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Updated Jul 23, 2022 10:36 AM

There are so many reasons to buy a dive watch. Maybe you want an extremely durable and readable watch. Maybe you love the look of the oversized dial and the feel of stainless steel. Or maybe you actually need it for diving. No matter your reason, a dive watch is something that transcends military and civilian fashion, whether as a status symbol or as a time-keeping tool.

Dive watches are also something you can spend a lot or a little bit of money on, and it’s tough to know the difference between the various models on the market. To help you in your search, we’ve compiled a list of the best dive watches under $500. These are the best options if you’re interested in buying a dive watch but don’t know how to go about it. 

For our selections, we picked a wide variety of styles and features, but they all have one thing in common besides being dive watches: they all meet minimum standards set by the International Organization for Standardization, which means they are capable of functioning as a professional-grade dive watch.

After its introduction in 1976, the Seiko Turtle developed a reputation for extreme durability. With an original depth rating of 150 meters, it could function as a dive watch and withstand harsh abuse on land as well. However, Seiko continually altered the design until they stopped using the turtle-shaped case for which it earned its nickname. Yet, the Turtle’s image and reputation endured for three decades until Seiko re-introduced it in 2016. Today, the Seiko Prospex Turtle dive watch offers classic Seiko wearability, readability, and reliability for a fair price.

At a basic level, the Seiko Turtle has all the necessary performance features for ISO certification, but it also fills aesthetic and comfort needs as well. The 42mm diameter case wears like a compact watch and looks proportional on most wrists. In keeping with Seiko’s affinity for unique dials, it’s equipped with a glorious sunburst dial design (and some even have textured waves or other designs). The case features polished sides and a brushed top and rear, which plays with the light in a pleasant way that’s not too ostentatious, and the luminescent paint on the hour markers or hands offers world-class brightness.

Under the hood, the Seiko Turtle is powered by the automatic Seiko 4R36, a mechanism that uses the movement of your wrist to wind the watch. This means the watch doesn’t need a battery and as long as you wear it every day, you won’t have to manually wind it either. The 4R36 also offers day of the week and date of the month functionality, giving you a mini calendar at a glance.

Unfortunately, among watch enthusiasts, Seiko has a bit of a reputation for resting on their laurels and providing a watch that, while solid, has some issues for the price. For starters, the Turtle uses mineral glass over the dial instead of something more durable like a sapphire crystal, which is standard for other brands. And, the false three-link Oyster bracelet is less articulated than a true three-link bracelet, and features a stamped steel clasp, so it’s less luxurious and comfortable than the ones offered by other watchmakers. Fortunately, there are so many aftermarket parts for the Seiko Turtle that the customization options are absolutely insane.

The Seiko Turtle is a completely original design, officially certified watch that wears beautifully and looks great. The Turtle features an in-house construction, some of the best lume on the market, and a case design that gives you the biggest, most legible dial possible in the most wearable package.

Product Specs
  • Country of manufacture: Malaysia
  • Case diameter at widest point: 45mm
  • Lug width: 22mm
  • Thickness: 13mm
  • Crystal material: Seiko Hardlex (tempered glass)
  • Movement: Seiko 4R36 automatic
  • Power reserve: 40 hours without winding or wear

Wearable on most wrists

Great aftermarket support

Outstanding luminescence


Seiko QC issues

Hardlex glass

Shoddy bracelet

Many watch nerds agree that the Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive is an unsung modern classic that punches so far above its weight that it puts watches nearly double the price to shame. The rock-solid and supremely wearable design is probably the most accurate watch on this list. Using a quartz movement, it’s listed as having an accuracy of plus or minus 15 seconds per month. It offers reliable timekeeping at a great price.

The key feature to the Promaster dive watch is the Citizen Eco-Drive system, which is their name for solar power. It charges the watch using sunlight and even artificial light, and stores up to six months of power from a single charge. So, it will always tick when you pick it up unless you store it in a box for a year. Plus, it fits like a much smaller watch. It’s a great option if you live an active lifestyle but don’t want to spend so much on a watch that you’re paranoid about breaking it.

It’s an officially-certified diver for less than $200, so what’s the catch? For starters, it’s not the most eye-catching design, but paying designers costs money. However, the included strap is probably the most obvious cut corner. It feels cheap and is uncomfortable. While you could buy the model that comes with an equally uncomfortable bracelet, you’re better off buying something else like a Barton or Watchgecko watch band instead. The last issue, the quartz Eco-Drive movement, really only matters to watch snobs who generally prefer mechanical movements, which use springs and gears to power the watch rather than batteries.

The Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive Diver is an outstandingly solid, if plain, dive watch that sits at a price that many people can afford, and makes for a terrific everyday watch or gift to the outdoors enthusiast in your life.

Product Specs
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Case diameter at widest point: 44mm
  • Lug width: 20mm
  • Thickness: 11.5mm
  • Crystal material: Tempered glass
  • Movement: Citizen E168 Eco-Drive Solar
  • Power reserve: 6 months on a full charge


Comfortable and compact

Accurate movement


Cheap-feeling strap

Quartz can be seen as cheap

Less elegant case

The Orient Star is the best-kept secret of the watch world. It’s an oddball diver, offering a totally unique design, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and beautiful coloration to make for a watch that works hard, and plays harder whether you’re at your desk or the bottom of the sea.

The Orient Star Diver has sweeping, gently rounded edges everywhere like in the bezel’s curved profile, the rounded elliptical hands, the pill-shaped dial markers, and lugs projecting from the case. Even if you’re not a fan of the less-angular styling, you have to respect the fact that this watch departs from the dive watch trend of releasing new twists on the Rolex Submariner, Omega Seamaster, and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.

Adding to the unique appearance, the dial is appointed in a gorgeous sunburst finish, the hands are a satin silver, and the luminescence of the hands and dial markers is world-class, being bright and keeping the dial visible on even the longest diving excursions.

Under the hood, there’s an in-house Orient F6N47 movement, which offers a factory accuracy of -15 to +25 seconds per day, but in practice runs in low single digits. This movement is equivalent to others found in watches by Seiko (Orient’s sister brand) that cost nearly $1,000, so the value is even more outstanding considering the Orient Star’s price tag.

Covering the gorgeous dial is a piece of sapphire crystal. No, that’s not a marketing term, it’s a disc of synthetic white sapphire, coated on the underside with anti-reflective coating to cut down on glare. What that means is that unless you have a habit of sticking your arm into a bucket of diamonds, the glass on your watch will never scratch, looking as crystal clear as the day you took it out of the box.

The quality of the bracelet is frankly a shame for what the watch costs. It uses a false three-link bracelet, meaning it has a single link milled to look like it has three, whereas others in the same price range have a more comfortable and articulated true three-link bracelet. To make matters worse, there aren’t as many aftermarket options that will fit the watch design, so whatever you do replace it with might be expensive.

The bezel action is another point of contention. Almost every reviewer has complained that it’s mushy and lacks a satisfying tactile click as you move between the 120 bezel settings, which is especially surprising considering that the bezel itself is so well-made. As a final con, the dial layout gets a little cluttered-feeling, given that the upper half is taken up by the power reserve indicator, the lower half is taken up by the logo and other dial text, and they manage to fit a date window in there as well.

Product Specs
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Case diameter at widest point: 43.6mm
  • Lug width: 22mm
  • Thickness: 14mm
  • Crystal material: Anti-reflective coated sapphire
  • Movement: Epson Orient F6N47
  • Power reserve: 50 Hours

Nearly-impervious sapphire crystal

Outstanding luminescence

Movement on par with watches nearly double the price

Unique appearance


Mushy bezel action

Cheap-feeling bracelet

Cluttered dial layout

Some refer to it by its formal name, the Seiko Prospex SNE555, while others just call it the Seiko Solar Tuna because it’s solar-powered and to them, it looks like the shallow can that’s used to store the protein-rich saltwater fish. Either way, the watch is an acquired taste in terms of styling, but performance-wise, it’s up there with the best of them.

Looks aside, the Tuna watch is a great way to get a large dial in a wearable package. It’s a 46mm watch with a lug width that’s so compact, even smaller people will be able to wear it with comfort. It achieves this by having a compact lug-to-lug diameter of 45mm and an 11mm thickness, which means this whopper of a watch wears closer to how a 42mm would.

Another unique aspect of the construction is the shroud that surrounds the case and bezel of the watch. It has openings at the lower left and upper right-hand corner of the watch. This not only protects the case from damage, but also prevents the bezel from being accidentally adjusted if you brush up against something.

