Note: there will be several scuba diving terms used in this article. In the interest of length, explanations for most have been left out. It is up to you to copy the term into your favourite search engine and to read a brief definition of the term.
Disclaimer: as a diver, it is up to you to set up your gear however you would like. Nothing said here is a suggestion as to how you should change your gear arrangement or that you need to go out and buy a new piece of gear. Any decision as to what you use underwater is your responsibility and should be considered only after carefully analyzing and auditing what suits your personal diving needs.
Destro watches, which have their crowns positioned on the left side of the case, are designed to be worn by the left-handed. For those unfamiliar with the topic of watches, we tend to prefer to wear our watches on our non-dominant hands, so the clasp or buckle of the watch does not get in the way when we are writing or doing general daily tasks. In this article, we will be going over a very special case as to why someone who is right-handed would prefer a destro timepiece within a dive setting. But first, we will go over a little context as to the placement of such watches within the current market and how they are perceived.
The Destro in Today’s Market:
Destro watches have recently been approached with a degree of cynicism from the enthusiast and collector markets. These watches are naturally designed to be worn on the right wrist and would logically favour those who are left-handed. When Rolex (who is an easy target for criticism) released a destro Submariner, no one took it seriously. First, it is common amongst enthusiast communities to claim that no one dives with their Submariner. This is untrue. I have not only seen Submariners on the wrists of divers, but a local and respected Dive Master wears one every day and when he is at depth. Second, enthusiasts like to criticize Rolex for not innovating or doing enough, and the change in crown position was enough to draw criticism. For many years, Rolex’s junior brand, Tudor, had sold a left-handed Pelagos called the Left Hand Drive, LHD for short. It is a handsome watch which is further differentiated by a warmer colour palette and the use of red text on the dial.
Other than the two cases above, destro watches have not been popularized and are generally hard to come by. As a result, there are smaller services scattered across North America from some watchmakers specializing in converting watches into destros. So why are such watches uncommon? The easy answer is that it is not a big deal for a left-handed person to wear a watch with its crown on the right on their right wrist. However, from experience, there is one scenario that even as a right-handed person, I would prefer a destro watch, and that is when diving.
The Destro in a Diving Environment:
To understand why a destro watch may be preferred in a diving environment, you will first have to come to terms with the one piece of gear that divers rely on, the buoyancy-compensation-device, referred to as the BCD. This life jacket-style device is central to all the gear a diver needs to remain at depth and stay alive. The BCD has at least one source of air, usually an air cylinder, weights to keep the diver at depth, and many other devices, such as a submersible pressure gauge (SPG). The low-pressure inflator (LPI) is a hose which connects the BCD to the air cylinder and is used to either inflate or deflate the bladder of the BCD to keep the diver buoyant and at the desired depth. The LPI is almost always positioned on the diver’s left side. This creates a constant that leads us as to why a watch in the destro configuration has come to be preferred by myself.
When ascending after a dive, it is common practice to release all of the air in BCD. This is done by pressing down on the air release button on the LPI, or by holding the hose firmly in a position where it engages the dump valve. This practice is essential for the diver to maintain control of the rate of their ascent and to rely on their fins for control. If a diver ascends too quickly, they run the risk of not releasing harmful gases from their bodies that can result in various forms of what is referred to as “the bends.” Additionally, divers are trained to do this while holding the LPI above their heads as they slowly ascend. This is so that any obstructions above their heads are first felt by their hands and not their skull, which may result in an injury. Once the diver has reached their desired depth to perform their safety stop, they then can lower their LPI as they wait for the safety stop to come to an end. Once the safety stop has been completed, it is customary to hold the LPI above one’s head once again, thus releasing any remaining air in one’s BCD, and to continue to protect their head as one ascends. This impacts how the rest of a diver’s gear is laid out and brings us to precisely why I have come to prefer the destro configuration.
First, one’s primary dive computer is usually placed on the right wrist. This is so that they can keep track of their ascent as the computer reads out their current depth while their left arm is tasked with raising the LPI, and whether they are ascending too quickly. Many divers do not do this, and there is no harm in this. It all comes down to preference, efficiency, and figuring out what works for you while diving. For instance, when a secondary objective for a series of dives had been to photograph a watch, I switched the position of my primary computer to be on my left arm. This was done so that I could have a constant view of my primary dive computer. While ascending, I would then rely on my backup uses the exact same decompression algorithm as my primary dive computer. Divers who have completed a complicated multi-level dive or have been diving for many days consecutively may choose to make their ascent rates slower and more conservative. This is to give the diver’s body more time to release unwanted gases as they ascend. As a rule of thumb, recreational divers try not to exceed a rate of one foot ascended per second. I have extended this to three to five seconds per foot in the two scenarios outlined above. And this brings us to the first reason why a destro watch is one that I personally prefer on a dive. Due to the ascent procedure of every dive, I have come to prefer having my watch on my right wrist so that I could carefully monitor my ascent rate while freeing up my left arm to raise the LPI.
Second, is that the crown on normal watches had, on two separate occasions in the past, come unscrewed and loosened on multilevel dives. These dives were in relatively cold waters, and I was wearing a 7mm wetsuit. Through the frequent compression and decompression of the suit, the crowns on the two separate watches came loose on two separate occasions. When worn on the right wrist, the crown of a standard watch is positioned against the muscular and “fleshier” forearm as opposed to the boney wrist. This happened with my Omega Seamaster 300 and my Seiko SKX. This only happened twice, but that was enough to cause alarm. I recall noticing that my Seamaster’s crown was a bit loose on a safety stop. I eagerly waited until my safety stop was finished before racing to the surface to see if any water had gotten in. Thankfully in both cases, the gaskets of the watches were not disengaged enough to let any water in. I also have not encountered another diver who has ever experienced this issue, and the two occurrences I experienced are quite rare. Nevertheless, the destro’s crown setup alleviates this concern.
Third, some divers place a traditional compass on their left wrist. This is so that its magnets do not interfere with the digital compass on their primary dive computer. Given that these dive compasses are rather large and use a strong magnet, it would be a good idea to keep your mechanical or quartz watch on the other wrist so that they do not become magnetized. I have my traditional compass in a pocket in my BCD as a third backup since my backup computer is placed on my left wrist, and I have its compass on display.
Lastly, this is a personal decision, but I wear a Garmin Descent Mark 2 every day on my left wrist. Not only is this watch my backup dive computer, but I also use it for training which is a vital part of my life. As a result, on long hikes or in emergencies on land, I occasionally like to have to wear a second watch on my right wrist for dedicated time and elapsed time-keeping purposes. The destro arrangement aesthetically looks more pleasing on the right wrist, and it allows me to keep my Garmin stationed where it usually is. This allows Garmin’s algorithms not to have to shift to another arm position which may result in slightly inaccurate metrics.
The destro is, for most, an aesthetic choice. I know one person who modified their Marathon GSAR to be converted to a destro, and they wear their watch on their left wrist. For those who love a watch which looks like a tool, the destro does make a watch look more purposeful and thus is perceived as more masculine for some. This makes them oddly a great choice for men when looking for a piece of masculine jewellery that also happens to tell the time. Since no one at Nodus is a diver, I would have to assume that their decision to make their Sector Dive Deep a destro was for aesthetic reasons.
If you are planning on ever getting your recreational diving certificate and plan to go diving more than a couple of times a year while on vacation, a destro watch may be something that you should consider from a practical standpoint. It will allow for an easier time-telling experience, and since you will be looking at your right wrist more often than your left while underwater, it will give you ample opportunity to enjoy your dive watch while at depth.