September 23, 2015
If you’re looking for a good beater watch, a military-style watch for work, or just love a good watch remember: a good watch is one that lasts, and that you like and can afford. Most of them are dive watches. After all, if a watch can perform flawlessly 300m under water (sometimes in extreme temps) it’s safe to assume you can rely on it when you go for a hike.
Not everyone can wear a dive watch, and not everyone wants to. You’ve got to love the beefy, stylish appearance, dive-oriented complications, and high-visibility design of these timepieces in order to wear one. For special occasions or as a daily beater, dive watches offer durability, looks, and accuracy that’s hard to come by in any other class of watch. What can we say? We love ‘em.
As a watch enthusiast who grew up near the ocean, I developed a fascination for dive watches early on. As a result, most of the watches in my collection are stainless steel black-dialed divers, with very few exceptions. My everyday “beater”, a Doxa Mission 31 Sub Professional, easily stands on its own with its brushed Titanium case, matte Sunkist orange dial, and funky-chunky old-school vibe.
I remember seeing my first Doxas on the Jacques Cousteau specials of my childhood and later reading about them in Clive Cussler action novels. As an early dive watch pioneer, Doxa helped define the genre in the 60’s with their signature high-contrast dials, US Navy no decompression table timing bezels, dwarf hour hands, and Helium Release Valve designed in collaboration with Rolex. My particular Doxa is one of a handful used by Jacques Cousteau’s grandson, Fabien, to break his grandfather’s saturation dive duration record (in the process, also setting a record for the longest continuously used dive watch underwater).
I’m pretty picky when it comes to my gear. Any watch that’s good enough for three generations of Cousteaus is definitely good enough for me.
If the world was collapsing around me and I had one watch I could grab from our store safes, it would be a Rolex Submariner Date. It is an extremely durable watch with a water rating ideal for diving to find your next meal. It’s easy to read at a glance. The ratcheting bezel is perfect for timing activities up to 60 minutes, the bracelet will never deteriorate, the clasp is very secure and it would take a string of odd bad luck for the watch to be snagged and removed from your wrist. There’s no need to worry about the battery dying, and the watch should easily work for 10+ years without a service. It’s just a no-nonsense badass piece of Swiss gear!
My go-to dive watch is the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean. In my case, I have the 42mm version. I don’t do any serious diving and the deepest I ever get in either an ocean or pool is about 12 feet. I choose to wear the Planet Ocean over other watches I own given not only the wearing comfort, but also the design and size, which allow the watch to be worn in other situations. In the future, I plan on acquiring other diving watches, but the Omega will remain my go-to because it adequately addresses my needs and personal design preferences.
Top watch is the Rolex Submariner. It’s got great depth, and once you’re done in the water, it looks great back on land.
When hunting for a dive watch, I like to choose something that’s versatile, and by versatile I mean it’s a timepiece I can wear for both work and play. With that in mind, it’s really hard to go past the Rolex Deepsea. It’s smart, classic, and something you can give your children when they’re responsible enough to own. We’re actually big fans of the James Cameron ‘D-Blue Edition’ edition which was released last year with the blue and black faded dial. It’s a big watch, but we’re sure you’re man enough to wear it.
Dive watches are my favorite genre of timepieces. With that said, I only actually began to dive earlier this year. So why the fascination with this category? I think it really has to do with what dive watches represent. They are the ultimate combination of legibility and durability with a specific “survive underwater” purpose that anyone can understand. As a lifestyle item, dive watches lend themselves well to daily wear, and they also handsomely communicate that the wearer prefers to be active, adventurous, and healthy. With that said, there is a universe of dive watches out there and selecting a “favorite” is both unwise and unhealthy. Consumers should relish in exploring the world of both inexpensive dive tool watches to beautifully lavish and refined luxury divers. My go-to dive watch is the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 5015 diver.
That’s an easy one for me to answer. My favourite dive watch is my Accurist Marin Graf.
Two reasons for that – it’s rare, and it’s an Accurist, and collect the odd Accurist watch here and there. Screw-down crown, it’s really waterproof, easy to read, has a date, and is automatic.
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Here at Isofrane, our go-to dive watch is a DOXA SUB. It is referred to as the singular dive watch by professional divers all over the world. The DOXA SUB dive watch has a long history, created in 1967 out of a collaboration with the Cousteau family, pioneers in undersea exploration who helped transform diving from a profession to a sport. DOXA SUB continues to collaborate with the Cousteau family to this day, working with Fabien Cousteau. The watches are not only superior in form and function, but aesthetically they have retained all of the retro style of the earliest models. There are a number of different colors and styles available, but many DOXA SUB collectors still go for the classic orange “Professional” dial, as worn by Clive Cussler’s literary character Dirk Pitt, played by Matthew McConaughey in the movie “Sahara.” A DOXA SUB dive watch is a piece of wearable, functional art.
