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    

Vintage Seiko 6105 - 8000 Automatic Mens Dive Watch In BoxSquale Vintage Dive Watch-ocean Diver Blandford Sa-25 Atmos-in F.w.o-gains TimeVintage 1970's Solvil Et Titus 21 Jewel Calypsomatic Scuba Diver's WatchVintage Seiko 'submariner' Scuba Diver Japan 7002 Fully Serviced & Time-graphed!Enicar Sherpa Super-divette Compressor, Rare Diving Watch 1960s Or 1970sCirca 1966 Omega Seamaster 300 Cal 565 "big Triangle" Stainless Steel Dive WatchVintage Seiko Scuba Pro 450 Divers Watch Automatic 7002 Chain-mail Shark Mesh Tag Heuer 1000 Professional 200m Quartz Diving Mens Watch 980.013nVintage Customised 50th Anniversary Green Submariner Seiko Scuba Diver Watch Vintage Seiko Scuba Divers Automatic 200m S/s 7s26-0029 Mens Watch Circa 1970sSeiko Automatic 'scubapro 450' Black Dial Pepsi Scuba Divers Day/date Watch 7002Seiko Monster Automatic Men's Dive Watch Stainless Steel Bracelet Tag Heuer Men's F1 Formula Grande Watch 200 M Diving Black Wah1010 W/strapVintage Fortis Marinemaster Super Compressor Auto Date Dive Divers WatchSeiko Skx007 J1 - 200m Dive Watch Made In JapanHuge Seiko 6309 7040 Ss Mens Dive Watch $1Luminox Navy Seal Dive 3905 Wrist Watch For MenBreitling Superocean Colt1000 Mt Men Diving Watch Aeromarine Beautiful A170400Zeno Airplane Gmt Quartz 500m Diving Watch - Not WorkingVintage Seiko Dive WatchHuge Seiko 6309 7040 Ss Mens Dive Watch $1Tag Heuer Men's Man 2000 Sport Diving Watch 200 Meter Black And Red W/ StrapOrient 200m Diving Watch - QuartzSeiko 6309 Modified 'deep Sea Diver' 6105 Black Pepsi Automatic Scuba Date WatchNew Jaeger Lecoultre Master Compressor Dive Gmt Automatic Watch Q184t770 $12990Perrelet Diver Seacraft Automatic Chronograph Dive Men's Watch A1054/a Msrp$5900Seiko Ssc017 Solar Mens Dive Chronograph Black Dial Steel No ReserveVintage Zodiac Seawolf Automatic W/ Date * Diving Watch 20 Atm *gray Bezel RunsBreitling Colt 1000 Ft Men Sport Diving Watch Aeromarine White A57035Orient Blue Dial Mako 21-jewel Automatic Dive Watch Tag Heuer Professional Formula One 371.508 Ss Quartz Ladies Diving WatchLuminox Deep Dive A1511 / Black / Silicone / Mens / Automatic / 46mm Great!Benarus Moray Automatic Dive Watch, BronzeIwc Aquatimer 2000 Ref. 3568-02 Dive Watch 44 Mm With Box And PapersArmida Pvd A2 Super Dome Milsub Dive Watch Full Kit - Limited Edition #300/300Rare Tag Heuer Professional 200m Ladies 18k Rose Gold & Steel Dive Watch, Mint!Vintage Citizen Aqualand Scuba Dive Cal. C021 Promaster Depth Gauge 200m WatchAll Original Authentic Seiko Automatic Black Scuba Diver's Watch 7002-7009 A1Bathys 100 Fathoms Automatic Swiss Watch / Boutique Dive / Diver WatchVictorinox Swiss Army Mens $995 Orange Chronograph 500m Dive Master Watch 241423Vintage 1964 Automatic Bulova Snorkel Diver Wristwatch.cal.11anac.serviced.Tag Heuer Men's F1 Formula Grande Watch 200 M Diving White Wac1111 W/strapSeiko 200m Scuba Divers Automatic Men's Watch 7s26-0020, Black Dial/patinaTag Heuer Men's Aquaracer Watch 300 Meter Silver Diving Sport W/strapInvicta Bolt Zeus 12954 Jason Taylor Ltd Edition Swiss Made Dive Watch W/caseBrand New! Invicta 6983 Men Swiss Scuba Pro Diver Chrono Black 18k Gold WatchBreitling Callistino Lady's Women Sport Diving Watch 100 M D52043 Two ToneHamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Quartz Men's Quartz Watch H64511733Rare Seiko 6309 7290 Pepsi Ss Band Mens Dive Watch $1Tag Heuer Men's Man Kirium Sport Diving Watch 200 M Anthracite W/strap Wl1111Seiko Divers Watch 6309-7040 Scb Dive Mod. #5024Seiko Prospex Diver Scuba Sbdc001New Invicta Men Ltd Ed Scuba Pro Diver Swiss Chrono 18k Gold Ip Ss Black DialBig Ugly Wittnauer Mens Diving Or Sports Watch. Auto,day Date. Orange Dial/bezlSeiko Men's Srp307 Classic Automatic Dive Watch Vintage Seiko 2205-0181 Automatic Ladies Dive Watch Seiko Mens Scuba Diver 200m Kinetic Watch Ska371p2 Invicta Mens Pro Diver Scuba Swiss Chronograph Gold Dial 18k Gold Ip Ss Pu WatchClassic Solvil Et Titus Mens Dive Pepsi Day Date Auto Ss# 512605 Watch $1Tag Heuer Men's Aquaracer Watch 300 Meter Silver Diving Sport W/strap Waf1112