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Thread: Of Submariners and Saturation Dives

  1. #1

    Of Submariners and Saturation Dives

    One for the resident diving/Submariner experts...

    Over time I have become aware of several instances of Rolex Submariners being used on saturation dives.

    Note, this is not in reference to the helium-escape-valve equipped 5514s.

    For example:

    https://www.rolexforums.com/showthread.php?t=672800 - a sales thread with a 16610 used on COMEX's Hydra 10 dive.

    BBC's Real Men series did an episode on Saturation Divers (well worth a watch), and showed one of the divers with a sapphire crystal Submariner Date - not a Sea-Dweller. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3BWSMrgi3I (Visible at 5:48->)

    I thought that it was unwise to use watches with neither a HEV nor some other design meant to prevent the crystal popping off during decompression.

    Anyone doing a saturation dive is going to be reasonably professional, and would surely use the correct equipment. Is it that, with the change to the sapphire crystal, the HEV is no longer necessary? Is it that the crystal popping off is actually a small and tolerable risk?

    Minutiae yes, but that's what this hobby's about
    Last edited by Dark Side of The Loon; 9th October 2019 at 20:09.

  2. #2
    I'm not a sat diver but I know a few. ;-)

    My 2p is I think the HEV on a dive watch is rather unlikely to be activated during a commercial divers work nowadays as their environment is very closely monitored throughout decompression, so any He inside the watch will have time to expel naturally.

    Given that the vast majority of HEV-equipped watches will never see the inside of a compression chamber then you might wonder why so many of them are thus equipped...

    R
    Ignorance breeds Fear. Fear breeds Hatred. Hatred breeds Ignorance. Break the chain.

  3. #3
    Grand Master
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    Just open the crown on deco, no dramas.

  4. #4
    Grand Master number2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    Just open the crown on deco, no dramas.
    Brilliant when Mike turns up
    "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    Just open the crown on deco, no dramas.
    That's too easy Mike.
    It's just a matter of time...

  6. #6
    Master watch-nut's Avatar
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    Isn’t the point though that a sat diver is gradually brought to the same pressure conditions dry, from an He perspective and that the effects of of that He pressure is so gradual the impact to the watch is low? I mean that there are a number of deep sea watches without gas escape mechanisms, ploprof for one. Besides don’t most average sat divers operate at 1000ft or so which is the depth rating of a standard sub anyway?

  7. #7
    Craftsman
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    I believe that whether it's crystal or plexi, the HE atoms are so small they can get through both. Then they pop off the crystal if the pressure changes too quickly - pop!

  8. #8
    Craftsman
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    I could be wrong but I thought it was the He entering by diffusion over the several days/week spent in the diving bell. That's the only time the watch is surrounded by He at pressure isn't it? Then while the decompression is slow enough to avoid medical complications, it is fast compared to speed of He diffusion back out so the pressure builds and pops the crystal. I'd have thought opening the crown would prevent it, but perhaps at the risk of damage to the seal? My gut says low risk, but if it were that simple then hevs seem pointless even for a saturation diver, unless my understanding of the problem is off (possible)

  9. #9
    As mentioned already this only really becomes an issue at deco time.
    Usually at this point of the dive profile neither watch nor plongeur will be required to get wet again until a shallower storage is established or on achieving surface.
    Although it's fair to say throughout the dive profile the chambers can reach quite elevated levels of humidity therfore with a non hev fitted case with the crown opened, it's a case of paying your money and taking your chance

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by watch-nut View Post
    Isn’t the point though that a sat diver is gradually brought to the same pressure conditions dry, from an He perspective and that the effects of of that He pressure is so gradual the impact to the watch is low? I mean that there are a number of deep sea watches without gas escape mechanisms, ploprof for one. Besides don’t most average sat divers operate at 1000ft or so which is the depth rating of a standard sub anyway?
    The issue is not the depth rating but that the watch is in a high pressure environment where helium is being breathed, i.e not actually in the water.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Galaxia View Post
    I believe that whether it's crystal or plexi, the HE atoms are so small they can get through both. Then they pop off the crystal if the pressure changes too quickly - pop!
    I'm not so sure that is the case. Most watches are air and water sealed, however the seals are not usually designed to stop helium. That said some watches, I understand Seiko for example made some models that, have no HEV, but are able to withstand helium ingress sufficiently to negate having one.
    It's just a matter of time...

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Omegamanic View Post
    I'm not so sure that is the case. Most watches are air and water sealed, however the seals are not usually designed to stop helium. That said some watches, I understand Seiko for example made some models that, have no HEV, but are able to withstand helium ingress sufficiently to negate having one.
    I think we’re saying the same thing though I didn’t know about that Seiko tech though. Those guys build well

  13. #13
    Craftsman comdiver's Avatar
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    They just throw the subs away after the rota and buy a new one


    Sent from my iPhone using TZ-UK mobile app

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vanguard View Post
    The issue is not the depth rating but that the watch is in a high pressure environment where helium is being breathed, i.e not actually in the water.
    That makes sense. I can’t remember how long each team stay in sat but it could be a couple of weeks without the watch spending much time in water during that.

    For most of us - having an HEV is an inconvenience/expense rather than a benefit.

    (the ‘us’ - being non-saturation divers)

  15. #15
    Grand Master
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    I have done a 38 day sat (seal to seal) with only 4 dives, not lasting more than 4 hours!

    great days.


    mike

  16. #16
    So opening the crown during decompression would help avoid any damage to the watch? Also, if the watch is under 300m+ pressure, but in a dry environment, would it be damaged or ok? (Ignoring that Rolex build their watches with a significant safety margin)

    Thanks for all the responses; just trying to get my head around the science!

