The original use of diving watches is far less important for wearers these days than it used to be. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to enjoy diving watches and their brands. In this article, we’ll take a look at five watch brands that have made a name for themselves with their diving watches. Now, the chances of you seeing a mechanical watch on the wrist of a scuba diver is almost zero: divers today have computers on their wrists rather than a mechanical watch. But that doesn’t mean that watch brands aren’t continually improving their diving watches with the newest materials and technology. Let’s find out about some of the most prominent brands in the world of diving watches.
One of the leading diving watch brands has always been Omega, who created the Omega Marine in 1932. Water resistance in watches up to this point could withstand splashes; the Marine was a timepiece that could be worn deep underwater. The Omega Marine was taken for a dive in Lake Geneva down to 73 meters (240 feet) and later tested in a pressure chamber where it resisted a depth of 135 meters (443 feet). This sparked the brand’s development of water-resistant watches, ultimately leading to Omega being one of the leading brands for diving watches. There was a massive rise in the popularity of scuba diving after World War II, which is considered the first era of modern diving watches. Omega released their famous Seamaster 300 in 1957 as part of their Speedmaster, Railmaster, and Seamaster trilogy. It has become an iconic watch that remains the inspiration for the current Seamaster 300 collection. Omega continues to develop serious diving tools for professional divers to this day.
The most famous of these is probably the Omega PloProf that was developed in collaboration with the famous French COMEX diving company. It has become another icon for the Swiss brand. And these are just two of the many Seamaster models that Omega has released. Today, you will find multiple models in the Seamaster line, the most popular of which is the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M collection, also known as the “Bond” Seamaster. Additionally, there is the aforementioned Seamaster 300 collection that takes inspiration from the vintage 1957 Seamaster 300. The Planet Ocean collection recently saw some new introductions based on the impressive Omega Ultra Deep that was part of the Five Deeps Expedition in 2019 reaching the deepest point on Earth. Omega continues to be a leading brand in the world of diving watches, with timepieces that push the limits of technology, along with beautiful vintage-inspired models.
Another brand that has had a huge impact on the world of diving watches is Blancpain. The brand is credited for creating the first modern diving watch, essentially setting the tone for how we know diving watches today. Blancpain released their Fifty Fathoms in 1953. This was one year before Commander Robert Maloubier of the French Special Forces Combat Swimmers unit was given the task to help have a watch developed that could operate at a depth of 50 fathoms or 91.44 meters (300 feet). While Rolex did in fact have watch prototypes at the time that could achieve the same feat, they weren’t yet commercially available. During this same period, Maloubier was talking to Blancpain about releasing a diving watch; in 1953 the design was completed, and Blancpain made a deal with LIP for its distribution. The watch went on sale in 1954, and the rest is history.
The legacy of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is now the stuff of legends. But back when the watch was released, it mostly was favored by professional military divers. With the larger market of everyday watch wearers, however, the timepiece was not as commercially successful. Famous French explorer Jacques Cousteau famously wore a Fifty Fathoms in his 1956 iconic film The Silent World. Blancpain is considered pivotal in the development of the modern-day diver. Its current collection has Fifty Fathoms models inspired by the classic watch from the 1950s, along with Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe models that have a modern look and materials. Blancpain truly and deservedly enjoys a special status in the world of diving watches.
It goes without saying that Rolex should also be on this list. Rolex has been developing watches that are able to take on the great depths of the world’s oceans for decades. In 1953, Rolex got its big break in the world of diving watches when they strapped their Rolex “Deep Sea Special” to the outside of the famous bathyscaphe Trieste. The Trieste dove to 3,150 meters (10,334 feet), with the Rolex returning in perfect working order. Seven years later in 1960, the Trieste dove to a whopping depth of 10,916 meters (35,813 feet), again with the Deep Sea Special attached to the outside of the vessel. Once again, it returned safely to the surface, delivering its same Rolex timekeeping precision. The Deep Sea Special of course was not a normal diving watch as we know them today. It had an enormously domed crystal and oversized case, making its beauty and wearability more than a bit debatable.
In 1954, a year after the first Trieste dive, Rolex introduced their famous Submariner at the Baselworld fair. This marked the beginning of Rolex’s influential adventures in the world of diving. Over the decades, Rolex has continually improved the Submariner. When there was need for a professional diving watch that could push the limits, the brand introduced the Sea-Dweller in 1967. It was the first watch that featured a helium escape valve, allowing it to operate at even greater depths. It also had a thicker case than the Submariner. Both models are of course still part of the current Rolex collection and the brand is always improving its watches, expanding its line with the Rolex Deepsea. Bigger, bolder, and water-resistant up to 3,900 meters (12,795 feet), it’s an impressive diving watch that makes it clear that Rolex is still a leader in the technological development of diving watches.
Another famous brand in the world of diving watches is Panerai. In the first half of the 20th century, Panerai made a name for itself as an official supplier of naval instruments to the Royal Italian Navy, as well as watches to the force’s combat divers. The timepieces that Panerai produced in the 1930s for the Italian navy are very popular among fans of diving watches to this day. Fun fact: all of these diving watches were designed and manufactured by Rolex. With their oversized cushion-shaped case and minimalist dials with big numerals, these watches that we now know as the Radiomir stand out from the crowd to this day.
Panerai as we currently know it emerged from a renewed interest in the brand that started in the 1990s. Over the decades, Panerai produced watches for different military combat dive units, but became only a small operation in the 1970s following cuts in military spending and a greater focus on quartz watches. In 1992, an article in a Japanese watch magazine set off enormous interest in the rich history of the Italian brand. This put the reintroduction of the brand into motion, this time to a larger audience. Ever since, Panerai has been a leading brand in the world of diving watches. Its collection consists of the famous Luminor models with their crown protecting feature, and the Panerai Radiomir models that pay tribute to Panerai models from the past. The Submersible collection features Panerai’s modern-day diving watches. Here you’ll find the best in new materials, design, and technology, showing why the brand is still a leader in diving watches, both modern- and vintage-inspired.
The last brand on this list is Doxa. Although Doxa might not ring a bell with everyone, in the world of diving watches, Doxa is a big name. However, Doxa didn’t start out as a diving watch brand. Its history dates all the way back to the late 19th century. In 1908 Doxa gained notoriety for their “8 Days” movement with its very impressive power reserve. The watches were used in Bugatti cars thanks to this feature. Even more automotive cockpits would feature Doxa instruments in the following years, with ships and airplanes following not long after. The brand got its big break into diving in the 1960s, when Jacques Cousteau, together with Doxa, developed a professional-grade SUB diving watch.
The Doxa SUB 300 was introduced in 1967, and would be an iconic timepiece for the brand thereafter. This new style of diving watch could be seen in Cousteau films, with crew members donning these outstanding watches with their orange dials. Soon after this, Doxa introduced new models like the T. Graph and the Conquistador. With the onset of the quartz revolution, Doxa had difficulty surviving. Over time, however, Doxa did in fact return to success in the watch industry, and is now a very popular diving watch brand. Its collection consists of a number of iconic models, the most famous of which are without a doubt the SUB 300 and SUB 300T. Be sure to also check out the SUB 600T and the SUB 200 T. Graph. These timepieces stand out because of their unique designs and great color options. They continue to be great diving watches, and make the perfect summer watch thanks to their bright colors.
There you have it, five brands known for their diving watches. From the big names like Rolex and Omega, to smaller watchmakers like Blancpain and Doxa, you’ll want to check all of them out, because all of these brands were pivotal in the development of the diving watch as we know it today.