Using Seiko’s trademark Lumi-Brite formula, the luminescence is great on the Tuna. It covers not only the required hands, markers, and bezel pip, but also the first quarter of the bezel, which provides an extra element of legibility underwater.

However, the Solar Tuna suffers from some of the same issues as other Seikos, like a janky and uncomfortable false three-link bracelet, but there are plentiful aftermarket options.

Overall, the Seiko Tuna is a charming watch with a huge dial that can be worn by almost everyone.

Product Specs
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Case Diameter at Widest Point: 46mm
  • Lug width: 22mm
  • Thickness: 11mm
  • Crystal material: Seiko Hardlex (tempered glass)
  • Movement: Seiko V157 Solar
  • Power reserve: 10 months on a full charge

Extremely wearable

Outstanding luminescence

Unique appearance


Unusual appearance may not be for everyone

Cheap-feeling bracelet

Seiko QC issues

Best Tactical

Let’s say you’re the kind of person who saw the Casio G-Shock after boot camp and thought “damn, that’s pretty.” If the ultra-aggressive, ultra-durable, and brutal style appealed to you, then you might also appreciate a sapphire crystal, a mechanical movement, and an ISO diver’s certification rating. If that’s you, the Orient M-Force might be the watch of your dreams.

The M-Force, meaning mechanical force, features Orient’s F6727 movement, which is utilitarian as can be. It’s easy to repair and regulate for precise timekeeping. The chunky case, robust crown guards, and sapphire crystal offer best-in-class damage protection.

Another advantage of the M-Force is the extremely legible dial. Despite the otherwise murdered-out styling, the dial features Orient’s terrific lume on large hour markers and hands. To supplement this, the tips of the minute and second hands are colored blaze red, which allows easy acquisition in both daylight and nighttime environments.

As a final, distinctly-military advantage, the M-Force is probably the most 1st Sgt-proof watch on this list, being entirely black and tactical in appearance, which is an advantage for those who don’t feel like getting snatched up for their choice of timekeeping device with regard to its military character.

However, this aggressive, hyper-military character comes with some distinct disadvantages as well. The biggest one is wearability. This isn’t a watch that dresses up well due to the overtly utilitarian design, and especially not with an all-black color scheme. Additionally, this is a very large, bold watch that dominates the wearer’s wrist, so this isn’t a watch for smaller people or those who need a watch that will slip under a shirt cuff.

Also, I’m not the biggest fan of the strap. It’s hard rubber with accordion sections. But more importantly, I always get a rash when I wear a rubber strap. If skin sensitivity is a concern for you as well, you may need to factor the cost of a cloth strap or bracelet into the price.

The Orient M-Force is a military watch through and through, offering a bold, tactical appearance, amazing durability, and terrific performance, at the expense of some playtime wearability. If you want a watch that’s just as tactical as you are, this is the option for you.

Product Specs
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Case diameter at widest point: 45mm
  • Lug width: 20mm
  • Thickness: 13.2mm
  • Crystal material: Sapphire
  • Movement: Epson Orient F6727
  • Power reserve: 40 Hours

Extremely readable

Outstanding luminescence



Too large for many people

Overtly tactical appearance limits wearability

Included rubber strap may cause rashes

A diver’s chronograph is a bit of an oddity, given that chronographs are, at least in the popular sense, associated with racing and space travel, and dive watches are associated with, well, diving. But the ability to have a chronograph (a stopwatch, for normal people) that’s capable of battening down the hatches and going deep on your aquatic adventures is something that’s appealing to enough people for Seiko to throw a ton of effort into this particular offering. There’s only one thing, and that’s that this thing is called the “Sumo” for a reason.

If you’re someone who wants a brash, bold watch that does everything, the Sumo Chronograph is the one for you. Measuring at 45mm in diameter and weighing six ounces, this watch is a great option for people who want that ostentatious Sylvester Stallone character to their watch, which is something many larger people desire since normal size watches look very small on them.

The V192 chronograph movement provides a 60-minute stopwatch function, a sweeping chronograph second hand, power reserve, and +/- 15 seconds per month accuracy. Plus, the chronograph pushers are screw-down along with the actual crown, which not only aids the water resistance but also ensures that you don’t accidentally start the chronograph and wear down the battery.

Another outstanding feature is the fact that this watch has sapphire glass, despite being one of Seiko’s more affordable options. The case cuts around the bezel, offering good grip purchase at the 12- and 6-o’clock positions of the watch, and guarding it everywhere else, all while keeping the more conventional watch shape.

