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    

Bvlgari Diagano Scuba Chrono Sc 38 G 18k Yellow Gold WristwatchTudor Pelagos Dive Watch Corum Bubble Dive Bomber Flying Tiger Watch Deployment & DateLimited Edition Spd Resco & Prometheus Design Udt Dive WatchLuminox Deep Dive Divers Watch Date Ggl.l1512.s1 Ss Rubber Black Dial Auto 1512 Fortis B-42 Marinemaster Automatic Dive Watch. Full Lume DialTag Heuer Aquaracer Waf1113 Mens 300m Diving Watch Quartz W/zipper & Watch BoxesSeiko Sbbn007 Tuna Men's Dive WatchSquale 1521 (atmos Blue / Polished Mens Dive Watch) Multiple Bands + Travel CaseTag Heuer Aquaracer Diving Watch Mens 300m 39mm QuartzCitizen Aqualand Scuba Dive Cal. C027 Promaster Titanium 200m Black 50mm WatchHamilton Khaki King Scuba AutomaticMarathon Military Tsar Dive Watch Us Government - Swiss ((( Low Serial #40 )))$3000 Breitling Superocean A17040 Dive 1000m 40mm Automatic Wristwatch BraceletGucci Dive 136.2 Green/red Nylon Swiss Made Wrist Watch Great!!!Tag Heuer375.513 Professional 200m Dive Watch.neon Green Hands,dial,runs,quartzVictorinox Mechanical Dive Master 500 241356Navy Seal Luminox 3150 Dive Watch Stainless BandSeiko Prospex Srp777j Automatic Dive Watch, Cal 4r36, Stainless Steel, BoxedPre-owned Swiss Luminox Series 8800 Navy Seal Dive WatchSeiko 5 Dive Watch Skx007 Skx007j1 Military Special Forces Diver UsedCitizen Promaster Aqualand Analog Dive Watch Vintage Model 3740-e70006Orient Ray Ii - Color Black Automatic (self Wind) Dive Watch #faa02004b9 NewInvicta Men Submariner Pro Diver Red Chrono Strap Watch W/extra Strap&dive Case97' Seiko 7s26 0020 Skx007 Auto Mens Black Day Date # 740175 Dive Ss Watch $1Invicta Men Pro Diver Scuba Chrono 18kt Gold Plated Stainless St. W/ Extra StrapInvicta Men Pro Diver Scuba Chrono 18kt Gold Plated Stainless St. W/ Extra StrapInvicta Men Pro Diver Scuba Chrono 18kt Gold Plated Stainless St. W/ Extra StrapCitizen Mens Aqualand Tutone Dive Watch 200m Invicta Men Pro Diver Scuba Swiss 18k Gold Plated Stainless Steel Gold Dial WatcSeiko Sealmaster 150m Analogue-digital H801-8008 Dive Watch New Battery And BandInvicta Men's 48mm Scuba Pro Diver Isa Chrono Abalone Dial Stainless Steel WatchClassic Seiko 7002 7000 Ss Mens Dive Pepsi Rubber Automatic Watch $104' Seiko 7s26 0020 Skx007 Auto Mens Black Day Date # 432757 Dive Ss Watch $1Classic Seiko 7002 7000 Ss Mens Dive Pepsi Rubber Automatic Watch $1Orient Black Mako Automatic Dive Watch With Rubber Dive Strap99' Seiko 7s26 0020 Skx007 Auto Mens Black Day Date # 973500 Dive Ss Watch $1Invicta Men's 48mm Scuba Pro Diver Swiss Parts Chrono Cobalt Blue Dial Ss WatchMens Invicta Pro Diver Scuba Gold Plated Steel Chronograph Watch NewAs Is Invicta Men's 1894 Subaqua Nomo Iii Chronograph Stainless Steel Dive WatchSeiko 200m Scuba Divers Day/date Auto Men's Watch 7s26-0020 Skx009, PepsiVintage Seiko 7002 7000 Ss Mens Dive Ss Band Automatic Watch . $199' Seiko 7s26 0030 Automatic Midsized Pepsi Day Date Dive Ss #970738 Watch $Skx009 Scuba Diver's Automatic Watch 7s26-0020 200m 21jewels S#711948Scuba Diver's Seiko 7s26-0020 Automatic 200m For Men's WatchRare Seiko 6309 7290 Pepsi Ss Band Mens Dive Watch $1Rare 96' Seiko 7s26 0160 Mens Titanium Day Date Dive Skx 403 #6n0119 Watch $1Rare Seiko 6309 7290 Pepsi Ss Band Mens Dive Watch $1Rare Seiko 6309 7290 Pepsi Ss Band Mens Dive Watch $1Classic Seiko 7002 7000 Ss Mens Dive Pepsi Rubber Automatic Watch $102' Seiko 7s26 0020 Skx007 Auto Mens Black Day Date # 291459 Dive Ss Watch $1Classic Seiko 7002 7000 Ss Mens Dive Pepsi Rubber Automatic Watch $1Classic Seiko 7002 7000 Ss Mens Dive Pepsi Rubber Automatic Watch $199' Seiko 7s26 0020 Skx007 Auto Mens Black Day Date # 921394 Dive Ss Watch $193' Seiko 7002 7000 Mens Orange Black Auto Day Date #3n0221 Dive Ss Watch $1Rare Seiko 6309 7290 Pepsi Ss Band Mens Dive Watch $1Vintage Seiko 7002 7000 Ss Mens Dive Ss Band Automatic Watch . $1Rare Seiko 6309 7290 Pepsi Ss Band Mens Dive Watch $1Citizens Titanium Dive WatchInvicta Russian Pro Diver 18k Rose Gold Hand Wind Watch #1090 & 3 Slot Dive Case