Fratello’s Top 5 Favorite Divers’ Watches


Admittedly, I do not dive. In fact – and this has been a secret until now – it took me a lot of effort to even get my swimming diploma when I was a young boy. For my parents, this must have been hell; I hated water and didn’t want to be near it. Things have changed a bit, however. Although I am still not much of a swimmer, I do like to take a plunge in the pool when I am on holiday. And being a watch enthusiast, and a very modest collector, I like to have the right watch on my wrist when I do. Perhaps I’m a bit predictable, but that is most often either a Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 or an Omega Seamaster Professional.

Today, I take a look at the divers’ watches I would consider buying these days if I needed one. (The word “needed” is relative, of course, since, as I’ve said, I am a lousy diver.) At my blog, Fratellowatches.com,  a lot of diving watches pass through, either for review or discussion when a new model debuts. If the number of divers’ watches on the market represented the number of actual divers in the world, it would be very crowded in the water, that’s for sure. Just so we are clear, my choices are based on far different criteria than a professional diver would apply. To me, anything water-resistant to 300 meters or more qualifies.

1.Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT GoodPlanet

Even though James Bond is a fictitious character (hard to believe, I know), he is probably one hell of a diver. And he probably wears an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean simply because it is a true divers’ watch. To me, other factors make the Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT a perfect choice for the holidays. It’s a solid watch with no fear of water and with a practical, useful GMT hand — for those of us who have to travel to other time zones to find comfortably warm sea or ocean water. The water-resistance of 600 meters will easily fit the bill for diving, although you’re more likely to find me wearing one at the bar. On Fratellowatches,.com we did a write-up on this particular GoodPlanet here.

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT GoodPlanet

 2. Rolex Sea-Dweller

No, I am not talking about the newer DeepSea but the previous Sea-Dweller model that Rolex has made for decades. The Sea-Dweller Reference 16600 is my preferred model, and the one I have owned for more than 10 years now. Although it doesn’t have the fancy clasp, glide-lock bracelet system and whatnot, it represents the ultimate diving watch for me, personally. The Sea-Dweller Reference 16600 is a simple and cleanly designed watch with the charisma of the older “plexi-crystal” models. And while this watch is not as comfortable to wear as a basic Submariner or GMT-Master (due to its thickness), this Sea-Dweller model with a water-resistance of 1,220 meters (4,000 feet) is up to the task of deep diving. Since it is out of production, I wrote an article some time ago urging people to grab one while they can (here). The picture is courtesy of HQMilton.com.

Rolex Sea-Dweller

 

3. Longines Legend Diver

Who said a nice mechanical diving watch needs to be expensive? I simply love this elegantly designed Longines Legend Diver, not only because of its reasonable price, but also because it is similar to one of Longines’s historical diving watches from the 1960s. The super-compressor case, two crowns, and black dial and strap really make it look like it is a vintage watch, even though it is, in fact, a modern watch that can be taken in the water at any time. To be honest, I preferred the model without a date, but Longines ceased production of that particular reference. An in-depth review on this watch can be found here.

Longines Legend Diver

4. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver Ref.15703

I am no particular fan of the Offshore collection from Audemars Piguet. I am much in favor of AP’s more toned-down Royal Oak models like the Extra-Thin (or “Jumbo”) models as well as some Royal Oak chronographs, preferably in 39-mm cases instead of the more recent 41-mm models. The Royal Oak Offshore models are highly in demand though, so I may be in the minority. One of the Royal Oak Offshore models I could see myself wearing, however, is this Diver watch. Audemars Piguet made a few special divers’ editions in the past (the Scuba and a special edition for Wempe’s 125th anniversary), and a few years ago introduced a similar model into its regular Royal Oak Offshore collection. The Offshore Diver (Reference 15703) is an impressive watch with lots of rubber. Besides the strap, the traditional octagonal bezel and the two crowns (one for winding, one for operating the inner diving bezel) have a clearly visible rubber seal. The caseback does not show the movement of this watch, but I had a Royal Oak in my personal collection with the same movement, and a transparent caseback, so I can tell from my own experience that it is a wonderfully finished movement. A hands-on review on this watch can be found here. To be completely honest, I wouldn’t take this watch near the water, even though it’s obviously suited to be worn there. Again, you could find me at the bar wearing this one.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver

