Best Dive Watch for the UK in 2018
As a recreational or professional diver in 2018, it’s advisable to include a good dive watch with your gear, especially one with an integrated dive computer.
It’s the best way to stay on top of your dive parameters and stay safe.
Since nearly all dive watches are analogue, they offer an additional kind of technology to back up a digital system. It’s also, let’s face it, like any other watch these days: a statement of personal style.
We’ll be going through a wide range of watches in this article, from entry-level models to high-end statement pieces.
We’ll start by looking at what features to look for in a dive watch.
What to Look For in a Dive Watch
It’s obvious that the one thing you need in a dive watch is some degree of waterproofing. ISO standards for SCUBA diving watches is 200m, or 20 bar/ata, as a minimum. This is set under very still and controlled conditions, for a short duration, so don’t think that you can wave a watch around at its maximum depth rating without getting water into it – overkill here is always better.
We would agree that 200m is an absolute minimum, and if you are an experienced diver, or plan to be one in the future, it doesn’t hurt to give yourself lots of buffer in this area. That extra bit of money on an initial purchase can seem pretty reasonable if you bump your watch at depth, or the strap fails and your instructor has to fetch it from the bottom (which I’ve seen happen).
The strap offers a surprising amount of variation. Do you want the solid, metal band? Gold or silver? The extending rubber one that can fit your bare wrist but also stretch over a layer of neoprene? Something a little more stylish for those soirées at the yacht club?
So there are three things to consider when looking at the strap. Type. Style. And durability – It does us no good if our great-looking band drops off into the murky depths, taking our favourite watch with it.
The bezel is used to keep track of the time spent underwater.
In the old days, problems sometimes occurred if the bezel was bumped out of place during a dive. Not a problem if it made it seem like the diver had been under longer than planned – a shorter dive won’t hurt you – but it did cause problems if it made it seem like the diver had been under a shorter amount of time.
Overstaying your time in the deep can have consequences, as all divers know.
The solution to this was to make the bezel so that it could only move in one direction. If a uni-directional bezel gets bumped, it can only shorten a dive. You may not use the bezel as your primary dive time indicator, but the uni-directional bezel is still a useful backup, and is an indicator of a quality dive watch.
Speaking of bumping our dive watches, who hasn’t heard the metallic ping of your prized time piece ricocheting off of your tank, your dive buddy’s tank, or the hull of the ancient launch you and your friends chartered for the first weekend of your Majorcan getaway?
It happens, and when it does, you want to be sure the watch is up to the abuse. We don’t just want them to be durable – they need to put up with a sound beating.
Even if you’re not an active diver, and the watch is purely for style, this is still an issue; nobody wants a nice piece of gear damaged due to everyday use or an occasional knock. Be sure it can hold up to what life throws at it.
It gets dark down there, and it’s important to be able to see your instruments. A dive watch is no exception.
There are options for this, from a back-light that activates at the touch of a button, to a constantly aglow luminous dial, to tritium-filled glass tubules that emit light even without first being charged up by sunlight or heat. And, of course, there are watches without a lighting feature at all, if you prefer to go old-school, or only use the watch as a fashion piece.
Helium Release Valves
No matter how tight the seals on a watch, if you go deep enough the tiny helium molecules will suck in their tummies and slip through. At pressure, more of the little things can get through, and it’s not always as easy for them to get out once you are back at the surface and the watch case is heating up, expanding that tiny bit, and sealing those seams even tighter.
A helium release valve will give them a clean escape once the pressure ratios reverse, and a high-end watch will include this feature to ensure longer functionality and wear.
Additional timers? These can be useful, especially if you have different plateaus planned for your dive, and are trying to maximise your underwater time.
For most divers these are an extra – though they can really punch up the appearance of the watch face.
Speaking of style, anyone who says they buy a dive watch purely for the function is a… well, we don’t want to question anyone’s honesty, but let’s be real: you spend your hard-earned money on a cool gadget like this, one that isn’t strictly necessary to modern diving, and there has to be some element of personal style involved, right? Right.
