Diving wristwatches are among the most popular sports watches for collectors and casual wearers alike. Their chunky styling suggests ruggedness and an ability to withstand the elements, which, in fact, a water-resistant watch must do.

It’s not just resistance to water that defines a dive wristwatch—lots of watches can get wet without suffering ill effects. To be classified as a diving wristwatch, the timepiece must function normally at a depth of 100 meters (most modern dive watches are rated for 200-300 meters); its dial must be readable in pitch-black conditions; and it must survive shocks, corrosion from seawater, and exposure to magnetic fields.

The Rolex Oyster of 1926 is considered by many to have been the first waterproof wristwatch, if not the first certified dive wristwatch. The wristwatch was given a serious test (and garnered much publicity) in 1927 when a young stenographer named Mercedes Gleitze wore a Rolex Oyster when she became the first British woman to swim the English Channel.

Omega introduced the Marine in 1932, which was certified to 135 meters in 1937. For some, this is the first true dive wristwatch. Around the same time, Panerai began work on 300 diving wristwatches for the Italian Navy. The Panerai Radiomir, as it was called, featured a Rolex movement and was designed for use by frogmen commandos. Like the Rolex Oysters, the Radiomirs had a cushion-shaped case, and their oiled-leather straps were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit.

The 1940s were also a busy time for Omega. In addition to making watches for the military during World War II, Omega introduced its Chronomètre in 1942. This handsome, highly accurate wristwatch had a silvered dial, Arabic numerals, and black wire hands. Best of all, its stainless-steel case was water-resistant.

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.

Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And i...

Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced several diving wristwatches in the late 1950s, including the Geophysic Chronometer. Jaeger-LeCoultre also made a waterproof version of the Memovox called the Deep Sea Alarm in 1961. Meanwhile, competitor IWC released its water-resistant Aquatimer in 1967.

Indeed, the 1960s were a vibrant time for dive wristwatches. Doxa came out with the Sub 300T (300 is the number of meters it was rated for), which featured a U.S. Navy air-dive table on its bezel to aid divers. Even more helpful was the wristwatch’s brilliant orange dial, which was designed for divers in dark, potentially life-or-death conditions.

Divers loved the Doxa, which was embraced by U.S., British, French, and Polish naval forces. So successful was the orange-colored dial that Doxa added a few more models, including the silver-dialed Searambler and yellow Divingstar.

