Legends of Diving Articles
Regulators In History
The original Model D Aqua-lung regulator which was later to
become known as the DA, consisted of a lower box containing
a large horseshoe lever and diaphragm, and an upper box for
protection, opened to water pressure and containing the
exhaust valve. Side clips held the two halves together, with
the diaphragm sandwiched in-between. The hose assembly,
which on early models used gum rubber hoses, was open at the
mouthpiece and could easily be flooded. Later in 1954
non-return valves were added for easier clearing and use.
The original 1953 unit had one price only; $80.00, no
discounts, no special sales. When combined with a K-valve
tank the price was $142.50, With the addition of a spring
loaded, constant reserve valve, tank and regulator sold for
In 1953 models, a blue hose was adopted with a blue
nameplate. These were the first U.S. assembled regulators
and were U.S. Navy authorized field units. The nameplate
depicted "Aqua-Lung" Cousteau Gagnan Process, U.S. Patent
No. 2,485,039, U.S. Divers Co., 1045 Broxton Ava, Los
Angeles 24, Cal., Use Compressed Air Only. This was the Rene
Sporting Good's address in Westwood, CA.
In late 1953, Rene Bussoz sold his holdings in Rene Sporting
Goods to Air Liquide France and the company was renamed U.S.
Divers and eventually relocated to Pico Blvd. in Los
In late 1954, a full face mask from France called the
Natascope was offered with the regulator. Designations were
changed to read DB for the regulator with mask and DA for
the regulator only. In 1955, catalog descriptions listed the
regulator as the DA model. Later single stage models would
carry the prefix DX, DY, and DW Mistral.
In 1958, an upgrading of the regulator produced the DA
Aquamaster, model #1010. Major changes consisted of the
elimination of springs on the horseshoe lever and the
addition of a low pressure port for "hooka" or hose
attachment for surface supply. The nameplate described the
unit as the "Aqua-lung, DA Aquamaster” 2 stage regulator " A
small crown label was affixed over the nameplate.
In 1961, the hoses were modified to provide a softer rubber
and a curved mouthpiece assembly for diver comfort.
In 1964, U.S. Divers introduced the "Royal Master"
designated as model #1046. The major change from the DA
Aquamaster was the addition of an 0-ring sealed cap over the
stem of the hi pressure seat. This allowed H, P. air to
circulate around the stem and basically balanced out the
first stage from changing tank pressures. The nameplate
designation was Royal Master on a red background over a gold
crown lettered U.S. Divers. The small gold crown sticker was
placed above the nameplate. In addition, the Aquamaster and
Royal Master were fitted with a rubber handwheel in place of
the wing type screw used previously to connect the
regulator. In 1966, the name was revised to read Royal
In 1970, the nameplate was changed from a rectangular brass
plate to a larger round foil label with adhesive backing.
In 1973,the DA Aquamaster regulator was dropped from the
line leaving only the Royal Aquamaster. In 1975, this too
was dropped and the two hose regulator passed into
extinction. Of course a number of units were still available
until the stock was depleted.
When Cousteau originally designed the regulator it was to be
worn with the shorter European tanks, allowing the regulator
to be positioned between the shoulder blades almost on a
direct line with the lungs. In the U.S. with longer
cylinders, the regulator was forced into a higher position
increasing the pressure differential on the lungs. This
coupled with the variety of training techniques taught to
clear a two hose regulator added to its final retirement.
What is interesting to note is the clearing techniques were
not really required. Simply leaning to the left, gravity and
the weight of the water cleared the mouthpiece without any
In comparison to some modem day regulators, the two hose
regulator provided a larger, more sensitive four inch
diaphragm, a smoother flow of air thru the hose system, a
more comfortable mouthpiece due to the buoyancy of the
hoses, and quieter operation with exhaust bubbles exiting
behind the diver.
Many photographers, professionals, and scientists still
relish and use these relics of the past.
After the advent of the two stage, two hose regulator the
first of the single stage, two hose regulators began to
appear. The single stage pressure reduction dates all the
way back to the Rouquayrol-DenayrouzeAreophore apparatus of
the 1860's. In 1954, U.S. Divers introduced the DX
Overpressure Single Stage Regulator. The unit used a fulcrum
lever principle consisting of a pin type valve centered in a
body with two levers interacting across the valve and in
contact with the diaphragm. On inhalation the diaphragm
depressed the two levers, which in turn depressed the pin
type valve, allowing air to flow directly from the cylinder.