And in the world of dive watches, there is a lot of style to choose from. We’ve chosen a wide range of looks to review, but there are even more out there: technical, vintage, funky, minimalist, gadget-laden, and almost any colour or finish you could wish for.
When it comes to dive watch styles, the world is your oyster – dive down and grab the one you want.
It’s true that we often get what we pay for, but it’s also true that there comes a point when we’re paying for brand names, features or extreme quality that we simply don’t need.
We’ve selected a wide range of watches, from under £100 to over £2,000, so you can get a good idea of the differences, if any, between the various price points.
You can spend a lot more, but you are paying for the designer and other purely aesthetic features. In nearly every case the practical features will be there.
Dive Watches Reviewed
Reactor – Poseidon
The Reactor is rated to a depth of 300m, which will cover sport diving and many professional diving activities. It doesn’t feature a depth sensor.
The band is stainless steel plated, so it will hold up reasonably well to bumps and bangs, but once the plating is breached there may be an acceleration of damage.
The bezel is bi-directional, but the clicks between movements are fairly chunky. We still prefer the uni-direction feature. In our opinion, if you’re going to have an old-school gadget on the watch, at least make it the best type of old-school gadgetry.
The hands and numbers are luminous, but again, will work less well the deeper and colder you take them.
There are no helium release valves.
The best thing about this watch is that it is durable. Bang it, beat it, drop it, tap it furiously while staring at the charter company rep who’s twenty minutes late for launch – whatever you do to it – it will take it like a champ.
Not only will it take a beating, but there is something about this watch that would make it look good even if it had a scar here and there. It’s the watch for somebody unafraid to climb a rock face, jump out of a plane, explore a reef, then scoop up a kid at the airport when it’s all done. Rugged. Dependable. Not so pretty as to be coddled.
A good, solid piece of kit.
Phoibos – PX005B
Brace yourself, readers, the clumsily-named Phoibos PX005B is rated to a depth of 1000m – far deeper than you will ever dive.
It does require you to screw down the crown before diving, which means that forgetting to do so makes this watch much less water-resistant – if at all. Still, if you make this part of your pre-dive checks, it will fade into routine very quickly and you won’t even notice doing it.
What that rating means, though, is that you can be at the limits of your dive depth and wave your watch-arm frantically at your buddy, who may not be able to discern the word “shark!” through your regulator bubbles, without any water even thinking of getting into the case of this watch. Considering that it is the lowest-priced example we’ve reviewed, that is a striking rating indeed.
The contours of the rubber wristband are pleasing to the eye, and allow for expansion in case your watch bangs against something, or you want to pull it over a neoprene sleeve and maintain a snug fit.
The bezel is uni-directional, which you know we like, and looks as if it will hold up well to a little rough use. There is no depth sensor on this watch, no chronograph and the only markings are the luminous hands, hour markers, and bezel numbers.
The absence of numerous dials and numbers and displays doesn’t detract from the overall look of this watch. It manages a sporty, quality appearance. The roundness of the face gives a depth to it, in the midst of which there is a variegated sheen of blue, and the octopus logo lurking at the point of the triangle. The design is simple, but not sparse, and it manages to marry understatement with sportiness – not an easy feat.
It’s a good-looking watch, and despite its lack of technical bling, it has a secret behind that face: This is the only watch reviewed with a helium release valve.
It appears as if the manufacturer set aside all pretence and hype, and invested in one primary concept – make a watch that functions well at significant depths.
At a price point of £150, they did a very efficient job.
Victorianox – Dive Master 500
This little red number is rated to 500m, includes a bezel and calendar feature, and is self-winding. The case is stainless steel, so it holds up well to a beating, but will show the more serious scars. The strap is rubber with a steel clasp, and is reasonably sturdy.
The hands and dial data are luminous, but will get less so the deeper and colder you go. There are no helium release valves.
