They are sporty, iconic, and, thanks to their durability, extremely well-suited to everyday use. It’s no wonder that divers are so popular among watch lovers. But which divers are the best? And how can you possibly choose just one from the vast range available today? Well, to help get you started, I’ve selected five of the best diving watches currently for sale.
1. The Rolex Submariner – A True Icon
The watches in my top-5 list are in no particular order, but if I had to choose one diver to call my own, I’d go for the Rolex Submariner. I think this watch offers the best overall package when it comes to diving watches. It is finished to the highest standards, has a simple yet appealing design, and boasts modern technology and innovative features like the Glidelock clasp. The biggest selling point for the Rolex Sub, however, is its status as an icon. Luxury watches have a large emotional component, and no other diver knows how to communicate this as well as the legendary Rolex.
The Sub undoubtedly deserves its legendary status: It has been an integral fixture in the watch world since its launch in 1954. It went on to gain unprecedented notoriety with a wider audience on the wrist of Agent 007. In its almost 70-year lifetime, the Rolex Submariner has undergone numerous improvements and modifications. Its timeless design, however, has remained intact, meaning it is of little consequence which reference you choose. Vintage references have an appealing tool watch character, while the early six-digit references mark a new era of ceramic bezels and the so-called maxi case. The latest version of the Rolex Submariner released in 2020 combines the best of both worlds. I would personally opt for the “no-date” version of the Sub as it comes closest to the original model. On the other hand, a date function is very practical, and the corresponding Cyclops lens is probably Rolex’s most characteristic feature. While this might sound very promising, there is a catch: Due to high market prices, this diver isn’t really a feasible option for every watch enthusiast.
2. The Omega Seamaster 300M – Refreshingly Different
The Omega Seamaster 300M not only replaced the Rolex Submariner as James Bond’s timepiece of choice, but has also caused quite a stir in the watch world. For starters, its value for money is second to none. For around $6,000, you can get one of the most technically advanced and exciting divers of our time. The ceramic dial is a feast for the eyes; the lasered wave pattern almost looks animated – it’s mesmerizing! I don’t know of any other diving watch that can hold a flame to this dial design.
This Omega offers everything you could want from a modern diver. A ceramic bezel, double anti-reflective sapphire crystal, a date function, water resistance to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft), and a decent power reserve are par for the course for any diver with a good reputation. However, with its extremely accurate automatic Co-Axial movement and the ability to withstand magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss, the Omega Seamaster 300M leaves many of its competitors in the dust when it comes to specs. Nevertheless, there are a few deductions that keep this diver from getting an A+ in my book. First, the bezel doesn’t feel quite as nice as Rolex’s, and the metal bracelet doesn’t look sporty enough to me. Alas, these are minor details that not everyone will agree with me on. In any case, the Omega Seamaster 300M should be high on your list if you are looking for a diver with a fresh, modern design. This Omega icon really shines on a rubber strap and packs a bit more punch than its Rolex counterpart.
3. The Tudor Black Bay 58 – A Throwback
The Tudor Black Bay doesn’t have a novel design, its technology doesn’t leave competitors green with envy, and it doesn’t even offer practical features like a bracelet extension for diving. No, the category where this Tudor diver wins is charm – and it has plenty of it! First introduced in 2012, the Tudor Black Bay really stands out when it comes to the smaller details: the case’s curved lines, the bezel’s warm tones, the rugged but pleasantly designed dial, and all the small nods and homages to watches from the manufacturer’s history.
You’d be hard-pressed to find another diver out there that is designed with such care, and the quality and workmanship make this watchmaker’s proximity to sister company Rolex quite obvious. But if the Tudor Black Bay is anything, it is a throwback to the 1950s, the heyday of diving watches. The yellowed lume and riveted bracelet say it all. You don’t have to fret about old-fashioned technology, however, because the Tudor Black Bay is only vintage on the outside. Every model is outfitted with an in-house, COSC-certified movement complete with a 70-hour power reserve. Sapphire crystal and a 200-meter (20 bar, 656 ft) depth rating are to be expected from any modern diver, and the Tudor doesn’t disappoint. A price tag below $4,000 only makes this watch even more appealing. If the 41-mm Black Bay is too big for your wrist, the slightly smaller and slimmer 58 version may do the trick. The latter is also a favorite among watch collectors. Despite all of this, there is one downside: Not everyone is into the vintage look. Sound like you? Well, keep reading because I’ll also show you a more modern Tudor diver that can even hold its own against the Rolex Submariner.
4. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms – Uncompromising Icon
Are you looking for an iconic timepiece that has as much history as the Rolex Submariner but flies a bit more under the radar? If so, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms may be the right choice for you. The very first version of this diver made its debut in 1953, a year before the Sub. It was the only diving watch with a unidirectional bezel for quite some time. This safety feature is often taken for granted nowadays, but it was originally a patented Blancpain design. Similar to the Rolex icon, the design of the Fifty Fathoms has remained largely untouched for decades. It offers top-notch materials, a quality steel bracelet, 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft) of water resistance, and an in-house movement with a 5-day power reserve.
However, it must be noted that the Blancpain is a very large watch. This timepiece measures 45 mm across, 15 mm high, and has a lug-to-lug of more than 50 mm. You either need to have large wrists or love watches with serious wrist presence to wear this timepiece. The sizeable diameter has historical roots: At 42 mm, the original Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was already a very large timepiece for its time. If that’s your style, then the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms offers an iconic, historically significant alternative to the Submariner that you won’t see very often in the wild. That being said, with a price tag around $15,000, this luxury diver isn’t for watch novices.
5. The Tudor Pelagos – Functional and Sporty
Unlike the Tudor Black Bay mentioned above, the Tudor Pelagos lives a bit in the shadows of the watch community. Ironically, this sporty Tudor diver offers everything that is often criticized about Black Bay diving watches. While it also has some vintage touches, the overall look of the Pelagos is very modern. This goes for both the black and blue variant, while the left-handed version has a bit more vintage flair. The matte bezel may look like it’s made of aluminum, but it’s actually ceramic. With a water resistance of 500 m (50 bar, 1640 ft), the Pelagos not only outperforms the Black Bay, but also all of the other watches in this article in this regard. The in-house movement’s 70-hour power reserve and date function almost fade into the background when you hear the depth rating.
The best feature of the Tudor Pelagos, however, is the patented quick adjustment clasp. It can really do it all: Depending on the temperature, the clasp automatically adjusts to your wrist size. I don’t find this feature necessary for everyday use, but it underscores this 42-mm titanium watch’s functional nature. The sporty, functional vibe is further emphasized when you wear this timepiece on the rubber strap that comes with every full set. The Tudor Pelagos is one of the best divers the market currently has to offer – and that for around $4,000.