The Pyle company of Brooklyn, N.Y., started out as a manufacturer of woofers for stereo speakers, and in the past 50 years have expanded to car audio, guitars and every conceivable musical app for your computer. But these days they want to get you out of the house as much as keep you busy in it.
On their website
, you can find heart monitors with walking and running sensors, or, if you prefer, running watches with heart sensors. They offer watches for the marathon runner (with time alerts and lap chronographs) and watches for the skier (weather forecast, altimeter, barometer, thermometer and compass). Now I’m not a jogger, much less a marathoner, and the closest you’d get me to a mountain in the winter is in the lodge. But I am a scuba diva.
That is, I like to go down a respectable distance say 15 to 20 meters (50 to 60 feet) in very warm water (no less than 26 C), look at the pretty coral and the lovely colours of fish, come back up after an hour and, if I’m still breathing, well, yay! I’ve been doing this for the last 20 years and I hope to do it for 20 more. For the technical stuff, I have always relied on the kindness of dive masters and have kept track of my bottom time with a bezel on my ancient fluorescent green Swatch, cutely described, when I bought it, as a “fun scuba watch.” A scuba watch it ain’t.
So imagine my delight when the Pyle people sent me their new Snorkeling Master Watch, priced at a reasonable $99 (U.S.). It is called a “snorkeling watch” but it does claim to be “water resistant to 330 ft. (just over 100 meters)” which is deeper than I ever plan to go. It has everything in a convenient, compact wristwatch size that the larger, costly to the tune of hundreds of dollars, dive computers offer. It can hold up to 100 dive records, which in my case would cover the next half century, including date and time, bottom time, dive depth, in your choice of metric or imperial, and water temperature, either Fahrenheit or Celsius. It also has an alarm to warn a diver who is ascending at a rate faster than the recommended 6 meters per minute (that, alas, has known to be me.) There is a chronograph function – i.e. a stop watch – as well as a backlight for the digital screen for dark waters. The only thing that is missing, to make it a true dive computer, is a record of the pressure readings on your tank.
It has a nice gearhead design, with a sturdy rubberized watch band; an easy to read screen; four push buttons, two on either side of the face to access its various functions, and a colourful bezel. That bezel, my old friend on my Day-glo Swatch, is the sole disappointment. Because all the info on the face is digital, the bezel, which would rotate around an analogue face to keep track of the passage of time, is purely decorative. But it does look cool.
I got to try it out this spring while on a sailing trip in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which is as good as life ever gets. I was booked to dive off the coast of Bequia but it was pouring rain. And cold – about 22 degrees, which is cold by Bequia standards. I went anyway. As soon as I hit the water, I was glad I did. My Snorkeling Master told me the water temperature was a perfect 28 degrees, and it felt delicious. My Snorkeling Master also told me that at our initial descent we were at 5 meters, but after we swam down a gorgeous wall of coral, we settled in at about 19 meters and stayed there for half of our 60 minutes of bottom time.
My Snorkeling Master did not tell me that we had seen frogfish, arrow crabs, pufferfish, clown and yellowtail wrasses, a spotted moray, squirrel fish, brain coral, stag horn coral and damselfish. That I still needed to enter into my beaten up old PADI log book, with the help of plasticized fish ID sheets after the dive.
It’s wonderful, in this most beautiful of sports, to have a useful and good-looking tool like the Snorkeling Master. I really enjoyed its company.