A dive watch (also known as diving or diver watch) is a watch designed for underwater diving (shockingly), that features water resistance greater than 10 atm, the equivalent of 100 meters (330 ft) as a minimum. The typical diver’s watch will have a water resistance of around 200 to 300 meters (660 to 980 ft), though modern technology allows the creation of diving watches that can go much deeper. Basically a Mer-man staple, this watch is designed to be your best friend under water. For a fuller frame of reference, let us *dive* into the history of watchmaking for a brief moment.
History of Dive Watches
Before the 20th century, divers did not have a reliable way to keep track of time while under water. During this period, hard hat divers sometimes placed common pocket watches on the inside of their helmets in order to know the time spent under water. The earliest examples of dive watches were custom made timepieces that were water and dust resistant to a certain degree, known as “Explorer’s Watches”. Later, in the early 20th century, professional dive watches were developed in response to a growing demand. Pioneering the market in 1926, Rolex bought the patent for the Oyster watch case featuring a hermetic seal. The watch was extensively tested in the English channel when swimmer Mercedes Gleitze kept it under the chilly water for 10 hours, passing with flying colors. A close second on the market was the Omega “Marine”, the world’s first industrially produced watch. Created in 1932, the “Marine” was a rectangular watch with a removable case and was able to withstand a 70 meter submersion in Lake Geneva. Another notable early example came after a request from the Italian Navy, the “Radiomir” by Panerai. Fun fact, the case for the “Radiomir” was actually made by Rolex.
Dive Watch Characteristics:
So what exactly makes a watch a dive watch, other than the obvious water resistance? In other words, how can you easily spot and identify them among the sea of time pieces available today? First and foremost, the cases of diving watches have to be sturdier than other watch types, as it is essential for it to withstand the seawater environment at depth. Consequently, diving watches are usually relatively heavy and large compared to dress watches made out of similar materials.
In addition, look for unique characteristics that are based on a specific functionality such as:
- Rotating bezel: an essential diving time indicator on dive watches
- Clearly distinguishable minute markings
- Adequate visibility/readability in darkness from a 25 cm (9.8 inch) distance.
- Running second hand with a luminous tip: showing the watch is running in total darkness
- Magnetic resistance
- Shock resistance
- Chemical resistance (salt water can do some serious damage)
Most of these functions come with unique design elements specific to each watchmaker, ensuring visual appeal and cool branding opportunities.
Milestone Dive Watches:
Along with the milestone dive watches already mentioned in the ‘History’ section of this overview, let us now look at the best-known dive watches available on the market today, with a proven record of unmatched quality and classic, evergreen design.
- Rolex Oyster
- Omega Marine
- Panerai Radiomir
- Seiko 62MAS (the first Japanese dive watch)
- Rolex Submariner
- Omega Seamaster
- Breitling Avenger Seawolf
- Breitling SuperOcean
Dive Watch Buyer's Guide
Most Common Reasons to Buy a Dive Watch
You might be wondering: ‘Okay, diving watches are pretty epic by all accounts, but let’s face the facts here– approximately zero time of my day is spent under water, much less at depths requiring vision in total darkness.’ Well my friend, you will be delighted to know that dive watches evolved to be a gentleman’s staple way beyond the vast blue of the oceans. Here’s just a few reasons why:
- Versatile design: a dive watch is one of those all occasion watches that can be worn to any event ranging from casual all the way to ‘suit and tie’ formal. The only notable exception is a black tie event, in which case you will be in need of a dress watch (see our Dress Watch guide).
- They are water and dust resistant (as you already know), so if you were to find yourself at a pool party, no problem! Spontaneous lake jumping competition? You are all set!
- Classic design. Even the newer pieces are incorporating elements inspired by the classics such as Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster. This is truly what makes dive watches an outstanding choice and a safe bet to invest a little more into. Beautiful design that stands the test of time, making sure you are purchasing a family heirloom, not just a timepiece.
- Great readability. Yes, we all have our cell phones with us all the time, but there’s just something innately cool about looking at your wrist to tell the time. As readability is an essential part of dive watches, this is something you can do after a quick glimpse.
Take a look at our customized dive watch categories sorted by price, each watch thoughtfully selected paying attention to superior quality and lasting design.