The Seven Best Diving Watches To Buy Now

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The Seven Best Diving Watches To Buy Now

Words by Mr Chris Hall and Mr Alex Doak

4 September 2023

For almost as long as wristwatches have existed, people have wanted to take them underwater. Rolex invented the first properly waterproof watch in the shape of the Oyster case in 1926 and the following year pioneered the concept of the “brand ambassador” by putting one on the wrist of cross-Channel swimmer Ms Mercedes Gleitze. Waterproofing improved rapidly as watch companies met the demands of the world’s militaries in the 1940s, and diving watches achieved true popularity in the 1950s and 1960s as scuba diving became a leisure activity, accelerating technological advances in screwed-down crowns, rubber gaskets and rotating bezel rings circling the dial. Nowadays, they are prized for their workaday “throw on and forget” factor, bold and simple looks, their thick case’s resistance to magnetism… But that doesn’t stop Switzerland’s finest continuing to enhance their aquatic performance. Here are seven of the coolest dive watches on the market today.

01. Jaeger-LeCoultre

Polaris Date Automatic 42mm

Like Sir Sean Connery stripping from wetsuit to dinner suit at the start of Goldfinger, timing an explosion with his equally appropriate Rolex Sub, the Polaris Date sashays effortlessly and reminiscently from scuba to bar. Given Jaeger-LeCoultre’s mastery of every conceivable point in manufacturing a precision timekeeper, you needn’t be fooled by this rugged water baby’s arguably higher-scoring sartorial cool. Sure enough, it will see you or any secret operative all the way down to 200 murky metres. And that’s even complete with its most dashing party piece: a sapphire caseback looking into the new generation calibre 899 mechanics.

02. Bremont

Argonaut Automatic 42mm

You’re looking at the culmination of an unprecedented watchmaking programme: the ultimate battle-ready diving watch, honed from Bremont’s years supplying specially commissioned chronometers to elite military units, rewarded by an exclusive audience with those operatives and, as a result, earning endorsement from all three of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. As if you needed more proof of its 300m-rated depth-plunging worthiness, its inner mechanics and internal dive-time bezel are all protected by the maritime material every navy swears by, with every water-facing fixture or fitting: CuSn8 bronze of the highest corrosion resistance.

03. Bell & Ross

BR 03-92 Diver Military Limited Edition Automatic 42mm

In style at least, if not nationality, this new recruit from Parisian watchmaker Bell & Ross is GI Joe to Bremont’s bronze-hewn Action Man, kitted out in behind-enemy-lines black ceramic case and olive-drab dial. Photoluminescent hands and indices guarantee legibility, albeit with a stealthy low glow, while the rubber strap is engineered for durability in the field. Square cases with corner stress points are no mean technical feat for diving watches rated down to 300m, which promotes this frogman to mission leader.

04. Oris

Aquis Depth Gauge Automatic 45.8mm

Deliberately engineering a hole into the sapphire crystal dome of a watch supposed to survive the crushing depths of 500m seems foolhardy, let alone extending that cavity most of the way round the perimeter. But this surface-level detail is a stroke of economical genius from Oris: the deeper you get, the further round the meniscus of seawater forces its way into the air pocket. Sure, it took a fair bit of hydraulic trial and error to adjust the crystal capillary’s inner texture and volume, before declaring it as reliable a depth gauge as the inner mechanics are at timekeeping, but as an alternative to miniaturised metal-alloy bellows, it’s elegance incarnate. And handsome at that.

05. Panerai

Submersible QuarantaQuattro Automatic 44mm

Florence’s wartime supplier to Italian naval frogmen may still hark back to those daredevil exploits, and indeed retain the butch, if cushion case shape that has come to define Panerai. But the brand, reinvented as a fine Swiss watchmaker since the 1990s, has evolved via multifaceted, not to mention unexpected avenues of expertise and experimentation. There’s the mechanics powering this veritable nuclear sub of a wristwatch, made in house, designed and finished with devastating utility. And then there’s that thing “on the tin”: eSteel. A full 89g of the case and dial is made of recycled steel, corresponding to the 58.4 per cent of the total weight, unquestionably justifying its Verde Smeraldo moniker when it comes to green credentials.

06. Ulysse Nardin

Diver Automatic 42mm

The miniature fairground ride that is Ulysse Nardin’s halo Freak arguably hogs more limelight than the balance of the historic watchmaker’s catalogue deserves. Especially given this historic Swiss marque is rooted in marine chronometry, and continues to offer sleek new takes on affordable wavemakers like this, powered by democratic mechanics sourced from Sellita. As streamlined as a Sunseeker coast-hopping the Amalfi coast, on appropriately silky Milanese bracelet, Ulysse Nardin’s telescope is still, nonetheless, focused fondly on home. The dial markings are the GPS coordinates of its decidedly landlocked 19th-century manufactory.

07. Ressence

Type 5 Mechanical 46mm

Self-consciously left-field Ressence wouldn’t top anyone’s “most likely to launch a diver” list, but perhaps that’s precisely why the Antwerp brand has. Type 5 is a fabulous evolution of its deconstructed, tri-orbital dial concept, right down to a satisfyingly hefty (and lockable) unidirectional bezel. Where the “Ressence” comes in is something only seen in one other brand catalogue (Germany’s Sinn): a naphtha-oil-flooded dial. The petrochemical prevents “distortion of perception” from light bending differently through crystal, air and water. So, the dial never “whites out” at certain wrist angles while diving, and always appears amazingly flat, like an iPhone screen. Conversation-starting, real-world practical, killer contemporary looks: it’s why MR PORTER exists at all.