Dive watches are something that many men own but few use. It’s not abnormal to see a CEO, manager or even accountant with a Rolex Submariner on his wrist, and when we talk about the world’s most popular luxury watch, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of owners aren’t using it for its intended purpose.
What differentiates a dive watch from the sport watches we so often talk about is that dive watches are intended for exactly that, diving. Deep sea scuba diving in the ocean. Now how many of us are actually going to do that? Probably only a handful of the people who read this article. So the question has to be asked how a dive watch can benefit the average consumer.
The short answer is that dive watches are, for the most part, exceptionally well made. They have to resist water at incredible depths, but they also have to resist pressure and be capable of functioning. The fact is that as far as watches are concerned, the most reliable, well built, sturdy timepieces are in fact dive watches. This is why so many people use dive watches as a generic sports watch. For the most part it’s easy to find a dive watch with just about any complication you could want, but if you can trust a dive watch 300m below sea level, than you can trust it to go surfing, sailing, rafting or kayaking. The fact is it can get wet, and it can take a beating.
What to Look for When Buying a Dive Watch
Just because it’s advertised as a dive watch doesn’t mean it really is. Certainly dive watches have a very unique and bold look to them and many copy the same characteristics that Rolex has made famous, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate that the watch is of high enough quality to actually be submersed in deep water.
A true dive watch needs to be resistant to a number of factors including pressure, water and even the temperature of the sea water. It’s a life saving device for a true diver and it’s used to calculate their oxygen intake and how much time they can spend under water before having to retreat to the surface. If the watch fails to work, just once, it can have catastrophic effects on the diver wearing it.
Regardless of why you want to buy a dive watch, it’s safe to assume that you’re looking for a timepiece that’s as rugged and tough as the Rolex Submariner. Even if you’re just taking it in the bath tub, you’d obviously just buy a Casio if that was all you were looking for.
So pay attention, because I’m going to walk you through exactly what to look for and how to buy a true diving watch.
First, determine what depths you’ll be taking your watch to. Understand that there are limitations and if the watch says 100m it doesn’t mean you should actually take it that deep. It means you can take it close to that. The first step is to determine exactly how deep you plan to go and buy a watch that has a depth rating that exceeds it. It’s this depth rating that lets you know what pressure it’s capable of resisting before water will begin to enter the watch or it will simply stop working. This does not mean looking for a watch that says water proof. There is no such thing as water proof. If a watch actually says that it deserves to be thrown out with the trash. Move on. The standard rule of thumb with dive watches is that if you’re wearing it for light splashing, bathing, snorkeling, etc you can get away with a watch that is water resistant to 100m. If you’re looking to actually go diving you want one that’s 300m. End of story.
Next you want to look at the readability of the watch. This is very important because it doesn’t matter how water resistant the watch is if you can’t read it under water. Since light is absorbed faster under water you need to ensure that the display of the watch is visible. Water is only clear or turquoise in shallow depths. After it gets murky and dark very quickly. Getting a watch with luminescent markers is ideal. You must be able to read the watch clearly under the dark water.
One tip is to look for simple watches that don’t have too many complications featured on the dial. The simpler the reading, the easier a time you’ll have if you need to check your watch. The last thing you want is to be in a panic because you don’t know if you’re reading the correct part of your watch. This of course, is another reason divers carry flashlights.
Once you’ve determined the depth rating and the readability of the watch you want to look at the casing.
This is very important. You need to ensure the case of the watch is well built. It should either be a full seal at the back or secured with screws. Any case back that simply pops in is going to leak much faster. Ensure there are no cracks or openings in the case. The lugs need to be of high quality and the crystal should by of the highest quality. The last thing you want is the crystal cracking or popping off from the pressure under water. Just because the watch is rated for a depth that matches your requirements doesn’t mean that there isn’t a bad egg that comes off the line every now and then. This is your life at stake. Ensure you inspect the watch.
Once you’ve inspected the case and the dial, you want to check the bezel. The bezel is the most important part of any dive watch because it’s how the diver determines how much time has been spent underwater. Ideally you want a unidirectional bezel to prevent it from being accidentally rotated backwards which can be a risk to your air supply. It’s important to make sure the bezel moves easily, is clearly readable, but doesn’t move so freely that the current of the water will change it. I cannot stress enough how important it is to find a dive watch with a unidirectional bezel. Trust me when I say your life will depend on it.
Finally you want to get to know the watch before using it. This can be done after purchase, although you should ensure that the watch has every feature you want before buying it.
Now that you’ve acquired your time piece, read everything you can about it. Make sure you know how to operate the watch flawlessly, so that in the event of an emergency under water, you won’t panic and forget how to read it. Practice using it.
A good dive watch can make your dive a lot easier and safer. Some have depth indicators, temperature gauges and other timing devices that allow you to track your dive. The luxury watch manufacturers that produce dive watches, including Rolex, probably won’t offer as many features as the lower bargain bin quartz watches. They will however give you all the basic information you need, and for the most part, are more reliable over a longer period of time.
Top Dive Watches
Here is a quick list of some of the dive watches I personally recommend. Of course, there are many watches on the market that can be used for diving. Do your research and pick the timepiece that works best for you and your budget.
The Rolex Submariner is without question the best known and most popular luxury dive watch in the world. And, for good reason. It’s an exceptional timepiece with a world class movement and a proven track record. Most professional divers wear a Rolex and that’s because they really do make the very best when it comes to this type of timepiece. I highly recommend it for anyone serious about diving, but also for anyone who just wants a really good quality sports watch for any water sport. This watch can take a beating and it will just keep on ticking.
