The importance of a helium (release) valve in a watch is a much debated topic we embark upon debating again.
Pressure does not create any issue during a dive, but rather when a diver surfaces. This requires decompression, or reducing the extra pressure to the normal level, both for the diver’s body and his/her watch. Saturation or deep sea diving uses breathing gas mixture composed of 95% helium (approx.) which being small, penetrates into the watch case through the seal and build up pressure as much as to blow the crystal right off, with enough force to take an eye out! The helium escape valve, upon opening (if not automatic), allows the trapped helium come out before reaching fatal limits within.
Do we – the regular people – need the helium valve?
The most iconic and respected, pro-grade dive watch invariably remains the Rolex Sea Dweller, but not entirely for its integrated valve mechanism (the valve gets it credits along with others). It earned the status for being more traditional and recognizable as a dive watch than any other of its radical-looking competitors; say the Omega Seamaster Professional and the Seamaster Planet Ocean, though limited editions. The highest worldwide awareness and ubiquity of its design – just like the Submariner – has inspired imitations from many of the higher-end watchmakers.
In that light, there are many to choose from, unless you compare them molecule to molecule with the Rolex or the Omega. The Helium-release valve, in these watches; stand a higher and better chance for their capabilities to be tested under real use.
Is it at all needed in a diver watch, even with the professional tag on? Frankly speaking, not many people go beyond 500m (even among pros) but these are mass produced for mass consumption and not everyone in the mass is into the water department. Those who are – the larger sect – the water-park frolics and joy-diving will not let the helium-release valve to be used, So, real need aside; it is a matter of fascination; the pride of owning a piece of technology that will work if tried. Plus, you can stay rest assured against shocks, dust and moisture, be it on land, air or sea. Dive watches are usually built to withstand more than either on land or sea.
The vote goes for…
Extremely tempting it is to stay underwater for weeks at a stretch just like they show in some movies, but a regular city life doesn’t offer that. Just that with a pro-grade diver on for the vacations by the sea or weekends at the riverside, you don’t have to fear any damage. And if ever a chance arrives, you don’t need to go hunting for a suitable watch to wear, probably for a higher price. As of now, bask in the warmth of owning a piece of technology meant for the deep!
So the answer is: “Why not?” When there’s a large array of inexpensive but quality pieces around nearly or equally as efficient as the legendary three that were mentioned earlier?
Below are links to some of the best among inexpensive, helium-valve diver watches. Click to see and buy: