9 Best Underrated Dive Watches: Stand Out in the Crowd

Understandably we all want some unique watches. However, we also want something that isn’t so unique it’s weird. Therefore, I have made a list of the most underrated but good looking watches. The list of watches includes beautiful watches for all budgets. Its made so everyone can find at least 1 watch that is appealing to them.

Finding underrated watches can be difficult when everything is so customized it just becomes the same. However, finding watches with great heritage, or gives a good bang for the puck (no pun intended) can make a timepiece unique.

Dive watches are made to be functional. In essence, a dive watch is used to keep time during diving. This is why all dive watches have a unidirectional bezel that turns counterclockwise. Any watch that has a bidirectional bezel (a bezel that turns both ways) is not a real dive watch, here is why.

The bezel is adjusted to the time of diving. If the diver knows he has 30 minutes in his oxygen tank, he can keep track of using the bezel. In the picture, you see a diving watch adjusted to a dive time at the 2 mark. Knowing there is 30 minutes of oxygen in the tank, it is possible to be submerged until the minute hand reaches the 8 mark.

Example of Setting The Zero Marker At Descent
Example of Setting The Zero Marker At Descent

If the bezel was bidirectional and the diver accidentally banged the watch into something that would turn the bezel clockwise, the diver would think less time is used submerged. Ultimately, this could kill the diver.

There were some successful attempts to create a water-resistant watch starting around the beginning of the 1900s. Among one of the successful manufactures was Rolex, with the “Oyster” model back in 1926. The Oyster model had a screw-down crown, screw-down case back, and a tightly sealed crystal.

10 years later, another familiar manufacture, Panerai, came with a watch with 30 meters of water resistance. Panerai watches were made by Rolex back then. Panerai had a somewhat controversial request compared to traditional watches. While the watch should be water-resistant, it should be 47 millimeters big, making it a huge watch for a time where watches in the 30’s millimeters were men’s watches.

Lastly, is the first actual dive watch, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, introduced in 1953. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms introduced an adjustable bezel. The name of the watch comes from the water-resistance of fifty fathoms, which is equal to 300 feet or 91.44 meters.

Since then, the development has continued with crown guards, helium escape values, electronic dive computers, ISO standards for dive watches, and water resistance levels bigger (or lower, I guess) to where humans can’t even be.

Nowadays, the majority of dive watch owners use them as a regular dress watch. The dive watches is used for “desk diving” rather than actual diving. Being an owner of a dive watch that has never been submerged for more than 10 centimeters, I understand the attraction to the dive timepieces.

A dive watch doesn’t only have to be used as a means to time the oxygen tank levels. It can also be used as a regular egg timer or to that thing your spouse only says takes “5 minutes”.

Seiko PADI

The Seiko diving watches have been popular in many years, decades even. The SKX07 and SKX09 have been very popular. However, since they are now discontinued, divers look for other respectable divers in the same price range. Seiko has, of course, “one-upped” their game and partnered with PADI. PADI is the largest scuba diving training organization in the world, with more than 6,300 dive centers and resorts.

The partnership between Seiko and PADI has turned out some great watches. The watch which is closest to their own heritage is the Seiko Prospex SRPA21K1. The unique red and blue bezel for the first 20 minutes on the bezel. The rounded 12, 3, 6, and 9 markers have changed from a round shape to a trapezoid shape instead. Using Seiko’s 4R36 movement with a 41 hours power reserve and an accuracy of -35/+45 seconds per day, it is a very prominent bang for the buck. A serious entry-level dive watch.

Water resistance: 200 meters
Material: Stainless steel
Diameter: 45 mm
Movement: 4R35
Accuracy: -35/+45 seconds per day
Price: ~$400

Certina DS Action Diver Powermatic 80

Certina DS Action Diver Powermatic 80
Certina DS Action Diver Powermatic 80

A brand that is very overlooked is Certina. Certina is apart of the Swatch group, which is one of the big Swiss manufacturers owning Omega, Blancpain, Longines, and others you most likely have heard about. The Certina DS Action Diver Powermatic 80 is powered by the Swiss movement from ETA modified by Certina, the Powermatic 80. The 80 comes from its whopping 80-hour power reserve.