This watch, like the Gucci, has a certain focus on style, but unlike the Gucci the focus is on the sporty side of things. This watch isn’t going to transition as well to the more stylish venues. We liked the look of the bright red with the matt grey face, but it does look a lot like much cheaper watches – it doesn’t scream high-quality at first glance.
It’s Victorinox, a trusted name in watches and outdoor gadgets, and the quality seems good. It will hold up to enough abuse to make it a good, functional dive watch. At £868 you’ll be paying a little for the brand name – but that’s not always a bad thing. They have a reputation to protect, and that normally translates into good service and a willingness to back the quality of the product.
Pantor – Seahorse
The Seahorse is rated at 1000m, making it a tie for first place in water resistance. It has no depth sensor, but it is equipped with a helium valve, so the 1000m rating isn’t just for bragging rights.
The band is a fine-grain metal link design and comes with an extension for bigger wrists, or for wearing outside of neoprene sleeves.
Like most of these watches, it is “automatic,” meaning that as long as it is moving (being worn), it is winding itself – so you never have to remember to do so. It also has a 40-hour power reserve, so you can leave it in the closet for a day or two and it will still be trundling along.
The bezel is uni-directional (yay!) and luminous, though at greater depths it will fade. The crown screws down to allow the seal for the 1000m rating.
It has the right basic abilities for a watch that falls mid-way up the price scale in our sampling, at £560. Not a lot of bells and whistles (a slight tweet from the calendar, I suppose), but a few hard-hitting, high-quality dive features. It’s the genuine article.
The manufacturer really tried to make this a good-looking watch, and in some ways succeeded… but in other ways it just doesn’t work. The details are elegant – the fine construction of the watch band is intricate, yet still durable, the seahorse logo on the clasp and knobs is a nice touch too – and yet when viewed as a whole, it fails to wow. It has the feel of a watch that is going for “classic” style, but instead just seems a bit outdated. It looks decent – I wouldn’t call it ugly – but it doesn’t send out any good signals of style, discerning taste, or even pizazz.
I do like it – as a friend – but that love affair is never going to happen.
A good, solid piece of kit.
Invicta – 10187 Subaqua Noma III
Step aside, Joe-Bland, the Invicta has arrived.
This watch is rated for 500m, and though it has no depth sensor, it is a chronograph (meaning it has a stop watch function), which can be handy as a backup to your dive computer’s timer.
The strap is a rubber, men’s-standard size with Invicta logo and design raised in green.
The bezel is chunky for durability and is – yes! – uni-directional for peace of mind. Hands and numerals are luminous, but will fade at depth due to the colder environment. There are no helium release valves.
The watch is durable, the band and pins secure, and the face crystal holds up reasonably well to clunking and smacking against tanks and gunwales.
The best part of this watch is the style. It feels like Invicta plucked a bit of video gaming iconography and moulded it into a timepiece. The black is understated, so it’s not over the top or garish, but the technical feel of the face terrain, and the flashes of green on the details, both strap and face, achieve an effective balance. A good-looking and eye-catching watch.
It is good value for a functional dive watch that has a regular life too.
Pantor – Nautilus
The big face of the Nautilus is rated for 200m (as long as you remember to screw the crown down tightly), so it’s an entry-level watch for regular divers. There is no depth sensor on it – in fact very few extra features at all. It shows the date in an unassuming diagonal box, and the luminous numbers on the uni-directional bezel, but that’s it.
The case is stainless steel. The strap is rubber. There’s not much more to say.
But the watch does say something.
Steve McQueen would dive in this watch – in a movie – and there is something about it that evokes images of frog-men from the 1950’s and 60’s, adventurous soldiers on the cusp of a technological revolution that they can’t even conceive of yet. It’s old school, techy in a minimalist, culturally-analogue way that makes it seem okay to be away from our iPhones and the constant pings of incoming messages. We could look at this watch, 80m down, and not even care what time it is – it’s just a pleasing thing to see strapped to one’s wrist while exploring the depths; as reassuring and iconic as the dive knife on your calf.
