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It’s easy to go with a Citizen or Seiko when you don’t want to spend your money on a Rolex Sea-Dweller.
But somehow I find Seiko and Citizen divers’ watches not very appealing (the exception being the Citizen NY0040 which I owned for a few years and then sold).
Because they are usually too big (and bulky) for a small wrist, and worse, everyone seems to be wearing them these days. There are scores of people wearing a Seiko SKX 007, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it’s not my cup of tea. I think you can agree with me that wearing a watch that “everyone” is wearing doesn’t quite do it.
We all want to feel exclusive, and the good thing is, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a watch to achieve that.
In this post, I’m going to give you a list of the 20 best dive watches for under $200.
Be warned: there won’t be any Seiko’s or Citizen’s here :-).
But having a great dive watch, without knowing how to use it, is no fun.
Therefore, I will also explain how dive watches work (how to use them), if divers are still wearing them today and the difference between a dive watch and a dive computer.
By the end of this post, you’ll know all about dive watches and the best extrinsic models you can buy for just $200 (or less) so that you’re ready for your next jump into the deep waters!
Now, let’s dive right in, shall we?!
How do dive watches work?
Dive watches have unidirectional rotating bezels to tell you the time you spent underwater and the time you have left to reach the surface safely.
Dive watches are water-resistant watches for Scuba- and deep-sea diving that can withstand atmospheric pressure underwater. Atmospheric pressure underwater is the force of the water that pushes on people and objects as they descend. It works like this.
For every 10.3 meters that a person or object descends underwater, atmospheric pressure increases by 1 atmosphere, which is equivalent to 101.325 Kilopascal (KPA) or 14.7 pounds per square inch.
Under these high-pressure circumstances, a regular watch implodes.
Dive watch Functions
But water-resistance is not the only characteristic of a dive watch. Before dive computers, divers had to set the time spent underwater on their watches themselves to make sure that they had enough oxygen left to reach sea level surface safely. An external (or internal) rotating bezel on the watch achieves this. Its function is quite simple.
Before you dive, you align the 12’o clock bezel with the minute hand so you can see the elapsed time underwater on your watch. Once your diving time has passed, you can read the remaining time, which you use to ascend to the surface slowly. Doing this avoids decompression sickness.
Knowing how much time you spend underwater and how much time you have to safely ascend to the surface before you run out of oxygen is essential. Therefore, even if you use a dive computer, it is still beneficial to set the diving time on a dive watch.
Just in case there’s a problem with the dive computer, you can fall back on your watch.
What is the function of a rubber strap on a dive watch?
Many dive watches have specially designed rubber straps that contract when there is compression at greater depths, and expand when the pressure decreases (when the diver returns to the surface).
Furthermore, rubber straps are easy to strap your watch over a wetsuit or drysuit sleeve. I found some excellent examples of these straps on the site of Watchgecko, here.
If you are into deep-sea diving and want to make sure your dive watch is suitable for diving at depths of 100 meters or more, look for a watch with the ISO 6425 certification. This certification is, however, not a guarantee of quality. Many great dive watches are not iso certified, but they are still perfectly suitable for deep-sea diving. You need to do some research or check with the manufacturer if the watch of your choice is OK for deep-sea diving.
Generally speaking, and depending on the type of dive you want to do (e.g., snorkeling, Scuba, or deep-sea), you can use the below table, indicating the appropriate level of water resistance.
You can find the water-resistance of your dive watch on the front or back of your watch.
Only watches with a water resistance of 20 ATM or more are suitable for diving.
- 10 ATM: water-resistant to 100 meters. Suitable for snorkeling. Not suited for diving.
- 20 ATM or more: water-resistant to 200 meters or more. Suitable for snorkeling, Scuba-diving, and deep-sea diving.
PADI is the world’s leading scuba diver training organization, and they have licensed Seiko to carry their logo on some of their dive watches. Since I won’t be talking about Seiko here, I will not expand on that, but it’s worth knowing. Google PADI to learn more.
Do divers wear dive watches?
They may or may not wear them, because dive computers have primarily replaced dive watches.
Since the 1990s, dive computers have become the norm for Scuba and deep-sea diving.
That said, dive watches are still handy to wear when diving. You can quickly check the time and use your watch as a backup for your dive computer. Also, a dive watch is a nice status symbol to show the world that you’re a diver.
Technically speaking, though, dive watches are obsolete, but they are still worn and used today.
Dive watch vs. dive computer
So what are the differences between a dive computer and a dive watch, you ask? In a nutshell, a dive computer is much more sophisticated, and it offers real-time tracking.
A dive watch usually only has two primary functions:
- Telling the time (hour of the day)
- Showing you the time spent underwater (if you set the rotating bezel correctly).
A dive computer, on the other hand, shows you things like depth, bottom time, temperature, air pressure, ascent rate, and emergency decompression.
I won’t be going into all of these functions here but take my word. If you’re serious about diving, you need a dive computer. Full stop.
But nobody is saying you can’t wear a beautiful dive watch as well! 😉
Now that you know all about diving and dive watches, here’s my list with the 20 best (exotic) dive watches for under $ 200, that you can buy today!
Size: 44 mm.
Movement: F6922 caliber automatic with hacking and hand-winding.
Water resistance: 20 ATM.
Price: $199 at the time of this writing.
Other: This is a very nice watch for everyday wear since it combines a nicely polished case with matte surfaces, making it look good in every occasion.
Size: 49 mm.
Water resistance: 20 ATM.
Strap: Silicone rubber.
Price: $112 at the time of this writing.
Other: A sporty look and excellent legibility make this an excellent watch for serious diving. I like the fact that the strap can be adjusted to fit small wrists.