The deep dark of the ocean is a terrifying prospect, but one that is a little less existentially horrific with a good partner on your wrist. Between the rugged tool watch practicality demanded by a professional diver and the various stylistic interpretations each watchmaker lavishes on their creations, a great dive watch can be the corner stone of any collection.
Whether you regularly find yourself hundreds of metres down or remain a desk diver with aspirations of sporting excellence on your next beachside holiday, there’s a piece of underwater horology for you at both ends of the pricing spectrum. So, from your new knockabout timekeeper to a few more serious investments, here are our favourite dive watches of the year so far.
The Shallow End: Under £1,000
Your first diver doesn’t need to break the bank, but with these pieces you don’t need to sacrifice quality either. Solid cases, respectable depth resistances and a host of professional-level touches, these are perfect for dipping your toe into the underwater world.
Gruppo Gamma Divemaster MK II, £755.82
Inspired by the golden era of diving that was the 1950s and the host of iconic submarine timepieces it spawned, Gruppo Gama’s latest generation of Divemaster shares plenty in common aesthetically with the more elegant tool watches like the Fifty Fathoms. Still, to call it a Blancpain on a budget would be unfair; with a water resistance of 500m, the Divemaster could give the iconic watch a run for its money, backed by a workhorse ETA 2824-2 movement for the kind of reliability you need that far down.
Available at Gruppo Gama.
Farer Leven Titanium, £995
Farer’s Compressor cased diver is one of the coolest affordable divers out there and in this latest version that retro nautical style is matched with distinctly modern, ultra-lightweight titanium. Available in three different colourways, our pick is the black, orange and silver Leven. Finished with Farer’s signature bronze crown and powered by a Sellita SW200-1 Elaboré, it’s as solid as it is chic. If that weren’t enough, a portion of the profits also go to the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust, which is nice.
Available at Farer.
Christopher Ward C60 Sapphire, £795
Christopher Ward’s latest volley designed to upset the watch world is one of the most striking to emerge from the British brand since its revamped Trident took centre stage as an affordable, serious diver. This version replaces the dial with a sheet of tinted sapphire crystal for a semi-skeletonised look and pairs perfectly with an orange and blue hybrid strap. If there’s one watch that seems too well-priced to be true, it’s this one – but trust us when we say it’s as great value as it seems.
Available at Christopher Ward.
Draken Benguela, £397.57
Launching on Kickstarter later this month, the Benguela is one that’s worth getting in early for. Like its predecessor, the Tulega, it uses Draken’s South African heritage as inspiration with a uniquely-shaped bezel and tapered sides referencing the local Protea flower. It’s a shape repeated across the indexes on the sandwich dial and, while less bright than the Tulega’s blue, it’s no less handsome with a dark green dial. Water resistant to 500m, it’s an incredible amount of watch for the money, whether you preorder at the Kickstarter price of $349 (for the Japanese movement) or not.
More details at Draken.
Wolbrook Skindiver WT Automatic, £378
One of the most extreme tool watches from the 1960s sees a new reincarnation in the Wolbrook Skindiver WT automatic, inspired by the watch worn by none other than Neil Armstrong. Launched on Kickstarter, this is a handsome traveller’s timepiece that straddles the line between practical diving watch and worldtimer, while remaining authentic to its roots. That said, the Automatic here uses a sapphire crystal rather than the NASA-approved Hesalite of the Professional edition. For terrestrial exploration though, it’s what we’d pick. Inside is the Miyota 8215 calibre automatic movement, equipped with a cool red and black roulette date disk. Sporting a 40-hour power reserve, it’s a reliable movement suited for the extreme conditions the Skindiver is built for.
Available at Wolbrook.
Seiko Street Series Urban Safari SRPE29, £510
A version of Seiko’s legendary Tuna Can that you don’t need an Expendables-level physique to wear? The world is finally put to rights. Aside from the iconic case shape, this particular model is finished with a lovely khaki brown, tying into the ‘urban safari’ theme of the four-piece capsule collection it’s a part of. It’s a little less water resistant than some professional divers at 200m, but the callback to the 1975 original is more than worth it.
