To quote Friedrich Nietzsche: “When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” Now I don’t typically get philosophical when I’m diving; there’s too much else to pay attention to, like time, depth and remaining air. But hovering over 8,000m of indigo water is enough to give even the least introspective man pause. All that kept me hanging there, on the lip of the Cayman Trench, was a litre or so of air in my buoyancy vest.
I was, for all intents and purposes, an astronaut floating in deep space without a tether to his craft. In my case, that craft was a diving boat 35m above me. Once I came to grips with this thought, a sense of calm set in, perhaps tinged with a hint of nitrogen narcosis. Diving will do that to you. The trivialities of topside life fade and you become one with the ocean, your saline blood nearly identical to the seawater, akin to returning to the womb or to some primordial state when we all had gills. Diving suspends or perhaps transcends time, yet it is ruled by time, and my deep thoughts were interrupted by a glance at my wrist. The Tudor Submariner on my wrist indicated a bottom time of 30 minutes and I needed to start my ascent lest I indeed became one with the sea.
Watch collectors prize vintage Rolex and Tudor diving watches not only for their purity of form, their modern wearability and their value, but also because their robustness makes them suitable for daily wear. However, most people will draw the line at using these watches for their original intended purpose – diving with a 40-year-old watch is simply too risky they say, and bringing it back up to its original specifications would compromise its “as found” charm. But upon acquiring a Tudor Submariner, reference 9401/0, dating to 1976, I decided to swim against the current and have the watch overhauled to restore its original water resistance with an eye on diving with it in the Cayman Islands.