As soon as I plan a dive trip to the Florida Keys or the Bahamas, the first watch I pack is the Rolex DeepSea. Even though I won’t be going down nowhere near 10,000 feet deep or even causing the helium escape valve to open during my dive, it’s refreshing to know that the DeepSea was made to handle extreme depths and still look pretty cool and robust. One characteristic that makes me always opt for the DeepSea when diving is how indestructible the damn thing is. It is a beast that was made to withstand anything that comes its way. The large face of the watch makes it very easy to read down below and the external rotating bezel always comes through during clutch time. Even though I own several dive watches, the DeepSea always seems to get the most dive time out of me!
My “Go to” dive watch is of course a UTS. But it would still be one if I was not involved in the company. UTS Watches are unique, tough, and I love how they look. The 4000M Diver is a completely original design totally made in-house by just one man in Germany. Each watch case is CNC machined from a solid block of steel. it is neither pressed or “stamped” The massive 6MM thick sapphire crystal is bolted down by a stainless steel plate. This watch has a locking bezel with a ceramic ballbearing system. The thickness of the case and sapphire crystal insure the a HEV is not needed. But even with all of these technical details and back story, the watch just looks awesome.
Honestly though our customers say all this better than myself.
Here is a recent feedback from a client who served over seas in Afghanistan.
“The watch you sold me has literally been around the world and back with me. All the other high end watches I have have not seen the light of day in a very long time . Giving me the idea to sell them and look at more UTS models “ – Donald S. who enclosed the following photo.
From the classic Rolex Submariner to more unique pieces like the Doxa Sub Mission 31 Professional, a great watch can easily cost as much as a down payment on a decent car. And it should.
At this price point, you can expect handcrafted automatic movement, water resistance at depths of up to 1200m, and titanium, titanium alloy, or nitrogen alloy cases. Some watches may include details completed in precious gems, gold, or platinum. Superior visibility at depth, gas release valves, and SCOC or ISO certification are par for the course. As the first watches in this section show, you don’t have to pay a fortune to get a phenomenal watch.
Modestly priced for this category, the Doxa Sub Mission 31 Professional deserves a spot next two Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms and Rolex’s Submariner for one main reason – quality. This is undoubtedly
one of the best dive watches in production – but not for long. Designed for collectors, it’s handmade, rated to 1000m water resistance, and has a titanium alloy case. Let’s be honest. If it’s good enough for Fabien Cousteau, it’s good enough for us.
Starting at $3,400.00 for used and more economic models, some versions of this watch cost up to $23,359.00. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny. And if you’re a serious diver in the mood to really splurge, take a look at the Ploprof 1200m…it’s another Omega offering, built with all the extras a professional diver could want.
Starting at $3,500.00 for a used model, this watch is a favorite in forums and has a reputation as the men’s dive watch all other men’s dive watches try to be. It’s one of the most popular luxury watches in the world, and it’s safe to say that most of the men who sport it have never been on a dive. It’s also a beast of a watch that can hack depths of 300m without complaint, and is SCOC certified.
A member of the Oyster Collection from Rolex, this watch is a powerful performer under water. Visually stunning, it’s rated water resistant to 3900m, SCOC certified, and features a durable nitrogen-alloy internal frame that can handle over three tonnes of force. Outfitted with a gas escape valve and self-winding mechanical movement, it’s a watch you’ll own forever. Go ahead. Try to beat it up. We dare you.
Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms is the culmination of this company’s more than 60 years of high-end dive
watchmaking expertise. The 5015 is built with a self-winding 35 jewel movement housed in a satin-brushed titanium cage that’s rugged enough to take a few nasty blows and keep on ticking. If you’ve got extra money to spend, this is where we’d start.
A dive watch that comes in between $1,000-3,000 is going to have a few characteristics you can depend on. Professional divers, military personnel, and collectors often find great bargains on new and used watches at this price point. Check for features like gas release valves, automatic mechanisms, and sapphire crystals at this price point – they’re common on more expensive models, and a true bargain if you can find them for this price.
A jumbo version of the popular JSAR, this large-faced Marathon watch is just as big on quality as it is in size. Water resistant to 300m, only 200 of these watches were made in the first run. If you get one, consider yourself lucky. A scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and automatic movement are a few of the features that make us jealous of anyone who gets a JDD at this price.
Like the Planet Ocean subline of this high-end watch listed earlier, the Omega Seamaster is a gorgeous
watch that performs. The official timepiece of James Bond, pair it with a NATO strap for a tacticool feel, or take it on your next dive for unparalleled performance at depths of up to 600m.
