Dive watches are popular both in and out of the water. You’re as likely to see one at a bar on the island of Manhattan as you are in a beach shack in the Caribbean. While these sporty timepieces might never see the water today, they were originally developed as tool watches for professional divers. Modern dive watches are much slimmer than their predecessors, so they’ve made the transition from tools to attractive timepieces. But even though they’re smaller and more stylish, they can still keep you safe underwater. Here, we explain what is required of dive watches and round up examples of luxury dive watches from the best brands.
The Best Luxury Dive Watches
What Are the Standards for a Dive Watch?
Since a dive watch is designed to be used while scuba diving, an inherently dangerous activity, it must meet certain standards that ensure the wearer’s safety while underwater. Many watchmakers follow the standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in ISO 6425, while others, like Rolex, set their own benchmarks. Here are the key points for dive-watch standards:
Water-resistant to a Minimum of 100 Meters
While most humans will never dive deeper than 40 meters (130 feet), dive watches must be certified to at least 100 meters. To achieve this, most dive watches have screw-down crowns. A watchmaker or an independent third party will test each watch individually for ISO certification. Many watchmakers exceed 100m and rate their watches to depths at which a human could never survive, including Rolex’s Deepsea, which is waterproof to 3,900 meters (12,800 feet) and Omega’s Ultradeep, which is certified to 6,000 meters (19,685 feet). At that depth, you’d be dead, but your watch would still tell the time.
Timing Your Dives
Most dive watches have unidirectional rotating bezels with 60-minute time scales. When you jump in the water, you rotate the bezel so the 0 aligns with the current minute. Now you have an hour-long countdown on your wrist — no math required.
Why are they unidirectional? If you bump the bezel underwater, it can’t move in the wrong direction and increase your dive time, which could be very dangerous. It can only decrease it, which shortens your dive but keeps you safe. Today, most divers use a dive computer as well as a dive watch because it tracks much more than time.
Dive watches must be legible underwater, so most have luminous coatings on the indices, hour and minute hands, and bezel.
Thermal Shock Test
Dive watches are tested in a series of plunges into hot and cold water to be sure that the abrupt temperature change doesn’t affect its water-resistance. So if you’re in a hot environment and jump into cold water, or in freezing temperatures and get into a hot tub, your watch will be safe.
Do You Need a Dive Watch?
If you’re scuba diving with your watch, it’s important that it meets these standards for your safety. Some watches that are billed as dive watches don’t meet these standards. So be sure to check before heading into the deep. However, if you’re just looking for a water-resistant, diver’s-inspired watch for swimming (or just for its looks), the standards aren’t as important.
If you simply like the look of a dive watch and aren’t using it as a tool, it’s important to note that certified dive watches can be rather thick, so they might not fit under shirtsleeves.
The Best Luxury Dive Watches
Rolex is one of the masters of dive watches. It has three high-quality diver’s collections — Submariner, Sea-Dweller, and Deepsea. In a future article focusing on professional dive watches, we’ll take a look at the Deepsea and the Sea-Dweller. But in this story we focus on the Submariner. The Submariner is the first diver’s wristwatch that was waterproof to 100m and has been an icon ever since.
The 41mm Oystersteel watch has a unidirectional rotating bezel with a proprietary Cerachrom insert crafted from scratchproof ceramic. The edges of the bezel are knurled for extra traction, which also gives the Submariner a distinctive look. For legibility, Rolex uses proprietary Chromalight-coated hour markers and hands that glow for up to two times longer than traditional coatings. The watch is housed in Rolex’s iconic Oyster case, which is waterproof up to 300m. It features an in-house automatic movement that is a certified chronometer, as well. The Submariner is available with and without a date function.
Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection Spring Drive 5 Days Diver’s
The Evolution 9 Collection Spring Drive 5 Days Diver’s is a powerhouse watch. It features Grand Seiko’s signature Spring Drive technology, which is noted for its accuracy. It also boasts a generous five-day power reserve with a discrete power-reserve indicator at 9 o’clock. Grand Seiko put an emphasis on durability in the selection of materials for this sporty watch. The unidirectional rotating bezel is ceramic, which is scratch-resistant, as is the titanium case and bracelet. Titanium has a sporty look but is 30% lighter than stainless steel. The gorgeous dial has a deep black color and a textured wave motif inspired by the Black Stream, a powerful current in the oceans surrounding Japan.
The Evolution 9 is one of the most legible diver’s watches available. The bright white numerals, hands, and hour markers are coated with Lumibrite and contrast sharply with the black ceramic bezel and the textured dial. The hands are also different shapes, which helps minimize confusion under water. There’s also a date window at 3 o’clock. The Evolution 9 Collection Spring Drive 5 Days Diver’s watch is water-resistant to 200m.
Omega Seamaster Diver 300m
Omega has a long history of dive watches. It designed the first commercially available dive watch in 1932. The Marine featured a double case sealed with cork, and its dive watches have come a long way since then. Today, Omega holds the record for the watch with the deepest depth rating. The Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional is rated at 15,000 meters. And is known for the deepest dive in history. It descended 10,935 meters (35,876 feet) on a submersible as part of the Five Deeps Expedition.
For a more everyday watch, the Seamaster Diver 300m debuted in 1993 and quickly became the Bond watch of the Pierce Brosnan era. This model is both a diver’s watch and a chronograph. The two-tone watch is made from stainless steel with 18K yellow gold and blue ceramic accents. The chronograph pushers are at 2 and 4 o’clock, and at 10 o’clock it has a helium escape valve for saturation diving. The blue dial has an ocean-inspired design featuring laser-engraved waves. It is finished with a matching blue rubber strap.