Coming in at nearly 51mm lug tip to lug tip, this thing is massive. This immediately makes it inaccessible to slimmer men, most women, and really anyone who doesn’t want to attract tons of attention with the stainless steel dinner plate on their wrist.

As far as reading the watch, it can be a challenge. The dial is beyond crowded. Between the Seiko logo, the dial text proclaiming it as a diver’s watch and part of Seiko’s Prospex line, the three sub-dials (only one of which is actually a chronograph dial), and the date window, this dial can seem like a cluttered mess.

Of particular note, or maybe not, is the date window. Yes, this watch will display the date, however the date window is so small that it’s hard to read, and is shoved in the lower right hand corner of the dial, almost feeling like an afterthought.

Another issue stemming from being the watch that does everything is the fact that this watch doesn’t have a tachymeter bezel, which would allow you to calculate an object’s speed over a known distance, which is standard on a lot of chronographs. It can’t have this because of the dive time bezel getting in the way, which as I said is the issue with making this one watch to do everything. Finally, as with every Seiko on this list, and pretty much every Seiko under $1,000, the included bracelet and clasp are shoddy and disappointing. Fortunately, there’s a flourishing aftermarket of parts and accessories.

The Seiko Solar Sumo is a big watch with a lot of personality and a lot of wrist presence. If you love a bigger watch and want that watch’s size to convey the fact that it’s full-featured and ultra-durable, this is the watch for you. Despite being too large for many people, and featuring almost too many capabilities in one package, the Solar Sumo still made our list of picks because it’s just that good.

Product Specs
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Case diameter at widest point: 45mm
  • Lug width: 20mm
  • Thickness: 14.2mm
  • Crystal material: Sapphire
  • Movement: Seiko V192 Solar
  • Power reserve: 6 months on a full charge

Redefining “feature-rich”

Outstanding luminescence



Too large for many people

Cheap-feeling bracelet

Cluttered dial

Best Ultra-Modern

The Seiko King Samurai is for those who want nothing to do with traditional dive watch designs, which look pretty much the same as they did in the 1960s. This is a watch that I own, and one that I would compare to a Nikka Coffey Grain Whiskey and soda highball. It’s not for everyone, but those who like it, love it.

The King Samurai is a watch that I would describe as aggressive, abandoning any sort of rounded edges other than the circle of the bezel and the cylindrical crown in favor of hard, angular edges. Every surface is brushed steel, the dial markers are either rectangular or trapezoidal, and the gripping surfaces of the bezel and crown are knurled like a barbell.

Adding to this stark, futuristic appearance is the white waffle-patterned dial, further establishing the design language of straight lines. This isn’t to say the watch doesn’t have its genteel touches as well. The tip of the second hand and the text that states that this is a true diver’s watch are appointed in gold.

With the Samurai, it seems that Seiko has gotten their act together in terms of materials. They replaced the typical Hardlex crystal and aluminum bezel with sapphire and ceramic, adding another futuristic element to the overall design language while also enhancing the durability. The watch is surprisingly wearable, considering the 44mm diameter, thanks in part to sharply downward-angled lugs and a 12.8mm thickness.

While I said the watch is surprisingly wearable, it’s still a rather large watch, and only fits me because of my size and stature. The included rubber strap is very comfortable and is long enough to fit over a wetsuit or warming layers, but it just doesn’t fit the design language, and I immediately swapped the rubber strap on mine for a Hexad bracelet, similar to this one from Long Island Watch.

Finally, Seiko jank is in full effect with the King Samurai, and the chapter ring and bezel of mine align slightly, microscopically left, which is extra time and/or expense that I have to undertake to correct on my own time, since Seiko does not consider bezel alignment issues to be cause for warranty servicing. As always, take a close look at your watch before you fork over your hard-earned cash for good.

The Seiko King Samurai is such a futuristic watch that I’m almost tempted to refer to it, and especially this particular model, as the Seiko Stormtrooper, owing to the white dial, gloss black bezel, and aggressive styling. Despite its size, and Seiko’s perennial QC issues, this is a solid choice, and if you find a good one, you’ve found a great one. Spending the extra cash on a hexad bracelet is the coup de grace though, and I highly recommend that you do that.