The Powermatic 80 is a modified 2824-2, which is reputable for being the best Swiss workhorse in the entry-level section. The movement is expected to be accurate within -12/+30 seconds per day. Furthermore, featuring Certina’s DS concept, sapphire crystal, superluminova, and a certified dive watch according to the ISO 6425, this is probably one of the best watches in the entry-level category.

Water resistance: 300 meters
Material: Stainless steel
Diameter: 43 millimeters
Movement: Certina Powermatic 80
Accuracy: -12/+30 seconds per day
Price: ~$700

MIDO Ocean Star Captain

MIDO Ocean Start Captain Titanium Caliber 80
MIDO Ocean Star Captain Titanium Caliber 80

A watch brand that is starting to get some traction from the everyday watch owner is Mido. Lately, they have beginning to put out some very unique watches. The Ocean Star Captain is no exception. Made of titanium and featuring an 80-hour power reserve, the Mido Ocean Star Captain is in it to win it. The Ocean Star Captain uses a Mido Calibre 80, which is COSC certified, meaning it is accurate within -4/+6 seconds per day. Furthermore, it has both a date and date calendar, which is not often seen on dive watches.

The appearance of the watch is spectacular as well. It has a very vintage appeal, while it looks very modern at the same time. Nonetheless, the Mido Ocean Star Captain could easily become a vintage watch at some point. Not to forget, Mido is also owned by the Swatch group. Yet, it is flying completely under the radar, which is an excellent opportunity to get a unique timepiece that you won’t see anywhere else.

Water resistance: 200 meters
Material: Titanium
Diameter: 42.5 millimeters
Movement: Mido Calibre 80
Accuracy: -4/+6 seconds per day
Price: $700

Longines Hydroconquest

Longines is a very well-known brand. Longines has a classic look on most of their watches, and the HydroConquest is no exception. With inspiration from Tudor, the hour hand has the snowflake look alike look, fitted on the glossy dial. Longines is using the base ETA 2892 modified to their own L619 movement with a power reserve on 64 hours.

The appearance of the Longines HydroConcept is very classic and can be dressed down or up with no problems. It reminds me of a Rolex Submariner with Arabic numerals at the 12, 3, and 6 instead of indexes. It is so simple to look at, with no bulky indexes, or walls of text at 6 o’clock. A simple, elegant, but durable everyday watch.

Water resistance: 300 meters
Material: Stainless steel with a ceramic bezel
Diameter: 43 millimeters
Accuracy: -5/+15 seconds per day
Price: ~$1,300

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression Black

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression Black
Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression Black

Zodiac is one of the well-known diving watch brands. However, they are known for making some quite funky watches. Therefore, you wouldn’t expect the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression Black to be a Zodiac watch if you didn’t know the watch. It has a stealthy look, where normal Zodiac watches have “popping” colors. Furthermore, Zodiac is using STP’s movements instead of ETA.

The black Zodiac dive watch is very unique for the brand, but also for the classic watch. When was the last time you saw an entirely black watch? Even more so, the dial and bezel is so simplistic, which is rare to find in a proper diving watch.

Water resistance: 200 meters
Material: Stainless steel
Diameter: 40 millimeters
Accuracy: -0/+15 seconds per day
Price: $1,395

Oris Aquis Depth Guage

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge
Oris Aquis Depth Gauge

Now here is a unique watch. Besides the very noticeable yellow rubber strap, the watch has a depth measure gauge (as the name might suggest). When looking at 12 o’clock, there is a small hole in the watch when descending. This will start to fill with water, the way the depth is measured is the difference with air (which consists of nitrogen and oxygen, mostly) and water. The white ring will start to darken, and the depth can be read through the yellow markings.

Overall the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge is a good looking watch, it is thick and big, but it looks great, and actually have some additional functionality for divers other than the bezel.

Water resistance: 500 meters
Material: Stainless steel
Diameter: 46 millimeters
Accuracy: -12/+30 seconds per day
Price: ~$2,500

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original
Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original

Are you to watches that be worn virtually anywhere in the world? Well, then Ball is an interesting watch to look at, specifically the very traditional looking Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original. Having developed a watch for the SEAL team six and a slogan “Accuracy under adverse conditions,” you are undoubtedly getting a durable watch.

The Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original can withstand 7,500 Gs of shock. The gas tubes, which is Balls luminous for the hour markers, is indented in the dial of the watch. Furthermore, the watch is rated to 80,000 A/m (equivalent to 1,000 Gauss) secures magnetic fields won’t destroy the watch. Lastly, it is a certified chronometer, meaning it is accurate within -4/+6 seconds per day.

