When it comes to dive watch design, it often seems there is nothing new under the sun. After all, with a limited number of components to work with, fairly strict requirements, 60 years of history, and countless existing examples, it’s tough to be original anymore. But what if you look back, way back, well before the first dive watches, or even the invention of scuba, for inspiration? That’s exactly what Jacob Hatzidimitriou, the founder of Ianos Watches, did to come up with his first diver: the Avyssos.*
If the names “Ianos,” “Avyssos,” or the founder’s surname didn’t give it away, this is a watch with Greek roots, which is fitting for a dive watch. Greece has a long undersea heritage, from the mythical lost city of Atlantis about which Plato wrote, to the traditional freediving sponge divers, to combat divers from the fourth century BC through two World Wars (stories tell of Greek divers cutting the Persians’ anchor lines in the fourth century BC). But inarguably the most intriguing chapter in Greek subaquatic history was the discovery, by sponge divers, of an ancient shipwreck off the coast of the island of Antikythera, in which was found perhaps the world’s oldest clock mechanism, that to this day remains a source of mystery and ongoing fascination among archaeologists and horologists alike.
You want vintage-inspired? How about 100 B.C. inspired?
The name “Ianos” (YAWN-os) in English translates to “Janus,” who was the ancient Greek god of, among other things, time. “Avyssos” translates to our English word “abyss.” And true to its name, this watch is a proper dive timer. The steel case is water resistant to a healthy 300 meters, the timing ring ratchets counterclockwise, and the luminescent hands and dial are highly legible, night or day. But it’s the numerous details that separate the Avyssos apart from the legions of other dive watches out there.*
The case is 44 millimeters in diameter but doesn’t really wear as large as you might expect. The shape is not unlike many of the 1960s divers that utilized the so-called “Skin Diver” case, with a nicely curved profile and short, cut-in lugs that give the Avyssos a top-to-bottom dimension of 54 mm. The bezel is brushed steel, with scalloped edges and engraved numerals and five-minute hashes. Despite the smooth scallops, the bezel is easy to grasp since it overhangs the sides of the case, being the widest part of the watch. The overall effect is nostalgic without referencing any specific historical diver.
At 44 x 54 millimeters, the Avyssos fits a variety of wrists.
The dial is where things get really interesting. Constructed in the stenciled “sandwich” style, the luminiscent layer is visible through the cut-out markers. Numerals are large and looping, while the five-minute markers are oblong. The shapes of these subtly reference the shape of the “kampanelopetra,” or diving stones used by Greek divers as ballast when they descended to collect sponges on the seabed, a clever nod to this history without being goofy or overwrought.
A piece of the Antikythera mechanism that inspired the running indicator of the Avyssos.
Similarly referential is the running indicator at 6:00. Lacking a sweep seconds hand, this functions as a means of telling if the watch is indeed running, a crucial component of a dive watch. The alternating white and colored arcs move behind the aperture on the dial. While the lack of a sweep hand doesn’t allow for accurately setting the watch, or timing decompression stops, the tradeoff is a clever visual element that actually references the Antikythera mechanism, that had a similarly prominent rotating disc. Once you see this, it is obvious, but even without any knowledge of its inspiration, it can be appreciated. The sanded surface of the dial itself is also a subtle nod to that archaelogical treasure, which was crusted with coral and centuries worth of corrosion. With the buttery marker color, sanded dial and unique running indicator, the Avyssos has a timeless, almost antique quality, somehow fitting its link to antiquty and its origins in Greece, the cradle, some say, of technology and culture.
Then there is the choice of the movement. The Avyssos runs a hand-winding ETA 7001 movement, with no date. Aside from Panerai’s sometime use of hand-cranked calibers, it’s a rare choice in a modern dive watch. Purists will argue that a self-winding motor is better suited for a dive watch since it requires no use of the crown, the “weak” spot on a watch in terms of moisture ingress. But, in reality, the risk is minimal, unless you are diving regularly, and anyway, this watch has a screw-in crown, so isn't merely reliant on a stem gasket for water resistance. There is a rather disconcerting ratcheting click, however, when tightening down the crown after full winding the movement, which is a clutch that keeps you from over cranking the mainspring while screwing in the crown.
The channel on the caseback offers view of the ETA 7001 movement and keeps the strap from adding height to the watch.
This choice of movement sets the Avyssos apart from not only any other microbrand diver I can think of, but also almost every other dive watch out there. It also allows for a slim case profile of less than 10 mm. Flipping the watch over yields yet another surprise. The caseback is angled elegantly in from its flanks to a central longitudinal channel carved out to give view of the movement behind a mineral glass window. Surely, the ETA 7001 is not a beautifully decorated movement, but I still enjoyed seeing the bridges, winding gears, and big balance wheel of this uncommon movement. The cutout channel also was designed with a pull-through “NATO” style strap in mind and the one supplied with the Avyssos slides perfectly in it, without adding any additional height to the watch’s profile.
The strap provided with the Ianos Avyssos is made from a layer of soft sueded calfskin and a bottom layer of water (and sweat) resistant polyurethane. While perhaps not the best choice for a dive watch, these straps were tested in the sea on the wrists of Greek sponge divers and came through alright. A nylon NATO would be an easy enough swap for wet work.*
The choice of movement keeps the thickness to a respectably thin 9.54 millimeters.
I’ll admit that when I first saw renderings of this watch, I was less than interested. But hands-on is an entirely different matter. Then the texture of the dial and the depth of the markers, the ingenuity of the cut-out caseback and the quality of the strap are evident. The Avyssos is a refreshing watch, so unique from the largely derivative field of divers out there. The historical inspirations of the watch also encouraged me to dig in a little more to the history of Greek sponge diving and the discovery of the Antikythera shipwreck and its mechanism, which somehow imbued the watch with more, ahem, depth. I like watches with good back stories and this one, despite being a new brand, has a rich one. For of all the “vintage” and “retro-inspired” dive watches out there, the Ianos Avyssos manages to be the most retro of them all, while at the same time, seeming entirely fresh and new.
The Avyssos will be launched in mid-February, with a price of 725 CHF for the steel references (three dial colors) and 760 CHF for the one PVD version. More information about Ianos and the Avyssos can be found here.
Photos: Gishani Ratnayake


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