The phrase “tool watch” was originally coined to describe watches that serve as tools to accomplish specific tasks, such as a divers’ watch with a rotatable bezel and high resistance to pressure that is designed to be used underwater. And while you wouldn’t want to use these tool watches to hammer nails, they emphasize functionality and are robust, accurate, legible and (ideally) not excessively expensive in case they suffer a scratch or two during rough usage. In this article from our archives, we present eight of them.
1. ORIS BIG CROWN PROPILOT DATE ($1,550)
This pilots’ watch from Oris achieves optimal legibility thanks to its matte dial and impossible-to-overlook hands and numerals, which are coated with plenty of luminous material. The big crown can be operated while wearing gloves. The textile strap is steplessly adjustable thanks to a clamping system; the clasp works like the buckle on a seatbelt aboard an aircraft. With a date display on its dial and a time- tested automatic movement inside its case, this watch offers everything you need. Stainless steel, 41 mm, Sellita SW 220, automatic
2. TUDOR PELAGOS LHD ($4,400)
The letters “LHD” in the name of this divers’ watch stand for “left-hand drive,” like a car with its steering wheel on the left. For a watch, LHD means that the crown is located opposite its usual position. This is convenient for a southpaw who wears the watch on his right wrist. But this watch can also be worn on the left wrist, thus keeping the crown especially well protected against impacts. Tudor’s own auto- matic movement has earned a chronometer certificate and accordingly runs with great precision. The titanium case is extremely resistant to salt- water and can resist water pressure to a depth of 500 meters. A helium-release valve rounds out the professional equipment. Titanium, 42 mm, manufacture Caliber MT5612, automatic; click here for more details.
3. CERTINA DS ACTION DIVER AUTOMATIC ($895)
The DS Action Diver Automatic upholds the ISO standard for divers’ watches. The stainless-steel case is water resistant to 200 meters and has a rotatable bezel with a diving scale. The dial has luminous indexes, along with plenty of luminous material on the hands to assure that the face is always clearly legible, even underwater and in the dark. The time-tested automatic movement and the robust stainless-steel bracelet equip this timepiece for every mission. The price is appealing, too. Stainless steel, 43.2 mm, ETA 2824, automatic.
4. SEIKO PROSPEX AUTOMATIC DIVER’S ($495)
Nicknamed “Turtle” because of the shape of its case, the Prospex Automatic Diver’s was introduced in the 1970s. With an indestructible urethane wristband, a case that resists water pressure to a depth of 200 meters, and a unidirectional rotatable bezel, this watch is optimally equipped to accompany a diver underwater. And despite its low price, it has a self-winding manufacture movement. Seiko makes the crystal from Hardlex, which isn’t quite as scratch-resistant as sapphire, but nonetheless harder than ordinary mineral crystal. Stainless steel, 44 mm, manufacture Caliber 4R36, automatic.
5. TAG HEUER AQUARACER 300M CALIBRE 5 ($2,800)
This classic divers’ watch from TAG Heuer has a trendy military look with a black titanium case, sand-colored textile strap, and sand-colored elements and gray luminous material on the dial. The watch has plenty to offer from a functional standpoint, too: Black titanium-carbide coating resists scratches and the screwed crown contributes toward achieving pressure resistance to a depth of 300 meters. The nonreflective treatment on the sapphire crystal helps assure good legibility. Titanium coated with titanium carbide, 43 mm, ETA 2824 or Sellita SW 200, automatic.
6. BREITLING AVENGER BLACKBIRD ($5,105)
The militarily inspired Avenger Blackbird has a distinctive 48-mm case made of DLC-coated titanium. The coating helps prevent reflections from light, which could betray its wearer’s location. With a unidirectional rotatable bezel, screwed crown, and water resistance to 300 meters, this timepiece is also suitable for diving. In addition to the case, the dial and textile strap are also black. The luminous material on the hands and indexes is beige in daylight conditions. Breitling’s Caliber 17 is based on an ETA 2824 movement and has earned a chronometer certificate to confirm its accuracy. DLC-coated titanium, 48 mm, ETA 2824, automatic; for more on the Blackbird, click here.)
7. ROLEX EXPLORER II ($8,100)
This watch, which debuted in 1971, is made for adventurers, researchers and expedition members. Equipped with a second time zone, the continually updated design has become iconic. This model epitomizes a tool watch, although its high price might make its wearer feel annoyed if the case should suffer a scratch or two. The 904L stainless steel that Rolex uses is more resistant to saltwater than ordinary 316L steel. And Rolex’s manufacture caliber is regarded as the sturdiest and lowest-maintenance automatic movement. Rolex’s famous accuracy is assured not only by a chronometer certificate, but also by the brand’s in-house standards, which specify that the watch be so finely adjusted that it neither gains nor loses more than two seconds per day. Stainless steel, 42 mm, manufacture Caliber 3187, automatic.
