The best diving watches, as chosen by a world record-breaking free-diver

Stéphane Mifsud can hold his breath underwater for 11 minutes and 35 seconds. Here, he reveals his favourite TAG Heuer, IWC and Breitling watches...

Most people don’t push their watches to the limits. We may buckle up dual-times, but we haven’t left the country in months. We still strap pilot’s watches around our wrists, but we’ve never taken a Boeing Dreamliner across the Atlantic. We’ve never even used our bezel’s tachymeter scale to calculate our average speed during a motor race. 

But it’s nice to know that we could. There’s something comforting about knowing that your watch is more reliable, rugged and capable than everyone else’s. It’s nice to know that, even if you’re not a record-breaking free-diver, you can splash around in the sea and not worry about water-resistance. Coincidentally, Stéphane Mifsud is a record-breaking free-diver — and he’s been pushing his watches to the limit for years.

And these are real deep-diving, boundary-pushing limits. Because Stéphane Mifsud isn’t just any record-breaking free-diver. He’s the record-breaking free-diver; currently holding the AIDA-recognised Static Apnea World Record (he can hold his breath underwater for 11 minutes and 35 seconds).

It’s almost impossibly impressive, and an achievement that both took some very demanding training — and some very precise timekeeping. So, to discover which tool watches the world’s top diver puts his trust in, we’ve asked Mifsud for his top five favourite diving watches…

TAG Heuer Aquaracer

Stéphane Mifsud says: This is an extremely elegant watch — with a sleek, dark design that is discreet underwater. That makes it perfect for meeting marine animals. Its luminescent hands and indexes are also an indispensable advantage for clear underwater vision.

Gentleman’s Journal says: It’s nice to hear the TAG Heuer Aquaracer praised by a professional. We’ve long been fans of the design’s dial variations, and the unashamedly bold aesthetic of the piece. Plus, the Swiss brand has held patents for water resistance since 1895 — so you know they can be trusted.

IWC Aquatimer Chronograph

Stéphane Mifsud says: This is a watch that I hold very dearly in my heart. Its design is enduring, and it is incredibly precise. Like the TAG Heuer above, it has very good readability. That’s important — as it has followed me underwater for years as I have prepared for my World Records.

Gentleman’s Journal says: There have been many special editions of IWC’s celebrated Aquatimer Chronograph, from the ‘Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau’ to ‘Galapagos Island’ model. Built like a submarine and equipped with the brand’s SafeDive system, Mifsud’s seal of approval surely proves its stainless steel mettle. 

Richard Mille RM 028

Stéphane Mifsud says: I think that the design of Richard Mille’s RM028 is very classy and sophisticated. But it’s also robust and reliable in extreme conditions — something that corresponds to and helps support my lifestyle as a professional free-diver.

Gentleman’s Journal says: Some of Richard Mille’s earlier dive watch efforts were criticised as being ‘too delicate’. The RM028 suffers from no such daintiness. Instead, bulky and bold, it has the highest grade rubber strap of any diver, legible indices and more titanium tore screws than you can shake a snorkel at. Well worth its place on this list.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport

Stéphane Mifsud says: This watch from Zenith is very precise — and timelessly beautiful. In particular, this model has several specific advantages to me when diving, including the very good, accurate chronograph and easily accessible buttons.

Gentleman’s Journal says: Very new and very distinctive, Zenith’s latest sports watch bounces fashion and function between those three signature tricolour subdials. You’d think the black ceramic bezel may impede legibility down in the dark depths of the ocean — but if it’s made Mifsud’s list, it must be doing something right…

Breitling SuperOcean M2000

Stéphane Mifsud says: Finally, the Breitling SuperOcean. This is a titanium watch that combines two key features I look for as a free-diver: lightness and robustness. It’s also distinguished by its great water-resistance — of up to 2,000 metres. A superb watch.

Gentleman’s Journal says: Mifsud said it. This is a watch chosen by many proficient diving professionals. And the reasons for that are many. From its rubberised black uni-directional bezel to the helium escape valve at 9 o’clock, it’s a terrific tool watch. Its best feature? The innovative magnetic push piece system, which allows the watch to be fully operational two kilometres below the surface. 

Fancy something with fewer bells, whistles and helium valves? Here’s an ode to the cheap(ish) and cheerful watch…

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