The 10 Best Affordable Dive Watches of 2017

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Whether you’re just diving into a huge workload at your desk, or actually spending some time deep underwater, one thing is clear — a dive watch would be great to have on your wrist. You don’t need to be a diver to appreciate these high-performing, beautifully designed, and undoubtedly utilitarian timepieces for everyday use. In this Carry Smarter guide, you’ll get familiar with the basics of dive watches, what features to look for when buying a diver, and our picks for the best and most affordable options for 2017 to help you take the plunge into the world of dive watches.

A Crash Course on Dive Watches

The purpose of a dive watch is to monitor how long you’ve been underwater, and more importantly - how much air you have left in your tank. They’ve been around since the turn of the 20th century and continue to be both fashionable and useful to this day.

The quintessential dive watch has an immediately recognizable look. They're larger (around 42mm), feature a rotating bezel, and rest on a metal bracelet or rubber strap. 

Dive watches are ideal for EDC because they’re built like tanks, they’re easy to read, and they look just plain cool.

4 Hallmarks of Dive Watches

Water Resistance: If you’re buying a dive watch, it should have proper water resistance. While most watches claim 50m of water resistance, that really means that it will survive hand washes and maybe a shower. When looking at dive watches, 200m (660 feet!) of water resistance is common ground. If you plan on having a watch that will stand up to swimming, showering—and of course—diving, be sure to choose something with a high level of water resistance.

Build Quality: Divers entrust their watches with their lives to be able to know precisely how much time they have underwater. For dive watches, reliable durability and construction are critical. Look for a dive watch with a well-built case, a strong crystal (mineral and sapphire are best), and a good strap or bracelet. A solid dive watch will last for decades if maintained, and you can easily buy an heirloom piece in the $200 range.

Movement: The slight bump in price from our Military Watch Guide opens up more options for the type of movement that powers the watch. Automatic movements are popular in the diver market as they don’t require a battery. Automatic watches “wind” from the motion of your arm, so they’ll keep ticking as long as you keep them on your wrist. Also seen in this class of watches are day/date features, adding to the utility of the timepiece.

Legibility: When underwater, it’s crucial to know exactly how long you’ve been diving. The bezel, a key component of the dive watch, tells you exactly that. The bezel’s “12 o’clock” dot can be rotated to match up with the minute hand to keep track of time. As the minute hand moves, you can see how many minutes have elapsed by reading the bezel number as opposed to the watch face. Higher-end watches feature unidirectional bezels that only rotate counterclockwise to avoid accidentally overestimating how much time is left. Dive watches usually have large, illuminated indices (the hour and minute markings on the face) that are easy to read. This illumination (or “lume” in the watch world) not only looks awesome, but it helps you quickly tell time when the lights are out.

With the features to look for in a dive watch in mind, here are some of our favorite examples for this year—all coming in at around $250.


The 10 Best Affordable Dive Watches for EDC


Casio MDV106-1A

The Casio MDV106-1A is the most inexpensive watch on this list at well under $200, but Casio didn't get to where they are today producing cheap, low-quality watches. This watch is a great entry point into the dive watch look without having to commit to the full mechanical experience (and price). Its 45mm case diameter is as big as they come, and its 200m water resistance, screw-down crown, and screw-lock back preserve its Japanese quartz movement from the water. Excellent features for a dive watch at a very affordable price point.

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Orient FAA02002D9 "Mako II"

Orient's Submariner homage gets everything right. It pays its respects to the quintessential dive watch design, but makes some very attractive tweaks to make it their own. The Arabic numerals, date window, sword hands, and striking red accent on the second hand are all welcome aesthetic choices, enhancing its look without overdoing it. The rest of the watch is solid: stainless steel bracelet, in-house automatic movement, 200m water resistance and mineral crystal window all give great value to the watch as well as the wearer, given how inexpensive it is. The  Orient Mako II is a great starting point to jump into the deep end of dive watches. The Mako II features an improved movement with a hacking seconds hand, the ability to hand wind, and an improved bezel that now has 120 clicks (vs. 60).

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Seiko SKX173

It's hard to talk about dive watches without mentioning one from Seiko's popular SKX series. These tried-and-true ISO certified dive watches are some of the best out there, especially given the price. As an alternative to the common SKX007, we like the SKX173. In place of the circular indices on the 007, the 173 has squares. It gives the watch a unique look, further separating it from the pack of submariner homages. You still get the reliable Seiko movement, 200m of water resistance, and strong mineral crystal.

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Citizen Eco-Drive BN0151-09L Promaster Diver Watch

Citizen's Eco Drive Promaster is their take on the dive watch. On the outside, you'll find a unidirectional bezel, chunky tool-like case, and classic dive watch styling. Inside, there's Citizen's Eco Drive technology. It keeps the watch ticking via solar power, so you never have to worry about replacing a battery. At just under $175, the Promaster is a great value too.