Water resistance: 300 meters
Material: Stainless steel
Diameter: 42 millimeters
Accuracy: -4/+6 seconds per day
Price: ~$3,600

Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial Blue Dial Titanium

Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial Blue Dial Titanium
Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial Blue Dial Titanium

Now listen, I know that Omega is one of the biggest brands in the watch industry and that the Seamaster is the next big product line just behind the Speedmaster product line. However, the Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial Blue Dial in titanium is super underrated, and you will rarely see this watch worn on anyone.

Just like most of the Seamaster product line, this one is used in a James Bond movie as well. It has the nickname “Spectre,” obviously due to being used in the James Bond movie Spectre. However, the Spectre watch is with a black dial and bezel and made in stainless steel. The rather large price is justified by Omega’s Co-Axial caliber 8500, which is a certified Chronometer (accurate within -4/+6 seconds per day), magnetic resistance of up to 15,000 Gauss, and the silicon balance spring, with mainspring barrels mounted in series. A very exclusive watch.

Water resistance: 300 meters
Material: Titanium and ceramic bezel
Diameter: 41 millimeters
Accuracy: -4/+6 seconds per day
Price: ~$6,600

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

Last on the list is the icon, known as the first real diving watch, in an updated version. Blancpain did release an almost 1:1 of the first dive watch. However, they also made this updated and very unique take on the watch.

Blancpain doesn’t need much of an introduction, as being one of the first in dive watchmaking history to make a water-resistant and function diving watch, Blancpain is about innovation. With 227 parts in the movement (regular automatic watch have about 130 pieces), has pushed the boundaries with a 120 hours power reserve, and even managing to keep the watch slender.

Water resistance: 300 meters
Material: Stainless steel and ceramic bezel
Diameter: 43 millimeters
Accuracy: Nothing official – Reportings of +2 seconds over an entire week
Price: ~$7,000

What Makes it a Dive Watch?

In 1996 an ISO standard was introduced. It is the Diver’s watch standard under the ISO 6425. The ISO 6425 standard defines diving watches as a watch that can withstand water depths of at least 100 meters and processing to be accurate.

The ISO 6425 certified watches are tested to 125% of their capability in static water pressure. This means watches with 100 meters of water resistance are tested to 125 meters, and watches with 200 meters of water resistance is tested to 250 meters.

The way you identify a certified diving watch is by the text “DIVER’S Watch xx M” or “DIVER’S xx M,” where xx is the rated water resistance in depth.

The testing is extensive going through both magnetic resistance, shock resistance, the resistance of the attachments to external forces such as straps and bracelets, fresh and saltwater, and more. You, therefore, know that any watch marked with the “DIVER’S xx M” is durable to most use.

Does that mean watched that isn’t marked with “DIVER’S xx M” is not a diving watch? No, it doesn’t. Seiko is very known for getting all their watches certified under the ISO 6425 standard. In contrast, Rolex has not had any watches ISO 6425 certified. Many divers have preferred the Rolex brand over Seiko, whether because of the prestige or sense for quality is unknown. You will rarely hear about a Rolex that went bad due to anything other than misuse (not neglecting Seiko, they actually have very solid watches).

Terms to Know and Understand When Looking for Dive Watches

There are some different terms which is very helpful to know when you are looking for diving watches. Whether you are looking for a “desk diver” or an actual dive watch, it’s worth knowing something about the different terminologies and functions of the watch.

A diving watch can actually do many things, and some functionalities can also damage the watch if used incorrectly. Furthermore, some of the watchmaking (correctly word: Horology) jargon can be quite confusing at times.

Water Resistance

The water resistance is the alpha and Omega (you get it?) of a diving watch. Having a dive looking watch, which cant be used for diving, is like having a car without a motor. Furthermore, some watches are branded as waterproof or waterproof until xx meters. Just the definition of waterproof makes this impossible.

If something is waterproof, it means no water can ever penetrate. By adding something like “waterproof until xx meters,” doesn’t help either. The explanation is actually quite simple: Water resistance is tested under static pressure, meaning that it doesn’t account for any dynamic effects that would occur in real life.

When you swim, the watch will be exposed to more pressure in whatever direction you are pushing your wrist. This means that water sports such as water polo, jet skiing, water skiing, etc. the watch will be exposed to water depths much greater than just the surface.

