While there’s nothing to suggest that an undersea battle is going on in the world of watches, Rolex’s seabed-scraping Sea-Dweller Deepsea has finally been bested. The Rolex, secure to an astonishing 3,900m/12,800ft, must nod to a new “extreme” diving watch from Hublot, which takes its model designation from the limits of its descent. The Hublot King Power 48mm Oceanographic 4000, to give the watch its full name, adds another 100 meters to the depth achieved by the Deepsea.
In association with the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco and the Institut Océanographique Fondation Albert I Prince de Monaco, Hublot launched its fresh take on a diver’s watch, while working within the design language of the iconic Big Bang and King Power. More than ever, a Hublot product lives up to the company’s name, which is French for “porthole”: water-resistance is its raison d’être. This is the first time the two organizations, renowned throughout the world in the fields of marine studies, research and conservation, have agreed to be associated with a diving watch.
Hublot spent months on research, development and testing to ensure that the watch would withstand the extreme pressures at depths of 4,000 meters. On June 6th, 2011, in the main aquarium in Monaco, which is dedicated to the preservation of specimens of marine animals, the Oceanographic 4000 was officially unveiled in the presence of HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Robert Calcagno, CEO of the Oceanographic Institute, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot.
As Hublot explains, choosing to support the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco “honors the history and unique heritage of this prestigious Monegasque institution.” Hublot will also demonstrate its active support for the study and preservation of the oceans by making a financial contribution to the missions and scientific surveys conducted by the Institute.
Making the watch
Devising a watch worthy of the tag “Oceanographic” necessitated an approach suitable for a “genuine instrument with technology developed to the extreme, ergonomics for efficiency and ease of handling.” For Hublot, the watch was “designed to push the limits of the possible.”
Hublot started with a King Power case measuring 48 mm in diameter. Two options were produced, one in micro-blasted satin-finished titanium, the other in matte carbon fiber, with bezels in matching materials, attached with six H-shaped screws in black PVD-finished titanium. The watches’ sapphire crystals are treated with anti-reflective coatings, the case backs made of micro-blasted satin-finished titanium or micro-blasted satin-finished titanium with black PVD as appropriate, with matching crowns in titanium with black rubber insert or black PVD titanium with black rubber insert.
For superior legibility, the Oceanographic 4000’s dial is matte-black with satin-finished appliqués, with green or black SuperLuminova. The hands, too, are micro-blasted and satin-finished with green or black SuperLuminova. Within is the automatic HUB1401 movement with 180 components and 23 jewels. Its bridges are also satin-finished, beveled and polished.
Then the fun begins. Hublot explains that, in order to be described as a montre de plongée, or diver’s watch, and offer resistance to the pressure exerted at the record depth of 4,000 meters, the watch had to meet the specifications of the international standards of Swiss watchmaking (NIHS).
Starting with its seal, tested by Hublot in a Roxer waterproof testing tank, the watch is submerged and pressurized to the equivalent of 5,000 meters. To ensure the watertight integrity of the watch and its ability to survive extreme pressure, the synthetic sapphire crystal is 6.5mm thick. The case back is a screw-down section made of Grade 2 titanium, an extremely strong stainless material. Grades 1 through 4 are unalloyed and considered commercially pure, with the greatest tensile and yield strength. They are also known for corrosion resistance.
As its case is made of titanium or, in the “All Black” version, carbon fiber, the undeniably massive Oceanographic 4000 is still easy on the wrist; both materials offer extreme lightness. To produce satisfactory brightness, the time and elapsed time measured by the flange must be legible from a distance of 25 cm in the dark. Hublot met this requirement by endowing the watch with dial, flange, and hands that larger-than-normal surface areas treated with SuperLuminova; this well-known luminescent material emits a green color in the titanium version.
To ensure that the elapsed/remaining-time reading method is secure once set, the watch employs an internal rotating flange, which is unidirectional and rack-driven, with a dive time indicator. According to Hublot, the dive time indicator being placed as close as possible to the dial minimizes the risk of inadvertently altering the dive time, while making the dive time easier to read. The Oceanographic 4000 also has a minute scale on which the five-minute periods are clearly highlighted.
Two screw-down crowns operate the Oceanographic 4000, the flange crown at 2 o’clock and the crown for winding and setting the time and date at the 4 o’clock position, both fitted with O-ring seals that ensure the watch’s water resistance when compressed. The flange crown is unidirectional for safety reasons, with a bayonet fitting and protected by an oversized crown guard, for extra safety and easy operation when handling diving equipment.
As is expected of professional diving watches, the Oceanographic 4000 has a helium valve, a feature essential to any diving watch capable of descending to great depths. Mandatory when the watch is used in diving chambers, the helium valve allows gases that have infiltrated the watch during a descent to escape safely during the ascent. The valve fitted to the Oceanographic 4000 is made of stainless steel, positioned at 10 o’clock, and is visible from the left-hand side lug.
Therefore, the watch comes with two tongue-and-buckle straps, identified as “Town” and “Diver.” Hublot used the more conventional buckle because it believes the method to be more secure than a folding clasp, and is also easier to handle and close when using gloves. The method of attaching the strap to the case is via two small push buttons built into each end of the case; this allows the strap to be changed instantly without the use of a screwdriver or any other accessory.
Hublot believes that the Oceanographic 4000 has been designed to meet the most demanding requirements of both professional divers and watch enthusiasts. Those able to examine it when first seen at Basel this past spring could sense that here was the diving watch equivalent of a Hummer H1.
Production will be limited to 1,000 pieces for the titanium version and 500 pieces for the All Black version in black carbon fiber. With numbers that restricted, collectors should expect this one to appear in auctions with prices the opposite of a dive: ever on the ascent.