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Timex Expedition T49799

The Timex Expedition series of watches go the extra mile in providing quality timepieces packed with features but not weighed down by price. The T49799 takes the brand under the waves, giving you everything you need for your next dive. The watch itself is beefy, with 44 millimeters of shock-resistant stainless steel sealed, chunky rivets and a mineral crystal window rated for 200m. The signature Timex Indiglo provides ample illumination for dark and murky environments, and its chronograph dials handle all your timing needs. An outer bezel Tachymeter and date window round out the watch's data features.

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Seiko SRP779

2017 is seeing the revival of a ton of vintage watches, especially from Seiko. They've updated their classic “turtle” diver with modern materials and construction. The SRP779's case is gently curved so it's very comfortable on the wrist. You'll also get 200m of water resistance, a unidirectional bezel, Hardlex mineral crystal and a day-date display. If you're looking for a diver with some vintage flair, check out the SRP series.

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Orient Ray Raven II

The Orient Ray Raven II has a blacked-out PVD coating that adds extra durability and a stealthy appearance that'll look great on your wrist no matter the occasion. The watch has 200M of water resistance, which is more than enough for swimming and diving. The solid metal caseback and screw down crown add an extra barrier against water and dust. The Ray Raven’s large hands and indices are treated with Super Luminova paint. It casts a bright green glow when charged by the sun or your EDC flashlight and lasts for hours. Like most dive watches, the Raven Ray II features a unidirectional bezel for tracking elapsed time.

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Seiko SNZF17

This diver is from Seiko’s popular “5 Series” of watches. Each watch in the 5 Series features automatic winding, a day/date display, water resistance, a recessed crown, and a durable case and bracelet. This particular watch features a more vintage look thanks to the wide bezel and round indices on the face. The black face nicely accents the stainless steel and the transparent casebook allows you to see the mechanical movement in motion. The SNZF17 also comes on a stainless steel bracelet, which adds to the value of this affordable diver.

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Deep Blue Nato Diver 300

At first glance, Deep Blue's Nato Diver 300 may not stand out all that much. It's when you get into the spec sheet that you realize what a great value this tool diver really is. For just under 300 bucks, you get a sapphire crystal with AR coating, a helium release valve, and a premium finished 316L steel case. A Seiko movement keeps the watch running, with a built in day-date display. The Nato Diver also boasts 300m of water resistance and a comfy rubber strap.

Buy


Seiko SRP315J1 "Orange Monster"

You can't have a list about dive watches (regardless of the price) and not mention the Seiko Monster. This timepiece sets the bar for the value you get from an  automatic watch, regardless of price or brand. From its mammoth 45mm case design to its reliable 4r36 movement to the most aggressive lume applied on a production    watch, the list of its features just goes on and on. This new SRP315J1 takes all the respectable features of its predecessor and improves on all its former weaknesses. Its second hand can now be stopped (hacked) during adjustment, its crown is easier to grip, it has a more thematic and less complicated face, and they've somehow made its lume even brighter. Make no mistake, its nickname is "Monster" for a reason.

Buy on Amazon


Now that you know a thing or two about dive watches, how they could fit into your EDC, and examples of budget-friendly options, you’re ready to get your feet wet with a diver of your own. What dive watch is next on your list? What watches did we miss? We want to hear what’s on your wrist (or wishlist for now!) — leave us a comment below.

This post was updated on March 8th, 2017 with more recent product recommendations.

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Full Disclosure: I am a Rolex man. It's the only watch I've ever worn on a consistent basis diving or not, since getting my MBA in 1975 which was when I could actually afford one. I realize it's not in everyone's budget . I have owned and played with others over the years.
That said, I am a long time PADI Certified Rescue Diver. The world has changed since my early diving days in the 70s and 80s.
Today virtually everyone uses a dive computer which makes the dive watch superfluous except as an essential backup. "One is none, two is one."
Make sure the band is adjustable to fit over whatever wet suit you are using . If strictly a warm water diver, it's less of an issue.
While I love my Rolexes, the lighting sucks. Tritium is the way to go and I never understood why Rolex never adopted that technology. I also own the MTM SEAL watch. admittedly it's way overkill, but, it has a very cool factor. The tritium makes the watch readable in situations where the Rolex is useless.