Your landlocked sports watch might be built like a tank, but this sucker’s made from seawater-resistant
German submarine stainless steel. The crown is placed at 4 o’clock to avoid interfering with your hand during a dive, and sapphire crystal is the face material. If it sounds too good to be true for this price point, it gets better. The watch is rated for depths of up to 1,000m, and certified by DNV GL.
The SuperOcean Heritage offers the familiar large Breitling face in a steel or steel & gold case. A self-
winding mechanical watch with 25 jewel movement, a unidirectional ratcheted bezel, and water resistance to 200m, it’s a powerful monster. Visibility is crucial while diving, and the glare-proofed, cambered sapphire crystal guarantees you’ll be able to see the time – even when the depth forces you to rely on the illuminated dial.
Marathon CSAR Chronograph Automatic Pilot’s Watch ($2,896.00+)
Sure, it says “pilot” in the name, but this is one nice-looking beater dive watch that can tackle significant depths. It’s a chronograph so superior movement is a given, and like all Marathon watches, it’s a tactical tool first and a stunning timepiece second. Drag it down to 300m and enjoy not having to press any buttons for illumination. The tritium lights up on its own, wherever you are.
Some of the most respected and well-known dive watches, like Seiko’s Tunas and the Tudor Submariner, fall in this price range. You’ll find features like 300m depth capabilities, stainless steel housing, and 21 jewel movement at this price point, as well as sapphire crystal and attractive styles that are ready for the office and the outdoors.
Built to take a beating and still look great, there’s a reason that the Tuna has it’s own cult following. Known for the tuna can-like shape of the case, the best bang for your buck in this line of great dive watches is the SBBN0015. Seiko may cease production in the near future, so get ready for these to hit the collector’s market instead of divers’ wrists soon…
Made to take abuse, the Trident C60 is a serious dive watch. The 38mm and 42mm case options cater to small and medium wrists, but no shortcuts were made on style. Multiple versions of the Trident exist, with multiple face and strap color options. Rated to 300m, it’s not a deep diver, but goes deep enough for most hobbyists.
This Government Search and Rescue watch from Marathon has ETA 2824 Swiss movement, a screw-down back and crown, and a 2.8 mm thick sapphire crystal. Water resistant to 300m, and housed in a rugged stainless steel case, we just have one question. Why aren’t you wearing one yet?
Built between 1954-1977, the Tudor Submariner line looks equally fashionable today. Tudor’s high-quality and flawless style led to its adoption as a military dive watch in the 1970s, but the line is no longer produced. Tudor Submariners are popular with collectors for their precision craftsmanship and style, but one can occasionally be found for under $1,000.
Here’s something we’re sure you didn’t expect at this price point – water resistance to 1,000m. The Stowa ProDiver is a no-frills diving watch that’s colorful enough to match your personality. Definitely an extroverted timepiece, it’s fun to wear thanks to the wide range of color options, including lime green and bright orange. A new one will run you $1,362.00; you can get a used version for less than $1,000, but it won’t be easy.
What’s the best dive watch under $500? It’s better than you think. Despite not having the precious metals or extreme depth ratings of their more expensive counterparts, these dive watches still deliver in looks and function. From BDUs to wet suits, and jeans to dress suits, dive watches under $500 offer something their more expensive counterparts can’t claim – true versatility. They’re every man’s watch – built for everything and anything, and more than ready for a little use and abuse.
We consider this the best dive watch under $500, thanks to its ability to take a serious beating and keep on ticking. Designed for the military but available for civilian use, the Marathon Military Medium Diver’s Watch offers a screw-down crown, 17-jewel quartz movement, and combines tritium and lume illumination in a case that’s perfectly sized for small and medium-wristed divers.
Offering depth ratings up to 1000m, the Citizen Promaster isn’t just built for looks, although it does fit in the boardroom nicely. Keep an eye out for the solar-powered quartz EcoDrive movement – it’s what put Citizen on the map. High-end Promasters will offer helium escape valves for serious divers, a hard-to-find feature that’s definitely worth the extra you’ll pay for it.
This Swiss Army dive watch is built to withstand depths of up to 500m, and a night out at the club. It’s a perfect mix of rugged and stylish, and the color choices are a little more exciting than most dive watches. It’s definitely what we would consider one of the best dive watches under $500.
Born on the WatchUSeek forums in a design contest won by Brian F. Green, the Prometheus Ocean Diver was designed by watch lovers but built for deepwater performance, and is easily one of the best dive watches for $500. Superb illumination, retro style, and a focus on quality are the hallmarks of this unique dive watch. Of course, there are only 500 of them in the world…
One of the most economical dive watches ever produced, don’t let the Mako’s price fool you. It’s also one of the most recommended watches on Reddit and WatchUSeek, boasts 21-jewel Japanese movement, and is water resistant to 200m. Made for skin diving only, it’s a great-looking stainless steel diving watch with a huge following.