5. Omega Seamaster PloProf 1200M

Another Omega? Well, yes. I actually love the vintage PloProf from the early 1970s, the one that Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli was wearing so stylishly over his cuffs. But, to be honest, I wouldn’t dare to take a vintage piece into the water. So, a few years ago, I got my hands on Omega’s re-edition of the PloProf and reviewed it for Fratellowatches (here). It is a hyper-modern watch but clearly the offspring of that first PloProf 600M model. I like the fact that Omega used its new in-house Caliber 8500 in this model, and that it used a metal (rather than plastic) button to turn the bezel.  One of the things that clearly had changed was the construction of the case and crown. Perhaps for the better, but I love the old monocoque (one-piece) case. I do not believe it is a best-seller from the Omega collection (probably due to the large size and outspoken design), but I wouldn’t mind wearing this one during the holidays near (or even in) the pool.

Omega Seamaster PloProf 1200M

What do you think? What are your own favorite divers’ watches? Let us know in the comments box below.

This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.

56 Responses to “Fratello’s Top 5 Favorite Divers’ Watches”

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  1. Salvino Briganti

    My Top 5 Divers

    1) Rolex Sea Dweller 4000
    2) Tudor Hydro 1200 on Rubber Strap or ZULU
    3) Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean, 45.5mm on Stailess Bracelet.
    4) Tudor Pelagos Titanium
    5) Brietling Super Ocean Heritage

    Reply
  2. ronald cohen

    For as little as £200. take a look at the Sekado ultimate chronograph tritium. its incredible value for money, Very well made Tritium dial, ok, its made in china but so what!

    Reply
  3. Solid performance divers at a “reasonable” luxury brand price…the previous generation IWC Aquatimer ( ref. 3568 ). 2000 meter WR, sapphire bezel, awesome lume and visibility, dependable workhorse modified ETA , high quality comfortable rubber strap and/or bracelet with quick change system. All in all…great bang for the buck. Deserves a spot on the list.

    Reply
  4. Bert Allen

    Add the Seiko solar diver. Dead-on-accurate, it leaves imprecise automatics in the shallows.

    Reply
  5. I can not afford any of those watches. But love every one of them. I’m an actual diver. But have a hard time finding budget divers watches. The best price conscious I have been able to afford are invicta’s on eBay. Which are in the few hundred dollar range.
    However; I would love to find alternatives. I’m open to suggestions. I actually need them.

    Reply
    • i would take a look at the Seiko diver’s 200m skx model, a lot of bang for your buck, this coming
      from a diver.

      Reply
  6. Try a Loyal 500m divers watch (digital or mechanical) Sells for about $600aud and is available at Wallace Bishops shops around Australia. I wear one but not for swimming , too much sentimental value

    Reply
  7. Robinoz

    These articles keep reappearing – I guess there is only so much you can write about watches.

    I love the Longines Diver as it looks more like a dress watch than a diving watch, but obviously has the ability to withstand depth and has the required diving bezel.

    It look similar to the Maurice Lacroix watch dial with the thin lines instead of circles or numerals. I’d be happy to wear one as a dress watch.

    Reply
  8. Are there any dive watches for women?? Smaller than 36mm? Been searching for more than a week. Having a really hard time finding any :(

    Reply
    • There are, but not that many (you should have better chances with a vintage watch). Especially if you want to go below 36 mm. Nevertheless I would recommend to first check out Oris and Breitling, both have just introduced beautiful new 36 mm models (Superocean II and Aquis). Also you might want to check out Seiko and especially Doxa: as far as I know the brand is still offering NOS versions of the Sub 200 with orange dial in a 35 mm case (black and silver dial versions are available as well). And I think Citizen offers some smaller dive watches as well.

      Reply
  9. Robert McNeil

    Great list…I would have added the Blancpain…Fifty Fathoms 8-)

    Reply
  10. Ian Bernadt

    My Swiss Military Watch 20,000 feet is outstanding value.It’s the worlds toughest watch and it look’s it.It’s a large though relatively lightweight titanium watch and is both a chronograph and chronometer with a massive titanium bracelet and clasp.It’s comfortable to wear and always draws comments.
    I’ve never done any diving especially down to 20,000 feet but it’s ideal for wearing around the pool.

