There are few things in horology that go together quite so well as microbrands and dive watches. As the quality of accessible movements and cases improves, more and more small watch brands are able to create stylish, practical and affordable timepieces that are capable of exploring the deeps.
So without further ado, here’s the ultimate microbrand guide to dive watches. You don’t need to risk diving into the blackest depths of the abyssal ocean to wear a diving watch, but at least with these you know you could. If you wanted to.
Baltic Aquascaphe GMT, €920 EUR
A timepiece that encapsulates all the ideals of Baltic is the Aquascaphe GMT. It has a stainless steel case with a 39mm diameter that compliments the black, glossy dial. The large, lume-filled, circular indices follow the vintage design principles of classic divers.
The look is completed by a date window at the six o’clock position, that felt like it was missing on previous Aquascaphes, mirrored at 12 o’clock by… the number 12. The standout feature, however, is the combination of the bi-colour day/night bezel ring, which is available in combinations of blue with orange, green and grey. The secondary colour is then adopted by the GMT hand and the Aquascaphe inscription, providing a welcome flash of colour on the otherwise plain dial.
Available at Baltic.
Scurfa Treasure Seeker, £442
The focal point of the Treasure Seeker is the dial, which is a fantastic honeycomb of embossed hexagons. It’s subtler on the wrist than you might expect, even in the professionally bright orange and yellow variants. It’s the white however that’s become the frontrunner for the collection. Complete with large, applied indexes, it’s sleek, incredibly readable and equally cool. Around that dial is built an otherwise pretty straightforward diver.
The 41mm stainless steel bumper bar case is solid enough to survive the rigours of the ocean – with a few sharp rocks thrown in – while the five-link bracelet sits comfortable on the wrist with Rolex undertones. It’s also water resistant to 300m, so well suited to professional diving.
Available at Scurfa.
Sacred Crafts Treasure Hunter, $4,500 USD
The Treasure Hunter is a combination of the sustainable watchmaking of The Sacred Crafts and Captain Martin Daly’s penchant for retro stylings. It has a 44mm diameter case made from reclaimed bronze and titanium, with a large bezel and a dial layout inspired by the iconic diving watches of the past.
The influences of the Rolex Submariner and Omega Seamaster Diver 300m are clear to see. The Sacred Crafts aim to improve the quality of beaches and oceans due to their first-hand experience of the rubbish and discarded materials filling some of Earth’s most beautiful places.
Available at The Sacred Crafts.
Magrette Moana Pacific Waterman Bronze, $765 USD
The Pacific Ocean is pretty big and also the local playground for New Zealand microbrand Magrette. Magrette is a unique watchmaker in that they combine classic retro styles of the 70s with the traditions of Māori and pacific island cultures. The Moana Pacific Waterman is available with a bronze case, which captures a patina over time making it individual to the wearer. It looks fantastic with a cushion shaped case and a thick circular bezel, reminiscent of a vintage Panerai.
Available at Magrette.
Ianos Avyssos, CHF 1,250
Plenty of watches take inspiration from horological heritage, but Greek brand Ianos has them all beat – chronologically at least. The Avyssos diving watch is based on the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical timekeeper, the shape of which can be seen in the unique second counter at 6 o’clock on the Avyssos. The shape is taken from the stones used by Greek sponge freedivers and the specs match up nicely: the 44mm steel watch has 300m water resistance, plenty of lume around the sandwich dial and is powered by the ever-reliable Sellita SW216-1 manual-wind movement. Finally, a diving watch that doesn’t blend in with the rest!
Available at Ianos Watches.
Farr + Swit Seaplane Automatic Midnight Landing, $649 USD
It might house a Swiss movement (namely a Sellita SW-200), but this blacked out version of Farr + Swit’s flagship Seaplane is entirely assembled in the USA, making it a rarity in and of itself. If you prefer substance over provenance though, this diving watch for pilots also offers a huge amount for the money. A chunky, 42mm piece of stainless steel and sapphire crystal, its under-the-radar style is alleviated by flashes of bright blue for a brilliant, contemporary air-to-ocean piece with the specs sheet to survive a crash landing in style.
Available at Farr + Swit.
Spinnaker Piccard, £430
No, not that Piccard. Spinnaker’s latest diver pays homage not to the baldest captain of the Enterprise, but Jaques Piccard, one of the pair of pilots that took the Bathysphere Trieste down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 1960. That said, there’s certainly something UFO-esque about the Piccard’s domed profile and chunky, retro design. With 550m of water resistance, in true Spinnaker style it’s also a lot of watch for the money.
Available at Spinnaker.
Tidlös Marin, from £995
The Marin from Tidlös captures the primary elements of Scandinavian design, while also maintaining superb ruggedness in keeping with the dynamic landscape of Scandinavia. The 43.9mm diameter stainless steel case has a helium escape valve and comes with 500m water resistance; an impressive feat considering it has an exhibition caseback. There are a number of styles available but this black carbon fibre option really captures its sporty essence. It’s powered by the Sellita SW200-1 Elaboré movement.
