The Best Dive Watches of 2016

Dive Watches for Serious Scuba Divers

Mission-Ready Dive Watches for the Serious Scuba Diver

I will start by answering these two questions: What makes a good dive watch?, and what is the sweet price point that you can get a true diver watch for?

These are the most frequent questions that people ask, and for good reason. First off, if you’ve been looking for a dive watch, even for a short while, you surely noticed that every ‘tough’ or ‘tactical’ watch these days has some sort of water resistance rating. Most are rated in the range of 100-200 meters. Does this mean all of these watches are suitable for diving? My answer is ‘No!’, by all means. Pick a random 200-meter rated watch and you’ll most likely see it die half way through your dive. To put it bluntly, these watches are not built for scuba diving – they will not bear the pressure. They are built to sustain swimming and very shallow snorkeling, or skin diving, but that’s about all they can do.

There are two standards used in the manufacturing of water resistant watches. ISO 2281 (text here) is the most common of the two, and grants the water resistant mark. It basically involves putting a sample from the batch of watches in the conditions of pressure specified on the marking once during post-manufacture testing. That fact doesn’t guarantee however that these watches will be able to withstand the rated conditions repeatedly.

The second standard, ISO 6425 (full text here), will grant the “Diver’s watch” stamp. This involves much more rigorous tests for water infiltration under high pressure, corrosion in salt water, parts performance etc, and each watch coming out of the production line undergoes it.

Best-dive-watchIn other words, a 100 meter water-resistant marking does not mean the same thing as a Diver’s 100m marking. If you’re looking for a true diving watch, you have to look for the ISO 6425 in specs or for the “Diver’s xxx meters” marking on the watch itself. That being said, you can safely discard most of the “Water resistant” labeled watches that are on the market and that can provide an overwhelming watch browsing experience to an unaware buyer.

How about the price tag you can expect to start finding these Diver’s watches at? I’ll tell you right off the bat: you can find some good ones for just about $500 or thereabout. As a matter of fact, as of 2015, there is a new generation of really decent dive watches for around $300. There are of course pricier options as well. What I’m saying though is that you have some really good options for a dive watch without shelling out thousands of your hard-earned dollars, unless of course you want to.

Best Dive Watch around $500 – Enter the Contenders

After going through hundreds of models and lots of elimination, I have arrived at these three diver watches to compete for the Best Dive Watch for around $500 (give or take) title:

 
Citizen Promaster BJ2115-07E Dive Watch

Victorinox Swiss Army Men's 241426 Dive Master 500

Luminox Dive Chronograph 8362RP
Other interesting Citizen Diver ModelsSee all Victorinox Dive 500 modelsMore Luminox dive watches
Price$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
User rating4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5)5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)
MovementJapanese quartzSwiss Automatic movement (ETA 2892.A2)Swiss quartz (Ronda 5050.B)
Window materialNon-reflective mineral crystalSapphire crystalAntireflective sapphire crystal
Case material & sizeTwo-tone stainless steel
Screw-back case
Diameter: 47 mm
Stainless Steel
Solid caseback
Diameter: 43 mm
Ion-plated stainless steel
Solid caseback
Diameter: 44 mm
Band material & widthRubber
Width: 23 mm
Rubber
Width: 22 mm
Ion-plated stainless steel
Width: 23 mm
ChronographYesNoYes
Battery / Solar powerSolarNo needBattery
Depth meterYesNoNo
Water resistant depth200m500m200m
IlluminationLuminous hands and markersLuminescent hands and dot hour markersTritium + Luminous hands and markers
Colored tube at 12h
Other functionsPower reserve indicator
12/24 hr time
Unidirectional bezel
Unidirectional bezelUnidirectional bezel

The Luminox Dive is a little pricier than the other two, but it’s not that far apart, and, being a newer model, it was hard to brush aside. What you also may have already noticed, is that the Victorinox Dive Master doesn’t have a lot of functions such as chronograph or depth measurement, but let me tell you this: what it lacks in function it makes up in build quality. So it stays on my list.

These are all very capable watches that will stand the test of the deep. But if you’re like me, you’ll want to know more details about each, and make an educated decision. I will be comparing them based on several criteria that I consider to be the most important. Here we go!

Depth they can go to. While the Victorinox Dive Master is rated for a depth of 500 meters, the Citizen Promaster and the Luminox Dive are rated for 200 meters “only”. I am using quotes because, if you’re wondering which one is better, the 200 or the 500 meter ratings, you should know that these are all diver watches, individually tested to resist the rated pressures. There’s no question they will go the depth they were designed for.

Another reason you most likely don’t have to worry about depths into the hundreds of meters, is that a PADI Open Water-certified diver will only dive as deep as 30 meters. That’s a category that 95% of divers fall into. If you’re never going under that depth, then any of these watches is a good fit for you.

If however your work requires you to spend a long time underwater, or at saturation depths, then the Victorinox Dive Master is the right choice for you.

Verdict: no clear winner

Depth meter. While not all diving watches have a depth indicator, it is a nice function to have. Out of the three watches, only the Citizen Promaster has a depth meter. It will display depth down to 125 feet or 38 meters. The reason it doesn’t go deeper is again that most divers will not dive deeper than that.

But, is the depth meter on the Citizen Promaster accurate? This is, hands down, one of the most accurate depth meters of all the diving watches I ever tried. I was doubtful myself that it would work right at this price tag, but I would lie to say it doesn’t. It works really well.