    Reply
  11. I am enjoying my ORIS Depth Gauge with the added depth meter. Great looking watch, Great value for money

    Reply
  12. I know it isn’t an expensive watch, but I think the Seiko SK 007 needs to be on the list. A solid, world-class watch that is actually worn by most (or at least many) dive instructors. It just keeps working and working and working…

    Reply
  13. Rudolf de Bruin

    The FF and a Panerai will be on most guys’ short list. Fortunately they now make the old seadweller again. Often wonder why companies stop making iconic models;they sure were still selling well enough!

    Reply
  14. Peter Stumme

    Love your choices; however, for the average Joe, Frank or Peter (wink, wink) I might add a Deep Blue choice, like the Ocean Diver.

    Regards!

    Pete

    Reply
  15. Eddie Knight

    Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Zodiac Sea Wolf and Super Sea Wolf series were more popular with real divers than any of these, except maybe the Rolex, which cost a LOT more. Guess its all in whether or not you want a fancy over-priced watch or a real, usable tool. Probably before your time anyway…

    Reply
    • Richard Johnson

      I think that one omission that needs mentioning again is the Blancpain 50 fathoms; either the basic model or the chronograph. They both have the Sapphire bezel, the chrono can be operated down to the maximum depth of 300 meters, and the basic model is anti-magnetic, and has a seven day movement. (Just in case you plan to stay underwater that long )

      Although the farthest I get into deep water is in the shower, I have seen on many occasions that the president of Blancpain is an avid skin diver, and has been photographed on numerous occasions diving with both of those watches!

      Reply
  16. Leo Sitorus

    I like my Longines Legend Diver. I’ve been wearing this watch for diving several times.

    Reply
  17. Bert Kanne

    I’m being totally honest; all of these watches are grossly overpriced status symbols. NONE of them match the value, appearance, performance and even attention to detail found in many dive watches from brands such as Seiko, Deep Blue and Orient. I would love for someone to prove me wrong!

    Reply
    • you are most definitely right, there are so many good dive watches under a $1000 with good
      swiss movements.

      Reply
  18. Panerai, as one of the first diving watches made and expressly for the Italian Navy should definitely warrant a mention. Definitely an omission in my opinion.

    Reply
    • Pete s

      Yes 100% agree my Luminor Submersible is the coolest of them all

      Reply
    • Of course it should have been mentioned. But the Seiko Marine Master is designed for real divers. For those who want to feel important under the shower, and out of it, the luxury diver watches might be more appealing.

      Reply
  19. How about the Ulysse Nardin maxi Marine diver. Great in the water and also stands out on the bar.

    Reply
    • While i love my UN Diver, I am less impressed with my UN Blue Sea, a handsome watch which is difficult to read in or out of the water. As someone else has commented, there’s no need to drop big bucks on a diver. My favorites are my Orange Monster and two bronze models made by a start up company Makara. None cost more than $300, an added bonus.

      Reply
  20. The Seiko SBDB 009 has to be right up there. Traded an Omega Planet Ocean XL (previous generation movement) for it. Fit and finish right up there with the PO. Lume – I’ll put it against any other watch. Bezel – smoothest, best feel of any I’ve tried, no play either. And that second hand, mesmerizing.

    Reply
  21. The new Seiko SBDB 009 has to be right up there. Traded an Omega Planet Ocean (previous generation, non in house movement) for it. Very surprised at the fit and finish of this watch, every bit as good as the PO. Lume – unbelievable, bezel – best action I’ve ever felt, no play what so ever. And that second hand….mesmerizing. The higher end Seiko’s do not get the respect they deserve here in the US.

    Reply
  22. Most decent watches these days are waterproof to 100 m which is more than most divers need. I have a Tag-Heuer Professional 1000 diving watch that I have snorkelled with in Bali without any issues and swam with at various other places.

    Tag-Heuer’s Aquaracer is a good watch as are the Formula One watches, any of which I’d be happy to wear snorkelling (I live in Central Australia, so I don’t do much of that) or, as Robert-Jan says, wear “in a bar”.

    There are so many nice watches to choose from, I guess it comes down to cost.

    Reply
  23. As veteran recreational diver, wreck diver and mixed gas diver I can tell you that my Rolex Submariner 1987 16800A has survived everything I ever did as a diver. I wore on the outside of my wetsuit, drysuit and skinsuit. It got banged up inside steel hull wrecks and all the auxiliary equipment I wore on saturation dives. I still wear today as an everyday watch.

