THE WIFE OF ONE OF BRITAIN’S MOST SUCCESSFUL men once asked me what to buy her husband for a present. He was off to Cocos to go diving from his fashion-retailing friend’s private yacht, flying the last leg by helicopter.
I suggested a computer-watch that was gas-integrated by radio.
Later, she told me that she had gone into a dive-shop to ask for one of these, but the sales assistant had refused to take her money (in excess of a grand) on the basis that he didn’t believe in gas-integration.
So she went down the road and spent 25 times as much on a solid gold diving watch instead.
Why am I telling you this Because the diving retail trade never ceases to amaze me. Oceanic tells me that although some retailers are finding that they walk off the shelves as they are so easy to sell, others angrily refuse to stock the Oceanic Pioneer mask. I cannot explain why.
I first came across this retro-style mask a couple of years ago, when we were doing a side-by-side comparison test. We liked it very much. In fact, if I remember correctly, it was second in favour only to another mask that cost almost twice as much. We even used it for the intro picture for the feature.

ALAS, WE HAVEN’T SEEN another Pioneer in the two years that have flown by since. It seems that Oceanic had production difficulties that resulted in the company needing to search out an alternative sub-contractor for the metal bits.
I suppose that was a better outcome than having to withdraw a product later, when the unfortunate people who bought it discover problems for themselves.
The Pioneer is apparently still to be supplied in the shiny chromed look that originally took my fancy, but now this will be a “limited edition”, at a price approaching £100.
The heavy-duty front metal frame of the regular model is anodised in a choice of one of four dark colours, so it could now be mistaken for plastic. It otherwise keeps its retro look, with exposed hexagonal screw-heads set in the surround, evoking the style of a 1950s diver.
The Pioneer has twin lenses of “SGG Diamant” ultra-clear tempered glass, said to provide optimum vision and colour quality.
The strap seems pretty conventional, but the buckles are mounted on twin-tube affairs that allow very quick and easy adjustment.
They also appear less prone to distort the mask should you tighten it too much, because they position the fulcrum well back from the frame. Over-tightened mask straps are often the cause of those mysterious leaks.
The soft silicone skirt is moulded directly to the rigid inner frame, thus reducing the need for much internal volume.
The mask comes in retro-style black, with the brand name emblazoned down the nose-piece.
It seems appropriate to have called this mask the Pioneer. I have just been wading my way through Bret Gilliam’s Diving Pioneers book, and Bob Hollis, the founder of Oceanic and an early Andrea Doria explorer, is among those people featured in it.
Under water, just as in our test of two years ago, I found the mask unobtrusive and offering a wide field of view, even when looking down to D-rings on the chest area.
The only downside, I imagine, is the necessity to rinse it in fresh water and dry it after a dive, in case the aluminium sets up an electrolytic reaction with another metal you might have in your dive-bag or box.
That said, if I was a retailer, I’d certainly stock the Oceanic Pioneer. It seems daft not to.

Other masks to consider:
Cressi Big Eye Evo, £56
Atomic ARC Subframe, £120
Oceanic Pioneer Limited Edition, £100

COLOUR OPTIONS Red, yellow, slate, titanium
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