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    

Steinhart Gmt Ocean 1 300m Diving Watch - Very Rare ColourVintage Bulova Oceanographer Snorkel 666 Feet. Automatic. Diver. Cal 11 BlacdVintage Seiko 7002 Pepsi Scuba Divers Watch. Fully Serviced & Timing RegulatedBreitling Colt Chronograph Men 100m Diving Watch Chrono Aeromarine White A53350Seiko Custom 'deep Sky Blue' Submariner Scuba Diver's Automatic Date Watch 7002Breitling Chronomat Chronograph Men's B13050 Diving Watch Windrider AutomaticOmega For 1970s Seamaster Dive Watch /flightmaster22mm Mesh Bracelet New StockVintage 17 Jewels Automatic 45mm Cordura Sea-gull Dive Day Date Men's WatchVintage Diver - Aquastar Duward Super Compressor Dive Watch As MovementVintage Seiko 7002 Scuba Divers Watch. Fully Serviced & Timing RegulatedSeiko Automatic Acid Yellow Dial 'submariner' Scuba Divers Steel Date Watch 7002Seiko Automatic 'scubapro 450' Black Submariner Scuba Divers Day/date Watch 7002Seiko Orange Monster 200m Scuba Divers WatchMarathon Automatic Swiss Dive WatchSeiko 7548 Dive Watch Restored By Jack At IwwVintage Stainless Seiko Quartz Diver Dive 7548-7009 150m November 1984 RetroVintage Seiko Scuba Divers Automatic 200m S/s 7s26-0029 Mens Watch Circa 1970sVintage Citizen Promaster Digital Analog Aqualand Diving Watch 200 Meters DepthSeiko 'military Olive Green' Submariner Scuba Diver's Automatic Date Watch 7002100% Authentic Tag Heuer Men Formula 1 Black Watch Diving Dress Wah1110 ClassicOmega 1970s Seamaster Dive & Chronograph Watch 20mm Mesh Bracelet New StockSeiko Automatic Dark Blue Dial 'pepsi' Scuba Diver's Day/date Watch 7s26 Skx009Seiko Kinetic Scuba 200m 5m43-0d70 Pipin Ferreras Model Kanji Rare!Jumbo Authentic 42mm Seiko Orange Dial Scuba Divers Watch,150m,17j, Auto, DateHuge Seiko 6309 7040 Ss Mens Dive Watch $1Hamilton Khaki King Scuba Black Dial Gmt Automatic Mens Watch H64515133Tag Heuer Men's Man Kirium Sport Diving Watch 200 Meter Silver W/strap Wl111e00' Seiko 7s26 0020 Skx007 Auto Mens Black Day Date # 050676 Dive Ss Watch $1Kobold Soarway Diver "seal" Massive Dive Men's Watch 100 Atm New In Box! Blue Rado Dive Star Chronograph Automatic Caliber Rc1 W/warrantyTag Heuer Wg1120-o Men's Dive Wristwatch - Stainless & Gold Plated 200 MVictorinox Dive Master 500Huge! Vtg Breitling Cordura Automatic Mens Divers-scuba Wristwatch~1960'sTag Heuer Ladies Wrist Diving Watch 200m Wk1310-0 Professional Quartz_212029Vintage Seiko Auto Quartz Kinetic Scuba Diver's 200m 5m23-7a00 Gold & Silver Perrelet Diver Seacraft Automatic Chronograph Dive Men's Watch A1054/a Msrp$5900Tag Heuer Diving Watch 200m Wk1211 Midsize Professional Quartz Watch_222748Alsta Nautoscaph Diving WatchAnonimo Hi-dive Millimetri Hybrid With Orange DialInvicta Mens Pro Diver Scuba Blue Ip Bezel Stainless Steel Bracelet WatchTag Heuer Boy's Diving 3000 200m 934.213 Silver Dial Professional Quartz_220351Huge Seiko 6309 7040 Ss Red Dial Modded Mens Dive # 120878 Watch $1Vintage Citizen Aqualand Scuba Dive Cal. C023 Promaster Depth Gauge 200m WatchSeiko Automatic 7002 Scuba Divers Watch Black Yellow Sterile Dial Ploprof HandVostok Russian Amphibia Scuba Diver Watch Scuba DudeBig Vintage Seiko Automatic Modified Red 'submariner' Scuba Diver's S.s700201' Seiko 7s26 0020 Skx007 Auto Mens Black Day Date #1d2685 Dive Ss Watch $1Citizen Promaster Cyber Aqualand Nx Dive Watch/computerRussian Military Watch Vostok Scuba Diver 50m 17j Ussr Soviet Cccp 1980's BoctokTag Heuer Lady's Sel Sport Elegance Link Diving Watch 200 Mt Gold Citizen Eco Drive 20th Anniversary Aqualand Jv0030-01e Black Imperial Dive WatchInvicta Mens 48mm Pro Diver Scuba Quartz Chrono Poly Watch Blue 6983Mens Bvlgari Diagono Stainless Steel Scuba Automatic Watch Vary Rare Citizen Aqualand 200m Dive Analog Men's Watch Japan MadeVintage Skin Diver Kit W/sheffield Diver Watch~ist Knife & Ikelite Dive CompassNew Invicta Men 300m Scuba Pro Diver Jr00 Retrograde 18k Gold Ip Ss WatchTag Heuer Aquaracer Black Bezel Ss Sapphire Crystal Face Diving Watch PerfectTag Heuer Men's Link Watch 200 Meter White Diving Sport Wt1114 W/box99' Seiko 7s26 0020 Skx007 Auto Mens Black Day Date #983224 Dive Ss Watch $1Swatch Fun Scuba Sugm100 Toxic Tide Great Condition Lemon Green & Grey Colors