    You don’t want a fancy watch when diving. You want a rugged dependable watch. Granted that we have sophisticated mixed gas dive computers to monitor our dives but we train to be able to calculate (in our head or on an underwater writing pad) our gas consumption and remaing gas using elapsed time and standard formulas. If the computer fails we depend on our watch!

    Reply
  24. deepdiver69

    They are all great watches. of course.. but there was no mention of Doxa…/?????? why not?? Doxa makes an exceptional diving watch… its one of the toughest and best looking watches I have ever owend. Rolex yes of course have been making great diving watches for a very long time… But Doxa is at the top of my list for being tough and rugged .. and the look come on bright orange.. who in there right mind would pass that up….

    Reply
  25. My choice, which I’ve used in the perilous depths of my neighborhood pool, is the Seiko Prospex 300 m, aka the tuna can.Rugged, reliable and every bit of it made in Japan, the very unique and functional design is an affordable watch which easily holds its amongst the watches mentioned in this list and by the readers.

    Reply
  26. I became a scuba diver In Miami Beach, when I was 15. I’ve bought a Rolex Submariner as soon as I became a diver. I’ve dived all over the world with a Rolex & never had any trouble with them. I’ve had several & now my favorite is a gold sub, which I wore on a 139 ft. dive In the Bahamas several years ago. It’s not that deep for many divers, but I was happy with It. There are many great dive watches out there, but Rolex has alway’s done a great job, so I have no reason to switch to a different brand.

    Reply
  27. I agree on your choices but I have the Omega proplof and it is still iconic.

    Reply
  28. Leo Sitorus

    I love my LLD :-), and regret didn’t buy a Sea-Dweller Z-series in 2007 when it was discontinued.

    Reply
  29. Andy Chapman

    Breitling Superocean Pro please. I’ll take a 2002 vintage with the yellow dial and the heavy duty rubber strap, and make that to go my good man! The south china sea is calling.

    Regards,

    Andy C.

    Reply
  30. @JeffBD excellent! I love that slim bezel. And Robert… I think you see that the FF is a true favorite haha!

    Reply
  31. You forgot the BlancPain Fifty Fathoms. Only divers watch I would ever wear, well except for that beautiful Longines you mentioned….

    Reply
    • I didn’t forget it, it is just not in my personal top 5 :) I like the FF though, especially the vintage models and the models with the logo on the dial. There are also some FF models I really don’t get. Blancpain seems to be ‘lost’ some times when doing all sorts of variants of their classic pieces.

      Reply
  32. While I love all of the watches you have listed for this article, I believe there is a glaring omission. The iconic Blancpain Fifty Fathoms certainly belongs near the top of your list. Leaving this diver out of this article and off your list, in my opinion, is akin to making a PB&J sandwich but leaving out the Jelly!

    Reply
    • As veteran recreational diver, wreck diver and mixed gas diver I can tell you that my Rolex Submariner 1987 16800A has survived everything I ever did as a diver. I wore on the outside of my wetsuit, drysuit and skinsuit. It got banged up inside steel hull wrecks and all the auxiliary equipment I wore on saturation dives. I still wear today as an everyday watch.

      You don’t want a fancy watch when diving. You want a rugged dependable watch. Granted that we have sophisticated mixed gas dive computers to monitor our dives but we train to be able to calculate (in our head or on an underwater writing pad) our gas consumption and remaing gas using elapsed time and standard formulas. If the computer fails we depend on our watch!

      Reply
    • I think the Fifty Fathoms would be useful to a decompression diver as a backup to a analog depth gage. Whenever you are doing decompression dives you need redundant depth gauges.

      Reply
  33. Mahir Ozdamar

    A very Omega centric selection. I would have included an orange Doxa, a true classic.

    Reply
    • Hello Mahir,

      I am familiar with Doxa of course, but it wasn’t on my radar. You have to know that Doxa is far more popular in the US then it is where I’m from. But I will look at Doxa next time.

      Reply
  34. christopher

    Divers watches are great value regardless of brand, you can dive or just swim and surf with them on and generally get them wet at any time and they have the additional benefit of being rugged as well. Not all brands are unaffordable either. Good all round value .

    Reply
  35. Bremont Supermarine s2000! Scratch-resistant, shock-resistant, buttoned down British good looks!

    Reply
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