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Feature: The 25 best dive watches

Pioneered by legendary underwater explorers like Jacques Cousteau, dive watches are now the go-to wristwear for everyone. Tough yet timelessly stylish, they can be worn with anything, anywhere. We’ve hand-picked our 25 all-time favourites from the likes of Rolex, Omega, Doxa and many more.

Rolex Deepsea Challenge ‘James Cameron’

The deepest part of the Pacific Ocean exceeds the height of Mount Everest. It takes a watch of astonishing durability to survive such a hostile environment, but this titanium Rolex could tough it out. It’s based on the experimental watch that was attached to the submersible piloted to the bottom of the Mariana Trench by James Cameron in 2012. Its water resistance is 11,000 metres. Just don’t expect it to fit under your shirt cuff.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

The Fifty Fathoms is the jewel in Blancpain’s crown. Launched in 1953 at the request of Bob Maloubier, a British secret agent during the Second World War who later became a member of a French military diving unit, the Fifty Fathoms is considered the first modern diver’s watch. In 2023, Blancpain made headlines because of its collaboration with Swatch. The Blancpain x Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms collection marked the model’s 70th anniversary.

Omega Seamaster 300

Omega’s burgeoning Seamaster family has more children than Mick Jagger, but this one is the grandaddy. Released in the late 1950s, its influence can still be seen across the vast Seamaster collection. In 2017, this 60th anniversary model was unveiled, upgraded with a co-axial movement—much to the delight of Omega aficionados. Impressively, the brand used high-tech scanning technology to make sure the watch had the exact same dimensions as the original.

Doxa SUB 300T

Though not as well-known as in its late 1960s heyday, Doxa is a cult favourite in the watch community thanks to its colourful-dialled dive watches. Introduced in 1966, the SUB 300T became first dive watch to feature an orange dial—easier to see in murky waters—while the rotating bezel features a decompression scale instead of the usual 60-minute scale. There is virtually no difference aesthetically between the original 60s version and the modern reissue—making it ideal for fans of retro timepieces.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm

Image courtesy of Phillips

Image courtesy of Phillips

After harpooning a few monkfish while scuba-diving, you’ll want to know when it’s dinner time—just the kind of scenario, perhaps, that led to the concept of an alarm dive watch. These days mechanical dive watches with alarms are practically unheard of, which makes this handsome 1959 vintage model from Jaeger-LeCoultre highly sought-after. This one was sold at auction by Phillips in 2018 for a smidgeon under $70k.

Rolex Submariner

Hearing the words “dive watch”, this is probably what springs to mind. The Submariner is now a byword for a luxury, iconic water-resistant timepiece. Even your next-door neighbour has one. But don’t hate it for that reason. It’s popularity stems from its durability, simplicity and rugged good looks, which have remained relatively consistent over the decades. This is the latest model, the reference 126610LN.

Seiko Professional Diver’s 600M “Grandfather” Tuna

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Japanese powerhouse, Seiko, unveiled the world’s first-ever titanium dive watch with this Professional Diver’s 600M in 1975. It’s constructed from a single block of titanium, meaning it’s harder for water to get into the case. This model was protected by more than twenty patents and features a ceramic-coated titanium shroud around the bezel, which gives it its distinctive tuna-can look—hence the nickname. Seiko’s super-tough Prospex “Turtle” watch is also worth a special mention.

Breitling Superocean

The original Superocean shares a birthday with the Seamaster 300, also launched in 1957. It boasted a water resistance of 200 metres, but contemporary offerings like this 44mm model are far more resilient, with a highly reassuring 1,000 metres—700 metres more than a Rolex Submariner. You also get a COSC-graded automatic movement. A smaller, 42mm model is also available, albeit with 500 metres water resistance.

Omega Ploprof

Omega’s mammoth timepiece, the Ploprof is—you’ll be pleased to know—a watch that’s as tough as it looks. Introduced in the 1970s, it’s a model that’s still in production today and has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Its whopping case with a protruding crown and red button which locks and unlocks the bezel is its standout feature—as well as its hugely impressive water resistance of up to 1,200 metres.

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner

Image courtesy of Phillips

Image courtesy of Phillips

Long before the appearance of the Black Bay and Pelagos, Tudor made an affordable version of the Submariner. They were dead ringers for the iconic Rolex watch of the same name, but featured ETA movements, making them significantly cheaper. These watches are now ageing like a fine bottle of Chateau Lafite and attract loads of interest on the vintage scene. Get your hands on one while the prices are still relatively low.

UTS GMT Divers

Heading to the Maldives on a scuba-diving holiday and want to keep an eye on the time back home? Then consider taking along this heavy-duty GMT from the Munich-based brand, UTS, which stands for “Uhren Technik Spinner”. This is the world’s first—and probably only—dual timezone 4,000-metre water-resistant watch. Fashioned from a solid block of stainless steel, this titan of the deep is as dependable as a German train timetable.

Zodiac Sea Wolf

The Zodiac Seawolf is another 50s-era dive watch, one which bettered the water resistance of both the Fifty Fathoms and Submariner when released—though it had a snap-on, rather than screw-in, case. First-generation models in good condition are not too difficult to find, but the slightly larger modern versions, like this, are equally dashing, with the same 200 metre water resistance as the original.

