But First, What Is A Dive Watch?
While diving watches come in a range of styles, materials, and price points, there are a few defining characteristics of the dive watch genre. For instance, ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) stipulates that a divers’ watch must have a minimum water resistance rating of 100 meters.
Furthermore, ISO also demands that diving watches include a device to measure immersion times. This measuring device is the bezel of a diver’s watch, which today, is always unidirectional and always marked to 60 minutes. To use it, you align the zero-position marker on the bezel with the minute hand prior to embarking on your dive. That way, you can quickly keep track of how many minutes you’ve been underwater by looking at where the minute hand points to on the bezel. A dive bezel on modern diving watches can only turn in one direction. This is a fail-safe method to prevent overestimating immersion times in case the watch gets knocked around. Finally, ISO also requires that divers’ watches be highly luminescent for clear visibility underwater. Now that we know what makes a dive watch a dive watch, let’s look at our top five picks.
Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronograph
Breitling is of course, most famous for their awesome range of pilot watches. However, Breitling was also one of the first Swiss watchmakers to make a purposely-built dive watch, releasing the SuperOcean in 1957. And the Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronograph—our first pick as one of the best pre-owned dive watches—is a modern tribute to that vintage diver chronograph.
The Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronograph ref. A13320 sports a generous 46 mm case in stainless steel topped with a black bezel. In true retro form, the chronograph pushers are pump-pusher style while the steel mesh bracelet is also vintage-inspired. The blue dial is easy to read with three subdials at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock, accompanied by a date window at 3 o’clock. Powering the watch is the dependable Breitling 13 automatic movement, based on the famous ETA 7750 caliber with 42 hours of power reserve. Particularly appealing is the price point of this pre-owned luxury dive chronograph, which comes in at less than $3,500.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M GMT
Although Omega has been making divers’ watches since the introduction of the Seamaster 300 in 1957, the Planet Ocean collection of dive watches is relatively young having made its debut in 2005. Along with the standard diver’s watch models, Omega also pairs the Planet Ocean watches with other complications, such as the GMT function.
The OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M GMT ref. 188.8.131.52.01.001 features a 43.5 mm stainless steel case with a black ceramic bezel. Note that the bezel in this case is actually bi-directional and it is marked to 24-hours because it serves to tell the time in another time zone via the arrow-tipped GMT-hand on the dial. Therefore, function-wise this is primarily a GMT watch over a dive watch—perfect for those who like the look of a diver but the practicality of a dual time timepiece. Completing the look of the sporty Omega watch is the steel bracelet, black dial with plenty of luminous accents, and pops of orange details on the face of the watch. For less than $4,400 in the pre-owned market, you’re getting a whole lotta luxury sports watch for that price.
Panerai Luminor Submersible
From the 1930s onwards, Panerai was a supplier of military-grade watches for the Italian Royal Navy’s frogmen. These watches had large waterproof cases, straightforward and highly luminescent dials, and extra long straps to accommodate thick wetsuits. However, these timepieces would not be considered dive watches by today’s standards due to their lack of rotating and marked bezels.
But, today’s Panerai does indeed make modern diving watches within their Luminor Submersible lineup. The Panerai Luminor Submersible PAM00024, for example, does include a unidirectional rotating bezel on its 44 mm stainless steel case. Launched in 1998 as the first Vendôme (later known as Richemont Group) Submersible, this particular model is noteworthy because it is an A-series of the PAM00024 with a polished bezel and tritium for luminescence. Panerai only made 1,500 units of this series. There’s also the signature Luminor-style lever-operated bridge protecting the winding crown to ensure that the watch is hermetically sealed. The under $4,500 price tag is a great deal considering the fact that not only was this the first Luminor Submersible to come out of modern-day Panerai, but it’s also a limited edition.
Calibre de Cartier Diver
Divers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Cartier watches. Yet, the famous watch brand certainly does produce them—and great ones at that. Cartier makes a range of different styles within the Calibre de Cartier collection but the running theme is that they all run an in-house made mechanical movements.
The Calibre de Cartier Diver ref. W7100057 is a dive watch version, complete with a black bezel, a 42 mm steel case, a black dial, and a steel bracelet. The face of this watch is perhaps the sportiest you’ll ever find from Maison Cartier’s watch collection with its oversized luminous Roman numerals, luminous sword-shaped hands, seconds subdial, and large date window. Flip the watch around and you’ll see the Cartier 1904-PS MC automatic movement through the sapphire caseback. At less than $6,500, buying the Calibre de Cartier Diver pre-owned shaves more than two grand off the retail price.
We have saved the best for last in our roundup of the best pre-owned dive watches—the Rolex Submariner. The absolute gold standard when it comes to luxury dive watches, the Submariner has worked its way to legendary status since its introduction in 1953. Among the wide range of Submariner models available, our favorite is the last classic version of the Sub—the Rolex Submariner Date ref. 16610.
The 300-meter water resistant steel Oyster case of the Rolex Submariner Date ref. 16610 measures 40 mm in diameter and includes a black aluminum insert rather than the newer Cerachrom ceramic ones. While the ceramic Rolex watches are ultra-modern, we do love the classic look of the Submariner 16610 with its more restrained proportions. The black dial of the Sub houses the familiar lume-filled indices and luminous Mercedes-style hands, along with the date window and accompanying Cyclops lens on the sapphire crystal. At less than $7,300, a pre-owned Submariner 16610 is a great deal for a Submariner in today’s booming Rolex steel sports watch market. With an appealing combination of sporty design, topnotch quality, and tool-ready functionality, it’s no wonder that luxury divers are some of the most popular styles of watches today. When you’re ready to add one to your collection, browse our expansive collection of pre-owned dive watches here.