed air, which is largely oxygen and nitrogen, your body will absorb additional nitrogen as the nitrogen already in your body is compressed. At the surface, you have about 1.5 liters of nitrogen dissolved in your blood and body fluids; at 10 meters, however (one atmosphere's worth of pressure) this doubles to three liters.
There are two main problems with having more nitrogen than normal dissolved in your body. The first is that if you ascend too quickly, the extra gas will form bubbles in your body fluids as it comes out of solution (same as with the carbon dioxide in a soda when you open the cap and pressure inside the bottle suddenly drops). The result is decompression sickness: headache, severe joint pain, and even paralysis are some of the symptoms. The other problem is that nitrogen is a narcotic, and if you have too much of it in your body it will basically make you drunk. This phenomenon is called nitrogen narcosis, and it can cloud a diver's judgement badly enough to make you think you're swimming up when you're swimming down (for instance), which is clearly a potentially fatal circumstance. It's not a coincidence that the PADI limit is 30 meters, by the way: that's the depth at which nitrogen narcosis symptoms start to become noticeable in most adults. However, you can get around all of this by breathing a gas mixture that reduces, or even eliminates, nitrogen.
There's no question that the Aquatimer 2,000 Meters is a beefy watch. It doesn't try to hide it.
It goes without saying, by the way, that at 30 meters your Aquatimer 2,000 Meters hasn't even broken a sweat.
Mixed gas diving can take you even deeper though. You can reduce or even get rid of the nitrogen in the gas mixture you are breathing entirely, using other gasses like helium and hydrogen. Each of these, alone or in combination, can create their own problems, as can oxygen ?we need oxygen to live, but what makes it essential for energy production in the body is its high chemical reactivity, which is also what makes it potentially dangerous. Deeper than about 60 meters, oxygen toxicity starts to become a problem too, and as you go deeper, you need to keep using less oxygen in your breathing mix. Because the nervous system is so metabolically active it's especially vulnerable to oxygen toxicity and symptoms can include everything from visual disturbances to convulsions, which would be a sub-optimal event at depth (to put it mildly).ADVERTISEMENT
However, if you take your time, know what you are doing, and breathe the right gas mixture, you can go shockingly deep. Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises (COMEX) divers reached 534 meters in experimental dives conducted in 1988. At that depth, pressure is 793.211 p.s.i. Now, intuitively it seems like you would simply be, to put it colloquially, squished to death. But remember, as long as the total pressure of all the gasses in your body is equal to the pressure on the outside of your body, you're good to go ?to the extent that a third of a ton of weight per square inch, bearing down on you, in 534 meters of water, is good in any way at all. Your watch, by the way, is still fine and the atmospheric pressure inside the inner fake watch case is still equal to that at the surface.
The all-titanium case means that the Aquatimer 2,000 Meters is surprisingly light for its size.
This deep, however, physics and the laws of nature have decided that enough is enough, and they are trying to find other ways to kill you. Enter High Pressure Nervous Syndrome (HPNS). HPNS isn't well understood even today ?it might be due to toxic gas effects, or it could simply be high pressure causing alterations in nervous system functioning, or both. But it seems to be the factor currently limiting human deep diving. Symptoms include all sorts of unfortunate things like tremors, vomiting, and seizures ?all things that are, as medical textbooks like to dryly put it, "incompatible with life." HPNS is more or less completely incapacitating and since we don't know how to beat it, diving deeper than the 500-600 meter range seems permanently out of reach.
Your watch, by the way, is fine.
The 2,000 meter depth rating means the Aquatimer 2,000 can withstand pressures well beyond the capacity of human divers.
As an illustration of just how powerful water pressure is at such depths, consider a somber event: the 1963 loss, with all hands, of the USS Thresher. The lead boat of what was to be a new class of ultra-advanced nuclear attack submarines, Thresher was lost when a reactor malfunction (eventually traced to a faulty valve) left her without power to maneuver. Without the ability to move forward, and trimmed to a slightly negative buoyancy, she began to sink deeper and deeper, eventually imploding as the water pressure outside the hull crushed her. The event was almost unbelievably violent ?at the moment of implosion, according to a Navy study conducted in 1969, water entered Thresher at a speed of about 2,600 mph, and it was all over in a tenth of a second. The incident shows clearly that the problem is not so much pressure at depth per se, but rather, pressure difference. The depth at which Thresher's pressure hull failed is thought to have been just past the current technical limit for human diving ?somewhere around 700 meters.
Suppose, though, that it were possible to dive deeper ?that HPNS could be defeated, somehow? Well, even the safest inert gasses, like helium, become narcotic if you go deep enough. The problem is that, at this point, we've run up against an absence of data. Human experiments in inert gas narcosis and deep diving have never been done at depths even half that of the depth rating of the IWC Aquatimer 2,000 Meters. Unknown (but probably lethal) gas intoxication effects aside, the other problem is that at such extreme depths, breathing gas mixtures eventually become too dense to breathe. One proposed solution: breathing oxygen rich liquid. Such liquids, however, would not be very efficient at removing waste carbon dioxide from the body ?even at rest, you'd need to circulate about 5 liters per minute in and out of your lungs. This would be a lot more work than breathing air.
Overkill is part of the allure with the Aquatimer 2,000 Meters.
As we can easily see, the fake watch ?assuming there are no manufacturing defects, metallurgically, or in its gaskets ?has the ability to go more than twice as deep as any human is ever likely to dive and nearly four times as deep as any human has successfully dived to date.
At 2,000 meters, by the way, external pressure is 2,930.48 p.s.i. Only specially designed research submersibles, (such as the famous sub Alvin, operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) can go this deep; this depth is even beyond the capability of even the deepest-diving military submarines. Intriguingly, however, COMEX conducted a simulated dive, with human subjects breathing a hydrogen, helium, and oxygen mixture (hydreliox) in 1993, in which they achieved a simulated depth of 701 meters ?so perhaps even greater depths might be possible after all.
There's no getting around how big this fake watch is on the wrist, but if you're interested at all this isn't likely to bother you.
So why own or wear a fake watch that can so dramatically exceed even the most extreme limits of the environment in which it's designed to be used? I think the question reflects a misunderstanding in its asking. The fact that the fake watch so drastically over-performs is in fact the exact reason you would want it (on the assumption, of course, that this kind of thing appeals to you in the first place). It's not necessarily a matter of bragging rights, or having a fake watch that acts as an enabler of idle Walter Mitty fantasies. There is some deeper, much more fundamental fascination with extreme machines of any kind, and as long as engineering achievements in watchmaking (and elsewhere) continue to be interesting for their own sake, I think people are still going to be intrigued by replica watches like the Automatic Aquatimer 2,000 Meters.
The IWC Automatic Aquatimer 2,000 Meters: case, all titanium, 46mm x 20.5mm, SafeDive inner/outer bezel system. Movement, IWC manufacture caliber 80110, 44 hour power reserve. $9,500.
More info on the Aquatimer 2,000 Meters on IWC.com.Iwc In-depth