Home Featured Article Hands-On: Aquatic Adventures With The Certina DS Super PH500M

Hands-On: Aquatic Adventures With The Certina DS Super PH500M

by Cole Pennington

“Should you’re not slightly nervous, then there is perhaps one thing mistaken with you,” Jeff Milisen, the divemaster, says as our dive boat cruises out from the Honokohau Harbor underneath the duvet of darkness, towards our dive web site about 5 miles off the coast of Hawaii’s Large Island. “That is meant to get you out of your consolation zone, and we’ve self-preservation mechanisms for a cause. It is okay to be apprehensive.” 

And I’m. Three different divers and I are about to carry out a “blackwater dive,” the place we’ll be connected to a 60 ft. tether and drift above 4,000 ft. of pitch-black water.

One of many world’s most luxurious migrations occurs each single night time, however with out the charismatic megafauna and supporting documentaries by streaming companies, it goes unnoticed. The billions of sea creatures that populate the ocean’s mesopelagic zone (660 to three,300 ft.) transfer vertically up the water column to the floor to feed. A blackwater dive may reveal something from siphonophores, an usually large colony of stinging organisms that appears straight out of a horror film, to the elusive cookiecutter shark, a one-foot-long predator that, like a round drill press, suctions out spherical plugs of flesh from any organism massive sufficient to bore into. 

Previous to the blackwater dive, I would spent ten days exploring Hawaii’s reef methods and climbing by means of its tropical broadleaf forests with a Certina DS Tremendous PH500M on the wrist. The watch was a 2020 reinterpretation of 1 that performed an essential function within the 1969 Tektite I and Tektite II experiments carried out in an underwater dwelling habitat, a joint venture between the Workplace of Naval Analysis and Basic Electrical. The unique DS-2 Tremendous PH500M was equipped to aquanauts who lived within the undersea habitat and pushed the boundaries of saturation diving with 58 straight days conducting marine scientific research. I figured sporting the trendy reinterpretation whereas pushing my very own private boundaries when it got here to aquatic experiences would assist me get nearer to understanding what kind of watch the ’60s DS-2 Tremendous PH500M(ref 5801 123) was, and what the 2020 iteration is supposed to be. 

When the DS-2 Tremendous PH500M was launched in ’67 it was Certina’s top-tier dive watch providing, promoting for considerably greater than a Rolex Submariner or Sea-Dweller. The Certina and the Rolex Submariner and Sea-Dweller had been equipped to the Tektite aquanauts in 1969. One aquanaut who participated within the Tektite program, Ian Koblick, instructed the weblog Vintage Certinas that “he would put on the Rolex primarily for the celebrated events, however his foremost working watch, which he used within the diving missions of Tektite I and II was the DS-2 Tremendous PH500m.”

The mannequin from the late ’60s had supreme technical chops on the time and the real-world use by professionals to again it up. However is the 2020 reissue worthy of reviving the identify of one among Certina’s greats? Over a couple of weeks within the Pacific tropics, I would attain a conclusion. 

We bounce in, clip to the tether, and descend to a depth of 70 ft. to begin the dive. In full darkness, there are not any visible reference factors to orient myself through the descent, so one of the best I can do is observe the depth gauge that contains a absolutely lumed dial akin to some Citizen and TAG Heuer divers from the ’90s. It makes me surprise why extra divers did not characteristic a fully-lumed dial. I fiddle with the buoyancy management machine till the gauge stabilizes at round 70 ft. and take a look at my greatest to gradual my respiratory earlier than taking an hour to slowly ascend and observe nightmarish creatures glowing with bioluminescence whiz by. 

The DS-2 Tremendous PH500M from the ’60s got here with two dial executions – each in black. One was utterly monochromatic and featured white markers and arms in opposition to a black dial, and the opposite included brilliant orange for the minute hand and markers. The 2020 DS Tremendous PH500M is considerably of an amalgamation of each designs, however probably the most putting replace is a brilliant orange dial that by no means appeared on the unique. So the place precisely did such a loud dial shade come from when the unique watches had been comparatively conservative?

When Certina got down to re-introduce such a traditionally essential watch, it turned to the Verband Deutscher Sporttaucher (VDST), a German diving group very like PADI, to supply enter on the watch and collaboratively launch it. The watch is an infinite “particular version,” in order that they emphasised case-specific usability over mainstream enchantment. They designed it with diving in thoughts, so why not have divers weigh in through the design part? 

A VDST panel selected orange for the dial shade as a result of they believed it is best to learn underwater. Jason Heaton as soon as wrote that orange doesn’t necessarily offer the best visibility underwater, however I believe there’s one thing concerning the brilliant orange dial that thematically works with the brand new DS Tremendous PH500M, even past its supposed enhanced visibility. Many dive watches in the present day are conservatively designed, as a result of producers know that only a few finish customers ever get them moist. This Certina is the alternative. With such a extremely specialised watch with a slim goal market, it is acceptable – in actual fact, most popular – to take design dangers. After I spoke with Certina CEO Marc Aellen and product director Martial Bringolf, they made it clear that since this watch was a part of the heritage assortment, which accounts for lower than 15 p.c of Certina’s world gross sales, they actively inspired VDST to take liberties with the design and give you one thing that they’d use particularly for diving. They selected orange, and the divers had the ultimate say. 

