Dive watches are some of the most popular watch styles. Newcomers often choose a dive watch for their first watch, while microbrands often launch one as their first release.
Despite the name, dive watches aren’t usually the first option for most divers nowadays. They prefer to use dive computers to avoid issues during decompression. Nevertheless, they often carry a diver’s watch as a backup in case their computer malfunctions.
But what is it that makes dive watches good?
What specifications and characteristics should you look for when searching for the best dive watch?
And which are the best dive watches on the market today?
We’ll explain it all in this guide to dive watches!
What Makes for a Great Dive Watch?
When considering a dive watch, these are the features to look for and that make this watch category so unique.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. A great dive watch should have adequate water resistance, so you can particapte in aquatic activities. How much is adequate water resistance?
For most water sports, you can get by with 100 m (or 10 atm, which stands for atmospheric pressure). However, the best dive watches usually come with at least 200 m of water resistance.
It’s also important to distinguish between a dive watch and a certified divers’ watch. Any brand can call their watch a dive watch, but a true diver’s watch has to achieve ISO 6426 certification. When you see the word DIVER’S written on the bottom of the watch dial, it means it holds up to the ISO’s rigorous standards of durability and suitability for intense conditions.
All dive watches should come with a dive time bezel to allow you to calculate how long you have been underwater. When you begin your descent, you rotate the indicator to your current time, and the minute hand will always show you your elapsed time.
It is paramount that the bezel is unidirectional, meaning that it should only rotate counterclockwise. In case of an accidental bump, if the bezel is able to turn clockwise, it will show that you have been underwater for less time than you actually have. This can be very dangerous since it can lead to barotrauma or decompression sickness.
The strap you choose for your dive watch is also important. It needs to be able to withstand the pressure and the eroding effect of seawater. It should also fit over a diving suit. That’s why the most popular strap choices are rubber straps or NATO straps made of thick fabric.
However, another great option is a stainless steel or titanium bracelet. Some even come with a divers extension, specifically made to allow you to wear it over the sleeve of your diving suit.
Best Dive Watches
Now that you understand what makes for a great diving watch, these are our favorites on the market.
1. Best Rolex Dive Watch: Rolex Submariner
No list of dive watches is complete without the king itself: The Rolex Submariner. Although it is questionable whether people actually dive with them, the Rolex Submariner is undoubtedly one of the best dive watches in the market.
The newest iteration comes in a slightly larger 41 mm size which helps with underwater usability. Also, its bezel is manufactured using the very durable Cerachrom material. Combined with up to 300 m water resistance, the Submariner is the quintessential luxury dive watch.
Rolex also came up with the new caliber 3225 with a Chronergy escapement that ensures a much larger 70-hour power reserve than its previous models. You can find the Rolex Submariner in its usual Oystersteel bracelet, or you can look for third-party rubber straps explicitly made for it.
2. Best High-End Dive Watch: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
Famously, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was the first commercially available modern dive watch. Originally designed in collaboration with combat divers of the French Navy, the watch was also worn by famous explorer Jacques Cousteau.
The rich history of the Fifty Fathoms has turned it into one of the most highly coveted luxury dive watches. Nowadays, there are dozens of iterations with different materials and complications. However, all of them keep the same iconic design.
The watch has a 45 mm case size with a very legible dial, and it’s waterproof up to 300 m. It also features Blancpain’s 1315 automatic movement and a sapphire bezel. It comes in a metal bracelet or the more iconic black sailcloth strap.
3. Best Entry-Level Luxury Dive Watch: Tudor Pelagos
Deriving from the Greek word for sea, the Tudor Pelagos is the embodiment of the modern dive watch. Every aspect of the Pelagos is made with functionality in mind. To begin with, it has a very legible dial with large white markers.
Furthermore, the watch features an astounding 500 m of water resistance which ensures that it is ready for any diving scenario. Also, the watch case is made from titanium which makes it far more durable and lightweight.
