About Dive Watches
Designed to meet the needs of history’s explorers, professional divers, and navy soldiers, water resistant dive watches are ideal pieces for any man’s 21st century maritime expedition.
For centuries, watchmakers and enthusiasts alike have been working to craft watches that could be used underwater. Now known as dive watches, hard hat divers of the 19th century often placed pocket watches inside their helmets to tell time while below sea level. In the 20th century, more robust dive watches were produced for military distribution—like the Rolex Oyster, patented in 1926 and equipped with a hermetic seal. Interestingly, English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze crossed the English Channel with a Rolex Oyster in 1927, and after 10 hours of swimming in cold water, the watch remained sealed and kept good time.
In 1932, Swiss luxury brand Omega introduced the Omega Marine, establishing themselves as the creator of the world’s first industrially produced dive watches. Since it was crafted for a larger commercial audience, it featured a patented double sliding and removable case, eliciting a more flashy effect for collectors. Then, in 1936 Panerai designed “Radiomir” underwater timepieces to satisfy a formal request made by the Royal Italian Navy, . Perhaps prompted by their success in the late 20s, Rolex actually began making the “Radiomir” dive watches for Panerai, highlighting the tight knit world of luxury watchmaking. for the frogman commandos. These prototype dive watches went into production in 1938 with a number of changes. The most significant change was to improve legibility underwater. The design eventually evolved to use a combination of four large Arabic numerals using indices between, but not using a seconds hand commonly found on dive watches.
As a number of dive watches were made to specification during and after World War II to support the armed forces, they were largely intended for a narrow customer base—and today, they usually only catch the eye of collectors who take interest in these remarkable wristwatches. Want to learn more about the detailed history of watches in general? Read the Chronograph History Lesson in our editorial section to build a solid foundation of watch knowledge and other styles.
Dive Watches Characteristics & Water Resistance
At a minimum, dive watches must have a water resistance greater than 1.0 MPa which is the equivalent of 100 m or 330 ft. However, they typically boast a water resistance of around 200 to 300m, or 660 to 980ft. Modern, true dive watches now follow the ISO 6425 standard which defines test standards, including diving time indicators, readability and visibility, magnetic, shock and chemical resistance, and strap or band solidity. Any watch that meets these standards are marked with the distinct word “DIVER’S” to distinguish itself as suitable for actual diving. Keep in mind that brands and manufacturers voluntarily test dive watches to comply with ISO 6425 standards and it involves some cost, so not every watch will be tested and certified.
Purchasing Dive Watches
Did you know that James Bond sported one of Rolex’s premier dive watches in the first 10 films of the franchise? In fact, Agent 007 popularized the Rolex Submariner, causing it to reach an iconic status. You can channel your best Bond with our suite of pre-owned Rolex dive watches like the Rolex Submariner 1680, or explore other brands like IWC for exceptional water-resistant pieces. Want to dive deeper into this style? Immerse yourself in our Diving Deeper: Dive Watches For the Record Books to read more on what we consider dive watches for the record books. Or, if you’re not a deep sea explorer, simply discover a handful of watches inspired by the sea to find a nautical twist on a classic timepiece.