There are a few surprisingly great dive watches under $100. One of our favorite collectibles is a Russian watch at this price point. There aren’t many Swiss or American-made dive watches under $100, however. If you’re looking for the best dive watch under $100 but picky about where your movement is from, start looking on watch forums and trade/sale sites like WatchUSeek for used models. Otherwise, you might want to bump your budget up to $150.
The Vostok Amphibia is a popular collector’s item with a ridiculously low price tag (around $60 US). Produced in Russia and originally designed for the Russian Army, it’s the only serious dive watch that offers high-end style and function in this price range. Buy carefully – there are plenty of knock-offs, and you’ll probably be buying from Russia directly, unless you’re lucky enough to find this watch on a forum.
Casio gives divers on a budget tons of functionality, but without the same sleek appearance of high-end dive watches. There are a wide range of style options to choose from, but looks aren’t the G-Shock’s strong point. The brand line is quickly gaining a reputation as a solidly built, inexpensive watch, so it’s worth checking out if you’re in this for the diving (not for collector’s items).
This is a vintage watch you’ll love – if you can find one. The Citizen Promaster NY2300 came with white or black face and the choice of a steel or pepsi bezel. Attractive and tough as nails, it’s a heck of a good watch, and is usually sold used for around $100. NOTE: New Promasters are closer to the $1,000 price point.
Gorgeous design, flawless automatic movement, and an unbeatable reputation as a true beater watch,
the Seiko SKX007 is no longer in production, which makes collectors giddy as they scrounge to get their hands on this workhorse of a watch. Correction: The Seiko SKX007J is still available and made in Japan. The Seiko SKX007K is available, made in Milaysia (now in Milaysia; used to be Singapore). Flawless function and gorgeous form, it’s normally priced around $160 used.
Normally priced closer to $145.00, on a good day you can catch these watches on sale for as little as $99.00. Styled like Rolex dive models but at a fraction of the price point, these Seiko-family models make decent, cheap dive watches.
Every dive watch needs a few things – like water resistance to a depth of at least 200m, and a screw-down crown. The bezel should be easy to turn under water (even with gloves on), but firm enough that you can’t accidentally bump it and change your settings. And it needs to be bright. The sun doesn’t shine at diving depths. If you can’t see your watch when you’re diving, what good is it? You also need to consider a few practical aspects, like size/bulk, movement, and strap choices.
Let’s face it, watch weight is a personal choice. Some people like light divers, while others prefer a heavy watch they can’t possibly forget they’re wearing. The best diving watches tend to be a bit on the heavier side, but weight isn’t necessarily a measure of quality.
Think about what you’ll be doing with your watch. Will a monster face like the Breitling’s get in your way? Or can you pull it off comfortably? If your watch looks great but stays in its box because it’s too bulky, too light, too big, or too small, why own it? Get a size and weight you’ll actually use.
There’s a lot of debate about movement in the world of diver’s watches. If you’re buying a piece as a collectible, opt for the automatic movement, but if you’re looking for a diver, a quartz movement may work perfectly. Either is acceptable, despite the amount of fuss that’s being raised over this issue.
Case in point? Seikos. Divers love ‘em. Collectors do, too. A fair number of Seiko diving watches rely on quartz movement. Recently, they were pushed out of the way as the low-price favorite by a surprise – the Casio G-shock. Most G-shocks are also quartz.
Then again, the Rolex Submariner is an automatic… but the real difference is about handcraftsmanship more than it is about quality and reliability under water.
Rubber or NATO straps are reliable at depth, dry quickly, and won’t come undone during use. Be careful with cheaper watch straps – the last thing you want is to watch your gorgeous, expensive diver drop to the bottom of the ocean. And remember – a one-piece zulu or NATO style watch strap will save your watch if you break a spring bar. Because a one-pice strap goes under both spring bars, you get that little bit of extra insurance against losing the watch.
Leather isn’t the smartest pick if you intend on actually using your watch on dives. No matter how well-treated a leather strap is, deep dives can do some serious damage to this material. It’s a good pick for a dive watch that’s being used as a collectible, however.
Stainless steel watch bands are the classic option for dressing up any watch, and dive watches are no exception. There’s something about the added weight and metal that gives any watch a more high-end feel.
If you’re looking for something unique, there are several sailcloth and kevlar strap options on the market. They aren’t your average watch strap, and they’re built to tackle saltwater while looking sharp.