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Published Apr. 16, 2021

Since man first learned to dive, he has always faced the challenge of staying underwater as long as possible without turning into shark food. With the advent of underwater breathing apparatuses, the need to monitor air levels has become another of man’s submarine concerns. Enter the dive watch. This watch pulls double duty as both an accurate timepiece and an underwater timer, and over the years, it has proven itself as a men’s fashion icon all its own. Thanks to the Underwater Demolition Teams of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam and the first screen appearance of 007, the dive watch earned itself a reputation for toughness, performance, and class. 

Almost unmatched in the world of masculine sophistication, there are few accessories with the capabilities and the charm of the classic dive watch. Here are several worth considering.

When it comes to dive watches, the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver BN0151-09L may just be the all-around champion. This watch incorporates all of the essential features you can expect in a quality dive watch (and then some), yet it is reasonably priced. This watch features a 48-millimeter stainless steel case that is waterproofed down to 200 meters (20 ATM) and a Japanese quartz movement fueled by Citizen’s solar-powered Eco-Drive technology allowing maximum precision without the need for a battery. The black unidirectional bezel gives you the ability to safely and accurately monitor your dive time, while the blue polyurethane band includes helpful dive data for quick references at a glance. The large, luminous hour markers and hands make this watch easy to read in any conditions, and the date complication is a nice addition. The screw down crown is located at the four o’clock position, increasing the watch’s comfort. All of this for way under $500? Sign us up!

You may find that most dive watches are too expensive for your taste, but a timepiece like the Casio Marlin MDV106-1AV will keep you seaworthy without breaking the bank. With a price tag under $100, this dive watch is an unbelievable steal. The stainless on black styling gives this watch a business-like aesthetic, and the luminous hands and hour markers contrast nicely with the black dial to keep you apprised of the time in any lighting conditions. The 44-millimeter case consists of corrosion-resistant stainless steel with a mineral window over the dial, while the black resin band laughs at salt like an aircraft carrier laughs at Nerf dart-equipped Cessnas in an attack formation. The unidirectional bezel and screw down crown enhance diving safety and time accuracy. The Japanese quartz movement features a sweeping second hand, a rare feature on non-mechanical timepieces. Of course, everything is protected against serious submersion with a water resistance rating of 200 meters. Really, what’s not to like?

Nothing says “sophistication” like a mechanical movement in a dedicated dive watch. In fact, the Seiko Prospex Samurai SRPC07 is today’s instructor on the topic. This watch boasts an automatic mechanical movement, meaning it never requires a battery. It features a stainless steel bracelet band and includes a 44-millimeter case with a unidirectional rotating bezel and a screw down crown for safety and security during underwater excursions. The entire movement is water-resistant down to 200 meters (20 ATM), making it suitable for all kinds of water sports and exploration. The large, luminous hand and hour markers, bright orange dial, and multi-colored bezel make this timepiece very easy to read, an absolute must in murky environments. The Seiko Hardlex dial window resists scratches to ensure long-term use, even if your watches tend to see their fair share of abuse. Without dropping well over a grand (or 20) on a Rolex, you will be hard-pressed to find a better dive watch.

If you need an inexpensive yet serviceable dive watch that performs well and offers multiple color combinations, then look no further than the Orient Mako II FAA02002D9. This watch comes with all the goodies you expect to find in a dedicated dive watch: a 120-click, unidirectional rotating bezel, a screw down crown, and luminous hands and hour markings. The stainless steel case measures 41.5 millimeters across, reducing the watch’s overall profile, and mineral crystal provides upgraded scratch protection for the dial window. With a water resistance rating of 200 meters (20 ATM) and stainless steel construction, both the watch and the bracelet band are built to resist for fresh and salt water environments. The watch also boasts a Japanese automatic movement and a day/date, a rare combination at this price point. All in all, we find nothing to dislike, especially at this price point.

You may have smaller wrists than most, but that does not mean that a reasonably-sized dive watch is out of the question. The Invicta Men’s Pro Diver 8926OB features a 40-millimeter case which works nicely for guys with modest wrists. The stainless steel case, 24-jewel Japanese automatic movement, and stainless steel bracelet band combine perfectly to create a corrosion-resistant timepiece that can resist water pressures up to 20 ATM, 200 meters below the surface, making it an excellent, affordable dive watch for exploring fresh and salt water environments. The black dial sits safely beneath a scratch-resistant mineral crystal window luminous hands and serves as the setting for luminous hands and hour markings for easy readings at a quick glance. The date complication sits at the three o’clock position, flanked by the screw down crown. Of course, this watch would be incomplete without its unidirectional rotating bezel. With this Invicta on your wrist, Sean Connery has got nothing on you.

