OK, so we know you can’t dive right now… (for context, the time of writing is April 2020 and despite some stunning weather making water sports look rather tempting, the whole of the UK is on lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus). But the lockdown will end – probably right about the time that the water starts to warm up – and it’s fun to dream, right? So whether you’re looking for a serious dive watch to accompany you at some of your favourite dive spots, or you like the combination of hard-wearing practicality and undeniable style that dive watches offer, we thought we’d bring you a selection of the best dive watches that won’t break the bank.
What is a dive watch?
First thing’s first: it’s useful to know what a dive watch is and what makes it different from other watch styles out there. So here are a few features that you should look for when buying a dive watch. There is actually an industry classification that defines exactly what a dive watch must have. This standard is called ISO 6425, and while not all dive watches will meet the criteria given in these guidelines, the ISO does provide a number of key features to look for in a dive watch. These include:
The most important feature of a dive watch is, quite obviously, that it is water resistant, i.e. that it will continue to perform underwater. Without getting too technical about it, the agreed industry standard is that a dive watch must be water resistant to a minimum of 100m, though of course, many will be able to go much deeper than this.
As with other watch styles that have developed from practical or sporting applications (Racing and Pilot’s watches, for example) a key feature of a dive watch is that is easy to read. With the shifting light and less-then-perfect visibility that can occur underwater, it’s important that the face of a dive watch can be reliably and accurately read. For this reason the dial is often bold in design, and the hands are luminous to enhance visibility.
A rotating bezel is a tool on the watch that allows a diver to track how long they have been under the water. By turning the bezel back at the start of the dive, and aligning the pointer with the minute hand, the diver has an easy way to track the duration of their dive. Many rotating bezels show five-minute intervals.
There’s no point having all the technology if the strap you use isn’t able to handle the seawater and practical use. So it’s important that a dive watch has a practical strap. Rubber straps are durable, while NATO style straps also perform well in this environment. (If you are wearing your dive watch out in the evenings as well and want a more stylish or sophisticated look, you could consider swapping for a metal or leather strap).
So, with those features in mind, what are the best dive watches for under £500? Here are a few of the most affordable, high quality dive watches on the market today.
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This might be their first dive watch, but as you’d expect from a brand that has become renowned for their attention to detail and distinctive style, Baltic have produced a striking dive watch that is both practical and seriously attractive. The model takes its design cues from vintage dive watch design, with the drilled lugs, the domed sapphire crystal, and even the dimensions true to the classic models of the 60s and 70s. The finer details of the dial offer interest to the enthusiast, with the triangular markers at the 3, 6 and 9 hours providing a thoughtful touch. Water resistant to 200m and available with both rubber and beads of rice metal straps, the Baltic Aquascaphe is a great addition to the dive watch category at an affordable price.
Take a look at the Baltic Aquascaphe.
Seiko’s dive watches have been some of the most popular among dive enthusiasts for decades now, and this model – actually a reissue of their much-loved 6309 range from the 70s and 80s – make it easy to see why. The tough, domed case, from which the nickname Turtle is derived, is large but not cumbersome, with the curves making it comfortable on the wrist. The bold dial is instantly recognisable as a Seiko model, while the 4R36 movement ensures reliability in all conditions, up to a depth of 200m. Undoubtedly one of the factors that have made Seiko dive watches so popular is that they offer all this for a fantastic price point, and this model is no different, coming in at just under £400.
Take a look at the Seiko Turtle.
Geckota G-01 Vintage Style Automatic Divers Watch
While its design language draws heavily on the curved, space age designs that were a feature of the classic dive watches from the 60s, Geckota’s G-01 nonetheless boasts the modern touches and technological innovations that buyers have come to expect from the brand.
It’s not easy to find automatic dive watches under £500, but this model incorporates the SII NH35 automatic movement system within its robust 42mm casing. The watch is also water resistant up to 300m, while the double domed crystal sapphire glass with antireflective coating ensures maximum visibility and strength. Performance like this is a must for a serious dive watch, but this model looks great too, with the brushed dial giving setting off the bold, polished indices of the dial. A stunning and original dive watch at a great price.
Take a look at the G-01 Diver’s Watch.
Citizen Promaster Diver GMT
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Citizen’s Eco-Drive Technology is a major feature of this model, with the solar powered movement system meaning the need for a battery is negated. Design-wise, it’s a striking watch, with the boldly contrasting orange and black dial perfect for those who like to make a statement with their style. ISO approved, it comes with all the features you would expect from a dive watch, with water resistance up to 200m, luminous indices and anti-reflective crystal sapphire glass, as well as a one-way rotating bezel. Another great option in the dive watches under £500 category.
Take a look at the Citizen Promaster Diver GMT.
Geckota G-02 ETA2824 40mm Diver’s Watch
Coming with a metal, beads of rice strap as standard, and an extremely stylish dial, this watch is an example of how some dive watches can blur the lines between practical and sporty timepiece, and more formal, sophisticated fashion item. The Geckota G-02 takes its inspiration from the era of Jacques Cousteau and the great dive adventurers, with a minimalist yet practical look and a refined finish thanks to the dark dial face and slim indices. Despite the refined look, this has all the robust qualities you would expect from any dive watch, with a sturdy, 316L stainless steel case and water resistance to 200m. For those who love the sturdy feel of a dive watch, yet intend to wear it as an option for occasions other than outdoor adventure as well, this makes a great – and extremely affordable – choice.
Take a look at the G-02 ETA2824 40mm Diver’s Watch
Tissot SeaStar 1000 Chronograph
Their homeland might have no coast to speak of, but Swiss brand Tissot have been making fine dive watches for a number of years now, with their SeaMaster range offering a number of quality options. Many of these don’t quite make it under the £500 price cap for this article, though the 1000 Chronograph model is the exception, providing good value for money with a robust construction and thoughtful style. One standout feature is the chronograph dial – not a requirement for dive watches, but a useful function nonetheless – while the 45.5mm stainless steel case and rotating bezel ensure a sturdy feel. Underpinned by a reliable quartz movement system, the SeaMaster 1000 Chronograph is water resistant up to 300m.
Take a look at the Tissot SeaStar 1000 Chronograph.
Casio G-Shock Frogman GF8235D 1-B
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It’s worth noting that although most traditional dive watches have an analogue dial, there are some good digital dive watches available for under £500 too. Casio’s G-Shock Frogman is a good example of this, combining a number of useful functions for those heading out on underwater adventures. These include dive time and surface interval measurement timers, as well as moon and tide data. Housed in the iconic G-Shock casing with a resin, scratch resistant case, and paired with a strong silicon strap, this makes a great alternative if you prefer a digital style watch.
Take a look at the Casio G-Shock Frogman GF8235D 1-B.
So, there you have it. Some great dive watches for under £500 for you to choose from above, all combining the essential features of a dive watch at an accessible price. We hope this guide has proved useful in introducing you to some affordable options in the dive watch category.