More details at Seiko.
Briston Clubmaster Diver Pro, £600
Between the charming, preppier cushion case and the solid diving credentials, you can think of Briston’s latest underwater explorer as an accessibly British take on the Panerai Luminor Submersible. Not that accessibility means a lack of quality; the Diver Pro boasts a unidirectional ceramic bezel, a solid, black DLC case and an ever-reliable Seiko movement, all wrapped in a very handsome package. In short, it hits a class or two above what its price tag might suggest.
Available at Briston.
William Wood Valiant The Red Watch, £695
Despite being a self-evident diver, British brand William Wood’s flagship timepiece, the Valiant, has much more shorebound inspirations. An ode to the fire service, it includes details that hint at its origins in the form of a fire bell chime second hand, a fire-engine-chequered inner bezel and rank markings at 12 o’clock. The usual diving rubber strap too has been replaced with upcycled fire hose – just as practical but far, far more interesting. You can almost smell the smoke…
Available at William Wood.
Michel Herbelin Trophy, £760
Despite its more than respectable 300m water resistance, Michel Herbelin’s elegant Trophy is just as at home on land as it is in the water. Gold hour markers stand out nicely against the black dial and bezel for a faux bi-colour look, an understated twist on a classic tool watch. Finished on a hi-tech strap made of FKM rubber, the French-made Trophy is the perfect balance of marine practicality and looks good enough to hold its own back at the yacht club, even against much more expensive timepieces.
More details at Michel Herbelin.
Taking the Plunge: £1,000 – £4,999
As things get deeper, darker and ever more demanding, you want a watch that’ll not just survive in the oceanic abyss, but thrive there – preferably while looking damn fine at the same time. They may be more of an investment, but they’re worth every penny.
Hamilton Khaki Navy BeLOWZERO Tenet, £1,890
Hamilton’s relationship with Hollywood is stronger than ever and this huge, impressively rugged diver follows on from the watchmaker’s previous Interstellar collaboration with Christopher Nolan for new sci-fi thriller Tenet. The blacked out stealth watch is a beast, though thanks to the PVD-coated titanium is more lightweight than you’d expect. Between the visible screws, signature crown protector and black-on-black dial, the Tenet Limited Edition is incredibly cool. Here’s hoping the film’s anywhere near as good. It’s Christopher Nolan; it probably will be.
Available at Hamilton.
Delma Blue Shark III, £1,900
While we’re huge fans of Delma’s 70s-inspired Cayman Worldtimer, it’s hard to call it a true diver, despite its impressive water resistance. The same can’t be said of the Blue Shark III. Water resistant to 4,000m, its looks match that astounding performance with a chunky bezel and crown guard, plenty of lume and striking, high-contrast dials. Given the choice, we’d opt for the blue-dialled, black DLC bezelled version, an incredible timepiece for depths no human should ever reach.
Available at Delma.
Alpina Seastrong Diver Gyre, £1,243.66
It’s not the first to use recycled materials in its cases, but Alpina’s Gyre version of its flagship Seastrong diver is one of the coolest upcycled watches around. The limited edition collection has all the hallmarks of a serious diving watch – including 300m water resistance – in a spectrum of bright ocean colours across smoked dials. The 44mm case is a composite made from fishing nets, all to draw attention to World Oceans Day. If you didn’t realise it was last month, Alpina is evidently not quite hitting the mark. Still, it’s a nice automatic watch for a typically great price.
Available at Alpina.
Reservoir Hydrosphere Air Gauge, £3,426.20
Inspired by the air gauges of early divers, complete with the blue, green and red warning colours, the Hydrosphere’s unique layout lends itself to Reservoir’s penchant for all things retrograde. Hours are displayed at 6 o’clock, leaving the entire rest of the dial free for the minutes. Between that dial and the big, 45mm, technical-feeling case the Hydrosphere Air Gauge is one of the most visually-interesting divers out there. Now we’re just waiting to see the upcoming bronze version…
Available at Reservoir.