Available at Tidlös Watches.
Serica 5303, €1,075 EUR
Serica are a brand based in France who produce tool watches with a monochrome flair that captures a simplicity of design while also having a faintly whimsical quality to them. The California dial 4512 is a standout, as is the 5303-1, a diving watch that feels like a more eccentric version of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. The 5303 has a two-tone bezel split between hours and minutes and a dial that has your classic, large lumed hour markers in addition to some extra decoration that isn’t too overwhelming for its dive watch status. Also, unlike many microbrands which only exist in the digital sphere, Serica has a store in Paris which you can visit.
Available from Serica.
ZRC GF 3000, €3,900 EUR
The ZRC GF 3000 stands out for a number of reasons but the most obvious is that the crown is located at 6 o’clock, not the traditional position at 3. This came about because in 1960 ZRC had a partnership with the French Navy, who asked for the crown not to be placed at 3 since it impeded wrist movement and the watch was designed for use by the Mine Clearance Divers’ Group – I imagine wrist dexterity is important for such a job. As a result, ZRC developed the 6 o’clock position in addition to a monobloc design and use of anti-magnetic steel. The modern watch still bears many of these elements.
Available at ZRC.
Unimatic Modello Uno, €525 EUR
Italian design can be over the top and maximalist but it’s also important to remember that no one pulls of a chic suit as well as an Italian. The bare essentials executed immaculately. That quasi-minimalist style is also used by Unimatic on their dive watches, which distil the notion of a tool watch down to its constituent parts beautifully. The Modello Uno is a 40mm stainless steel timepiece with an understated black dial and oversize, circular hour markers. Legibility is king and with the large surface area of each index filled with lume, readability is assured in even the murky depth 300m down.
Available at Unimatic.
Horon Ocean Hunter, £370
From this list alone, I’m sure you get the impression that there are a lot of microbrand divers out there – but thankfully Horon’s is a good deal more interesting than your usual Submariner homage. The Ocean Hunter collection consists of a quartet of affordable underwater specialists, all tested to 300m. What really sets them apart though is the multi-layered nuance on the dial – particularly in the yellow and blue Naga, which matches the bi-colour diving bezel with a dark blue ring for the indexes and a splash of yellow guilloche at the core. There is a Meteorite edition, but this is one of the few times it’s the most subtle option that stands out.
Available at Horon.
Zenea Time & Space Meteorite Ula Diver, £742
The last couple of years haven’t been the ideal time to be launching a shiny new watch brand and yet Toronto-based Zenea did more than that; they built a pretty fantastic watch, too. The Ula Diver is classic sea-dwelling fare, with all the requisite lumes and underwater paraphernalia that entails.
It comes in a few colour options (including a handsome yellow) as well as this: meteorite. The precise meteorite is from Scandinavia with an impressive Widmanstätten crosshatch. Given the material is normally the purview of Rolex, Omega and the like, the only thing more out-of-this-world than the dial is the price.
Available from Zenea.
Isotope HydriumX “Will Return”, £563
In a satin smooth tool case of friendly proportions, Isotope proves the simple concept often lacking in our world of incessant buzzing computerized wrists and pinging phones, and that is humour. The “Will Return” is a cheerful celebration of normality ensuing in the world, with a fully lumed dial to light up your nightly excursions or deep dives. With its vibrant red and searing ice-cool blue dial, it’s a chunky sports watch that riffs on the unusual inspiration of an American shop door sign. Google it and I’ll guarantee a wide smile. A winning blend of cheer and bullet-proof design makes for tempting, candy fresh wrist game.
Available from Isotope.
Lorier Neptune III, $499 USD
A more elegant take on the black and gold look of the Black Bay Fifty-Eight, the Neptune III uses pointed indexes and hands a world away from the usual blocky connotations of retro. It’s about as clean as the practicality of a diver allows and sits perfectly in the sweet spot for size, 39mm. It’s a little lower on the specs scale with a Mioyta 90S5 automatic movement, but it still has 200m water resistance and the sharp looks more than make up for it. The original Neptune was Lorier’s first dedicated diving watch and the Neptune III is the best version of it yet.
Available at Lorier.
Zelos Swordfish 40mm “Forged Carbon”, $799 USD
Microbrands can get a bad rep due to the perception that they use low quality, off the shelf movements, but that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to Zelos. They use high end movements from manufactures like La Joux Perret. The Swordfish 40mm houses the LJP G100 Soigné with gunmetal plating, a calibre which debuted in 2021. The Soigné designation shows that it’s on of La Joux Perret’s top movements and it has a fantastic 68-hour power reserve with excellent Geneva Stripe finishing. The case is also as robust as you could hope with a sleek forged carbon design.
Available from Zelos.