Shock horror, not every diving watch is a Rolex. I know, I know, I’ll give you some time to collect yourself. The Submariner might be the first that surfaces to mind – for good reason, it’s the archetype in many respects – but there are plenty of other fish in the sea.
They all have a few things in common, at least if they want to be taken seriously as divers. Aside from decent water resistance (generally 300m is considered professional) they all have rotating bezels so that you can gauge roughly how much oxygen you have left; luminous numerals so that they can actually be seen in the dark of Davy Jones’ locker; and big, rugged cases.
Other than that, watchmakers can do whatever on God’s blue planet they feel like. It’s why there are so many diving watches out there and why some rise to the top where others sink like the Titanic. Here are the one’s we’d happily have as a flagship.
Yes, Bremont is synonymous with aviation. They even have the little propeller on the dial to show just how much they love crashing vintage aircraft. But with aviation comes military links and with the military comes the need for some seriously hardwearing diving watches.
But the Waterman is more than just rugged. It’s water resistant to 500m, a serious depth for anyone without plenty of scuba gear and plenty more experience. It also houses an anti-shock system, which won’t save it when it’s dashed against the rocks like flotsam in a storm, but will help with the occasional underwater knock.
It also happens to be the coolest-looking Supermarine Bremont has ever produced. The blue and white works nicely on both the dial and bezel, especially when fitted with a blue Kevlar strap. Throw in an off-kilter crown and you have a seriously handsome, seriously professional diving watch.
£4,795 at BREMONT >
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
Not all divers are Rolexes, but this one almost is. As you may or may not know, Tudor is Rolex’s little sister – and has been for far longer than their decade-long comeback suggests. They were in fact the first watchmaker to come up with the Submariner. Obviously, they can’t use the name any more, but that hasn’t stopped them recreating the 1958 original.
In fact, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight is pretty faithful to its source material. It has Tudor’s in-house COSC certified movement, of course, but the case dimensions, dial and signature snowflake hour hand are all directly ripped from their archives. It’s also a diminutive 39mm, which is all but unheard of for a diver.
Nowadays Tudor’s build quality almost rivals that of Rolex themselves, so if you’re looking for something a little different to the usual array of Submariners but with the same aesthetic and mechanical charms, this is an accessible, wonderfully vintage alternative.
£2,560 at TUDOR >
Seiko Prospex 1968 Re-creation
The GPHG just announced their shortlist which, in case you didn’t know, is essentially the Oscars of watchmaking, with less sex- race- and just general-ism. It takes a lot to get noticed; more to get shortlisted. This is my odds-on favourite to actually win the sports category.
Seiko may have gotten to the diving world a few years later than Tudor (their first was in 1965) but that doesn’t stop this 1968 dredging of the archives being a serious contender. As ever with the raft of reissues out there, it’s aesthetically faithful to the original but with all the mod-cons of a contemporary watch house. Essentially it’s more accurate and hardwearing than the early Prospex could have ever hoped to be.
Funnily enough, it’s almost the same exact colour scheme as the Tudor above – but that’s where the similarities end. The design is sharper and more angular than you might expect, with a hugely raised bezel for ease of use undewrwater. It also gives it a cool, chunky look. I’d buy one.
£TBA at SEIKO >
Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive
Before Ulysse Nardin mechanically confused collectors everywhere with the Freak (and sexually confused them with their erotic watches) they were building serious marine chronometers. If you caught them at the Monaco Yacht Show you’ll have seen so for yourself; they’ve been a headline sponsor for years. It’s not hard to see why either. If you’re overcompensating with a superyacht, you need this watch.
It’s big; it would look big on Stallone’s wrist, let alone anyone with normal human proportions. Part of that is simple OTT manliness, but the rest is to make it useful even in a diving suit. The bezel can be easily manipulated with gloves and the face is wide enough to read easy. It can also go down a full kilometre underwater. The world diving record is 701 metres. Overkill? Most definitely.
Fortunately, that submarine-sized case is titanium so while it can survive well past the limits of human endurance, it won’t drag you down there with it.
£10,900 at FARFETCH >
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Carbon
You don’t normally see carbon fibre anywhere other than Richard Mille and every racing watch ever made in the past five years, but here we are. Granted, in the surface world this could get by as automotive inspired, particularly with the bright blue highlights courtesy of TAG Heuer’s partnership with George Bamford, but with a 300m depth resistance it’s a professional-level diver.
It’s not all carbon, which is a good thing for divers. The material may be light as a feather but it can’t hold up to a serious assault from a stray hull, rock or shark. Instead, the main case is PVD coated titanium – almost as light, infinitely more durable.
The Calibre 5 movement is functional and reliable, and at this price point it’s all you really want. It even has a rapid date correction, which is nice. Not necessary, but nice. To be perfectly honest, I’d normally pass up the Aquaracer for something a little more interesting, but this carbon version? Well done Mr. Bamford, well done.
£3,250 at TAG HEUER >