Diving has been a sport and science since the early 20th century. Before the age of diving computers and advanced technical equipment, there was the dive watch. Dive watches serve the primary purpose of recording the time a diver spends underwater, but they’ve also found a place on the wrists of desk divers and sports enthusiasts alike.
The post-war period of the 1950’s marks a significant time in the history of the dive watch. Diving was growing in popularity as a sport, thanks to Jacque Cousteau’s invention of the aqualung and his popularization of sea exploration. In 1953 in particular, a surge of dive watches entered the consumer market. Many, like the Rolex Submariner, are now considered iconic.
A few key features separate a dive watch from other sports watches. They must have at least 100 meters of water resistance—this is one of the primary requirements dictated by the International Organization for Standardization that regulates the guidelines for dive watches. Typically, dive watches have luminous hands, markers, and sometimes even bezels for maximum visibility. Most models include a helium release valve to protect against damage from potential helium saturation. Many dive watches also have a unidirectional rotating bezel with distinct markings to highlight or differentiate the first fifteen minutes, which allows elapsed time to be tracked easily and accurately.
The dive watch is now one of the most popular watch styles in the world because of its versatile, sporty appeal. Today, you can find them serving dive masters everywhere and even hiding quietly under the shirt cuffs of some of the world’s most prominent national leaders.
1. IWC Aquatimer Automatic Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau Blue
The IWC Aquatimer Automatic Expedition Jacques-Yves Cousteau Blue is a special edition model that commemorates Cousteau’s wondrous voyages and films that brought awareness to the beauty of the underwater world.
The Seamaster is Omega’s signature dive watch line, featuring a clean and classic design with global appeal. The brand created the watch with versatility in mind, for both those who appreciate the functionality of a dive watch and those who need a dress watch for everyday wear.
The Longines Heritage Diver Automatic Chronograph combines the sturdy construction of a dive watch with the functionality of a chronograph. The result is a bold yet classic timepiece, perfect for your next dive or everyday wear.
In the 1960’s Rolex developed a relationship with a company that specialized in deep diving operations and needed a watch that could withstand the conditions. The brand modified one of their existing Submariners, which set the blueprint for a new model: the Sea-Dweller.
5. IWC Aquatimer
The IWC Aquatimer is a purpose-built watch engineered specifically for dive masters. With chronograph pushers that work underwater, vivid low-light luminosity, and a modern case design, it’s one of the most superb dive watches on the market.
The Marine Diver is one of the trademark collections of the Ulysse Nardin brand. This line is among one of the first to focus not only on functionality but also on a more elegant and dressy aesthetic to appeal to both divers and everyday wearers alike.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus is quite possibly the most remarkable luxury sport watch of the modern era. The original model was first sketched by Gerald Genta while sitting in a restaurant during the Basel Fair.
The original Rolex Submariner set the tone for legions of dive watches to follow. It’s been over 60 years since the first model was introduced, and it continues to be one of the brand’s most recognized and highly coveted models.
In 1995, James Bond first sported a Seamaster in the film GoldenEye. Since then, the Seamaster has become the official watch of 007 and has been featured in every subsequent Bond movie in the franchise.
The Planet Ocean is where Omega’s 75 years of nautical exploration and technical innovation comes together. This dive watch is built to be the epitome of waterproofness, classic style, and industry-leading chronometric performance for years to come.
What started as a limited-edition run has now become a dynasty. The Panerai Luminor family of timepieces spans the spectrum from dive watches to everyday dress options.
12. Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra
Omega responded to the growing popularity of dive watches by refining the Seamaster’s capabilities. The results was two new subcategories, one being the dressier Aqua Terra line.