Product Specs
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Case diameter at widest point: 44mm
  • Lug width: 22mm
  • Thickness: 12.8mm
  • Crystal material: Sapphire
  • Movement: Seiko 4R35 Automatic
  • Power reserve: 40 hours without wearing or winding

Cool, bleeding-edge design

Outstanding luminescence

Great quality materials


Controversial styling

Possibly too large for some people

Seiko QC issues

Arnold Schwarznegger remains of the most famous actors of the 1980s and 90s, and a version of this watch — nicknamed the “Arnie” in his honor — rode his wrist in some of his most iconic roles. Whereas some movie watches from brands like Rolex might cost you many thousands of dollars, this is an cool-but-attainablel movie watch that’s been featured on badass characters like Dutch in Predator and John Matrix in Commando.

The SNJ025 iteration of the Arnie improves on the original H558 by adding increased water resistance, a solar panel under the dial, and better timekeeping, making this more than just a simple reissue and holding its place as a durable, capable dive watch which has travelled everywhere from the summit of Everest and to the bottom of the sea. The Arnie is an analog-digital watch, also known as an ani-digi or hybrid display watch, meaning that it has analog hands that display the same time as the digital display. This is done so that the watch can be compliant with ISO Diver’s watch standards and bpast a dive-time bezel and luminous hands while also having a digital display for easy, instant time-telling.

The biggest advantage of the Arnie is that it’s a seriously durable watch, featuring not only a stainless steel case but a plastic shroud bolted around the outside which offers further impact resistance. The luminescence and readability of the dial is also fantastic, thanks in no small part to the high-contrast indices against the black solar panel and Seiko’s proprietary lumibrite. Surprisingly, this watch is eminently wearable despite measuring over 47mm in diameter; that’s thanks to Seiko’s typically compact lug length, which means that you don’t have to be Arnold-sized to wear it.

The Arnie isn’t perfect, however. First of all, I hate rubber straps. They give me a rash every time, and after 2 weeks of wearing the same watch every day in the field, this thing rotted my wrist. I replaced the stock rubber strap with a nylon one, but if you’re the sort of person who reacts poorly to rubber straps, make sure you factor in the extra cost of an aftermarket strap. Another limitation of the Arnie is that the included crystal is made of Seiko’s Hardlex mineral glass, which scratches easily compared to sapphire. I replaced mine with sapphire, but that too was an extra cost. Finally, no matter how compact the lug length on this watch, the reality is that this is a very large watch, and so it’s not for the faint of heart or slight of stature.

This is an action hero watch with real-world performance and pedigree, and it’s surprisingly affordable, especially as Seiko prices continue to climb. The Arnie is a capable dive watch with several unique features that make it stand out from the competition, and it’s my favorite solar diver of all time.

Product Specs
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Case diameter at widest point: 47.8mm
  • Lug width: 22mm
  • Thickness: 14.4mm
  • Crystal material: Seiko Hardlex mineral glass
  • Movement: Seiko H851 Hybrid Solar Movement
  • Power reserve: 6 months without charging

Real cinematic heritage

Extremely durable

More wearable than the large size would suggest


Rash-inducing rubber strap

Scratchable hardlex crystal

Still a very large watch

Why you should trust us

For this article, I relied on my own experience collecting watches (most of which are dive watches) as well as the opinions of other watch collectors. I also spent time trying out watches at Citizen and Seiko stores so I could comment more effectively on their wrist presence. And, I weeded out options designed primarily for fashion rather than function. When I recommend a watch, it’s because I wholly believe in it and would gladly wear it myself. 

Key features of dive watches 

Unlike other watches, dive watches are designed to survive underwater pressure, endure rapid changes in temperature and magnetism, and potentially save your life. Quality dive equipment, including dive watches, adhere to standards set by the International Organization for Standardization. Although ISO is an international collective and not a regulatory authority, many industries rely on the organization for standards and seek out their certification. 

Uni-directional dive time bezel

The bezel is the rotating ring around the watch face. It has markers that correlate with the dial, meaning it has 60 small dots representing minutes and seconds, and every fifth dot is slightly larger for the hour markers. You use the bezel to keep track of the amount of air you have in your tank. 

The bezel on a dive watch should only rotate counterclockwise. It’s a fail-safe in that if you accidentally bump it, you’ll think you have less air instead of more, so you’ll be able to get out of the water before you asphyxiate. Also, when you rotate the bezel, you should feel a tactile click (even through thick gloves). 