Related: 7 men’s watches to kickstart any collection

Why should you trust us

I live life by my watch, and I’m not exactly known for babying my EDC gear. As a long-time aquatics professional, I have come to appreciate the value of a tough, durable watch that can handle the pressure and abuse of watery environments. I also have a soft spot for timepieces. I’ve written guides for aviators, construction workers, and those looking for the perfect watch to kickstart their collection.

Types of dive watches

  • Dive watch: Like the fuel gauge on a Humvee dashboard, a true dive watch eliminates the need to guesstimate how much time you have left underwater during a dive. A functional dive watch combines with the durability of an A-10 and the reliability of a Glock with all the features you would expect, such as high visibility, a unidirectional bezel, and a screw-down crown.
  • Dive style watch: Dive style watches prioritize aesthetics over function. These watches use the external components and cosmetics of a dive watch, but they lack some of the more critical diving features, such as a screw down crown. Unlike dive watches, dive style watches lack water pressure ratings over 10 ATM, limiting them to use at depths no more than 100 meters. That said, these watches do look impressive, even if you never learned to swim.

Key features of dive watches

  • Movement: Like the reactor on board a Virginia-class submarine, a watch’s movement powers its timekeeping ability. Today, two main movements exist: quartz and mechanical. Quartz movements use electrical impulses to deliver extreme precision and accuracy and rely on either a battery or solar power for fuel. Conversely, mechanical watches rely on springs and precision-built components to deliver smooth timekeeping. Traditional movements are hand-wound, while automatic watches rely on the wearer’s movements to wind the internal mechanism.
  • Durability: Quality dive watches must be tough and durable in order to resist the corrosive, high-pressure environment in which they are designed to operate. A true dive watch possesses a durable body, usually consisting of stainless steel, and a corrosion-resistant band made from plastic, rubber, silicone, or stainless steel. It will also be able to resist higher water pressures of at least 20 ATM (200-meter water resistance).
  • Legibility: A clearly legible dive watch may be the difference between life and death. While a massive watch can get in the way, look for a watch with a decent case size, usually between 40 and 48 millimeters. A good dive watch will also feature numbers and hands that are large and easy to read, while illumination of both is an absolute must for actual diving.
  • Safety features: While the legibility and durability are two critical features for any dive watch, certain safety features are what make a dive watch a dive watch. The unidirectional rotating bezel was designed to keep you aware of your remaining dive time while preventing you from accidentally turning the bezel backwards and increasing your preset dive time. Likewise, the screw-down crown ensures that you cannot accidentally knock or pull the crown loose, stopping or altering the time.

Benefits of dive watches

Let’s be perfectly honest with each other. In today’s day and age, the number one reason to buy a dive watch is for the style points. Whether you want that James Bond Rolex vibe or simply want something posh yet practical, there are few alternatives to a well-designed dive watch. Of course, the practicality of an accurate, precise watch was its perks in any situation, particularly within the context for which the design was created. While dive computers have taken center stage for many divers, there are still those who prefer to rely on a reliable dive watch like those used by frogmen of yesteryear. The durability and performance of a well-built mechanical dive watch provides you with a safe diving tool that is immune from the potential failure of electronic dive computers.

Dive watch pricing

Dive watches are very specialized timepieces and performance tools whose makers require extra time and effort to create a quality product. As such, dive watches under $250 can be considered budget options. Finding a true dive watch under $100 can be quite challenging, although quartz movement watches ensure that your search will be much easier than asking your Drill Instructor to join you for an ice cream cone. For a good quality watch that will last for years of use and abuse, be prepared to spend between $250 and $500. These watches usually combine both style and performance, making these true dive watches that should endure countless dives over the years. Watches over $500 are for serious divers, and can often handle dives deeper than 200 meters (just make sure to check the rating before purchasing). Due to their quality, these watches can become family heirlooms, and the knicks and scrapes they bear will have stories to last the generations.

How we chose our top picks

When reviewing new gear, we much prefer to go the hands-on route, but sometimes, a lack of resources may thwart our attempts to get our mitts on some cool gear. When that happens, we listen to those who have firsthand experience. We comb through online reviews on Amazon, enthusiast blogs, professional publications, and more to bring you the best, most comprehensive information we can.

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