Bremont Supermarine 2000
Bremont has long been an iconic British watch for pilots. They have a strong history in aviation and make some pretty exceptional timepieces. This particular watch is a great option for the deep sea diver. It actually has a depth rating of 2,000m. You won’t survive it, but your watch will. In the end, the fact is this is an exquisite timepiece and easy to read. It’s simplistic and offers you the freedom you want when diving deep.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Chronograph
Omega is another watch company that enjoys a rich diving history. This particular watch is great for divers, but also anyone who wants a dive watch for other sports. It has a built-in chronograph which is ideal for every type of race and offers a 600m depth rating which is more than enough for most professional, let alone, amateur divers.
Breitling Superocean Chronograph M2000
Breitling, like many other watch manufacturers, has worked fervently to perfect the sports watch industry. What they have, however, that other companies do not is their patented magnetic push piece system which allows every function of the watch to be fully operational at depths of 2,000m underwater. Not that you’d need to access the chronograph, but perhaps you and another diver want to race to the nearby crab. The fact is this is a superb timepiece by a company that has almost perfected aviator watches. If the world’s top pilots trust Breitling to keep them safe, I think you can as well. This is a perfect timepiece for the serious diver, but also the adrenaline junkie who needs a well made, rugged watch that performs in all the elements.
U-Boat isn’t a company that I often praise, but it’s not because they don’t deserve it. They do. They make some incredibly well made timepieces, but they make them bulky and they’re not exactly elegant. Something I’m not usually a fan of. However, when it comes to a dive watch, they make exactly what any diver is looking for. It has a depth rating of 1001m with blue or orange luminescent markers which are actually easier to see than the standard white or green. These watches are very popular with the soldiers who serve in our special forces units. If they like them, you will too. This is a great watch for anyone who is serious about needing a sturdy and well built dive watch be it for diving or other watersports.
Maurice Lacroix Pontos S Diver Extreme
This watch is really quite interesting because it uses an alloy material for the case that’s exclusive to Maurice Lacroix. Made of aluminum, titanium, magnesium, ceramic and zirconium, it is exceptionally strong and durable. The watch is only given a depth rating of 200m so I wouldn’t go deep sea diving with it, but it’s perfect for most water sports including snorkeling or swimming. Regardless, it’s a robust timepiece that will serve any sports enthusiast well for many years to come.
Timex Intelligent Quartz Depth Gauge
For those with a more limited budget, you might want to consider this little beast from Timex. It’s not one that I would take deep sea diving but for the average man it’s a great watch if you’re in the water every now and then. The depth gauge that’s built in only works to 60m but it also comes with a host of other functions including temperature readings. For the price it’s not a bad little watch and it’s one that will work well as a sports watch.
Ulysse Nardin Maxi Marine Diver
Ulysses Nardin has always been well regarded for their quality dive watches. They’ve won many awards and make, what I think, are some of the most iconic dive watches in the industry. This particular timepiece is COSC certified chronometer with a power reserve indicator which can prove useful for any non-quartz timepiece, especially if it’s being used for something like diving. The watch has a depth rating of 200m which isn’t huge, but for most enough. This is a great timepiece if you’re nautically inclined and just love being on the water. It can get really wet but looks great on the arm as you stroll to your yacht. It’s robust, rugged and very well made.
Bell & Ross Hydromax
Reasonably priced, this watch is a beast under the water with a depth rating of, get this, 6000m. Unfortunately, this isn’t a mechanical watch but a quartz. Something you probably already guessed based on the price. The positive note is that it’s ideal for those wanting to really go deep. It’s a tough, monster of a timepiece made by the same company you’ll find providing watches to some of the world’s toughest warriors serving with the most elite military units of modern times. What’s really quite special about this watch is that it uses a fluid called Hydroid which the case is filled with. Bell & Ross argues that it’s this revolutionary fluid that keeps it so resistant to water and pressure. The watch is incredibly easy to read and comes with three different straps including a stainless steel bracelet, a rubber strap and a nylon one. This is a great pick for any guy who wants a powerhouse of a dive watch.
Azimuth Xtreme 1 Deep Diver
This is a brand new dive watch that was built in partnership with Fernando Alberto Lozano Andrade, a famous explorer. It’s a very unusual looking dive watch but that’s one of the reasons it made this list. It has a depth rating of an impressive 2,000m and uses its square design to separate the movement which it claims is what makes it so resistant to water and pressure. If you’re looking for something unique that doesn’t have the traditional round case, this might be the perfect timepiece for you.
IWC Aquatimer Chronograph
This is the pick if you enjoy the water at night. Whether it’s diving, snorkeling or just lounging on your boat, this watch makes use of the patented Super-LumiNova luminescent coating that’s applied to the watch which makes it completely visible, even under the cover of night. IWC isn’t always my favorite watch manufacturer, as quite frankly, I think most of their watches are overpriced and the quality is subpar. However, this particular watch, while still overpriced in my opinion, does offer the backlighting that most of the other luxury brands don’t provide with their dive watches. In the end, it’s not a bad investment if you’re a night owl.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on dive watches. It’s important to remember that there is a difference between sport watches and dive watches. The rule of thumb is that not all sport watches are dive watches, but all dive watches are sport watches. The most important thing is that you buy a watch that meets your requirements. So long as you do that, no watch will be a bad investment.