8. ALPINA ALPINER 4 AUTOMATIC ($1,395)
Developed for rugged excursions and mountain climbing, the Alpiner 4 is equipped with a sturdy, 44-mm stainless-steel case and a unidirectional rotatable bezel. A soft-iron inner case protects the automatic movement against magnetic fields. The hands and indexes are coated with white luminous material for good legibility. The screwed crown helps keep the case water resistant to 100 meters. Stainless steel, 44 mm, Sellita SW 200, automatic; more details here.)
This article appears in the July-August 2017 issue of WatchTime Magazine.
Any opinions on the Tudor Pelagos divers watch?
For looks the Breitling wins hands down. The Alpina is my second choice.
Where is the Vostok Ampphibia?
Didn’t see any ‘Luxury’ brand in the article
by tool i think we should include altimeter(favre leuba bivouac altimeter watch), world timer with multiple zones etc from mechanical watches, not only divers. Accepted it need not include connectivity( sos watches) , digital or wearables which also are tools
I wish companies would stop naming their watches with the word ‘pilot’ in them, unless they meet certain standards
. 1. GMT- Any pilot’s watch must have a GMT/UTC separate time zone. Everything in aviation uses UTC. Especially important to pilots that traverse multiple time zones.
2. A chronograph or timer. Essential for timing 1-minute holding patterns and ded-reckoning
3. High quality lume or lighting. A watch is useless in a dark cockpit at night without it
Most of the self-proclaimed ‘pilot’ watches have no added benefit to pilots more than any other regular watch.
Mag priced in Ruppies
What is the Euro price
Yes, there are many that could have been listed, but I guess you have to pare down the list somehow. However, I think Sinn has a couple of worthy candidates. And there’s a wide variety here among the watches as far as the ‘luxury’ category is concerned. But, most of the watches here are pretty good, I’d wear many of them.
How is Ball not on this list?
I think it is an option for the most attractive looking, unique diver out there for 1100. U.S., the Yema Heritage 63.
Yes the Black Hawk has a cheap movmt. Yawn. Looks cool, too expensive. I LOVE the Rolex Explorer I, not the II. Simplicity, elegance, PERFECT!! That’s what I want!! And I hope this virus has sidelined the “flippers” FINALLY!! Can I buy it now???? I hope so!! All the others, except the Seiko, I love it too, are just “meh”…..
Nothing in the 38-40mm case range for those of us with smaller wrists?
No objection to your choices. However, don’t forget Doxa, the most diver in a diver watch, and chosen by the best diver, Jacque Cousteau!
what is the difference -tag h formula 1—tag formula 1 professinal ,,thanks rick
Breitling Emergency II should have been at the top of this list
Had the Alpina and the Pelagos. The Alpina doesn’t belong on the list.
That Alpina 4 has a finish just as good as a black bay 58 in the flesh. It belongs here, very sturdy case, anti mag and shock, great sports watch.actually feels more quality in the hand than the black bay.
Certina, Oris, Seiko and Alpina are IMHO no luxury brands. In their range you should check out the new Mido divers. Great.
They certainly are entry level luxury brands. Are we becoming watch snobs?
Don’t call cheap brands luxury just because you can’t afford luxury
Lol cheap brands…. Is Ball luxury?
Great article but the title says 8 “Luxury” brands. At least 4 are not (arguably 5).
Why no G-Shocks?
Good write up but the title says 8 Luxury brands.
At least 4 (arguably 5) are not lux.
The Alpina bezel rotates in both directions.
Why is Sinn no there? Like the EZM 3F
Thanks for this wonderful list, it clearly shows you have good taste in timepieces. There isn’t one of them that wouldn’t look good on my wrist.
The big shout goes out to the Breitling Avenger Blackbird for its good looks and unusual subtlety that Breitling is not particularly known for.
The price is also very keen for this brand so it’s a winner in my view. I better start saving.
48mm is not very subtle :-)
AND the price tag for a 2824!
I have the 48 mm Blackbird and have never regretted buying it. Awesome looks, simple aesthetic, accuracy, and titanium case. It wears smaller than you might think, but who wants to wear a girly-man watch anyway?