A dive watch must be ​​luminescent because it’s dark underwater and gets even darker the deeper you go. All the parts you need to tell time — the hour and minute hands, hour markers, and hour markings on the bezel — must be filled with phosphorescent paint, commonly known as “lume.” 

On a good dive watch, the markers will be visible for extended periods under limited or no light. More premium watches use a fully-lumed bezel made of sapphire or ceramic, so you not only see the chevron, but also every single index on the bezel in dim light.

Crown and screw-down case back

The crown and screw-down case back are two separate components. You use the crown to set and adjust the time, and the screw-down case back to cover the back of the watch. On a dive watch, though, they’re also fitted with rubber gaskets to keep water from penetrating the inside of the watch case. For them to work, you’ll have to fasten them correctly.

Water resistance

Dive watches must provide at least 200 meters of water resistance. While most divers will never reach that depth, a higher rating will ensure the watch can resist things like dense water, currents, and impacts underwater.  


A watch movement is the way in which the watch is powered. Most watches use mechanical technology, referred to as a movement, that include intricate components like gears and springs to keep the watch ticking. For dive watches, we’ll look at four movements: mechanical, automatic, quartz, and solar. 

  • Mechanical Movement is the traditional method of telling time and it’s as old as the first mechanical clock. Essentially, it uses springs and gears instead of batteries to function. You wind them by hand using the crown. These have the advantage of being more accurate, thinner, and cheaper than equivalent automatic movements.
  • Automatic Movement is the same as a mechanical movement except that it features a rotor that spins when you swing your arm. That movement actually winds the watch, so you don’t have to do it manually. As long as you wear the watch, it stays powered. Because of the extra parts, it’s thicker than mechanical movement and sometimes less accurate. 
  • Quartz Movements work by running an electrical current through a quartz crystal, and measuring the vibrations of the crystal for timekeeping. It’s an inexpensive and accurate measurement of time. They are more accurate than all but the finest mechanical movements and they’re generally cheaper and smaller as well. However, inexpensive quartz watches don’t hit every index per tick and they require batteries. 
  • Solar Movements feature a solar panel somewhere on the dial to collect sunlight and recharge the batteries of the watch. If it’s regularly exposed to light, it will always keep a charge. They often cost more than traditional quartz movements, and are sometimes less accurate.


The crystal of a watch is the glass that covers the dial, protecting it from the elements. Generally, crystals are made out of either acrylic, mineral glass, or sapphire. 

  • Acrylic, aka plastic, is the least expensive crystal material, and is often used to hearken back to older watches that had to use acrylic due to the materials of the day. They’re prone to scratching. 
  • Mineral glass is mildly scratch-resistant, but is not impervious, and is still very brittle, which means that it can break easily. 
  • Sapphire is nearly impervious to scratches, with only diamond being harder, but is very prone to light glare, requiring anti-reflective coating, and is more shatter prone when compared to equivalently thick acrylic.

Dive watch brands

Dive watches are a niche within a niche, not simply dive-style watches, but highly vetted tools that undergo an internationally-standardized testing regimen. Several brands have redefined what a dive watch looks like, and they still lead the charge to this day. Some of them made this list while others did not simply because they did not meet the criteria for this list in terms of pricing. Still, we wanted to point out common brands you’ll encounter as you browse dive watches.


Seiko has been around since the late 19th century. Based in Japan, they introduced their first true diver’s watch in 1965 with the “62MAS” line, and followed it with a series of iconic dive watches like the 6105, the SKX, the Turtle, Tuna, Sumo, Samurai, Marinemaster, and so many more. 

Seiko watches have a long military history as well. Their early dive watches like the 62MAS and 6105 graced the wrists of U.S. troops in Vietnam, who preferred them over their issued watches; their quartz divers were favored by USMC Recon in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as Navy divers for their excellent performance and affordable costs.


If Seiko is Coke then Citizen is Pepsi, as far as Japanese watch brands go. Citizen has been producing timepieces since 1918, and in recent years has dominated the solar watch market with their Eco-Drive system that not only charges from sunlight, but also from artificial light. Citizen’s Promaster Diver’s Watches are some of the best solar dive watches on the market, and they can be had in any price bracket, from less than $200 to nearly $2,000, depending on your needs.