I also have a basic distrust of all battery watches including my $2000 MTM SEAL. Even the cheapest Quartz Timex is more accurate than my $13K Rolex, BUT, batteries die , and usually when you need them most. Thus, I think an automatic is safer choice. You really need to assess your diving frequency and whether you are a strictly "blue water " once a year on vacation diver , or are wearing wet and or dry suits for the colder waters we have as you move up the East Coast (or all of the Pacific coast) and diving on a regular basis.
+1 on the tritium. A nice steady glow at any time.
Great information in here, thank you!
Ball use tritium in the watches if I remember it well, not sure what other brands use tritium.I am currently wearing Matwatches: https://www.matwatches.com.au/collections/sea/products/matwatches-diver-pro-destro with Super Luminova, a material that has the same properties as tritium but is not radioactive. Rolex used Super Luminova in the years 2000 – 2008, so maybe is time to upgrade your Rolex collection or find some other brand for diving,
Doesn't get any more classic than a Seiko. SKX007 is a damn fine timepiece and a great bang for your buck auto!
You cant't go wrong with classic. I own SKX009 and it is the best watch for that price.
I Love my SKX007
Hands down, the SKX007 is one of the best watches I've owned. 10+ years and still going strong.
Just buy a g-shock, generally cheaper (except in australia) and better looking. All of them are 20bar/200meters
Not that I would diss someone wearing a G-Shock, but I don't find them attractive in the least. I would take the Seikos or the Orient over a GShock any day.
I have never seen a single G-shock that I would find to be aesthetically pleasing. They're durable, affordable, functional, but they're just too damn gaudy and ugly.
Digital EDC watch??? If you're a child....maybe.
Good write-up, folks. However, I wouldn't place the Parnis GMT in this category, since it is a GMT watch and wouldn't be useful for diving. Also, regarding the four hallmarks of a dive watch, I wouldn't consider a day/date function to be a dive watch requirement. Whereas a running indicator (i.e.- a ticking seconds hand) is absolutely crucial if you're 40 metres underwater. A luminous bezel pip (on a counter-clockwise, unidirectional bezel) is another requirement.
And, having sold wristwatches for over a decade (and collecting them for 20 years) , I can't really agree with "you can easily buy an heirloom piece in the $200 range". You *probably* can , but you'll fairly likely have a watch that may be a little 'fluid' in its timekeeping. EDIT; Fluid in its timekeeping as the decades roll by, that is.
In your "Crash Course," you should probably have them make sure the watch has a bezel that is ratcheted to turn ONLY anti-clockwise.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diving_watch
Great point Chris, thanks for bringing that up! I added that to the legibility section
Invicta 8926OB Pro Diver - Seiko NH35A automatic movement, 200m water resistance, screw down crown, luminous hands and markers, clear case back, great looking entry level diver, $78 on Amazon right now.
Good article. I wear my Seiko SKX007 often...it is a fantastic watch. While I think they are attractive watches, I don't see the Seiko SNZH53 or the Parnis GMT in this category because they do not have 200 meter water resistance. The SNZH53 is rated at 100 meters, the Parnis at only 30 meters. They certainly were made in a dive watch style, but no one should ever take them diving.
I have the Luminox 3051 watch. After a year of regular use in the army, it had several issues: the illumination dissappeared, the rubber band broke in several places, battery stopped after seven months, glass got scratched super easily. Overall im really disappointed with this watch. Its 10/10 cool, but doesnt do its job at all. Casio g shock is a hundred times better at a fraction of the cost.
I've been wearing the Seiko Black Monster daily for about a year now. Best watch (diver or not) for the money IMO. Sturdy build and limitless functionality make it an excellent addition to anyone's EDC.
3-year Monster (1st gen) wearer myself. Even now that I know a lot more about watches, I still can't find any other watch at any price that fits absolutely all of my qualifications for a daily beater. Quite possibly the best investment I've made in my EDC.
I've had my black monster since they were introduced, which i think must've been about 15 years ago. I don't wear it as much now as I used to, but I have never had a single problem with it. I also have the orange monster and the 007 and 009, also the same with yellow face (SKXA35), and a couple other of the Seiko auto tanks. I typically wear them on NATO straps.
I use Casio G-Shocks too. Tough, reliable, and easily read underwater... Of course I don't Dive, just snorkel.
Britt, when I was diving in US Navy we were issued G shocks! Early 90's. I am told they dive with computers now. The only requirements were depth rated for dive, and the bezel be unidirectional or stop watch function.
I use g-shocks as well. I even did some lite skuba. In this list http://www.watchessence.com/the-best-dive-watches-review/ G-shocks are among serious diving watches. So we must be right :)
I have the Casio MDV106-1A and love it. I put on a velcro strap as i prefer then to the rubber ones. Next to buy will be the 007.
Casio watches are great. I have an old Casio Men's AMW320 (at least 15 years old) with a Gold face and love it. I was going to purchase a 007, but already had an SKX175 (Pepsi bezel) and went with a Momentum Torpedo Pro 44 instead. It's a great piece. It came with a nice rubber strap, but I switched it our for Maratac Zulu strap. I wear it nearly every day.

Good hunting!
I just had a look at the Momentum Torpedo Pro 44 online, its very nice. Shame about the price in the UK for it though. I had a Nato strap on my MDV106 for a while then changed to a Time Factors Velcro Strap and its still going strong.
A couple of years ago I purchased my first Sieko skx007... Now I own the skx173 and 2nd gen monster. So be warned this could become a problem. I believe they are the best value in dive watches. Unlike some of the other options, they are ISO certified products. Another great option in my opinion is the Citizen BN0000-04H. ISO certified with 300m water resistance for a little over $200. http://www.amazon.com/Citizen-BN0000-04H-Stainless-Steel-Eco-Drive/dp/B000EQS1RO/ref=pd_sim_241_1?ie=UTF8&%3BrefRID=1K6WAF37J288DRTYRG05&tag=bg999-20
Lots of saturation divers up here in the North Sea use the Divex Offshore 500 watch when they are working. I myself use the Divex Professional 200m as I'm not working subsea but I do need a tough and reliable watch all the same.
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