Water Resistance Chart for Watches>30 meters
3 BAR
50 Meters
5 BAR
100 Meters
10 BAR
200 Meters
20 BAR
<300 Meters
30 BAR
Splashes/Washing hands/Rain
Beach/Swimming pool
Water activities (Jetski, water skiing, pool parties, etc.)
Amateur diving
Serious diving (Scuba diving)
Water Resistance Chart

When looking for a dive watch (in reality, any watch), you should consider the actual activities you can do with the watch.

Bezel

There are many different bezels in the watch world, anything from the classic and well-known red and blue to purple and black bezels. Furthermore, there are internal and external bezels that each has its own functionality.

The bezel is what you see on the edge of the dive watch, usually marked from 0 to 60 with minute increments. Most bezels have 1-minute increments for the first 15 minutes. Afterward, they increase to 5-minute increments.

External Bezel

The external bezel is most frequently used on dive watches. The external bezel is also the most functional to both amateur and professional divers. The external bezel is also what is easiest to operate over- and under-water.

However, the external bezel can suffer from dirt, debris, sand, and other grime when used. This can cause the bezel to clog up when used at the beach or underwater.

Internal Bezel

The internal bezel is safer in terms of the accidental adjustments to the bezel during diving. The internal bezel will be found aligned to the dial underneath the crystal.

The internal bezel is a problem when used underwater as the internal bezel is adjusted with a crown. Using any pushers or crowns underwater will contaminate the water resistance, and the watch will be damaged.

Screw-down Crown

A screw-down crown is often seen on good dive watches that want to secure the user with the promised water resistance. Using a screw-down crown, you will force a gasket to be sealed against the metal. In contrast, a typical push crown will just be pushed into place with its gasket seated in the opening to the movement. Therefore, it is not force sealed, and water will eventually have easier access.

Helium Escape Valve

Helium escape values are something you might have heard about when dwelling over the Rolex Sea-Dweller.

Before a diver return to regular air, professional divers will be in the decompression chamber after being in deep saturation dives. During the decompression, the divers will be breathing a gas mixture containing helium. Helium molecules are so tiny and extremely light that it can infiltrate everywhere in the chamber, including the watch.

During the decompression, the helium can’t escape the watch, which creates a force that could push the crystal of the case of the watch. Therefore, the helium escape value is used and will open when a pressure difference of typically 3 to 5 bar is reached, allowing the helium to escape without any water entering the watch.

Lume

The lume is the white, blue-ish, or yellow-ish you see at the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … 12-hour marks. The lume is what makes the glow on the hands and dial. The reason for the lume is for divers to be able to see the time in serious depths. However, it’s also nice to have when it’s dark outside.

Pushers

Pushers is everything else than the crown. This could be the start-stop function of a for a chronograph. The pushers are wasteful on a true diver’s watch. As a wise man once said, for every hole is an additional risk of water leakage.

Because pushers have movement inside the watch, using the pushers underwater could severely damage the watch. This is also why internal bezels are often looked down upon by divers (internal bezel is typically controlled by a secondary crown).

Sources
https://www.iso.org/standard/66517.html
https://www.seikowatches.com/global-en/products/prospex/special/padidivers/
https://www.certina.com/dk/watch/ds-action-diver-powermatic-80/C0324071105102
https://www.midowatches.com/en/swiss-watches-collections/sport-watch-ocean-star/ocean-star-200-m0264304406100
https://www.longines.com/watches/hydroconquest/l3-782-4-76-6
https://www.zodiacwatches.com/products/super-sea-wolf-53-compression-automatic-black-stainless-steel-watch
https://www.oris.ch/en/watch/oris-aquis-depth-gauge/01-733-7675-4754-set-rs
https://shop.ballwatch.ch/en/Original-DM2118B-SCJ-BK
https://www.omegawatches.com/watch-omega-seamaster-300-omega-master-co-axial-41-mm-23390412103001
https://www.blancpain.com/en/fifty-fathoms/bathyscaphe-5000-1110-70b

Jonas Henriksen

AllInWatches is founded by Jonas, who has a great interest in mechanical watches. All aspects of manual and automatic (mechanical) watches is a big interest and have been a passion since 2015, where the first automatic watch was purchased. Seeing the transparent case back and discovering the heritage of watchmaking piqued an interest in horology.

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