Tudor Pelagos 39
Tudor’s new Pelagos 39 hits everything I look for in a dive watch that pulls double duty as a daily timepiece. At 39mm in diameter and 11.8mm thick, it’s an appropriate size to wear around town while still being large enough to easily read it underwater. It’s made from satin-brushed grade 2 titanium, and the finish gives it a more elegant look than plain stainless-steel dive watches.
The dial is highly legible and has a clean look, although it’s not boring, again due to the finishes. The black sunray satin-finished dial contrasts nicely with the sandblasted minute scale. The minute scale is placed at angle to the dial inside the sapphire glass, which gives the watch an overall cleaner look than watches that have the 60-minute scale on the bezel. Of course, being a dive watch, the final 15 minutes of the bezel have a minute scale for safety purposes. Super-LumiNova coats the hour markers, Tudor’s signature snowflake hands, and the bezel’s markings. The watch community is thrilled with the bold red Pelagos logo on the dial, which has tipped the watch as a future collector’s piece.
The in-house MT5400 caliber, a COSC-certified chronometer, powers the watch. It has a screw-down crown, is water-resistant to 200m, and has a 70-hour power reserve. In addition to the titanium bracelet, the Pelagos 39 comes with a complimentary black rubber strap. Both have extension pieces for diving, ensuring a snug fit around your wetsuit. At $4,400, it’s one of the most affordable dive watches on our list. However, since Tudor is owned by Rolex, you can be assured that it’s well-made, it’s reliable, and it will work for years to come.
Oris Divers Sixty-Five
Most dive watches have neutral or ocean-inspired color schemes, which is one reason why I love the candy-colored Oris Divers Sixty-Five. The Cotton Candy collection comes in three pastel hues — pink, green, and blue — with matching dials and recycled Perlon straps. They have a unique 38mm bronze case that will gently patina over time. The bezel also has a subtle bronze minute scale. The watches feature automatic movements with a date window at 6 o’clock. They are water-resistant to 100m and have a 38-hour power reserve.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver
Audemars Piguet takes a different approach to dive watches with the Royal Oak Offshore Diver. The Royal Oak has eight screws on the bezel, so Audemars Piguet put the timescale on an angled, rotating inner bezel to preserve this distinctive design element. Many of the Royal Oak Offshore Divers have bold color schemes, but this subdued model features only neutrals. It uses beige for the 15-minute timescale and has beige-colored luminescent coating on the hands and hour markers. The dial features a Méga Tapisserie guilloché motif, adding more dimension to the dial.
The 42mm watch is equipped with an interchangeable strap system, so you can wear it on a rubber strap, 18K white gold bracelet, or beige calfskin strap. Inside, it features an in-house automatic movement with a date function and 60-hour power reserve. This dive watch has two screw-down crowns. The crown at 3 o’clock sets the time and date, while the crown at 10 o’clock sets the inner bezel for your dive time.
Bremont Supermarine S300 Kaimu
The brothers behind this British watch brand love adventures, so it’s no surprise that their watches blend form and function and are designed for extremes. Some of their pilot watches can survive being ejected from a fighter jet, while their Supermarine collection features many professional dives watches, including one that can reach 2,000 meters. The more accessible and street-appropriate Supermarine S300 is still a professional-grade dive watch rated to 300m, but it has a slimmer profile and more aesthetic-driven designs. The 40mm watch has a unidirectional ceramic rotating bezel. At 20 minutes, it changes to a minute scale to time the end of your drive. The chronometer-certified watch has sweeping seconds and a date function at 3 o’clock. The S300 Kaimu has sleek black stylings inspired by the Kaimu black-sand beach in Hawaii.
While the Supermarine S300 is a professional-grade dive watch, Bremont also has the more technical S500 and S2000 watches, rated to 500 meters and 2,000 meters, respectively. To achieve these depths, they’re quite a bit larger. The S2000 has a diameter of 45mm and a thickness of 18mm. The hands and indexes are filled with Super-LumiNova for legibility.
Panerai Submersible QuarantaQuattro Carbotech
The rare Italian watch brand to make it to the international level, Panerai is known for its distinctive crown guard and case shapes. It has an interesting history — the Italian Navy used Panerai’s Radiomir watches during World War II, but these movements were actually made by Rolex and modified by Panerai. In the 1950s, Panerai began making its own movements and patented its distinctive crown guard, but the brand focused on the Italian navy and market until Richemont took the brand international in the 2000s and opened a Swiss manufacture.
The Submersible QuarantaQuattro Carbotech doesn’t have the traditional stylings of a dive watch, but it’s water-resistant to 300m and has a discreet graduated timescale on the unidirectional rotating bezel. It also displays small seconds at 9 o’clock and the date at 3 o’clock, which nicely balance the dial. The 44m case is made from Carbotech, a carbon-fiber-based composite material new to watchmaking. Carbotech has a matte black finish, is ultralight, and won’t corrode over time.
Glashütte Original SeaQ Chronograph
The new SeaQ Chronograph from Glashütte Original meets ISO 6425 standards and features an impressive integrated flyback stop-seconds chronograph. The watch has a bi-compax display with two subdials: a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a 60-second counter at 9 o’clock. There’s also a Panorama Date aperture at 6 o’clock. Each has a circular motif that provides a subtle contrast with the matte dial. This watch has an in-house movement, is water-resistant to 300m, and has a 70-hour power reserve.