Dive watches are hot. They have always been and they always will be. They are popular because they are robust, and when designed well, versatile. There is a big market out there for these types of watches at different price points. In this article, we will look at certain models that are iconic due to their historical significance in the world of divers, and others that could very well become iconic ones that come from independent and smaller brands. (Not small as in not important but as in having smaller catalogs and producing only a couple of hundred units a year.) We will not look at certain price brackets as they vary based on which iteration of each watch you go for. The below selection is more based on the fact that these watches are rather exceptional in their own right. So let’s dive in!
The Submariner needs no introduction. By certain accounts, it was the first commercialized professional diver on the market when it came out in 1953. Whether or not it was, the Submariner forged a reputation for itself by offering something unique. Not only in the way it looks and operates, but also in the way it’s made. It’s no secret that Rolex is a pioneer for making water-resistant cases using screw-down crowns and case-backs. But Rolex is also known for having codified a design language that is unmistakably Rolex and that has been copied over 100 times. More specifically: the Mercedes hands that are legible and unique; the font on the bezel; the mix of bright baton-style and circular hour markers; the unique case shape and accompanying bracelet.
The Submariner, as said above, set the standard for professional watches and has been imitated—but never equalled—multiple times over. It has been in continuous production since 1953, and although it has now become more of a piece of fine watchmaking than a tool watch, it still remains one of the best dive watches out there.
As we’ve seen in this article about the Pelagos FXD, Tudor is the more affordable arm of the Rolex family and is a brand that has profound ties to the French Navy. While Rolex was offering the Submariner, Tudor was also offering a Submariner model that came with its distinct Snowflake hour hand and square hour markers. Although Tudor no longer makes the Submariner, its professional line of divers exists in the Pelagos collection. Tudor made the news multiple times in the past year by releasing a new Marine Nationale collaboration in the FXD, and a couple of weeks ago by offering a 39mm version of the Pelagos. In all aspects, the Pelagos is a proper diver that re-uses some of its older siblings iconic design language: the Snowflake hands, square hour-markers, and a more affordable price tag compared to the Submariner.
Personally, it seems that the Pelagos was and still remains a diver for professionals although it is now available to the general public. If you can’t afford or get your hands on a Submariner, it seems that the next best thing is a Pelagos. It would be amazing if Tudor would release a new Submariner line of watches. What do you think?
Although Tissot does not belong to the same category as Rolex and Tudor, the brand has been offering a proper line of divers at more affordable prices for quite a while. (Although I couldn’t find a definitive answer, the name Seastar dates back to the 1950s and was stamped on the dials of multiple models.) In its own way, the Seastar collections has acquired somewhat of a cult following as it offers something different than the competition. Not necessarily better, but different. Including a unique design DNA in the use of sword hands, larger Arabic numerals on the bezel insert, as well as the t-shaped counter-balance on the seconds hand. The Seastar comes in various sizes, movement types, and colors, so there is something for everyone.
One thing that highlights the Seastar collection is its affordability compared to Rolex and Tudor. Entry-level quartz models can be had for less than $1,000.
People often put the Omega Seamaster head-to-head with the Rolex Submariner since both brands are iconic sport watches manufacturers. Although it now comes in multiple variations, the collection “Seamaster” has been around since 1948. It first existed as a time-only watch that was endowed with a waterproof case. Just like the Submariner, the Seamaster made a name for itself by being featured in multiple James Bond movies as the 007 agent’s timepiece of choice. The current modern versions of the Seamaster boast impressive specifications and design details that make it very different from the Submariner. The now iconic Seamaster 300 (the one worn by 007) comes with a Master Chronometer Co-Axial movements, ceramic bezel inserts, and enamel dials.
In many ways, the Seamaster collection is a proper line of divers in their own right, and it seems that whoever is into the Seamaster is not into the Submariner, and vice-versa.
Oris Diver 65
The Oris Diver 65 is another collection from an independent brand that has gotten a cult following. Just like one is either a Submariner or Seamaster person, one can be a Diver 65 person. What people like about it is that it pays homage to the skin divers from the 1960s and 1970s, and Oris is one of the few brands still offering this type of watch in their catalog. Just like a Seamaster, the Diver 65 is a collection that comes in different variations in that one can buy a 36mm or 40mm Diver 65, with or without copper bezel, and now with different types of bezel inserts. The most recent release includes a 12-hour bezel which is something rarely seen on a diver.
Like any proper dive watch today, the Diver 65 collection has been around for several decades. It is imbued with strong vintage vibes, although Oris has managed to modernize it by using funky colors like candy pink and bright blue colored lume.
I kind of like to keep the best for last. Best because MONTA has managed to offer exceptional value dive watches in the Oceanking collection, and although MONTA is the youngest of all brands mentioned in this article, it has garnered much praise and has created a solid fan base. Just like any proper diver, the Oceanking has a unique design DNA in the use of the sword hands, the rectangular-shaped applied markers, the large and legible font on the bezel insert, and the patented bracelet that comes with tool-less micro-adjustments. (It should be noted that neither Tissot or Oris equip their clasps with such technology.) Just like Tissot shows what a historic Swiss brand can do best—unique designs at affordable prices—MONTA shows what’s best about independent brands: unique engineering and quality for a comparatively low price.
By now you know that I don’t often get into the details of things but that I prefer to talk generally about a topic to provide an overview of it. By way of writing this article I wanted to share a list of great divers that can be obtained in 2022. What they all have in common is that they have unique designs that are functional and versatile, and either superior technology or finishing, or both in certain cases. There are many, many other divers on the market that come at various prices, however the ones listed above represent the most popular ones both from Swiss giants and more independent brands.
Perhaps this article would have made you curious about these models and want to learn more about them.
Featured image: www.oris.ch