But Rolex was not about to give up its status as a key maker of dive wristwatches. One of its most collectible vintage military dive wristwatches is from the 1970s, the Rolex 5517 Submariner, which Rolex produced for the British Royal Navy. Only about 1,200 of these watches were produced, and perhaps only a few hundred of those survived. For serious dive-wristwatch collectors, a 5517 is often the centerpiece of a collection.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Baylor Compressor, Internal Bezel, Diver Watch, Vintage Diving, ScubaSeiko Automatic 'submariner' Black Dial Scuba Diver's Day/date Watch 7s26 Skx007Rare Vintage Seiko Automatic 6309-7040 150m Diver's Scuba Pro 450 Dive Z22 1981Seiko Scuba Diver 7002-700j Genuine Automatic Stainless SteelVintage Seiko Scuba Divers Watch Automatic 7002 Shark Mesh Bracelet Very RetroSeiko Automatic Submariner Lemon Yellow Dial Scuba Diver's Steel Date Watch 7002Tag Heuer Calibre 5 Aquaracer Men's Automatic Dive Watch, Model Wap2010. Tag Heuer Men's Man Kirium Sport Diving Watch 200 M Anthracite W/strap Wl1111Hamilton Khaki King Scuba Black Dial Automatic Mens Watch H645150 Like NewMarathon Military Watch - Automatic - Dive - 300m - L00k - Very CleanHelson Skindiver Diving Watch - Numbers C3 Date Nwt - Never Touched!Ulysse Nardin Marine Acqua Perpetual Calendar Dive Watch 333-88 333-88-3/92Bvlgari Scuba Automatic Chronometer Scb38s Watch Wow Original Price $3,750Tag Heuer Men's Man Kirium Sport Diving Watch 200 Meter Silver W/strap Wl1114Seiko Automatic 6309 Scuba Diver's 6217 '62mas' Black 'submariner' Date WatchSeiko 200m Scuba Divers Automatic Men's Watch 7s26-0020, Yellow Dial/pepsiSteinhart Ocean One Black Ceramic Bezel Submariner Dive Watch Sub T0204 Date 1 Rare Vintage Seiko 6309-729a Automatic 150m Military Green Diver's Scuba DiveTag Heuer Men's Sel Sports Link Watch 200 Meter Chrono Chronograph Diving Raven Deep 44mm Automatic Dive Watch Complete Warranty & Daluca Strap BenarusLuminox Navy Seal Dive 3200 Series Wrist Watch For Men-rare Color CombinationSwiss Army Dive Master Automatic Watch With Red Rubber Strap. Mint Condition.Tag Heuer Men's Man 4000 Sport Diving Watch 200 Meter Blue W/ StrapMarathon 6425 Swiss Quartz Mens Dive WatchVintage Man's Heuer Quartz Dive Watch Reference 982.013 Black CoralTag Heuer Link Wt1112-0 Stainless Steel Quartz Men's Diving WatchInvicta Mens Jason Taylor Jt Specialty Subaqua Scuba Sliver Dial Blk Strap WatchNew Mens Citizen Eco-drive Bn0097-11e Scuba Fin Dive Watch Invicta 8926c Men's Pro Diver Automatic Black Dial Dive Watch AwesomeSwiss Tag Heuer Men's Link 200 Meter Diving Watch Professional - NrTag Heuer Men Sports Elegance Link Sel 200 M Diving Watch W/strap CremeTag Heuer Ladies Stainless Steel 200m Professional Dive Watch Wd1410New Citizen Eco Drive Men's Scuba Fin Dive Polyuretha Orange Watch Bn0097-11eInvicta Men's Pro Diver Scuba Swiss Chrono 18kgp Two Tone Mop Dial Ss Watch$525.00 Seiko Dive Watch Ska371Citizen Bj8050-08e Ecozilla Ecodrive Solar Quartz Dive Watch With Band AdaptersTag Heuer Men Sports Elegance Link Sel 200 M Diving Watch W/strap AnthraciteRare Elgin "depollier" Dive Watch With Screw Down CrownTag Heuer Link Mens 200m Quartz Dive Watch Wj1110 W/ PaperworkMen's Invicta 80074 Pro Scuba Diver Yellow Gold Brand NewMen's Invicta Pro Scuba Diver Yellow Gold 0072 Brand NewHuge Seiko 6309 7040 Ss Mens Dive Watch $1Brand New Invicta 0075 Mens Pro Diver Scuba Green Dial 18k Gold-plated WatchInvicta Men's Scuba Pro Diver Blue Dial 18k Gold Plated Ss Day & Date Watch NewInvicta Men"s Scuba Pro Diver Swiss Chrono18k Gold Plated Ss Bracelet New Watch Invicta 8926c Men's Pro Diver Automatic Black Dial Dive Watch AwesomeLumi-nox Pre-owned Navy Seals 200m Military Dive Watch With New BatteryNew In Box- Victorinox Swiss Army 241428 Dive Master 500 Men's Orange Dial WatchTag Heuer Men Stainless Steel Diving Strap Bracelet No Reserve 2000 20mm New Invicta Mens Pro Diver Scuba Combat Quartz Chronograph Blue Dial Strap WatchInvicta 14058 Men's Pro Diver Gunmetal Dial Stainless Steel Bracelet Dive WatchTag Heuer Lady's Ladies 6000 Diving Watch 200 Meter Blue Wh1315 W/boxTag Heuer Men's Link 200 Meter Diving Watch Professional Silver Wt1212 W/boxInvicta Reserve 52mm Hydromax Swiss Made Quartz Gmt Watch W/one Slot Dive CaseVintage Citizen Dive Watch Scuba Diver Promaster Aqualand - New BatteryMen's Tag Heuer Link Chronograph Black Dial 200m Dive Watch - Cj1110 Black FaceTag Heuer Men's Man Lady Ladies 4000 Sport Diving Watch 200 Meter With Strap Invicta Men 300m Scuba Pro Diver Jr00 Retrograde Quartz 18k Gold Ip Ss WatchInvicta Men 48mm Scuba Master Of Ocean Polo Green Dial Swiss 18k Gold Ip WatchMen's Invicta 80073 Pro Scuba Diver Yellow Gold Brand New