A diagram displaying the big O-ring (1) that enables the motion to “float” within the case and take up shocks. 

The brand new watch additionally maintains the double-security (or DS) expertise upon which Certina constructed its sterling status through the ’60s. The system is made up of a thick O-ring that fills the area between the motion and the case, defending it from shocks. The motion basically “floats” contained in the case and cushions any blows. 

Certina and the U.S. Market

The DS Tremendous PH500M was the second Certina I would ever had on my wrist. The primary was a good-looking DS-2 PH200M from 1974 that I purchased at a classic market in Bangkok. I would by no means seen a contemporary Certina in America, and there is a cause why. Because it stands, Certina just isn’t current in any important capability within the North American market. There are not any bodily boutiques or ADs to go to to see any of Certina’s wares. Head to Certina’s on-line retailer locator, and also you’re met with the message that “CERTINA just isn’t at the moment represented within the USA.” To get one, you need to order from Switzerland and have it shipped.

The creator’s Certina DS-2 PH200M from 1974. 

Aellen defined that in Nicolas G. Hayek’s restructuring of Swatch Group within the ’80s, he “put Omega and Longines out entrance, as a result of it was unimaginable to restart all of the manufacturers on the identical time. Whereas Omega and Longines led, Certina by no means adopted them to the U.S. as a result of it takes a really excessive advertising funding.” 

The strongest markets for Certina in the present day are Europe and China. “Staying centered on fewer markets has allowed Certina to supply one of the best price-to-quality ratio in your entire business,” Aellen stated. He added that more than likely nobody within the U.S., and even France, would know what VDST is, however that it did not actually matter for the reason that watch wasn’t constructed for mass world enchantment. I personally hadn’t heard of VDST earlier than seeing the watch, and in a humorous method, its foreignness made the watch enchantment to me much more. A brilliant orange dial linked to an obscure diving group is proof that Certina is not watering designs down with a view to attain extra customers. And, in spite of everything, a part of the enjoyment in amassing watches is in discovering one thing new.

A Report From the Blackwater

Larvae come up from the mesopelagic zone to feed at night time and may be seen on blackwater dives. Jeff Milisen, the divemaster featured on this story, snapped this {photograph} of a flounder larva. 

On dive watches, Jack once wrote, “A dive watch works or does not, on its most simple degree, by way of how profitable it’s functionally.” The Certina works. Past telling the native time, it precisely shows the elapsed time of my blackwater dive with its push-to-turn bezel. Zero water ingress happens. The deepest max depth I report within the blackwater is 76 ft., nowhere close to the 500-meter depth score. 

A cutaway of the Tektite undersea habitat. The Certina DS-2 Tremendous PH500M was worn for the Tektite 1 experiments by the aquanauts that lived on this vessel for 58 straight days. 

The Certina additionally holds its personal in opposition to the Titan of the dive watches, the Rolex Submariner. They had been each issued to Tektite Aquauats in ’69, so it is a truthful – and attention-grabbing – comparability in 2020. Do not consider me? It is all within the numbers. 

Vice President of the US Spiro Agnew with Tektite I aquanauts and mannequin of Tektite I habitat. Credit score: NOAA Central Library Historic Fisheries Assortment

The stainless-steel DS Tremendous PH500M is 43mm broad and 15mm tall, comes on an accordion rubber dive strap (these straps are supposed to be pulled tight sufficient to stretch out the “waves” on the floor, and so they take up slack when a wetsuit compresses at depth), and is waterproof to 500 meters. Inside is an ETA Powermatic 80.611, full with 80 hours of energy reserve and an anti-magnetic Nivachron steadiness spring. The watch contains a spring-loaded 60-click elapsed-time bezel in aluminum. It is constructed to ISO 6425 specs

The Submariner’s 904L metal case is 41mm broad and a tad over 12mm tall, barely smaller than the Certina. And the facility reserve is smaller, too, at 70 hours, though it does characteristic a paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring. Lastly, it is water-resistant to 300 meters. That is 200 meters lower than the Certina.

And but, the Submariner prices eight occasions extra. The Certina sells for CHF 895 at retail, whereas the Rolex – when it may be had at retail, which ain’t usually – sells for CHF 7,700. 

7,000 recognized species inhabit Hawaii’s reefs. 

The Certina DS Tremendous PH500M at dwelling exploring Hawaii’s reef system.

Sizing the Certina up subsequent to a benchmark dive watch underscores its worth proposition. However there’s one different intangible that may’t be measured: It is the sort of watch that makes you wish to get on the market and do one thing far outdoors your consolation zone. A brilliant orange dial and a rubber dive strap do not precisely scream, “Put on me to the grocery store!” however as an alternative, one thing like, “Strap me on and bounce in 4,000 ft. of pitch-black ocean. Overlook concerning the sharks!”

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