A dive watch, also known as a divers watch or diving watch, is any watch that is designed to withstand underwater diving. This might seem rather obvious, but there are specific criteria that a dive watch must meet to be considered a dive watch. Without getting into the technical ISO standards (ISO 6425) that the best dive watches meet, a dive watch has to be legible and accurate underwater as well as be waterproof to at least 100 meters. Watch manufacturers implement several design choices into their watches to meet these criteria.
Here’s a closer look at what features actually make a dive watch, a dive watch:
To improve underwater readability, you will typically find large numerals, large hands, and contrasting dial colors on a dive watch. These numerals and hands are usually painted with a luminous material that will glow in the light deprived depths where one might find a dive watch.
As the entire point of a dive watch is to record the length of time a diver spends in the water, it must be accurate. Dive watches will typically have unidirectional bezels as a result, so minutes can be counted and a knock against the bezel will cause it to rotate, so the time spent underwater is overestimated, as under-estimating it could prove deadly. Dive watches will also typically be very resistant to magnetic fields or forceful impacts, which might reduce the accuracy of the watch.
A dive watch should be waterproof to at least 100m. While this might seem like a lot, in the modern age of dive watches it is barely scratching the surface. Modern dive watches that want to be taken seriously have to start at the 200m mark. Water-resistance is generally achieved by having screw-down case backs, pushers (if any are present) and crowns.
If a dive watch is going to be used to go very deep, it will usually be fitted with helium escape valves. These valves eject helium from inside the case should any enter. A build-up of internal pressure could blow the crystal off the watch. Helium escape valves are typically only found on the best dive watches that are rated for the greatest of depths.
The History of Dive Watches
The modern dive watch isn’t even 100 years old yet. Rolex is often attributed with creating the first dive watch with their Rolex Oyster, which they released in 1926. The Oyster used the same screw-down technology that is still used to this day in the best dive watches.
In 1932, Omega released the Omega Marine. Waterproof to 135m, it is what some consider to be the first “real” divers watch.
In 1935, Italian watchmaker Panerai was asked to make a dive watch for the Royal Italian Navy. After producing 10 prototypes and submitting them for testing, Panerai named them the Radiomir, after the paint used on the numerals and hands.
The best years for diver watch development was arguably the 1950s. Some of the best dive watches were released within just years of one another. Blancpain released the Fifty-Fathoms in 1953, Rolex released the iconic Submariner in 1954, and Breitling launched the SuperOcean in 1957.
Ever since the 50s, the dive watch category has ballooned in terms of the number of watches offered, the technology within them, and the limits that they can withstand. With so many dive watches on offer, it might be hard to pick the right one for you, or to pick the right watch straps to pair with it.
Some of our top picks for Dive Watches:
For around $400, you can get yourself a Seiko SKX007. Waterproof to 200m and packing all of the typical diver watch functions, it’s a great place to start if you want a practical budget-friendly option.
If you are looking to get something a bit more hardcore, you can grab yourself a Longines HydroConquest for around $1200. Waterproof to 300m and with a larger, more easily accessible bezel, the HydroConquest is a bit more practical if you want to test how deep you’re willing to go.
As we go up the price ladder, it would be impossible not to recommend the Omega Seamaster 300, which weighs in at around $4500. While still waterproof to 300m, the Omega beats the HydroConquest for its amazing co-axial movement, better overall looks, and its strong history. Released in 1948, this piece even predates the Fifty-Fathoms!
Finally, we get to the father of all divers watches - the Submariner’s big brother, the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea. Weighing in just shy of $12500, it’s a lot of money for an awful lot of watch. With a helium escape valve, 44mm steel and titanium case, a dial that you could read with your eyes closed, and a mind-boggling 3900 meters of water resistance, the Rolex Deepsea is not for the faint-hearted.
Dive Watch Straps
When it comes to bracelets and straps for dive watches it is important that they are able to withstand the pressure of being underwater, as well as the corrosive properties of seawater. It is because of this that materials such as metal, rubber and fabric are the most common choices for dive watch bands. Horus Watch Straps offers straps for a variety of popular Dive Watches, including the Rolex Submariner, Rolex Sea-Dweller, Omega Seamaster, and the Audemars Piguet Diver.