If you’re planning on exploring the depths of the ocean and need a reliable timepiece to accompany you, a dive watch is an essential piece of gear to consider.
With so many options available, picking the right one for your needs can be a daunting task. To help make the process easier, we’ve compiled a list of 11 crucial factors to consider when selecting your first dive watch.
From water resistance and durability to features like bezels and luminescence, these factors will help you find a watch that can withstand the rigors of underwater exploration and keep you on track during your dives.
So, whether you’re a seasoned diver or just starting out, read on to learn more about what to look for in your first dive watch.
11 Important Features to Keep in Mind
By keeping these factors in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to choose a watch that meets your needs and provides a safe and enjoyable diving experience.
1. Water Resistance – At least 200 m
When you’re investing in a dive watch, water resistance is your first priority. When it comes to the best dive watches and their water-resistance ratings, it can get complicated quickly. You should check the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) rating for the particular timepiece you’re eyeing.
The higher the number, the more suitable it is for more serious diving. ISO standards for dive watches are 200m and 300m; anything above that number is considered overspec and unnecessary for recreational diving purposes.
2. Crown – Screw-Down
Another important characteristic of dive watches is the construction of the watch crown. Unlike regular watches, dive watches typically feature screwable crowns instead of push-pull crowns. The screwable crown provides a more watertight and pressure-resistant seal, ensuring that the watch is protected against water damage.
Compared to push-pull crowns, screwable crowns are much less likely to accidentally pop open, which is a critical consideration during a dive. In addition to the screwable crown, most dive watches also feature a screw-down caseback, which provides a more watertight seal than other types of casebacks, such as screw-on and snap-on casebacks.
Overall, the screwable crown and screw-down caseback are essential features of a dive watch that ensure the watch can withstand the harsh conditions of underwater environments and maintain its accuracy and reliability over time.
3. Bezel – Unidirectional Bezel with Minute Markers
The bezel, or the ring around the outside of the watch face, serves only a matter couple of different purposes. On a dive watch, like other sports watches, the rotating bezel is often used as a “countdown timer,” as it’s usually calibrated with markers representing minutes. So by turning it to align with the minute hand when you jump in with your scuba gear, you can track how much time you have underwater.
Additionally, some dive watches will have a unidirectional bezel—meaning it will only turn counterclockwise—to prevent accidentally under-calculating your dive time if you bump into something or otherwise jar it while diving. Pay close attention to how this internal bezel works during your research of other dive watches and make sure to understand the unique way each brand’s bezels operate before deciding on a purchase.
4. Dial and Hands – Luminous That Can Be Read Underwater
The dial of your dive watch should be easy to read, even in low-light conditions. Look for a dial that is marked clearly and is made from quality materials. These materials include a luminous sapphire crystal, ceramic, or steel. The sapphire crystal has greatly increased visibility in dim or dark conditions and is known for its scratch resistance.
The important hands of a dive watch—minute hand, hour hand, chronograph second hand—should be large and legible so you don’t have to squint to read the time underwater. The hands should be easily separated from each other at a glance, as well as from all the watches markings on the dial. Make sure they are made from durable materials such as steel or titanium so they remain legible and do not rust with exposure to water.
5. Material – Stainless Steel, Titanium, or Ceramic
Material is an important factor to consider when buying a dive watch. You want something that is tough and resistant to water and other elements. The most common materials are stainless steel, titanium, and ceramic due to their durability.
Stainless steel is resistant to corrosion, making it the most popular choice. It’s also relatively affordable and comes in different styles such as gold or silver.
Titanium watches are lightweight, durable, and corrosion-resistant. Titanium watch is also hypoallergenic if you have sensitive skin. However, they can be fairly pricey compared to steel models.
Ceramic watches are highly scratch-resistant which makes them perfect for underwater activities. They also offer a sleek aesthetic which can make them a fashionable statement piece as well as a functional watch. However, they tend to be more expensive than other options on the market.
6. Movement – Automatic, Mechanical or Quartz
The type of movement in a watch can greatly affect its performance, and this is especially important when it comes to dive watches. Automatic, mechanical, and quartz movements are the three most common types of movements found in watches, each with their own unique advantages.
- Automatic movements are self-winding and rely on the movement of the wearer’s wrist to keep the watch powered. They are often preferred for their convenience and require minimal maintenance.
- Mechanical movements, on the other hand, are powered by a wound spring and are highly regarded for their craftsmanship and precision. They require regular winding and maintenance to keep them running accurately.
- Quartz movements are battery-powered and offer exceptional accuracy and reliability. They are often used in digital watches and are highly valued for their low-maintenance nature.
7. Strap (Matters a lot!) – Look for Steel or Rubber Bracelets
No true dive watch is complete without a reliable, sturdy strap. The two main types of straps are metal bracelets and rubber or synthetic straps.
Metal bracelets are generally more expensive than other strap types, but they offer superior strength and durability. They warranty a long-lasting product that can withstand even the most challenging dives thanks to their strong construction. Plus, they look great with casual outfits as well as formal attire.
