The Rolex Submariner is the undisputed king of divers’ watches. Only the Omega Seamaster can claim to come anywhere close to its iconic status. However, with a queue of at least 2 years for a new piece and a premium being charged for second-hand Submariners (on top of the already hefty price tag of around $10,000), you can’t be blamed for looking at the cheaper end of the market to get your dive watch fix.
The good news is there are some watches that offer great value as well as stunning looks. We’ve rounded up the best on the market that fit this bill.
We’ve followed the standard ISO definition for a dive watch – the most important features of which are:
- Water resistant to a minimum of 100m depth
- Unidirectional bezel
- Reliability in total darkness
- Magnetic, shock and chemical resistant
So without further ado let’s dive in (sorry).
The Neptune by Lorrier
We have a lot of established watches on this list – but this challenger brand is really making waves in the dive watch category. It’s our number one pick for 2019.
This classically good looking watch is 39mm in diameter, 14mm in height and has a lug to lug width of 48mm. That makes it a bit smaller than the average diver (though about average for a normal men’s watch) and keeps it true to its vintage aesthetic. The crown is big and bold and reminiscent of James Bond’s 6538 Submariner. Its hands remind us more of an Omega. It uses plexiglass for durability and visibility.
It epitomizes everything that is good about microbrand watches. Clearly, Lorrier has put a lot of work into the original looks of The Neptune.
If you’re after a more refined diver watch look, then this could be for you. The blue version is sexy as hell and you’re not going to find something better looking in this price range.
The Seiko SKX007 will feature on any rundown of top diver watches – and with good reason. It’s a handsomely rugged piece that looks great with a surfboard or a suit. Over the last 25 years, it’s become a favorite of watch aficionados and it will win you the respect of even the most snobby horology geek.
It’s an automatic watch – meaning it works mechanically and is wound by the motion of your hand (as opposed to a ticking quartz watch) – with a movement that, while a little outdated, has stood the test of time since it was first introduced in the 90s. To get technical, it doesn’t have the manual wind or hacking ability of later movements, but you’re not really going to miss these features. It’s also infinitely modifiable if you want to go down that route.
Why is it so cheap? Mainly because Seiko makes all their own parts in-house themselves.
- Iconic, heritage watch.
- A great gateway to being a watch enthusiast.
- Date change takes about an hour to change around midnight.
- No hacking/manual wind.
- Uses hardlex over sapphire glass (still a strong material).
Dan Henry 1970
Another microbrand rocking our world is Dan Henry.
Named after its founder, an extensive watch collector from Brazil, who decided to start his own venture. The company only makes 7 watches in total. All are inspired by and named after a certain year.
The “1970” reminds us of a racing watch in its looks but has all the features of a dive watch. Its also the only compressor watch featured on our list. This means it has a separate internal bezel so you can time your dive.
It’s powered by a Seiko movement so you know you’re buying quality. It comes in 40mm or 44mm dials.
Orient Mako II
A powerhouse of the entry-level watch market, Japanese brand Orient have made our list twice. They make all their movements in-house and have been incrementally making improvements to this piece – meaning it is hackable and hand winding, unlike the Seiko SKX007.
Orient Ray II
Very similar to the Mako, it all comes down to which look you prefer.
Glycine Combat Sub
This super thin watch has real heritage and used to sell for more than double its current price. So why have has it moved down to the sub $500 range?
Well, Glycine was taken over by Invicta – itself a once respected brand that grew a bad reputation through aggressive marketing and well, comical “homaging” (some would say ripping off) of other brands. This connotation is enough to put off much of the watch buying community.
We think it means you’re getting a real bargain.
A lightweight watch, a respected brand and nice manly looks that go perfectly with a rubber strap or metal bracelet – the Citizen Promaster is a classic.
It has, however, a quartz rather than an automatic watch, which would be enough to put us off. If you’re not an annoying watch nerd like us though, this is a great bargain.
Hamilton Khaki King Scuba
Going back to 1882, Hamilton is still considered to be the classic American watch maker – even though today it is owned by the Swiss Swatch group. We’ve included this watch on the list because it sometimes, just sometimes, dips below the $500 mark.
If you see it at that price, don’t hesitate to whip out your wallet!
Seiko Prospex SRPB97
Another Seiko makes it to our list. This one really has marmite looks. We’re not big fans but we thought we’d include it because it has a cult following.
That orange face will get you a lot of compliments and quite possibly a lot of people saying the opposite. To avoid buyer’s remorse we’d recommend going for the safer SKX007.
The Pantor is nothing to write home about in terms of its specs (it uses a Seiko SN35 movement, along with a million other watches). However, we’re big fans of the cushioned face. Those original looks are enough to get it onto our list.
The bracelet this watch comes with is a little disappointing in the build quality department, so if you do opt for the Sealion be prepared to buy a new strap.