Dive watches have been popular for several decades. Perhaps it all started during the 1950s, when Ian Fleming began writing the James Bond series at his summer home in Jamaica, where he himself was an avid diver. It was around the time that modern scuba diving and Rolex dive watches were launched. Fleming himself wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer.
Flash forward to 1962 when Sean Connery, aka James Bond, appeared on the silver screen in Dr. No. He demonstrated how to test for radioactivity by waving a Geiger counter over the dial of his Rolex Submarine. Subsequent movies would feature dive watches that performed incredible feats like converting to a circular saw or using a built-in magnet to repel bullets.
Of course, all those features are make-believe, but if you wear a dive watch for diving rather than looking cool like James Bond, it’s important to find one that is suitable. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend thousands on a Rolex. You can find an affordable waterproof watch good for diving by following these eight tips:
1. Go for a Depth Rating Even Higher than the Basic Requirement
The required water resistance for a dive watch is at least 200 meters. A watch that is water-resistant to 100 is only suitable for scuba diving or at least diving at a minimal depth. Even if you don’t plan on diving deeper than 200 meters, it’s a good idea to look for a watch with a deeper rating to be on the safe side. That’s because the rating depth by the manufacturer doesn’t consider watch or water movement. In the depths of the ocean, constant motion and current add pressure.
2. Choose a Dive Watch with a Thick, Sturdy Case
The case material should be corrosion-resistant and thick enough to keep water from leaking in. Materials to look for include stainless steel and titanium. The case back should also be tightly sealed or screwed down to resist outflow and pressure.
3. Make Sure It’s Readable in Low Light
It’s important to be able to see readings in murky, low-light conditions like underwater to safely calculate ascension time. Choose a dive watch that has luminous hands, numbers, or indices. To get a better idea, make it a point to understand how watches are illuminated in the first place.
4. Look for a Clear, Simple Display
In addition to well-lit markings, look for a display that is simple and clear. Avoid added or unnecessary features that may be confusing under stress. Look for contrasting colors such as black on white. Bezel markings should be imprinted rather than painted on because the paint will eventually rub off after water exposure.
5. Choose a Dive Watch that Keeps Accurate Time
This tip should be a no-brainer. Accurate timekeeping is critical when you are several hundred feet underneath the sea with a finite air supply. This is why divers should look for a superior timepiece.
6. Consider Mineral Crystal over Sapphire
Professional and serious recreational divers usually prefer a dial cover made of hardened mineral glass. Although it scratches more easily than a sapphire crystal, mineral glass is more shatterproof. A broken watch deep underwater could be catastrophic.
7. Check the Band Material and Length
Like the casing, a dive watch’s band needs to be made from a corrosion-resistant material. Rubber and silicone bands are comfortable and won’t rust or grow brittle over time. The drawback of these types of bands is that they can be cut. Divers using a knife for another purpose might accidentally cut the band. A better choice is stainless steel or titanium.
A good dive watch will also have a longer band to fit over bulky wetsuits or dive equipment. Another great band feature to look for is a folding link. This will let you fit the watch over a wetsuit when folded out. Fold the link in for a comfortable fit over your bare arm when out of the water.
8. Choose One with the Right Type of Bezel
A good dive watch will have a bezel that only rotates counterclockwise so you can set the index to the minute hand to see how long you stay underwater. This way, if the bezel gets bumped, it will show more elapsed time and you can err on the side of caution and ascend sooner rather than later.