Why we love Squale – dive watches with heritage

You may know Amsterdam Watch Company primarily from our vintage watches. And you would be right! But we carry a very small selection of new watches, from brands we feel a strong connection to. Squale is one of them, and in this article we would like to share with you a number of reasons why we love the fabled dive watch brand so much.

By Thomas van Straaten on the 22th of June 2021

A brand with heritage

As a watch lover, you probably agree that a watch is about much more than its technical specs. It is not just a metal device that tells you what time it is. A good watch triggers an emotional response. It comes with a unique set of associations and connotations. It brings you back to bygone ages. It puts a smile on your face.

Brand heritage is a crucial part of this intangible side of a watch. If a watch comes with a unique story, preferably reaching back several decades, containing some fascinating milestones, it adds to
its current-day attraction. It makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself. Something bigger than the quick-consumption life we can all get so sick of at times.

So how about the history of the brand Squale? Well…there is a serious chunk of history there! Let’s get into it! Or should we say: let’s dive in?

The Ocean blue, polished Ref. 1521

Case maker to the stars

The story starts in 1946 when jet-set entrepreneur Charles von Buren (you can still spot the ‘Von B’ icon in Squale’s logo) saw potential in the fast growing world of leisure and professional diving. In those days, it was uncommon for watch brands to produce watches from start to finish, so Von Buren decided to focus on watch cases for dive watches.

His cases were famously used by brands such as Heuer and Doxa. But perhaps the most iconic watch to feature a Squale case was the Bund Fifty Fathoms, a Mil-spec dive watch by Blancpain. Look closely, you will see that its case is nearly identical to the modern-day Squale ref. 1521, commonly referred to as the 50 Atmos.

"Perhaps the most iconic watch to feature a Squale case was the Bund Fifty Fathoms, a Mil-spec dive watch by Blancpain."

It was common practice to mention the case maker on the dial. So a Spirotechnique dive watch might have its own logo at twelve o’clock and a Squale logo at six o’clock. Squale lovingly pays tribute to its roots by featuring double logos on its current day watches. This time around, it is both Squale as the case maker and Squale as the watch brand.

Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms in Squale case
Squale Matic Dark Blue in action

Early Squale watches

In the sixties and seventies, Squale launched its own complete watches. The famous 1521, 2002 and Master were all developed in this period. Note that Squale was very early to the party, since the dive watch as we know it today was only introduced in the 1950s.

You would not find a Squale watch at a main street jeweler in those days. These were specialist diving tools, which you would purchase at a specialist diving supplies store.

In 1967 and 1970, new diving depth records were set by Enrico Maiorca and Jacques Mayol. Both were wearing Squale dive watches on their adventures. So yes, we are good on the street credibility side here! And you know what? A modern Squale still very much gives off that suave Riviera aquatic lifestyle vibe. Just add a linen shirt, some loafers and a Riva yacht. Then strap on some Scuba gear and explore the crystal clear turquoise waters.

A vintage Squale print ad

Timeless watches

Squale recognized the value of their heritage and kept their most iconic models in production. Today, you can still buy the 1521 and 2002 models. They have hardly changed, except for some technical upgrades along the way. The great thing about this approach is that the watches have become completely timeless. They are insensitive to fashion cycles. They are beautiful diving watches and they always will be.

There is an honesty about this that we really appreciate. These are not fashion watches with a made-up history. These are the real deal. Intended for underwater adventures then. Intended for underwater adventures now. But yes, they do look extremely good on dry land as well! Feel free to go desk-diving with these!

Squale Matic "60 Atmos"

A unique style

You could very well argue that 1945-1970 was the golden age of wrist watches. A lot of what came after has taken major design cues from this period. Unfortunately, this means that many watches are highly derivative in their designs. Not so with Squale’s most important lines, the 1521, 2002, Matic and Sub 39. Their cases are distinct. Often even markedly unique.

No other watch case has the curvaceous lines of the 1521 case. Its distinct squared off lugs are instantly recognisable. As is the Squale logo engraved in the case’s flank and the crown at four o’clock, to prevent it from digging into your hand. These watches are in a single word: original. And that is no easy feat!

Oh and do not worry about sizes. Although their diameters suggest massive watches, they wear extremely well even on smaller wrists.

Squale founder Charles von Buren
2020 AWCo x Squale No Radiobino limited edition sold out in 24 hours


Ah, the hotly debated topic of value. On many forums, blogs and vlogs the term is misunderstood and misused. And let’s be honest, does value really matter all that much in a luxury good?

Let’s not get bogged down in this discussion. Squale watches are simply put great value! They are highly capable Swiss dive watches (the popular Squale 1521 comes with 500 meter water resistance!) with solid Swiss ebauche movements ticking away inside. They are finely finished and have a real substantial, luxury feel to them. They have all the street-cred and heritage you could desire. They have original and unique designs. And still, most of them are just around the € 1.000,- mark at the time of writing.

This means they are also great ‘second’ watches to a more delicate vintage watch. You could do a whole lot worse than to wear a beautiful vintage Datejust during the week and a modern Squale on the weekends and holidays. You might want to use one as a beater-deluxe! That might sound a little disrespectful towards Squale, but these are tool watches at heart. You are meant to get them wet and to put a scratch or two on them!

A connoisseur’s choice

If you put on a solid yellow gold Rolex, the whole world will know what you are wearing. It is a statement of success and confidence. But you may not be all that into conspicuous consumption. You might enjoy an approving nod from a connoisseur more than greedy looks at every birthday party. In this case, Squale is perfect for you! These are watches that will put you in a select company of people-in-the-know. It is the not-so-obvious choice for those who really know watches. (Not to bash gold Rolexes by the way, we really enjoy those too!)

The Squale Sub 39 GMT

A loveable company

While most watch brands have been eaten alive by massive luxury groups such as LVMH, Swatch or Richemont, Squale is independent. It is now owned by the Italian Maggi family, who run it with great passion. It has not been analysed to death by management consultants and marketing gurus. It does not have a shareholder’s meeting in which it has to justify its choices. It is not cleverly positioned just above or below its direct competitors.

It is just Squale. Run by great people who you can have a nice chat with. As an authorised dealer, we enjoy a very close relationship with the team at Squale. We are asked for input. We do fun projects together, regardless of whether they end up profitable or not. Our recent launch of the Subino and No Radiobino is a great example.

Squale is at that sweet-spot size as a watch brand. Just large enough to be professional and solid. Small enough to be personal and flexible. And that makes owning a Squale watch a lot more satisfying as compared to something from a massive anonymous conglomerate.

Give it a try

If you have not had the pleasure of handling a Squale watch before, come by our Amsterdam boutique at Reestraat 3. We are happy to share our passion for the brand and show you their great products. And with summer around the corner, a Squale diver’s watch is nothing short of perfection!

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