Ball DeepQUEST, £3,000
There’s chunky, then there’s the latest version of Ball’s DeepQUEST. It’s not just the oversized bezel with its cog-like protrusions or the undersea ridge of rubber that makes the strap; even the numerals and indexes, which use Ball’s proprietary H3 gas tubes, are wonderfully over the top. Fortunately all that machismo has a point, too. The DeepQUEST is water resistant down to 1,000m and is bright and legible no matter how far towards that abyssal depth you decide to go.
More details at Ball Watches.
Andersmann Bronze, £1,492.83
The three words that define Hong Kong-based micro Andersmann are quality, classic and minimalism, three tenets it holds to dearly, especially in its latest bronze-clad release. A 44mm weight of metal, the asymmetrical tool watch is as serious as divers come, water resistant to 1,000m. If you’re a fan of bronze but find the mainstream offerings lacking, Andersmann has you covered.
Available at Andersmann.
In the Deep; Over £5,000
These are that watches that match diving credentials – or heritage at the very least – with horological prestige at every level. Whether it’s something cutting-edge or classically beautiful, they are the top end of the diving watch market. If you don’t want to risk them in the water, we wouldn’t blame you.
Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris Date, £6,850
Instantly recognisable thanks to its twin crowns, rotating inner bezel and pure 70s style, this modern update of the Polaris II pairs the watch’s diving heritage with a distinctly non-tool-like hand-lacquered blue dial. It’s not the highest-rated out there in terms of depth resistance – 200m is respectable if not extraordinary – but between its retro style and magnificent dial, this is one of the most beautiful desk divers around. Even if could go down to 1,000m, who’d risk it?
Available at Jaeger LeCoultre.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date Titanium, £14,700
Among the most influential diving watches in the world, the Fifty Fathoms is on many a collectors’ dream watchlist. This latest version is more a variation on the established theme than a brand-new watch, pairing a titanium case with a metal-matched lightweight bracelet. The larger date apertures make for a slight twist, but otherwise it’s a comfortable, practical version of a nautical icon that calls back to the titanium, military-spec pieces Blancpain created as early as the 1960s.
More details at Blancpain.
Glashütte Original SeaQ Panorama Date Bi-Colour, £12,400
Despite the majority of Glashütte watches erring towards the classical, the Spezialist collection’s SeaQ Panorama Date is an impeccable, Saxon-slanted diver. The new Bi-Colour takes things further with a gold bezel and crown paired with a steel case, balancing practicality with retro style. The movement is far more beautiful than you expect from a diver thanks to the manufacture region’s hallmark three-quarter plate and Glashütte stripes. It’s a lot more than a tool watch.
More details at Glashütte Original.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m America’s Cup, £5,650
The America’s Cup is one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world and, as the official timekeeper, Omega has released a fitting limited edition in honour of the 36th race. The blue, white and red of the cup lend themselves nicely to the Swiss watchmaker’s flagship diver, especially on the colour-matched hybrid strap. Throw in 600m water resistance and an incredibly reliable Co-Axial movement and you have a solid, sporty limited edition with serious horological chops.
More details at Omega.
Rolex Sea-Dweller Rolesor, £13,300
We can’t talk about diving watches without including Rolex and, while its 2020 offerings have been delayed until the light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel is visible, last year’s bi-colour Sea-Dweller is still one of the finest divers out there. Water resistant to 1,220m (Rolex prefers to round at the imperial 4,000ft) and boasting the classic two-tone look of vintage Rolex models, the latest take on the legendary diver has us waiting with baited breath for what the brand will be releasing later in the year.
More details at Rolex.
Panerai Luminor Marina Fibratech™ Vulcano Blu, £14,300
Rather than focus on just one of its advanced materials, Panerai’s regular-collection version of the Fibratech uses both the titular basalt-based creation for its case and Carbotech across both bezel and crown. There’s a nice textural contrast between both of the materials – the more natural Fibratech with the more uniform, technicallooking carbon – centred around a brilliant blue dial. With 300m water resistance, it’s at the middle of Panerai’s diving offering, but is at the top end when it comes to pure, sexy Paneristi appeal.
More details at Panerai.