Reality check: your watch doesn’t need to be submersible to 300 meters. Hell, Ahmed Gabr’s scuba diving record is 318 meters, and if you really think you’re in the running to beat it, odds are you’re using an actual diving computer, not an $8,000 Rolex Submariner.
To stand firmly by that argument, though, would be missing the point. We love dive watches because they’re overkill. They make great daily wearers because if they can handle 20 or 30 atmospheres of pressure, they can probably handle your day-to-day life. We love dive watches because our favorite world-saving lush wears one. We love dive watches because, in the horological hierarchy of tool watches and complications, dive watches are actually really approachable.
Want proof? For under $1,000 there’s a myriad of great divers, so much so that we had to narrow down this list to 15. There are divers here from watchmaking powerhouses in Japan and even Switzerland, though there are a few micro-brands thrown in for good measure. Every single watch has a depth rating of at least 200 meters, though claim to be able to go to depths well beyond human limits. Some are classy and understated, others are big and brash, but there are options to appease pretty much any watch lover with a $1,000 budget.
Citizen Promaster Diver
Cheap, reliable and handsome. Citizen’s Pro-Master Diver is an ISO-certified dive watch with a 200-meter depth rating as well as a solar-powered movement — so you can spend more time in the sun, less time getting your watch serviced.
Seiko’s cheap dive watches have a cult-like following (see: the new Blue Lagoon, another great diver for under $1,000) for good reason: it’s hard to find a better value for the money for just a couple hundred dollars. The SKX007 looks great and comes in a reserved 42mm case, is ISO-certified wth a 200-meter depth rating and comes with an automatic mechanical movement.
Orient M-Force Bravo
Though it’s a bit of a bruiser at 45mm, the Orient M-Force Bravo has the right amount of color to make it a fun accouterment to your summer excursions. It features an in-house movement from the Japanese manufacturer and a power reserve gauge, and in addition to being water resistant to ISO standards, it’s also shock-resistant and antimagnetic.
G-Shock GFW-1000-1 ‘Frogman’
The “Frogman” is the only digital watch to grace this buying guide, but it’s one hell of a timepiece nonetheless. Originally launched in 1993, the Frogman is the only ISO-compliant diver in G-Shock’s lineup. Aside from its shock-resistant build and time function, the watch also features a world-time function, a moonphase indicator and even a tide graph.
Marathon TSAR Quartz Medium
Built to U.S. Military standards, the Marathon TSAR is a tough watch in a small package. Coming in at only 36mm, it’s the smallest diver on this list, but it’s still super tough and submersible to 300 meters. It also features tritium gas tubes for luminescence, which is a nice bright, colorful touch.
Halios Laguna Series II
Halios has been making handsome and affordable divers in relatively small numbers for a few years now. One of its earlier watches, the Laguna (which launched in 2011) is back, and it comes boasting a solid 300-meter depth rating, a Miyota automatic movement and SuperLuminova.
Deep Blue Deep Star 1000
Boutique watch brand Deep Blue’s modus operandi is to make heavy-hitting dive watches at affordable prices; the fact that for $750 you can get a diver with a Swiss automatic movement (from Sellita) and a massive 300-meter depth rating is certainly a testament to that. Further, the watch features a helium release valve at nine o’clock, a 120-click ceramic bezel and a retro cushion case.
Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 600
Micro-brand Christopher Ward has been around since 2004 and essentially paved the way for the online micro-brand movement. Continuing to offer an incredible amount of watch for the money, the latest version of the brand’s stalwart Trident diver is water resistant to an impressive 600 meters, features a ceramic bezel, wave-shaped patterning on the dial and a Sellita 200-1 automatic movement. Oh, and you can even choose between either 38mm or 43mm case sizes.
Squale 50 Atmos Professional
Squale was once a small watchmaker and watch case producer (used by the likes of Blancpain, Heuer and Blancpain, among others) that relaunched in 2010 as a maker of affordable divers. The Atmos 50 is undoubtedly retro-looking, but it has an impressive 500-meter depth rating. The watch is powered by an ETA 2824 automatic movement that’s cased up in a matte stainless steel case.
Alpina Seastrong 300
Alpina’s penchant for making affordable sport watches shines through here in this solid diver. The automatic movement is held in a chunky, squircle-shaped 44mm case and, despite the display case back, is water resistant to 300 meters.
Since 1904, Oris has been building tough, Swiss tool watches at competitive prices — the Aquis is no different. The 43mm watch comes is powered by a Sellita 200-1 automatic movement, is good for a 300-meter depth rating and comes mounted on a comfortable rubber strap with an extending clasp (you know, to go over that wetsuit you’re definitely wearing).
Zodiac Super Seawolf 53 Compression
A reissue of Zodiac’s famed dive watch from 1953, one of the first dedicated dive watches ever launched (the Rolex Submariner and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms were introduced the same year). The new iteration has classic looks (and a nicely sized 40mm case) and has an automatic movement and a 200-meter depth rating.
Hamilton Khaki Navy Frogman
In the ’40s and ’50s, U.S. Navy divers were issued water-resistant watches from Hamilton. Accordingly, Hamilton watches were featured prominently in the 1951 film The Frogmen; thus, the raison d’être of the new Hamilton Khaki Navy Frogman is to pay tribute. And there’s a lot of watch here: the case is 46mm and made from Titanium, there’s a massive crown lock and Hamilton claims an astounding 1,000 meters of water resistance.
Glycine Combat Sub 2Tone
Glycine is an oft-forgotten watchmaker with a long history (the brand was founded in 1914) of making rugged tool watches. Today, Invicta holds a controlling share in the brand, but Glycine still makes mechanical, classic-looking tool watches like the Combat Sub. It features a 200-meter depth rating, gold-plated accents and an ETA-based automatic movement.
Seiko Prospex SPB051J1
The SPB051J1 is a reissue of Seiko’s first dive watch, the 6217, which originally debuted in 1965. The new iteration is certainly bigger than the original at 42.6mm in diameter (versus 38mm of the 6217), but packs Seiko’s in-house R615 automatic movement and is water-resistant to 200 meters.