The caliber MT5612 beating inside the Pelagos will give you precise and accurate timekeeping along with a substantial 70-hour power reserve. Finally, the watch comes on a titanium bracelet with a slider in the clasp to ensure a perfect fit or a high-quality rubber strap.
4. Best Omega Dive Watch: Omega Seamaster 300
The Seamaster 300 is a unique dive watch, introduced in 1957 for people who needed a tool watch for underwater activities. Not to be confused with the Seamaster Diver 300M, this model offers a more simplistic alternative to the famous Bond watch.
The Seamaster 300 features a vintage design, inspired by the original, with a simple no-date dial. Just like any Omega watch, it is built with high-quality materials and a top-of-the-line movement, the caliber 8912.
There are several color and strap options to choose from. If you only want the aesthetic of the dive watch and won’t actually dive with it, a leather strap might be a good option. However, if you wish to take it underwater, Omega’s stainless steel bracelet will not disappoint you.
5. Best Dive Watch Under 1000: Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 600
While the name Christopher Ward might not be associated with horological history, the British watchmaking brand has risen to prominence over the past decade. The main reason for that is that it offers well-made and well-priced Swiss watches.
One of those watches is the C60 Trident Pro 600, the brand’s signature dive watch. As the name suggests, the watch features an impressive 600 m of water resistance and comes in different sizes from 38 mm to 42 mm to suit everyone’s wrist.
Overall, the watch is made with high-quality materials, including a ceramic bezel, and is equipped with the reliable Sellita SW200-1 movement. You can find it in several color options on a steel bracelet with a unique micro-adjust mechanism to allow you to get a good fit.
6. Best Dive Watch Under 500: Seiko SRPB51K1 “Samurai”
When it comes to affordable dive watches, Seiko makes some of the best. The SRPB51K1, also known as the Samurai, does not disappoint. It offers excellent value if you like the aesthetic of a dive watch or simply want an inexpensive one for your aquatic activities.
Being a part of the Prospex lineup, the Samurai is a proper diver’s watch with 200 m of water resistance. It is a rather bulky timepiece thanks to its 44 mm angular case shape. However, the size aids to its legibility which is essential for a dive watch.
The Samurai’s build quality is excellent, and the 4R35 movement is always reliable. It comes in a good quality stainless steel bracelet with drilled lugs for easier strap replacement. Overall, the Samurai is one of the best dive watches under $500, especially if you are a fan of larger watches.
However, if you’re not, our next option might be ideal for you.
7. Best Dive Watch for Smaller Wrists: Oris Divers Sixty-Five
The Divers Sixty-Five has been one of the most popular Oris references since it came out in 2015. More recently, the brand has released a 36 mm variation that is ideal for individuals with smaller wrists.
The Divers Sixty-Five has a very unique vintage-inspired design. It is clearly aimed at people who enjoy the aesthetic of a vintage dive watch without the usual toughness and bulk associated with them. This is evident by the mere 100 m of water resistance it carries.
Nevertheless, the watch is excellently built, with premium materials and a movement based on the very accurate SW 200-1 caliber inside. There is a plethora of options to choose from with different colors, materials, and straps. There are even some larger sizes like 38 mm or 40 mm if you find the 36 mm version too small for you.
A dive watch is the essential underwater ally
For watch enthusiasts, dive watches are undoubted fan favorites. A well-built dive watch with an elegant design lends a masculine and rugged air to its wearer. Just as importantly, the best dive watches are made to be great tool watches first and foremost.
However, even the most well-built and robust timepieces require proper care, especially when they are not on your wrist.
Despite their toughness, even the best watches can get beat up or scratched due to improper storage. That’s why you should look to purchase a high-quality watch roll, like the ones from Operandi Firenze.
With a well-made watch roll, you won’t have to worry about damaging your precious timepiece when storing it or traveling with it.
So, go out there, find your perfect diving companion, and don’t forget to keep an eye on the time!