  17. #17
    Master blackal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Side of The Loon View Post
    So opening the crown during decompression would help avoid any damage to the watch? Also, if the watch is under 300m+ pressure, but in a dry environment, would it be damaged or ok? (Ignoring that Rolex build their watches with a significant safety margin)

    Thanks for all the responses; just trying to get my head around the science!
    It is only the molecular size of helium which presents the problem. 300m+ hydrostatic pressure (in air) will not be an issue - any more than if the watch was in water.

  18. #18
    Grand Master
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    The watch, like the diver is at ambient pressure, same inside as outside, no damage to the watch at all, all you are doing on deco by opening the crown is letting the pressure out as the chamber pressure is reduced. I have heard my HEV burp a few times over the years.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by blackal View Post
    It is only the molecular size of helium which presents the problem. 300m+ hydrostatic pressure (in air) will not be an issue - any more than if the watch was in water.
    But the sapphire crystal Subs are rated to 300m... (I believe that Rolex test to 25%+ the stated rating) The Comex dive in the example in the OP went to about 500m, yet it was said that that Sub went along... is that ok as long as there is no water to get inside the watch, or would the atmospheric pressure alone be able to cause problems beyond a watch's rating?

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    The watch, like the diver is at ambient pressure, same inside as outside, no damage to the watch at all, all you are doing on deco by opening the crown is letting the pressure out as the chamber pressure is reduced. I have heard my HEV burp a few times over the years.
    Ok, I think that answers the subsequent post which I was typing out... pressure is only a problem if there's water to get inside, and pulling out the crown should avoid any problems with helium (the HEV is still clearly superior for that sort of work)?

  21. #21
    Grand Master
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    You are mostly there, just to say, once the watch has been filled by helium ( it takes a while to seep in) you can actually dive a Rolex with the crown open (did this once with no leakage) because effectively there is little difference between dry storage depth and wet diving depth!

    i like the HEV as you are not always awake when a deco starts, I have finished a dive, gone to sleep, woken up with sore ears to find we were travelling up to a shallower storage depth. So sometimes you travel up and down a few times in a saturation.
    Last edited by seadog1408; 10th October 2019 at 19:23.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    I have done a 38 day sat (seal to seal) with only 4 dives, not lasting more than 4 hours!

    great days.


    mike
    Thanks for the insight Mike, I can't imagine doing a sat dive, but hats off to you.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    You are mostly there, just to say, once the watch has been filled by helium ( it takes a while to seep in) you can actually dive a Rolex with the crown open (did this once with no leakage) because effectively there is little difference between dry storage depth and wet diving depth!

    i like the HEV as you are not always awake when a deco starts, I have finished a dive, gone to sleep, woken up with sore ears to find we were travelling up to a shallower storage depth. So sometimes you travel up and down a few times in a saturation.
    So this would seem to be a flaw with the Omega HEV which needs unscrewing, IIRC it keeps some water resistance when unscrewed but only a little....although given your story of diving with the crown unscrewed maybe that is fine!

  24. #24
    Craftsman
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    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    I have done a 38 day sat (seal to seal) with only 4 dives, not lasting more than 4 hours!

    great days.


    mike
    What do you do during that time? Are you allowed booze?

  25. #25

    Of Submariners and Saturation Dives

    Quote Originally Posted by Galaxia View Post
    What do you do during that time? Are you allowed booze?
    Nowadays I think they can take iPhones/iPads down with them, and get internet access... must help pass the time!

    ETA: source for that was the diver behind Scurfa watches’ interview for HODINKEE Radio...
    Last edited by Dark Side of The Loon; 10th October 2019 at 20:42.

  26. #26
    Master blackal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Galaxia View Post
    What do you do during that time? Are you allowed booze?
    No-one on the vessel gets booze.

    think of it as a ‘spa weekend’ without booze

  27. #27
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Side of The Loon View Post
    Nowadays I think they can take iPhones/iPads down with them, and get internet access... must help pass the time!

    ETA: source for that was the diver behind Scurfa watches’ interview for HODINKEE Radio...
    But only older iPhones

    Sent from my GM1903 using Tapatalk

  28. #28
    Craftsman
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    Ive used my seamaster for years and never open the hev on deco,never had a problem,mostly cause I forget to open it as too busy watching movies.

    Sent from my ONEPLUS A5010 using Tapatalk

  29. #29
    Craftsman
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackal View Post
    No-one on the vessel gets booze.

    think of it as a ‘spa weekend’ without booze
    Hahahahaha a spa weekend. That’s brilliant

  30. #30
    Master subseastu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    I have done a 38 day sat (seal to seal) with only 4 dives, not lasting more than 4 hours!

    great days.


    mike
    Bone idle bubble heads lolling about getting sandwiches made and their undercrackers dhobied for them. Not like us grafters sat up on the bridge.

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by subseastu View Post
    Bone idle bubble heads lolling about getting sandwiches made and their undercrackers dhobied for them. Not like us grafters sat up on the bridge.
    And don't forget "another pot of hot and some stickies, please!"

  32. #32
    Grand Master
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    Come up 1/2 a degree on the temperature.

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    Come up 1/2 a degree on the temperature.
    and a flush on the shitter, please!
    LST: ok! I will give you a couple of taps with the spanner

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