Verdict: Citizen Promaster wins

Battery life. This is a matter concerning the two quartz watches, since the Victorinox Dive Master is automatic and only needs to be worn in order to wind. The Citizen Promaster is solar-powered, or better said light-powered, since it charges in any light. So, it doesn’t need a battery replacement, at least not for many years. The Luminox Dive, on the other hand, is powered by a non-standard battery rated to last 54 months, after which it needs replacing. However, 4.5 years for battery life isn’t too shabby at all.

One great feature on the Promaster is, it has a power reserve indicator in the top left of the dial. Level 2 represents the fullest. The battery doesn’t take long to fully load, but take note that while diving, the depth indicator will drain the battery fast, so make sure to read the manual to see what you can expect from it.

Winners: Citizen Promaster and Victorinox Dive Master, but with the Luminox Dive in the wings

Durability. The Luminox is the favorite to win this part of the contest, with its all-stainless steel build, both in case and band. Besides looking good, the brushed steel is tough and can take a lot of abuse. The sapphire window is ultra-strong too. And so are the sapphire window and steel case on the Victorinox Dive Master.

I would have liked the Promaster to have a sapphire window as well, but it’s unlikely Citizen will put one on it, to keep the price point where it is. You can have one installed for a fee (around $90) if you really want. The mineral glass however seems to hold pretty well. I had periods of time when I wore this watch every day, and in dives, and still haven’t got scratches on the window or the case. The steel clasp on the band is very scratch-resistant as well.

Winners: Luminox Dive and Victorinox Dive Master

Visibility. Visibility in the dark and water is crucial for a dive watch. Ideally, it should be fitted with gas illumination like tritium, and also a good bright paint. If it’s missing the tritium, a very bright paint is preferred. Out of our three watches, only the Luminox has both tritium vials on the hours and luminous paint on the hands and hour markers. The tritium is estimated to constantly glow for up to 25 years in any light condition, without needing to be exposed to light to recharge, which is pretty cool.

The Citizen and the Victorinox are both sufficiently bright to be visible in the dark and murky water. The Victorinox has larger paint surfaces on the hands and dot markers. So I would give the Victorinox the upper hand here.

Winner hierarchy: Luminox Dive, Victorinox Dive Master, Citizen Promaster

Warranty. I can’t stress enough how important warranty can be. You may get a defective watch right out of the box, even from a reputed manufacturer. Or, you can have a problem later down the road, and may need the watch shipped for repairs or even a replacement. Take my own example: out of a few dozen watches, I used the warranty on more than a third of them. There’s a high likelihood you’ll need it, so consider the warranty terms carefully.

The Citizen Promaster comes with a whopping 5 year manufacturer warranty. That fact alone speaks volumes about the aggressive customer support that Citizen is backing their products with. An already good product coupled with great price and lengthy warranty is, to me, a strong selling point.

The Luminox Dive and the Victorinox Dive Master both come with a two-year warranty.

Winner: Citizen Promaster

Looks. What’s the best looker of the three? I’ll admit right away that the Promaster gets the most compliments. It’s the most conspicuous of the three due to its blue accents, large guilloche dial, and the bold case shape. It’s a watch that you can wear casually with jeans and shirt.

The chronograph dials generally garner attention to any watch, and that also goes for the Luminox Dive. The Luminox is a bit more subdued than the Citizen, but still a self-assertive watch. It looks quite specialized, although I’ve worn it with casual clothes as well.

Using the compliment-meter, I’d have to say that the Victorinox Dive Master doesn’t get as many compliments. That’s of course because it’s the most simple of the three, and sits rather inconspicuously on the wrist. But I love its simplicity, and the contrast that the greenish hands and markers create on the brown dial. I own the brown version, I think it’s more stylish than the black one, but they’ve got red, white, and orange versions as well. There’s a match for any taste.

Winner: Citizen Promaster

The best dive watch for the money

The three watches that made it into the final were the best of a roundup of several watches. I am confident I showed you the best dive watches for the money. But, if you want to see the other great dive watches that I had in my line-up, here they are:

PictureDescriptionPriceRating

Seiko Prospex SUN023 Kinetic GMT Divers
Seiko Kinetic
Stainless steel case, silicone band, sapphire crystal
Power reserve indicator
Water resistant: 200 meters
$$$$$5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

Hamilton Khaki King Scuba day and date watch for men
Swiss Automatic Movement
Stainless steel case and band, sapphire crystal
Day-date display
Rotating bezel
Water resistant: 100 meters
$$$$$4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5)

Casio G-shock Frogman Multiband6 Japanese Model [ Gwf-1000-1jf ]
Certified diver digital watch
Dive timer, Chronograph
Tide and moon phase
Atomic time, world time
Solar powered
Stainless steel case, resin band, mineral glass
Water resistant: 200 meters
$$$$$4.8 Stars (4.8 / 5)

Tissot Seastar 1000 Chronograph Black Dial Black Rubber Mens Watch T0664171705700
Swiss Quartz Movement
Stainless steel case, rubber band, anti-reflective sapphire window
Chronograph
Water resistant: 300 meters
$$$$$4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

MARATHON WW194007 Swiss Made Military Diver's Watch with Tritium
Swiss quartz movement
US Government Specs
Stainless steel case, rubber band, anti-reflective sapphire window
Tritium illumination
Unidirectional bezel
Water resistant: 300 meters
$$$$$$4.1 Stars (4.1 / 5)

If you have a larger sum of money to spend, you may want to have a look at my page on the best dive watches around $1000, where I review the best and brightest models in that price range. Enjoy!

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Best Dive Watches
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