How to Choose a Good Dive Watch (That you can actually dive with)

How to Choose a Good Dive Watch

The watch world is flooded with dive watches of all imaginable sizes, shapes, colors and styles. Unfortunately some of these are “fashion” watches masquerading as dive watches. While they may have borrowed the look of a classic diver, they have no business being under the water’s surface and certainly won’t last long at depth. So what do you do when you want a good looking, but more importantly, functional dive watch?

A good functional Dive Watch has six basic functions that allow for safe operation in the crushing depths of the ocean.

When starting your search for that perfect dive watch to use on your expedition it is important to make sure the watch possesses the standard features required for a safe and enjoyable dive. Some of these features come down to personal preference, while others are absolutely mandatory for both the safety of the diver and the watch.

In addition to the basic features of the watch another consideration is Price. Should you spend the extra cash on a watch that has a rich history, flawless quality control, and exotic materials or stick to a basic yet reliable workhorse? Luckily there are many great choices out there that will fit well within anybody’s budget and I will list my favorites at the end.

The Six Requirements of a Good Dive Watch

1) Water Resistance

How to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Water Droplets Under the Crystal

Water Droplets Under the Crystal

Water resistance is, not surprisingly, the most fundamental and important characteristic of all true dive watches. If you find yourself under the ocean with a cracked crystal and soggy dial, you might as well slip it off and donate the watch to Davy Jones, because it’s not going to be doing you and good.

Water resistance to a minimum of 200 meters depth is generally recommended. In order to meet this depth rating, a dive watch has to meet ISO-6425 specifications, which is a certified international standard for compliant dive watches. Each watch has to withstand a pressure rating that is 25% higher than their stated depth, meaning the dive watch has to pass a lab test simulating 250 meters if it is stated be 200m by the manufacturer.

To achieve water resistance ratings of more than 200 meters, the entire structure of the watch has to be engineered with structural strength in mind. To withstand depths of more than 1000m additional elements may be necessary, including much thicker crystals, beefier cases, Helium escape valves, etc.

The watch case should be made of surgical grade 316L stainless steel or titanium to withstand the intense pressures applied. These are great materials for both their strength and corrosion resistance.

2) Screw Down Crown, Pushers And Case Back

How to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Tudor Submariner with Triplock Screw-Down Crown

Tudor Submariner with Triplock Screw-Down Crown

Since the crown and case back are the most vulnerable points for water to penetrate, your watch should employ a screw down mechanism and have good gaskets to provide a 100% water-tight seal. You should make sure before any diving excursion that each pusher and crown is tightly screwed down for a secure seal. Be sure to check for this feature. Some high end manufacturers employ sealing methods that involve double gaskets, or cam locking mechanisms, but generally the screw down method is the most reliable, and as such most widely used.

3) Unidirectional Rotating Bezel

How to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Unidirectional Bezel on an Orient Mako II

Unidirectional Bezel on an Orient Mako II

All classic dive watches for consideration should include a unidirectional rotating bezel with a luminous marker at the 12 o’clock position. This bezel provides another way to measure elapsed time that is easily readable at a glance. The unidirectional nature of the bezel is a safety feature that ensures that the dial won’t accidentally move backwards during your dive, giving you the impression that you have more time than you actually do. If the bezel does get nudged while underwater, the effect is that you will simply go to the surface slightly earlier. You don’t want to overstay your welcome under water when oxygen is limited, and this feature is just one more safety precaution that you shouldn’t overlook.

4) Clear Legibility

How to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Simple layout with great lume seiko skx007

A Simple Layout with Great Lume Makes the Seiko SKX007 a Popular Dive Watch

The ocean can be a dark place, and the farther down you go the darker it gets. It is because of this that you want your dive watch to be clear, uncluttered, and easy to read at a glance. The hands, hour markers and dial face should be large and uncluttered, with generous amounts of long lasting lume.

5) Corrosion Resistance

How to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Omega Seamaster with Titanium Case and Bezel

Omega Seamaster with Titanium Case and Bezel

One important characteristic of a dive watch that can sometimes be overlooked is the use of corrosion resistant materials, as well as materials that are easy to clean and resist sea salt buildup. You should look for cases that are made of high grade stainless steel or titanium. Other materials that may be incorporated are ceramics and rubber. Avoid plastics as they will become brittle over time.

6) Specialized Bracelet Or Strap

How to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Orsa Monstrum with Rubber Strap and Seiko Monster with Steel Bracelet

Orsa Monstrum with Rubber Strap & Seiko Monster with Steel Bracelet

If you plan on wearing your dive watch both in the water and on dry land, it is important to get a bracelet or strap that can work in either situation. When in the ocean you will generally want to wear your watch over a wetsuit, and as such will need to make it larger to fit. All serious dive watches will have a concealed extendable deployment clasp that allows the bracelet to be extended to fit over a wetsuit. If you don’t want a metal bracelet, there are plenty of rubber or nylon straps out there that would work just as well.

The rest is up to you!

So now that you have the basics down, it’s up to you to find a style that fits your personal preference. If you prefer a giant bezel and bright colors the Seiko Orange MonsterHow to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Seiko Orange Monster could be right up your alley. If you prefer a more subdued look that would work both underwater and in a more formal situation take a look at the Orient Mako or Orient Ray Raven. Are you looking for a timeless design that set the standard for dive watches and tool watches in general? The Rolex SubmarinerHow to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Rolex Submariner is your ticket. Something a little flashier with the same beautiful stylings as a Rolex? Let me introduce you to the Omega Seamaster Planet OceanHow to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Omega Seamaster. Is your last name Bond? Here’s your Omega SeamasterHow to Choose a Good Dive Watch - Omega Seamaster, Mr. Bond; time to dive.

So in summary you want to make sure your watch has the following features:

  • Water Resistance
  • Screw Down Crown (or other sealing mechanism)
  • Unidirectional Dial
  • Clear Legibility & Bright Lume
  • Corrosion Resistance
  • Adjustable Bracelet or Expandable Strap

Looking for further recommendations? Check out some of my Dive Watch Reviews Below:

Bernhardt Binnacle Diver Review

Seiko SKX007 Review

Orient Ray Review

Orient Thresher Review

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  1. John S Grek

    Did you really have to write an article like this rubbing our collectors noses in it? We like these Diver’s watches because they look cool and professional divers will know what they need in order to make a successful dive. I’m happy to know I can fall into the water and not destroy the watch I’m wearing whether I’m out on the Great Lakes or the Ocean.

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