Rubber straps are mild on the skin, resistant to moisture and come in various colors and designs. They’re cheaper than metal bracelets, though they lack the strength of metal ones. Fortunately, there are many synthetic material options available that combine the best of both worlds: affordability with durability and style.
8. Size and Weight – Look for Lightweight; 100-200 grams
When shopping for a dive watch, it’s important to consider the size and weight of the model you’re looking at. Not only should the watch fit comfortably on your wrist, but it should also be lightweight enough to allow you to perform tasks underwater with ease. The ideal weight for a dive watch is around 100-200 grams.
Most dive watches come in different weights—from lightweight polymers to heavy steel cases—and you’ll want to make sure you pick something that won’t drag you down while swimming or diving. Check out various models and feel the weight difference, as this can make all the difference during a dive.
9. Helium Release Valve – Optional
Dive watches may feature a helium release valve as an optional component. This valve is typically located on the opposite side of the crown and is designed to release helium molecules that can accumulate inside the watch case during saturation diving.
Helium release valves are essential for commercial saturation divers and military divers who spend prolonged periods at great depths in diving bells or submersibles. During these dives, the helium gas can penetrate the watch case and build up pressure as the divers return to the surface. If the pressure is not released, it can cause the watch crystal to pop off or damage the movement.
By releasing the excess gas through the helium release valve, the watch case’s pressure can be regulated without compromising its water resistance.
It is worth noting, however, that a helium release valve is not necessary for recreational scuba diving, as helium gas does not usually penetrate the watch case during normal diving activities. This feature is typically found on high-end professional dive watches and is designed for use in extreme deep-sea conditions.
10. Brand Reputation – Look for Reviews
It’s important to do your research and ensure that you’re investing in a reliable and respected brand. Some features to look out for include:
- Longevity: Look for a brand with a long history of producing quality dive watches.
- Innovation: A brand that continually innovates and improves their watches is more likely to produce reliable and high-quality timepieces.
- Professional partnerships: Check to see if the brand has partnerships with professional divers or organizations, as this can be a sign of their commitment to producing high-quality dive watches.
- Customer reviews: Read customer reviews and feedback to get an idea of the brand’s reputation and the quality of their products.
- Service and support: A reputable brand should offer excellent customer service and support, including warranties and repair services.
11. Price – Depends on Your Budget
You can get all the features you need for recreational diving at an affordable price, starting at S$200. Of course, if you’re looking for a more professional model or divers watch with specialized features like multiple time zones or helium valves, then you should expect to pay more, up to hundreds of thousands.
The bottom line is that it’s important to find a dive watch that fits your budget without sacrificing quality or safety.
5 Best Dive Watches to Consider this 2023
1. COMEX Rolex Submariner No Date – Stainless Steel & Black Dial – Ref No. 5514
The Rolex Submariner Reference 5514 is one of the rarest models in the Submariner lineup, and it is the only Submariner that was ever fitted with a helium release valve.The Reference 5514 is a limited edition model that was produced in 1975, and it is highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts alike.
It features an automatic movement with 26 jewels and a Kal. 1520 caliber. The case is made of steel and measures 40mm in diameter, with a steel bezel and plexiglass crystal. The dial is black with no numerals, giving it a sleek and classic look.
The bracelet is made of steel and features a fold clasp, providing a comfortable and secure fit. This Submariner is equipped with a rotating bezel, helium release valve, making it a reliable and functional dive watch that can withstand the demands of deep-sea exploration.
- Production Year: 1975
- Case Size: 40mm
- Dial – Black
- Bracelet – Unidirectional, ceramic
- Bezel – Steel
- Function: Hours, Minutes, Seconds
- Mechanism: Automatic, Kal. 1520
2. Omega Seamaster Diver 300M – Stainless Steel & Ceramic Dial – Ref No. 196.1522
Another popular choice among divers is the Omega Seamaster Diver watch. Known for its sleek design and reliable performance, this watch boasts a water-resistance of up to 300 meters. With its iconic blue and green dial, and rugged yet elegant design, the Omega Seamaster Professional diver is suitable for both underwater adventures and daily wear.
This model features a helium escape valve for saturation diving, a screw-in crown, and versatile strap options such as steel or rubber strap.
- Production Year: 1998
- Case Size: 36mm
- Dial – Blue dial with luminescent markers
- Bracelet – Stainless steel
- Bezel – Unidirectional, ceramic
- Function: Date
- Mechanism: Quartz
3. Seiko Prospex SRPA21
The Seiko Prospex SRPA21 offers a more affordable option without compromising on quality and features. This dive watch from Seiko watches has water-resistant up to 200 meters and features automatic movement for accurate timekeeping. The iconic blue wave dial and Pepsi bezel design give it a distinct and appealing appearance. The Seiko Prospex SRPA21 is built to withstand the rigors of diving and daily wear.
It has ISO-rated water resistance, Lumibrite lume for enhanced legibility, screw-down crown, and a stainless steel case and metal mesh bracelet together, for durability.