To further enhance the air flow and to give the feeling of
over pressure, an internal hose was connected from the valve
body to the mouthpiece "a hose within a hose”. For a small
nominal fee, most dive stores would remove the internal hose
and eliminate the "gushing" of air. The top cover was chrome
plated and polished and the nameplate was yellow. The
mouthpiece consisted of a metal tee. The unit retailed for
$60.00, while the two stage regulator was $80.00 in
In 1955, a slightly modified regulator was introduced under
the name of DW Stream Air. The over pressure hose was
eliminated and a different orifice was added that angled
slightly off center to provide turbulence and overcome the
strong venturi action of the DX regulator. This regulator
was also manufactured with a phenolic resin case and later
in cycolac plastic in both black and brown. The same metal
parts were used as with the DW Stream Air regulator.
In 1956 both the DW Stream Air and the DY plastic cased
regulator were combined into one new regulator, the DW
Mistral. Again, a re-designed orifice provided a more even
breathing flow. The orifice included side vents to provide
turbulence within the case to prevent too strong of a
venturi action on the diaphragm. In 1958 the part number
1008 was assigned to the Mistral regulator. Later the DY
JetAir plastic regulator was reintroduced.
In 1965, the Royal Mistral, part number 1054, was added to
the line. This utilized a poppet and sleeve assembly with an
0-ring sealed cap to provide a balanced part system
unaffected by the changing cylinder pressures. The orifice
used on previous models was eliminated. The following year
the Royal Mistral was discontinued giving way to the
existing two hose regulators and the influx of single hose
In 1954 the first American-designed and produced regulator,
the Divair, was offered. Manufactured by the L.G. Alpin
Company of West Caldwell. New Jersey, and marketed by the
Healthways Corporation, it featured a double lever system
and a cast bronze back plate. Added to the back of the
regulator was a twist-on reserve air knob. Unfortunately it
was very difficult to reach.
The Divair was plagued by electrolysis from dissimilar
metals used in its construction. In 1955 in an effort to
eliminate the problem the back plate was changed to
aluminum. This too created more chaos, and finally in 1956 a
plastic back plate was added as well as changes in other
materials. In addition a lever was added to the reserve
mechanism in the 55 and 56 models. A unique feature was that
the reserve mechanism could be adjusted for the different
To compliment the regulator, Healthways added the Hope-Page
mouthpiece designed by Rory Page. A well made non-return
valve system, it could be adjusted for maximum comfort. 1956
was the final year of the Divair regulator and Healthways
went on to newer designs.
The first regulator to be designed and made under government
contract was the Northill Air Lung by the Garrett AiResearch
Corporation in Torrance, California in 1954. Designed by
Robert Kimes and Robert Kesler, it was released for sale to
the public in 1955.
Consisting of a bronze cast housing, it had several unique
features: A built-in reserve lever with a pull type lanyard
that could be attached to the front of the harness, a
rotating shut-off mouthpiece to prevent water from entering
the hoses, non-return valves, and an exhaust system
incorporated into the outer edges of the diaphragm, closing
on inhalation and opening on exhalation. While still being a
balanced single stage regulator, it had three levers
balancing the diaphragm; a well-made and very distinct
regulator, Garrett also supplied the first aluminum
cylinders with the Northill regulator.
In 1955, a new company entered the market: The Davison
Corporation in Evanston, Illinois. The name was shortened to
Dacor. Their initial regulator, designed by Sam Davison,
Jr., was referred to as a two stage regulator, but actually
incorporated a single stage lever system. What was unique
was that it utilized two diaphragms. An inner diaphragm
located over the lever assembly for inhalation and an outer
diaphragm incorporating an exhaust valve mounted in the
center of the diaphragm. This allowed exhaust air to be
directed to the outer chamber separate from the inhalation
Later a unique device was added to the regulator: a knob
which connected with a rotating vane mounted beside the
regulator to deflect the flow of air. This was called the
"Dial-a-breath," allowing the diver to make his breathing
harder. The theory was that harder breathing conserved air
for the diver, "You didn't use as much""
In 1957, Healthways appeared with a completely new
regulator, designed by Sam Lecocq. Called the Scuba it
featured the first clamp ring to hold the top and bottom
cases together. An angled top case featured a series of
large slots around the side for water entry. Inside, a well
designed bracket held the two levers in a fulcrum position.
