A dive watch is part utility and part statement. You want a time piece that holds up under harsh diving conditions (and under water). And you want a watch that fits your unique style. That makes it a tough choice, and we get it.
Making the decision even tougher, there are endless choices of divers watches. So many options; lots of features to consider; and so many price differences to navigate.
So how do you know which is the best diver watch for you? We’re here to help you navigate these waters and make the choice that’s right for you.
Want the best dive watch, but aren’t sure where to begin?
We’ve got you covered!
A good place to start is to figure out how and where you will use your watch. Will it just be for snorkeling? Will you wear it for an occasional shallow dive? Or, will you use it on extended deeper dives? Or, perhaps you’re just one of those choosy chaps who think dive watches are cool and it’s all about the look for you. Not a damn thing wrong with that by the way. Dive watches ARE cool!
The point is, getting to the heart of why you need and want a dive watch will help you choose the features and style that fits you best.
Next, you’ll want to get acquainted with the core ‘buzz words’ associated with dive watches. There are some key terms that you will see again and again when reviewing watches. You’ll read and hear things like movement, crystal, unidirectional bezel, chronometer, etc.
Of course, if you don’t want to memorize all of these time piece terms, we’ve got you covered. Just check out our reviews and comparisons. We’ll steer you straight.
If you’ve got a couple minutes, I recommend this video on divers watch basics. Very informative and no fluff!
But it certainly helps if you know what questions to ask in determining the best diver’s watch. Here are 10 questions that will arm you with the knowledge you need.
Does it have a Large, Easily Readable Display?
If you are actually going to be using this watch under water, you want to make sure you can actually read it! Diving conditions will vary. And believe me, I hope you are fortunate enough to be diving in crystal clear waters.
But most of us will encounter less than perfect visibility under water. And that’s where big, easy-to-read displays are a huge help. As an added bonus, large watch faces are super ‘in’ right now, so you’ll fit in with the cool kids!
Does the watch have glow in the dark hands?
Speaking of fitting in with the kids… No, but seriously, glow-in-the-dark, or otherwise illuminated watch hands are an important factor. Remember what I pointed out above? We’re going to be diving in less than perfect conditions. That often includes darkness on some level. Even just a few feet down, the light begins to fade.
Having watch hands that you can see in low light conditions is critical. So whether the watch hands and markings glow, or they are digitally lighted, it’s an important consideration.
Does the watch have a quality band that is large enough to fit over your exposure protection?
Exposure what? Exposure protection is another way of saying wet suit or other similar garb. You’ll want to at least consider the possibility that you may be wearing some sort of sleeve. And in those cases, the dive watch will need to fit over that sleeve. So it’s wise to ensure that your watch has a large and/or adjustable band to accommodate these needs. If you do envision yourself in this boat, we would recommend that you not purchase a watch with a fixed sized bracelet. Better to have a strap you can adjust and wear in any scenario.
Are the watch controls usable while wearing gloves?
This kind of relates to the ‘exposure protection’ point from above. Gloves could also be part of your diving gear. And if you’re wearing gloves, it can be difficult to operate some watch controls. Some dive watches have fantastic, large controls that are easy to operate while wearing gloves underwater. Others have smallish controls that are hard to operate even if you’re not in the water, and wearing no gloves. Opt for the former.
Does it have buttons that can be pushed underwater without leaking?
Seems obvious, I know. But the fact is that some watches that are loosely considered ‘diving’ watches are actually not meant to be controlled under the water. Operating their controls under water will effectively open the flood gates and water will enter the watch. Not good!Instead, look for a watch that is designed to be operated under water. Controls for these watches are specially sealed to keep the water out, but still allow you to utilize your watch as intended.
This may be surprising if you’re new to dive watches, but your watch should be rated to a depth of at least 100M. 200M is preferred in a high quality diving watch. 100M is like what 328 feet, and that seems pretty deep right? If you only plan on diving to a depth of 50 feet, why do you need one rated for over 300 feet? Good question.The answer is that this is a rating, not an exact measurement. Watches that are rated for 100M are okay for snorkeling and shallower depths. For anything more, go with a 200M or more rating. And the terminology you’re looking for is Water Resistant, not Waterproof. Water resistant means the watch will resist water at depth and high pressure. Waterproof means you could maybe wear it in the shower.
Are the crystal and casing strong?
A watch that can stand up to depth and pressure must be made of strong materials.The crystal is the clear, glass-like piece that covers the face of the watch. It should be strong and of high quality. You can read all about the various kinds of watch crystals here.The case is housing of the watch. Rather, the shell which contains all of the mechanics, if you will. A quality dive watch case is going to be constructed of strong metal that can withstand the corrosive nature of sea water. Divers watches are typically constructed with thicker materials and are thus, generally, heavier than their dress watch counterparts.
Does it have a screw-down or completely sealed back?
The back of a watch is typically your way in. It’s how you get in to the movement, the battery (if it has one), and in some cases how you set the time. The back can also be an easy way for water to get in. A screw-down or sealed back typically offers better water resistance than a pop off back. Some dive watch backs will have an o-ring gasket that helps maintain the water resistant seal.
How about a unidirectional bezel…does it have one?
The bezel is perhaps the most classic, recognizable feature of a dive watch. On a dive watch, the bezel is the ring that encompasses the face of the watch and has numeric markings, typically representing minutes. This is used as an indicator to the diver of how much time is left on their dive.Unidirectional means ‘moving in one direction’. The reason you want a unidirectional bezel on a dive watch is because if you were to inadvertently move the bezel during a dive, the result would be less time available for your dive. If you had an multidirectional bezel, you could in theory accidentally move the bezel the other direction, which could result in you thinking you had more time left for your dive than you actually had. I don’t have to tell you why that could be bad.
Do the features that match your requirements?
Many of the other questions in this article are related to quality. Features are more related to your specific wants and needs. In determining what your diver watch needs are, you have probably come up with a list of features that you’d like your watch to have.There are a lot of flavors of dive watches. Some are quite basic, with just a bezel. Others, especially digital dive watches, have loads of options. Things like temperature of the water, pressure and depth indicators, avg. depth and max depth, and many more are all available. It’s just a matter of matching them up with what you need.
Dive watches are pretty amazing little machines. Now you’re armed with the knowledge you need to go out and grab the best dive watch for the money. We all have different preferences and needs in a watch. When it comes to finding the perfect diving watch for you, it’s just a matter of taking what you know and what you need, and lining those up for the perfect match.