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    

Tag Heuer 1000 Professional 980.13n Ss Men's Quartz Diving WatchTudor Pelagos Titanium Dive Watch ~ 25500tn Includes Box, Papers, Rubber Strap70s Bulova Accutron Snorkel 666 Feet Dual Crown Compressor Style Divers WatchSeiko Automatic Classic Black Dial Submariner Day Date Scuba Diver's Watch 6309Vintage Seiko Scuba Pro 450 Divers Watch Fully Serviced, Time-graphed & Boxed!Vintage Customised 6105 Dial Submariner Seiko Scuba Divers Watch 7002 AutomaticVintage Heuer Men's Professional Dive Watch 200m 980.020Rare 1963 Awesome Le Jour Yema Superman 990 Feet Dive Automatic Date Watch RareMens All Black Seiko Kinetic 200m Scuba Divers Sports Watch 5m62 +boxVictorinox Swiss Army Mens $925 Gunmetal Black 500m Dive Master Watch, 241429Bvlgari Diagono Scuba Regatta Automatic Stainless Steel Watch Sd40sreTag Heuer Men's Man Kirium Sport Diving Watch 200 Meter White W/strap Wl1110Bell & Ross Stainless Steel Demineur Bomb Squad Diver Dive Watch No Reserve!!!!!Luminox Navy Seal Dive Watch Luwaa3165 Red On BlackKorsbek Oceaneer Automatic Men's Dive Watch Rare Swiss Eta 2892-a2 1000m GermanVictorinox Swiss Army Mens $795 Gunmetal Red Dial 500m Dive Master Watch, 241427Bell & Ross Stainless Steel Hydromax Diver Dive Watch No Reserve!!!!!Rare Tag Heuer Professional Stainless Steel Bracelet Woman's Dive Wrist Watch NrSeiko Mens Dive Black & Blue Chronograph Stainless Steel Solar Watch Ssc017Seiko Skx173 Men's Dive / Divers Watch - New In Box - Stainless Steel Vintage Citizen Aqualand Scuba Dive Promaster Depth Gauge 200m WatchBulova Precisionist Champlain 98b153 Black Carbon Fiber Dive Watch 300m Mint!Omega Seamaster Diver 200m Vintage Diving Watch. Pre Bond Ss &18ct Gold In Need Vintage Citizen Aqualand Scuba Dive Cal. C021 Promaster Depth Gauge 200m WatchOris Titan C Dive WatchNew!invicta Mens Reserve Subaqua Spec.scuba 18krosegold Ss/rose Chronograph DialCitizen Mens Bj213500e Promaster Stainless Steel Eco Drive Dive Watch 186922 NColletible Seiko 'skx' 200m Scuba Divers Auto Men's Watch 7s26-0020Vintage Citizen Aqualand Scuba Dive Promaster Depth Gauge 200m WatchAncon Magnus Bronze Automatic 45mm Dive Watch Mens Diving Mag001 Leather BlackSeiko 6309 Modified 'deep Sea Diver' 6105 Black Pepsi Automatic Scuba Date WatchLuminox Navy Seals Dive Watch Swiss Traser Mb-micritec Inc.3h Mbm 20 Atm WrHuge Seiko 6309 7040 Ss Mens Dive Watch $1Rare Seiko 6309 7290 Pepsi Ss Band Mens Dive Watch $1Halios Tropik Ss Black Dive Watch Stainless Steel Bracelet, Box, Sharkskin StrapNew!invicta Mens 18kgold Ss Pro Diver Scuba Chronograph/gold Ss Bracelet Watch02' Seiko 7s26 0030 Skx007 Automatic Mens Day Date # 250188 Dive Ss Watch $1Bell And Ross Br-02 Marine Blue Diving WatchVintage Citizen Aqualand Scuba Dive Cal. C021 Promaster Depth Gauge 200m WatchTag Heuer Men's Man Kirium Sport Diving Watch 200 Meter White W/strap Wl1110Huge Seiko 6309 7040 Ss Mens Dive Watch $1Extremely Rare 4205-0152 Seiko 38mm Scuba Divers Watch, 150m, Auto, Date, H20 Orca White 44mm Automatic Mens Diving Watch Swiss Eta 2824 Sapphire Rare Brand New! Invicta 0074 Mens Scuba Pro Diver Chrono 18kt Gold Plated Ss WatchBreitling Colt Chronograph Men Diving Watch Chrono Ocean Aeromarine Black A53350Orient Blue Dial Mako 21-jewel Automatic Dive Watch With Blue DialVintage Citizen Aqualand Scuba Dive Cal. C023 Promaster Depth Gauge 200m WatchDive Master 500 (red) QuartzSeiko Divers Watch 6309-7040 Scb Dive Mod. #484800' Seiko 7s26 0030 Skx007 Automatic Mens Day Date # 040080 Dive Ss Watch $1Seiko 7002 7000 Ss Mens Dive Pepsi Ss Band Automatic Watch $1Deep Blue Automatic Dive WatchSeiko Srp043k1 Dive Watch, 200m, Stainless, Hardlex, "spork" Seiko Black Monster Automatic Dive Watch With Rubber Dive Strap Skx779Seiko 150m Scuba Date Automatic Dive Watch Rare Orange 7002-700jSeiko Ssc031 Mens Steel Solar Quartz Chronograph Diver Diving Black Rubber WatchCitizens Men's Bn0097-11e Orange Scuba Fin Eco-drive WatchTissot Seastar 1000,300meter Dive Watch$180 Orient Men's Cem65004b 'black Mako' Automatic Dive Watch97' Seiko 7s26 0030 Midsize Pepsi Date Dive Automatic Ss Sn # 740913 Watch $1