Six dive watches that are sweet as pecan pie.
Once again, Thanksgiving is upon us. For most of us in the United States, we’ll either be reading this article, waiting for dinner to cook, or recovering from a turkey-induced coma. The best type of watch content for any of these cases covers something we’re all familiar with, that special something that feels like home on the wrist. Dress watches are becoming less common in collections these days. Pilots’ watches will always have a fan base. Chronographs and the daily-wear watch will never go out of style. But it’s that waterproof mainstay – the dive watch – that has a home in nearly all collections.
The dive watch wasn’t the first waterproof style of watch; the Omega Marine and Rolex Oyster case came well before the first official dive watches. To be a dive watch in the early days required 200 meters of water resistance, with 300 meters being the more common target today. What’s also needed is a rotating bezel with timing markers, so that a diver can easily time stops while ascending to the surface. Eventually, basic dive watches led to watches that could go even deeper and require helium escape valves, but that’s not something most of us will ever need to worry about. The ability to shrug off most situations dealing with water entering the watch is the number one reason the dive watch is so popular, but don’t discount the sporty look added by the external bezel.
Here are six different dive watches for you to choose from, and six reasons to decide which one you want to add to your holiday collection.
Rolex Submariner Ref. 16610
Let’s start things off with the most famous dive watch of them all: the Rolex Submariner. It’s been around since 1953 and is responsible for much of the success of the entire category. With almost 70 years of consecutive production, it’s remarkable to see how little this watch has changed from the original. It’s evolved from aluminum bezel to ceramic, grown a little in size, and the movement has been continuously upgraded and tweaked along the way. The wide selection of how-vintage to how-modern you want to go is entirely up to you. For me, the ref. 16610 here is right in the sweet spot, it’s part of the first two years of the Submariner that uses LumiNova and not Super-LumiNova. This watch also has the older aluminum bezel and drilled lug holes, both of which can be found on vintage watches. The previous Submariner generation has tritium lume that will eventually fade and crack, while the watches made after this one will lose the drilled lug holes and start to evolve into the newer models you often see today.
Breitling SuperOcean Automatic 36 A17316
Not all dive watches need to be oversized, and not all dive watches need to be monochromatic. Breitling shows us how to have a little fun with a bright blue dial and dark blue bezel. At 36mm, this is a dive watch for the thinner-wristed among us that don’t appreciate the larger watch trend. This smaller dive watch has the older standard of 200 meters water resistance, but that’s still plenty for most situations that a weekend diver will find themselves in, and 200 meters more than someone at a desk needs.
OMEGA Seamaster 300M Co-Axial Master Chronometer 188.8.131.52.04.001
Famous for being the modern James Bond watch, the OMEGA Seamaster 300M has steadily improved since it was initially introduced in 1993. The first generation was a solid watch, but a far cry from its current generation. Today the 300M has a Co-Axial escapement, METAS certification, ceramic bezel, and ceramic dial with a fit and finish that rivals its Rolex counterpart. The one part of this watch that tends to divide people is the helium escape valve at 10 o’clock. It can be a deal breaker for some, and for others, it’s part of the charm and history of the watch.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay Red 79220
This is the watch that relaunched Tudor. In 2012 Tudor made a comeback to the international market with a dive watch leading the way. The Heritage Black Bay was inspired by the older Tudor Submariners – a watch that was part Rolex, part Tudor. The new ref. 79220 was all Tudor, with a new case, an older style aluminum bezel, and a vintage-inspired big crown without crown guards. The red bezel was also the first one to come out, forgoing the usual black bezel on a black dial that we usually see. Later models of the Heritage Black Bay will come with an in-house movement instead of the ETA found in this model. With that change to the new movement, the Tudor Rose logo is removed and replaced with the Tudor shield. It’s unfortunate that Tudor decided to drop the popular rose logo for the shield, a choice that may make these original models a future collectible.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300M Calibre 5 WAY201S-0
When talking about dive watches, the Aquaracer is often unfairly skipped over. The spec sheet is that of a bona fide diver, 300 meters of water resistance, a screw-down crown, uni-directional dive bezel, and enough lume to read it all underwater. To top it off, at 12mm thick, the only thing on this list that’s thinner is the 36mm Breitling. The matching green bezel and dial is a color scheme that is one made famous by the Rolex Hulk, but the brighter shade used on the Aquaracer means they will not be mistaken for one another from across the room. This is a good thing, as the Aquaracer deserves its own praise for being a well-built dive watch, and though it may not be a Submariner, it’s certainly not priced as one either.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 5000-36S40-O52A
It’s time to finish the list off with the O.G. dive watch. In fairness to Rolex, the Submariner did come out the same year as the Fifty Fathoms, but it didn’t have the uni-directional bezel that truly makes a safe dive watch. In the years since they were both released, Rolex and Blancpain have moved on to more luxury timepieces than old-school tool watches. This is reflected in the Bathyscaphe models of the Fifty Fathoms. These models are meant to have a cleaner and more streamlined look, to fit in with the common trend of wearing a tool watch with a suit. This may rub some with a more conservative sartorial view, but hey, it’s the trend. If it helps, this model is made in 18k rose gold, a metal meant more for the opera than the ocean.
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