“You should have a dive watch.”
You think, “Why? I don’t dive.”
Good point. But . . .
Dive watches are super tough, classic in their design, and they’re one of the largest segments of men’s watches, to include some of the most famous watches of all time, like the Rolex Submariner, which is perhaps the most recognizable watch in the world.
Divers are my favorite style of watches and I’ve had many over the years, with these serving as my current collection.
If you’re into watches you probably already have a dive watch, or several, or perhaps you’re looking for suggestions for your first. Whatever the case may be, if you’re looking for a sporty wristwatch that you can change up with different straps and bracelets, can wear while doing almost anything, and of course can handle the load while your diving, then the series that follows will have suggestions in every price range.
This is a multi-part guide to the best and most well regarded dive watches, from 45 bucks to over $10,000.
Dive Watches Under $50
Let’s start with watches under $50, and with that, let’s kick things off with two of my favorite recommendations for dive watches.
Casio MDV106 Marlin
The Casio Marlin (MDV106-1A) is a $45 cheap quartz beater that looks amazing and does everything an expensive dive watch will do. It’s a bit big, at 44mm wide, but is only 12mm thick. It looks great on your wrist and on a variety of different straps as well. Owners have documented diving with this watch, and indeed, some prefer it to their more expensive watches due to the low price tag, leaving them with no fear of losing it. I’ve given this watch as a gift and was really surprised at how good it looked. What do you get, and not get, for 45 bucks? You get a solid, quality watch from one of the best watch companies of all time, and you get the functionality of a dive watch, with the lumed hands and markers and rotating bezel that tracks time under water.
What you don’t get is the type of watch finishing you expect on more expensive watches. The bezel markings may not line up perfectly with the markers, the case polishing may not be perfect, the lume won’t last all night, like it might on a higher quality watch. But these things are undetectable unless you are scrutinizing the details. Which is what we’ll start doing when we get to the more expensive offerings.
Want an automatic beater dive watch for less than a 50 spot? Get this watch.
The Vostok Amphibia is the under-a-hundred-dollar Russian dive watch that served the Soviet military mightily due, in part, to its ingenious waterproofing technology. Did I mention that it has an in-house automatic movement? Did I even tell you what an in-house automatic movement is? It’s a mechanical movement that uses the movement of your wrist to wind the mainspring, as opposed to less expensive, but far more accurate, battery powered, quartz-crystal timed movement. Being in-house means the company designs and builds the movement for their watches, rather than sourcing their movements from a different company. It’s generally seen as a sign of higher quality, though plenty of high end watches contain quartz movements for various reasons.
Dive Watch Fun Fact:
Dive watches don’t time how much air you have, they time how long you’ve been under water. How long your air lasts depends on how fast you breath it. Pro divers know how to take controlled breaths, and do so somewhat slowly to make the air in their tank last as long as possible.
The Amphibia comes in so many styles it’s impossible to count. They’re also one of the most customized watches around, by a subgroup of watch enthusiasts that like to buy aftermarket parts and swap out bezels, dials, hands, and such to make original watch designs. I’ve done this myself with an Amphibia, sourcing an American-made bezel made of machined steel, a Polish-made bezel insert, and a Chinese strap, all to put on a Russian watch. Fun times!
Vostok uses a thick acrylic crystal that swells a bit as pressure builds in deepening water, which actually increases the seal, resulting greater water resistance. It’s rather ingenious and the innovative design adds to the appeal of this watch. Plus, they’re only $75, purchased directly from Russia. One of my Vostok packages came with Russian stamps all over the padded envelope.
These watches are super durable, fun to mod and work on, and they have pretty cool horological history.
Dive Watches Under $200
Staying under $200 dollars, your best bet (aside from Seiko which we’ll discuss in detail in the next installment) are two similar watches made by Orient: the Mako and the Ray. Orient is the lesser known Japanese watch brand to Seiko, Casio, and Citizen, but they have a good history and have built a reputation for making highly durable and trustworthy mechanical watches with fully in-house movements, made in Japan.
Orient Mako & Orient Ray
The Mako and Ray have the same case, movement and bracelet, but different dials, hands, and bezels, so really it’s just a matter of preference. The blue dial has a brilliant sunburst pattern that looks great in the sun. Orient’s new Caliber F6922 automatic movement, which was released in 2016, is capable of handwinding and hacking (the second hand stops when you pull out the crown to set the time) which improves upon the previous movement. All of this for less than $150 on Amazon right now. It’s one of the best dive watch bargains you can find. I have one and a I’m constantly shocked at how well it performs, certainly doing so well above its price tag. It has a 120-click unidirectional bezel that lines up perfectly over the markers, which is pretty rare at almost any price point lower than luxury brands. And the movement is one of the most accurate I’ve owned, including much more expensive Swiss watches. At under $150, these watches do save money by using mineral crystals instead of the more scratch resistant sapphire, which is really the only negative on an otherwise perfect watch for the money.
Enthusiasts have taken to modding these watches a bit, too, adding sapphire crystals and aftermarket bracelets which are available online.
The Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster diver is another high quality dive watch that I put in the honorable mention category. It’s a great Quartz dive watch, which utilizes Citizen’s solar power Eco-Drive system so you won’t have to change the battery for over ten years, if not longer, when the rechargeable one finally wears out. It’s a fine watch, simply not as cool as the others we’ve discussed, but deserves a look especially if you are attracted to solar watches.
If you are looking for a durable sports watch under $200, these divers are the best you’re going to find outside of Seiko, which is the subject of the next installment of this guide to dive watches.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Seiko Divers.