Certina has released a remake of one of their most important vintage dive watch: the DS Super PH500M. The Certina PH500M dive watch promises ISO 6425 compliant specifications, an impressive movement and great looks.
In 1959, Certina launched the DS. This new model and range offered, as per the name, ‘Double Security’. On the one hand, they enhanced shock resistance by cushioning the movement on all sides and by leaving a gap between the movement and dial to allow for movement. On the other, water resistance watch paramount as the case was reinforced and the crystal was screwed in place rather than being pressed. The result, in spite of its dress appeal, was a watch water resistant to 200 metres. Unsurprisingly, a dive application was inevitable.
As a sign of the diving version’s success, it is used by the SEALAB and SEALAB II underwater habitat missions in 1964 and 1965. During these missions to explore the limited of human survival underwater, these watches survived use at depth and in an enriched gas environment without issue. Remarkably, their unique crystal system made them resistant to the helium ingress which called for the invention of the helium escape valve: a notable innovation of Rolex & Doxa.
In 2018, Certina took the decision to reinvigorate the DS line and reissued the DS PH200M which came complete with a plexiglass crystal with the same system as on the original. However, they have now chosen to reissue an early and very important model of the DS-2 line: the PH500M.
Inspired by the watch which descended for 60 days during the Tektite I mission in 1969 and which was also likely used by some divers during Tektite II in 1970, this piece now has a 500 metre water resistance. The case used is remarkably similar to the original with a fully polished appearance in 316L stainless steel and with a similar crystal assembly. This is screwed into place by the faceted element between it and the bezel whilst the crystal is flat, anti-reflective sapphire. Whilst perhaps less charming than a domed crystal, this form is a much more accurate recreation of the mineral crystal used on the original.
Widened by comparison to the original, the bezel is one of the more noticeable changes. Its construction is reminiscent of the old Certina PH500M dive watch, but is now is composed an aluminium bezel insert in lieu of the older acrylic one. Under the circumstances of this watch being more affordable than most ‘reissue’ Swiss dive watches, I can understand the saving although I would have preferred the looks of acrylic, mineral or sapphire crystal. The other obvious changes to the original design are seen in the unguarded crown which is no longer inaccessible under the bezel and the crystal retention ring which is now more modest. These bring a modern balance to the watch and make the PH500M much more approachable than the bathyscaphe which was its namesake.
The dial of this new release comes as the biggest surprise. Unlike the majority of originals which sported black dials, sometimes adorned with orange elements, the remake is bolder. The dial base is presented in glossy orange whilst the text — taken almost exactly from the original — is printed in black along with the cross hairs across the dial. To me, these elements are both delightful and whimsical. The hands and markers are treated equally with glossy black rims and white Super-LumiNova. The result is a watch which looks classic, but not aged: something which may allow it to age more gracefully then similar watches with a ‘vintage’ luminous treament.
Mechanically, the PH500M is a thoroughly modern watch and takes advantage of the Swatch Group’s most recent anti-magnetic spring technology. The choice of movement is the ETA Powermatic 8.611: a reworking of the universally-used ETA 2824-2 architecture. With a reduced beat rate, the movement offers an 80-hour power reserve along with the hacking, manual and automatic winding of the ETA 2824-2. Most interestingly, this movement uses the Nivachron balance spring developed to offer vastly enhanced anti-magnetism. Formed from a titanium alloy and also used by Audemars Piguet, this is an alternative to the popular silicon springs which have become so popular. For CHF 895, it’s remarkable to access this technology.
The obvious comment about this Certina DS Super PH500M would be that it makes a very appealing option for those who enjoy well-built vintage-inspired dive watches. However, whilst true, this doesn’t tell the whole story. The PH200M released in 2018 was an enthusiasts watch from its more delicate looks to its acrylic crystal. By contrast, the PH500M offers something which looks at once classic and contemporary whilst offering a more than exciting movement. For CHF 895, it looks like a winner to me.