TIME MACHINES

THEY LOOK GOOD BUT DO THEY PERFORM?

The best verdict on a piece of equipment is the one given by independent testers putting it through the everyday use to which they subject their own kit. Dive International has recruited teams of ordinary divers to put each piece of equipment we test through its paces. How it works: five divers each take the equipment on five dives, allowing them to become completely familiar with it. A rigorous trial by 25 dives, with five jurors, is one way of looking at it. All the divers are observed throughout the dives, complete a detailed questionnaire and are interviewed afterwards.

The baseline criteria of the tests will ensure the testing of similar products can take place months apart and still be uniform, allowing consumers to draw direct comparisons. In this, the second in the series, the test team is again from the Gibraltar Sub Aqua Club, a BSAC branch.

Dive International has been swamped with offers to join the test teams and we are gradually getting in touch with all who have applied as we start new test cycles.

In a decade that has seen computer diving become the norm, is there still a market for watches including depth gauges? Emphatically, yes. One of the market leaders is Citizen's Aqualand range which continues to expand - we decided to test some of the latest available.

There are divers who choose not to use computers. Some believe tables to be safer. Others feel computers are expensive and use unauthorised adaptations of ordinary tables or special multi-level tables to get the benefits of stepped dive times. Some people make primarily square profile dives for which computers offer little advantage.

Many divers insist on a good watch as a back-up if a computer crashes - it could save your life. Dive rental centres also like Aqualands as, unlike most computers, they can be used by different divers in the same day.

And let's not forget one of the most important reasons for owning an Aqualand - a dive computer looks daft on your wrist when you go down the pub. The five we tested were the:

Hyper Aqualand £345
All the information is digitally displayed. It automatically begins timing the dive from the moment you begin your dive. It reads depths to 80m. The Hyper logs 30 dives. It displays elapsed dive time, maximum depth and current depth together with water temperature. It has acoustic and visual alarms for ascent rate violation (18m per minute exceeded). After the dive you can recall average depth, maximum depth and dive time. It also logs the date of the dive and the surface intervals.A PC interface permits dive information to be downloaded for a more permanent record.

Analogue Aqualand £395
Displays all time and depth data using conventional hands. It indicates elapsed time, maximum depth, current depth. It features pre-set audible alarms for depths to 55m/180ft and ascent rate violations.

Digital Aqualand £345
The depth information is digitally displayed, recording current depth, maximum depth and dive time, Audible alarms indicate pre-set depth limit (to 80m/260ft) and time violations. Hands indicate real time.

Digital Aqualand I1 £345
This version displays current and maximum depth and elapsed dive time digitally in two windows at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. It features audible alarms for ascent rate, pre-set time and depth violations.

Chronograph Aqualand £295
Uses chronographs for specialist timing requirements. It measures in increments of minutes, seconds and 1/20th of a second. It provides an analogue readout of maximum depth, current depth and elapsed time. It reads depths to 50m/164ft.

All of the test watches have stainless steel cases, which are rated to 200m/660ft, that is the industry standard for scuba diving, and have straps that are long enough to be worn over the thickest suit. Apart from the Hyper Aqualand, all the watches have screw-down crowns and uni-directional bezels usefully marked in one minute divisions throughout the scale, not just the first quarter hour. Faces are either luminous with dark batons or dark with luminous batons. All have a date display. The Hyper does not require an adjustment crown or bezel as it is purely digital. It has a built-in backlight.

Instructions: These are sophisticated instruments. Often such equipment, while well-designed, is badly let down by poorly worded instructions. We asked each tester to evaluate their instruction manual, assessing clarity and taking into account any parts they found confusing.

Hyper Aqualand 95%
Analogue Aqualand 75%
Digital Aqualand 95%
Digital Aqualand II 95%
Chronograph Aqualand 80%


Aesthetics: Not only must dive watches perform vital timekeeping functions, they must also look the part. We asked our team to consider their Citizens' appearance. We had a pretty macho test team, including a fireman, a racing driver and a 16-year-old with a new girlfriend. The appearance of the watch was very important to them.

Hyper Aqualand 80%
Analogue Aqualand 100%
Digital Aqualand 95%
Digital Aqualand II 100%
Chronograph Aqualand 100%


Displays: It is essential that the watch is easy to read under a range of conditions, such as in poor visibility, low light or when a diver is under stress. The watches were dived to 38m, where light levels were virtually nil. We asked the test team to assess the ease of reading time and depth displays. Some divers were slightly affected by narcosis.

Hyper Aqualand 85%
Analogue Aqualand 90%
Digital Aqualand 80%
Digital Aqualand II 96%
Chronograph Aqualand 66%


Bezel: Though all of the Aqualands have automatic functions to record elapsed time, which is activated upon descent, we also tested the traditional user-set bezel. We asked our team to test the ease of setting the bezel. Some of the crew used gloves, others prefer to dive without them. Overall scores were:

Hyper Aqualand no bezel
Analogue Aqualand 100%
Digital Aqualand 80%
Digital Aqualand II 100%
Chronograph Aqualand 60%


Modes: All of the Aqualands have modes. For example, some have alarms that must be pre-set to warn a diver that he is exceeding a depth or time boundary. The Test Team were asked their opinions of how easy the modes were to set.

Hyper Aqualand 90%
Analogue Aqualand 60%
Digital Aqualand 90%
Digital Aqualand II 100%
Chronograph Aqualand 100%


Alarms:The Aqualand range feature alarms to warn a diver of violations in the dive plan. These warn of exceeding the US Navy tables standard ascent rate of 18m/60ft per minute and of exceeding user pre-set maximum time or depth ranges. Hyper Aqualand 80% (audible/visual) Analogue Aqualand 100% (audible for ascent rate and exceeding target depth, audible and visual for exceeding 55m/180ft).

Digital Aqualand 85%
Digital Aqualand II 100%
Chronograph Aqualand 80% (visual alarm for exceeding 50m only).


An overall score was given to each watch after five days dive testing and normal land use.

Hyper Aqualand 88%
Analogue Aqualand 87%
Digital Aqualand 85%
Digital Aqualand II 98%
Chronograph Aqualand 81%

These scores reflect the individual assessment of the divers concerned. These individuals were not paid and none has any professional connection to the dive industry. Scores are based on all of the information we recorded and not just the criteria selected for publication.

CITIZEN'S REPLY Citizen are pleased to hear that all the Aqualand watches performed to the tasks for which they are designed. Manufacturing watches that are suitable for all divers, from professionals to occasional leisure divers, means that we undertake a lot of research so objective feedback of this type is very useful. The only small comments we have are:

1.The modes in the Analogue Aqualand work in a similar way to other watches. Therefore we assume its relatively low score in this category was due to the individual preference of the tester.

2.The performance of the watches is affected by extreme temperature:10c to 40c is the temperature range that we can guarantee the depth sensor should work accurately. This does not mean it will not operate below 10c, but that for safety reasons it should not be relied on.

For further information on the Aqualand series call Citizen on 01734 890333.

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