Rolex Sea-Dweller

The Sea-Dweller was introduced in 1967 to solve the problem of the crystal popping off on standard Submariners during deep dives. This was caused by helium molecules penetrating the plexiglass lens when divers returned to atmospheric pressure faster than the helium could escape the watch. Rolex fixed the problem with the helium escape valve, named this modified Submariner the “Sea-Dweller”, and a legend was born.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Perpetual

You’ll be able to claim serious dive-watch bragging rights when you wear this Ulysse Nardin. And not just because of the brand’s long and illustrious history of seafaring timepieces. No, it’s because this watch features a perpetual calendar—a first for a dive watch. This is a rare marriage of high horology and water resistance, even if the latter is a fairly run-of-the-mill 200 metres.

IWC Aquatimer Split-Minute

IWC definitely warrants a place on this list owing to its 50-plus years of making professional diver’s watches. In 2004 it launched the ground-breaking Aquatimer Split-Minute chronograph, a bold-looking titanium model with integrated rubber strap or bracelet. The protruding slide on the left side of the case is for an additional chronograph minute hand and is used for timing decompression stops during dives. It’s an unusual complication you don’t see often.

Sinn U1000

Sinn, for the uninitiated, is an independent German brand with a small but loyal following. It makes dozens of tough, water-resistant watches fashioned from German submarine steel—which sounds like a plus-point to us. We’re fans of its U1000 left-hander dive chronograph, which is water resistant to 1,000 metres and functionally reliable at temperatures from -45 °C to +80°C. Admittedly we haven’t tested this out, but should we visit either Siberia or the Sahara, this is what we’ll be wearing.

Girard Perregaux Sea Hawk II

Girard Perregaux produced the Sea Hawk line for decades, even though the watches didn’t have real dive watch specs until the 1990s. When the brand discontinued it in 2015 it left Girard Perregaux with no tool watches of any kind in its catalogue (the Laureato is very much the brand’s golden child these days). We’d love to see a revival of this hefty watch, ideally in bronze or ceramic. Until then, check out neo-vintage versions like this.

1920s Rolex Oyster Perpetual

Although the Oyster Perpetual wasn’t purpose-built for diving, it broke records as the first waterproof wristwatch upon its release in 1926. It made a name for itself after record-breaking swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze, wore one as she swam across the English Channel. Gleitze’s Oyster Perpetual emerged unscathed from the teeth-chatteringly-cold waters, proving its waterproof capabilities. Today, the Oyster Perpetual is better known for its colourful dials and understated design, but its influence on dive watches remains.

Panerai Luminor Submersible 2500

The Submersible collection emerged in the late 1990s as part of the Luminor family before later becoming a line in its own right. These are now fully dive-worthy Panerai watches, with models like this 47mm titanium behemoth boasting a water-resistance of 2,500 metres. If you’re looking for a Panerai tough enough for underwater military missions, this is it. Steel versions are also available.

Hublot King Power Diver Oceanographic

Behind the brash colour schemes and controversial marketing campaigns, Hublot has made some serious watches that are truly fit for purpose. Like this dive watch from its King Power range, released in 2011 and limited to a thousand pieces. It’s got a helium escape valve, a protective bar over the screw-down crown and a water resistance of 4,000 metres. Of course, to wear this 48mm hunk of titanium you’ll need the wrist girth of a pregnant python.

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon NEDU

If you need a timepiece that’s tougher than the lovechild of Tyson Fury and GI Jane and you’re torn between getting a dive watch or a chronograph, this Ball has you covered. An all-weather, all-purpose titanium sports watch, it boasts superb night-time legibility, a chronometer-rated automatic movement and the signature Ball crown protection system. It’s also water resistant to 600 metres. Impressively, Ball packs all that into a very wearable 42mm case.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge

You’ll think we’ve completely lost the plot, but one of our favourite dive watches is one that has a hole in the crystal. Allow us to explain. The ingenious Aquis Depth Gauge features a channel milled into the crystal that allows water to enter. This forms a watermark that corresponds to a yellow gauge on the dial that tells you how deep underwater you are. No mere gimmick, this watch is also water resistant to 500 metres.

Longines Legend Diver

Introduced in the 1960s the Longines Legend Diver is a, well, legend in Longines’ catalogue, as well as a legendarily affordable dive watch. It boasts a rotating bezel which is positioned on the inside and is turned by the crown at 2 o’ clock. The Legend Diver has been revived in recent years in vibrant new colours, the option of a bronze case, and with an additional smaller size—in keeping with the current trend for smaller watches.

Omega Planet Ocean 600m

If you’re planning on diving while on a yachting holiday, this Omega Planet Ocean Emirates Team New Zealand limited edition caters to both. The chronograph function incorporates a regatta timer at 3 o’clock, while the water resistance is 600 metres. Made from black ceramic, it's livened up considerably with some vivid turquoise accents and a closed caseback bearing the team’s fern logo. A helium escape valve adds to its deep-dive credentials.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon 8 Jours

We thought we’d round things off with a show-boater from the world’s oldest watch brand, Blancpain. Giving the Fifty Fathoms the glamour treatment might seem like the equivalent of fitting a Land Rover with gold-plated wheel hubs, but they’ve done this iconic timepiece justice with this ravishing pink-gold tourbillon model. It’s also got a mammoth 192-hour power reserve and 300 metres water resistance.

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