Keeping with the soft drink metaphor, Orient is like RC Cola, being this oddball niche brand that certain individuals swear by. Owned by Seiko Epson, Orient makes affordable watches almost exclusively, often featuring interesting and completely original designs, made with in-house mechanical movements. Proper diver’s watches from Orient in recent years have included the Orient Star Sport Diver and the Orient M-Force, and Orient’s major claim to fame is that they make affordable mechanical watches that look like nothing else on the market.


Marathon watches are some of the most military watches on the market, being specifically selected in 1941 to provide military-grade hardware to the Allied forces. Designed in Canada and assembled in Switzerland, Marathon watches feature innovative design choices such as tritium illumination that make them incredibly robust and reliable, and they’re a popular choice among special operations types for a reason. Marathon watches are naturally going to be higher-priced, especially for dive watches, due to their Swiss-made pedigree, but for someone who’s looking to invest in a watch that will last them a long time through thick and thin, Marathon is worth it.


Sinn, pronounced “zin,” is a German watch brand that’s incredibly young by watchmaking standards. Founded in 1961, Sinn has been making watches with German materials and Swiss movements that hit every target that watch enthusiasts want, often advertising that their dive watches are made of the same steel as German submarines, even marking their dive watch series as the “U-series” similar to the hull numbers on U-boats. Sinn watches live well above $1,000 in terms of pricing, and are excellent enthusiast purchases.


Hamilton watches are designed in America and assembled in Switzerland, and have been the choice of countless snake-eaters, frogmen, and other highly-trained service members since their inception. Hamilton’s Khaki Frogman is an outstanding diver’s watch with real military history, and is in keeping with their habit of putting out trend-setting utility watches. Hamilton watches range from the mid-hundreds all the way to above $1,000, and are a great way into Swiss watches for the beginner.

Pricing considerations for dive watches


This is where today’s list resides, between $200 and $500. These watches are perfectly capable of handling most amateur diving needs, and can even be used by professional divers if need be. They will often feature basic movements, simple bracelets, and bare-bones finishing.


Between $500 and $3,000, you’ll find professional dive watches and begin entry into the luxury level. In this price bracket, you’ll find more advanced features, higher-grade materials like titanium, and more elaborate case finishing. Great examples of these include the Seiko Marinemaster, the Marathon GSAR, and the Sinn U-series.


Above $3,000 is a price bracket where crazy materials, super-fine movements, and masterwork-level finishing are to be expected. It’s also where watches begin to differentiate themselves from their peers based on fractions of a second lost per day and whose watch fits better. In this bracket, you’ve got many of the classics such as the Omega Seamaster, Rolex Submariner, and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, as well as upstarts like the Seiko Prospex LX, which features an ultra-accurate spring drive movement capable of sub-second daily error.

How we chose our top picks

This list is based on my research and experience as a budding watch enthusiast, and the opinions of other watch collectors and the watch-review YouTube channel Relative Time, who always offers a placid, no-nonsense style of review that gels with my evaluation style. Based on all the recommendations, I picked dive watches most commonly suggested for entry-level buyers.  

FAQs on dive watches

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q. How do I adjust the dive watch strap?

A. It depends on the type of strap. For bracelets, you have to physically remove links to make large adjustments, and then use a diver’s extension if you want to slip the watch over a wetsuit. For rubber or silicone straps, it can be as simple as buckling the strap like a belt, since that’s often how those are secured. Aftermarket clasps can also be used which offer things like a ratcheting diver’s extension, which allows for on-the-fly adjustment.

Q. How do I use a dive watch?

A. To use a dive watch, find out how many minutes of air you have in your tank, and set the chevron of the dive bezel on the minute that you engage the regulator of your tank, allowing you to accurately measure how much time has elapsed.

Q. How and when do I wear a dive watch?

A. Overall, dive watches are more sporty than dressy, and therefore fit more casual occasions where you don’t need to worry about fitting one underneath a shirt cuff. However, James Bond has established the trend of wearing a Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster on more formal occasions, so these days it’s a lot less strict. Additionally, you can find dive-style watches appointed in precious metals and with jewels, and so it’s a personal preference these days.

Q. What watches do divers actually wear?

A. Dive computers are the lifesaving device of choice these days since they can do so much more than a dive watch can in terms of metrics. However, Seiko, Omega, Sinn, and especially Rolex remain status symbols and nods to tradition and heritage among divers, and especially among military divers.

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