How often can you buy that kind of feeling for £250?
Citizen – Eco Drive
The Citizen is an entry-level dive watch, with a depth rating of the minimum 200m required. It has no depth sensor.
The strap is made of expandable blue rubber with a steel clasp. It looks good, matched with the blue of the bezel colouring, and is durable.
The bezel seems solid enough, but it is bi-directional, and as you know by now, we don’t like that. For a watch in this price range though, maybe it is just a casualty of economic design.
The case itself is made of stainless steel and is solid, despite leaning toward the more elegant end of the dive watch spectrum. The hands and numerals are luminous, and should function reasonably well at the limited depths for which the watch was designed.
There are no helium release valves of course, and nor would any be needed at depths in question, so the lack of them suits the watch.
The overall style of the watch is good. The slight sheen to the metal isn’t so shiny as to look chromed, and is set off well when placed aside the deep blue of the watch band and bezel ring. The silver numbers, too, are a nice touch. It isn’t a fancy watch, nor does it look especially rugged, but it does sit in the subtle space between elegant and functional. Overall, not bad.
Ball Engineer – Master II Diver TMT
This watch is rated to 300m, so it will hold up to sport diving and a lot of professional diving too. It has a 20mm rubber strap that holds up under wet or dry conditions through a wider range of temperatures than you are likely to put it through. There is no depth sensor.
The internal, bi-directional bezel is controlled by the crown dial at the 2-o’clock position. This means that, though the bezel can be moved in both directions, it is less likely to happen as the rim of it is not exposed. Still, I like the fool-proof nature of a uni-directional bezel.
The case is coated titanium to ensure that it holds up to a solid beating (a 500G shock test in fact), but still looks good afterward. The workings are anti-magnetic. The strap and mounts are also chunky enough to hold up to the bumps and rigors of diving.
Illumination is achieved using 53 micro-gas tritium tubes, which cast light across the face and hands with no need for charging, passive or otherwise.
The face displays environmental temperature (air or water) clearly and accurately, as well as the date.
We like the look of this watch. It feels like what our grandad’s would have thought the future would be – all silvers and blacks, with flashes of primary blue and red to set off important bits of data. It’s not going to fly in a more formal or elegant environment, but for everyday casual wear, or anything nearing a sporting activity, it’s a great statement as well as a functional piece of equipment. And let’s face it, if you’re dishing out more than two grand for a diving watch, you can probably afford a separate one for fine dining events.
This is a watch that says you’re not only active, but you have a little cash to throw around too. It’s a fine watch, and finer things cost a little more than necessary.
Gucci – Dive YA
The depth rating on the Gucci is 200m, so although it is touted as being suitable for “professional marine activity,” that may not include professional diving. For sport diving under 100m though, it will do the trick, and is very wearable outside of the water too. There is no built-in depth sensor.
The band is made of resin, has the Gucci imprint to ensure that the extra you paid for the brand name isn’t lost to observers, and it’s secures by a steel clasp.
It’s a minimalist face, devoid of the extra dials and flash, but it does have a calendar feature and bi-directional bezel.
The hands are luminous, as is the lettering, but it is not designed for visibility below the thermocline of a dive – it will go darker the deeper you go.
There are no helium release valves, which is not a big deal for most sport diving.
The stainless steel case and resin band will hold up reasonably well to everyday wear, but let’s be clear, this is a piece of fashion that is capable of underwater use – we certainly wouldn’t be wearing it diving on any kind of regular basis.
The Gucci is, of course, a “Gucci,” so you will be paying some for the brand name itself, and for the design it promises. This watch is about style.
It’s masculine, on the elegant end of sporty, and has a feel of sophisticated reliability about it. If you’re looking for a stylish sports watch that you can wear in a wide variety of situations – including a sail or a dive – then this is a contender. Comparing the features to the price tag though, this is more of a fashion item than a piece of technical equipment.
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