- Production Year: 2016
- Case Size: 45mm
- Dial – Blue with luminescent markers
- Bracelet – Stainless steel
- Bezel – Unidirectional, stainless steel with aluminum insert
- Function: Date, Weekday
- Mechanism: Seiko Caliber 4R36, automatic, 41 hour power reserve
4. Citizen Promaster Diver – Stainless Steel & Black Dial – Ref No. BN0085-01E
The Citizen Pro-master Diver is a highly reliable and eco-friendly dive watch designed for both novice and experienced divers. With the impressive power reserve and its solar-powered Eco-Drive technology, it eliminates the need for battery replacements, ensuring longevity and full battery life for hassle-free usage. Its robust construction and practical features make it a favorite among diving enthusiasts and watch collectors alike.
This watch has a solar-powered dive watch featuring Eco-Drive technology, providing an environmentally friendly and hassle-free option for divers. This innovative solar-powered system converts any light source into energy to power the watch, eliminating the need for battery replacements.
- Production Year: 2023
- Case Size: 48mm
- Dial – Black with luminescent markers
- Bracelet – Polyurethane
- Bezel – Unidirectional, stainless steel with aluminum insert
- Function: Date
- Mechanism: Citizen Caliber E168, quartz, Eco-Drive
5. Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight – Stainless Steel & Black Dial – Ref No. 79030N-0
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight is a dive watch that packs style and performance in a compact package. With a water resistance of up to 200 meters and an in-house movement, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight offers great value for its price. The 39 mm case size makes it perfect for those who prefer a more vintage-inspired look. The stylish black dial, snowflake hands, and domed sapphire crystal create a sophisticated and classic aesthetic.
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight boasts a vintage-inspired design, COSC-certified in-house movement, screw-down crown, and 200m water resistance. Its 39mm case size offers a comfortable fit, and the choice of a riveted steel or fabric strap allows for customization.
- Production Year: 2018
- Case Size: 39mm
- Dial – Blue with luminescent markers
- Bracelet – Steel
- Bezel – Unidirectional, aluminum
- Function: Time and no-date
- Mechanism: Caliber MT5402, automatic, 70-hour power reserve
At A Glance: Comparison of Dive Watches
|Model||Rolex SubMariner||Omega Seamaster Diver 300M||Seiko Prospex SRPA21||Citizen Promaster Diver||Tudor Black bay Fifthy-Eight|
|Bezel||Ceramic||Ceramic||Stainless steel, aluminum insert||Stainless steel, aluminum insert||Aluminum|
|Dial and hands||Luminescent markers||Luminescent markers||Luminescent markers||Luminescent markers||Luminescent markers|
|Material||Oystersteel||Stainless steel||Stainless steel||Stainless steel||Stainless steel|
|Movement||Caliber 3235, automatic||Co-Axial Caliber 8800, automatic||Seiko Caliber 4R36, automatic||Citizen Caliber E168, quartz, Eco-Drive||Tudor Caliber MT5402, automatic, COSC-certified|
|Strap||Oystersteel||Stainless steel or rubber||Stainless steel||Polyurethane||Riveted steel or fabric|
|Size and Weight||40mm, 155g||42mm, 166g||45mm, 190g||44mm, 170g||39mm, 150g|
|Helium Release Valve||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Purpose||Professional Dive||Professional Dive||Recreational Dive||Recreational Dive||Recreational Dive|
Please note that pre-owned prices may vary based on the watch’s condition, age, and rarity. It’s essential to research and consult a reliable source before making a purchase.
1. Do divers actually use dive watches?
Yes, divers do use dive watches as they provide essential information such as dive time, which helps monitor air consumption and decompression stops. Dive watches are also built to withstand the pressure and conditions experienced during diving.
2. What is the point of a dive watch?
The primary purpose of a dive watch is to track dive time and ensure divers’ safety. Dive watches also feature water resistance, luminescent markers for visibility, and rotating bezels to track elapsed time. They are often used as a backup to digital dive computers.
3. Does Rolex make a dive watch?
Yes, Rolex makes dive watches, with the most famous model being the Rolex Submariner. This iconic timepiece is highly sought after for its exceptional build quality, precision, and timeless design.
4. Is Garmin a dive watch?
Garmin produces dive computers, such as the Garmin Descent series, which offer more advanced features than traditional dive watches. These devices include depth, temperature, and ascent rate tracking, GPS, and more. While not a traditional dive watch, Garmin’s dive computers are specifically designed for diving needs.
Selecting the ideal dive watch involves a thorough analysis of various factors, but with the insights provided in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to make a well-informed decision.
- Water resistance is the most important factor to consider when purchasing a dive watch. Look for an ISO rating of at least 200m for recreational diving.
- The screwable crown and screw-down caseback are essential features that ensure the watch can withstand the harsh conditions of underwater environments.
- Look for a unidirectional bezel with minute markers, luminous dial and hands, and durable materials like stainless steel, titanium, or ceramic.
- The strap of a dive watch is important for both comfort and durability. Look for steel or rubber bracelets, or synthetic materials that combine affordability with durability and style.
- Price is ultimately dependent on your budget, but it’s important to find a dive watch that fits your needs without sacrificing quality or safety.
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