The exhaust system utilized a diaphragm to cover the exhaust
port. In addition, it had bleeder holes on the back side of
the case in case of exhaust diaphragm stickage. This was
coveted by a sealing band. Later a flutter valve was also
added in the exhaust end of the hose. In 1960, the case was
redesigned to a more modern appearance and an exhaust
compartment was added inside the top case cover. A standard
round exhaust valve completed the assembly. In addition in
1962 an internal yoke screw was added in place of the wing
nut screw. The name was changed to read Scuba Deluxe. In
1964, this regulator gave way to the influx of single hose
In 1956 W. J. Voit Rubber Company entered the diving field.
Rather than produce their own, they entered into an
agreement with U. S. Divers Corp. The first regulator
produced under their name was the VR-1 Sportsman which
internally was the same as the U.S. Divers DW StreamAir. The
outside case had a distinctive pattern on the front with a
round Voit label in the center. The case halves were
connected by a clamp ring. The hoses were either gray or
tinted light green and molded by Voit. Vanilla flavoring was
added to reduce the rubber odor. This model was improved in
1960 with the orifice being changed to the same as the USD
Mistral regulator and the number and name was changed to
V-22 Polaris 50. A complimentary version made from blue ABS
Cycolac plastic was introduced as the V-55 Blue 50 Fathom
using the same internal parts. This regulator was the same
as the USD DY JetAir regulator. Their second regulator was
not a single stage, but a copy of the USD Aqua-Lung two
stage regulator with the name and part number VR-2 Mariner.
This too was changed in 1962 to the V-66 Navy regulator (USD
In addition, Voit had a mechanism of their own design in
their third regulator, the VCR-2 50 Fathom regulator. The
upper case cover was a distinctive anodized blue in color.
The mechanism design was a forerunner to the downstream
second stages of the modem single hose regulators. This
regulator was also made with a blue ABS cycolac plastic case
and designated the V-5 Blue 50 Fathom. Both models were
discontinued in 1962.
In 1958 with the release of the "Sea Hunt" TV series
starring Lloyd Bridges as "Mike Nelson," Voit had a heavy
increase in models and sales. In addition, they sponsored a
Sunday TV program called "Territory Underwater," featuring
the Brauer Brothers of Ski N' Dive in California,
In 1961, the Sportways Company, formed in 1958, introduced
the Dual-Air, a two hose regulator to compliment their
popular Waterlung single hose regulators. While a two stage
regulator, it was unique in that it used a single hose first
stage mounted outside the box with a tilt valve second stage
inside. The exhaust system was identical to the Healthways
Scuba Deluxe regulator. Both regulators were designed by Sam
Lecocq. Later the tilt valve was replaced with a downstream
lever and renamed the Hydro-Twin.
These were the magical days of diving, with Jacques Cousteau
and Mike Nelson showing us the way. Two hose regulators,
both two stage and single stage were in the forefront.
Divers on the beach drew a crowd when entering the water.
Training programs revolved around "How to clear a two hose
regulator". The underwater world was a challenge, and all
this took place during the early 50's and 60's. It was a
U.S, Divers and Voit images courtesy of Nick Icorn. French
image courtesy Leslie Leaney,
The author* Nick Icorn is an internationally renowned
authority on scuba diving and is the principal of Nick
Icom's Museum of Diving History. He is now in
semi-retirement after a lengthy and distinguished career in
diving. An accounting of his career appears in HD 6 p 28. He
recently received the Conrad Limbaugh Award to add to his
two NOGI's and various other awards. Nick is Director of
Sports Diving for the HDSUSA.
HISTORICAL DIVER No. 16 Summer 1998.
Icorn, international dive legend, presents this article in the dive
legends series. Icorn attended the first instructor's course in the
United States at Scripps Institute in 1953. From there he has gone on to
an illustrious career in diving with many awards. Read more on
Nick Icorn, a legend at the Third Annual International Legends Festival
at the Portage Quarry in August, 2008.
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