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Which bottom timer

Posted by oceanzone on October 23, 2017 at 12:15 AM

What do we need in a dive timer? Very little in all honesty. Here I've outline what we need out of a timer, and what options are available.

We don't use computers, so that removes a significant proportion of the clever functionality that other divers might require. I guess that I have five elements in mind when selecting a dive timer:

 

Time Display in Seconds

Depth Display in 0.1 metre intervals

Large and Clear Display

Reliability and Robustness

Additional Features

So, let's look at those items in a little more detail.


Time display in seconds.

This one is not essential. I know plenty of DIR divers that use a dive timer, such as the Uwatec bottom timer, a cheap and cheerful version which only displays dive time in minutes. However, I think divers are missing a trick here, especially when first learning to manage ascent rates. A timer that gives a display in seconds allows the diver to practice ascending. For example, if the diver wants to practice ascending at 3 metres per minute, then they know they should be going past the first metre after 20 seconds, and then second metre after 40 seconds etc. In this manner, a diver can become more familiar with ascent rates. you can also do ascents such as 30 second move 30 second stop far more easily. It's not the end of the world is your time does not have this feature, but it's a useful training tool.

 

Depth display in 0.1 metre intervals

Whilst not critical for real life diving, this is important when training. Luckily, this one seems fairly common. When you are training, its useful to have some feedback from your timer about your control in the water column. What is equally important as a granular interval, such as 0.1 metre, is the fact that the timer should respond quickly to depth changes. A timer that takes several seconds to change will lag behind the diver, and prove an annoying training tool.

Large and clear display

We don't need lots of figures and letters. We just need the depth, and the time, in nice clear numerals that are easy to read in any condition. This is something that surprisingly few manufacturers seem to comprehend. There are new technologies emerging that allow displays to be larger and clearer than ever, but the dive industry has been fairly slow in adjusting. However, old technology with backlighting is commonly available and there are plenty of options.

Reliability and robustness

Dive timers can cost a lot of money. And kitting up on a UK rib can be like kitting up in a tumble dryer. Equipment needs to be robust out of the water, and reliable in of the water. There are dive timers and computers with great reputations, and there are some that do not have such great reputations. Seek the former and shun the latter!

Additional Features

These are "nice to have's" rather than "must have", but I do like a timer that allows me to reset the stopwatch at the beginning of decompression. At that point in the dive I have little interest in the overall dive time, my focus is on the ascent. Another really useful feature is an average depth setting. Again, not essential, but a very useful feature. A back light is both common and useful, as is the ability to transfer your profile to a computer to analyse and log the dive for reference.

So what's out there?

There is a hundred and one options out there if you search hard enough. However, these would be on my radar:

The Uwatec Dive timer

Rather dated now, the Uwatec Dive Timer is still useful.

It costs about 6700 Php, and it does what it says on the tin. No user replaceable battery. No profile upload. No fancy functionality. No second timer. No resetting. However, what it does do, very reliably, and simply, is tell you how many minutes you have been in the water, and how deep you are. And that's pretty much it. The latest version has an average depth function, but this is not resettable, so will be skewed with your descent. However, the unit is cheap and reliable, and beloved by many a GUE diver. This is certainly a reasonable backup choice.

The Suunto D3 or D4

The D3 was a perfect DIR dive timer, and the D4 has an even larger and clearer display. A freediving timer is perfect for the type of diving we do, because all we need is the depth and the time. These little beauties have the additional advantages large clear displays, the ability to drop the profiles onto a computer via Suunto's free software, and critically a resettable stopwatch, so you can time your deco to perfection. The battery is user replaceable, and mine seems reliable, although I do hear about other units not being so robust. The D4 has a vastly improved display and reliability, although you do pay for it. The D6 and D9 add lots of cost but no real functionality of use to the GUE diver.

The Uwatec 2G

Then there is the 2G. The first near perfect DIR timer.

For a while the 2G was the smartarse of the divetimer world. It has a resettable stopwatch accurate to the second. It has a resettable average depth so you can set it when you hit the bottom of the shot - and then it continually updates. It reacts very quickly to changes in depth, has a large clear display with a great backlight, and is easily readable. Buttons are simple and easy to use. Profiles can be downloaded via Uwatec smarttrak software. It can be taken out of its mount and into a custom one so you can get rid of the strap and use bungee, which is ideal. Basically, for 13.500 Php it does what you need. But..

In cold water with cold hands and/or thick gloves the button system can be fiddly to operate, and the backlight which is needed to see the display at depth means you can't just glance over and see the information you need. Plus mine leaked mid dive after relatively few dives. To be fair Uwatec replaced the unit free of charge without a quibble. It took a few months to get the new one, but the process was easy, which lead me to believe this wasn't the first time it had happened.

The Liquivision Xen

Deliberately aimed at the DIR diving community Liquivision launched the Xen, a spin off from their X1 model. Possibly the world's sexiest dive computer, have a look at this bad boy...

This has an ultra modern OLED interface, which means its crystal clear and readable in complete darkness. No more shining a torch on your timer. Its built to ridiculously tight tolerances, has more bells and whistles than Santa's sleigh, and as a fully paid up equipment junkie, is so pretty it makes me want to just fall to my knees and weep with joy. Another leap away from the traditional computer is the buttonless method of operating.

Instead of buttons, Liquivision has used an accelerometer within the Xen which basically means you tap it to enter menus and change settings. While this takes quite a bit of getting used to, underwater this works really nicely. There are several shortcuts to the menus you need to reset during the dive such as the average depth and stopwatches modes.

Of course there's always a drawback....the cost. This will set you back around 21.500 Php. My personal view is that until recently it's been top of its game for size and functionality. Shearwater and OSTC both have OLED display computers, but while great from a display perspective, their size, weight and higher price tag puts me off. They are undoubtably great as trimix computers, but as we only need a gauge you are paying for way more functionality than you need.

Until recently there hasn't been a direct competitor for the Xen. Now there is.

The XDeep Black BT

Latest up is the XDeep Black BT.

A simple OLED bottom timer to rival the Xen. The display is crystal clear as you would expect, and some additional features such as the digital compass, and integrated battery pack rechargeable via a USB connection. And all for 15.000 Php.



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