A nod to the heroism of the Royal Italian Navy, the grit of the long-distance channel swimmer, and even Jacques Cousteau’s spirit of exploration, dive watches manage to be inherently inspiring.
In their first iterations in the 1920s, dive watches marked an important milestone. Advancements in water resistance helped popularize the use of the wristwatch (vs. the more typical pocket watch) by making them much more durable and practical for everyday wear. In the 1950s, when scuba diving was gaining popularity as a recreational sport, the dive watch became a truly necessary tool for keeping track of time while descending deep underwater, particularly when worn in tandem with a depth gauge. And as advancements in diving equipment and technology allowed for deeper dives, the watch industry kept pace with greater and greater ingenuity.
Today, for a watch to be to be officially certified as a “dive watch,” it must meet strict guidelines from the International Organization for Standardization. A few of these essential elements: water resistance to a minimum of 100 meters, particular levels of visibility and legibility in total darkness, magnetic, shock, and chemical resistance, and a glowing second hand that indicates that the watch is working, even in complete darkness. And while most of the watches here were designed specifically to pass these tests, they’re also incredibly good-looking—so it’s entirely reasonable to fall in love with these watches purely for their dry-land aesthetics.
This year, many brands are looking to the past to interpret important heritage models, and a few took the concept of modern dive watch to new places entirely. Read on for the top 20 dive watches of 2018, but be warned: Picking just one favorite will be tough.
Seiko Prospex SRPB97
The orange face of this dive watch adds some flash to the typical understated dive watch. It’s waterproof up to 200 meters and comes with an interchangeable silicone band so you can go from a day in the surf to dinner with minimal effort.