05/09/2023
 5 minutes

Top 5 Unisex Diving Watches

By Emer Browne
Fifty-Fathoms-Bathyscaphe-2-1

By Emer Browne

Ask any watch enthusiast what their favorite watch type is, and you’re very likely to get “diver” as a response. But if the majority of us are landlocked, and certainly not professional divers, why are we so drawn to these tool watches? And are there models out there made specifically with smaller wrists in mind? These are two justified questions that can certainly spark a lively discussion. Let’s delve into this watch category and get hands-on with some fantastic unisex models.

What makes a watch a diving watch?

Before I reveal my top picks, we should first establish what a diving watch is. Diving watches are strongly rooted in the world of watchmaking: They hark back to the days when watches were vital instruments, and this combination of tradition and modernity is undoubtedly part of the allure. Of course, not any watch can be hailed as a diver; there are certain criteria to be met. Arguably most importantly, these timepieces need to be easy to read at first glance. After all, they were first conceived for professional diving, where things could quickly get dark and murky, and while divers don’t necessarily need to know the current time on land, they do need to know exactly how long they’ve been underwater. That’s where the watch’s bezel comes in. Before plunging to any great depth, the wearer turns the bezel to align with the minute hand. The bezel can measure up to 60 minutes and thus let the wearer know when it’s time to resurface. The bezel only rotates counterclockwise, so there’s no danger of bumps, knocks, or water pressure accidentally lengthening the dive time. One way to recognize a diving watch is by its large bezel markers that are in turn filled or coated with luminous material for darker environments.

Needless to say, any old watch can have these design details, and they’re by no means enough to classify one as a diving watch. The ISO standard specifies that a timepiece must offer water resistance to at least 100 m (328 ft) to earn the label. And while most watches will give some sort of depth rating and survive water droplets and splashes, there is something to be said for sauntering into the pool or ocean with your timepiece still in situ. Many watch enthusiasts opt for these timepieces for that added sense of security. Diving watches made for professionals tend to have a helium escape valve, a safety mechanism that stops the watch from getting damaged when the wearer is decompressing after saturation diving. Of course, very few of us will actually need one of these, but it’s a kind of badge of honor proving that you have a serious diver on your wrist.

Do professional divers still use diving watches?

While diving watches are ubiquitous in the watch community, they’ve long been replaced with computers in real-life applications. But since they’ve been lucky enough to survive the transition to the digital age, we can safely assume that they are also future-proof.

The Advantages of Unisex Diving Watches and My Top 5

Diving watches have historically been on the larger side, since they were traditionally worn over wetsuits and needed to guarantee high legibility. Fortunately, not all models on the secondary market are bulky and imposing, so you can reap the benefits of a watch with a smaller diameter, even if you don’t necessarily need to. For example, you could share a watch with your partner or create a family heirloom to pass down to a son or daughter. With that in mind, let’s take a look at my selection of the best unisex divers out there.

1. Omega Seamaster Diver 300M

Omega hasn’t just ventured into outer space, they’ve also been known to frequent the deep blue. Thankfully, the brand also caters to smaller wrists. The Seamaster Diver 300M comes in various styles and sizes ranging from 28 to 44 mm, but a fantastic unisex option is the reference number 212.30.36.61.01.001. This 36.25-mm watch is powered by Omega’s renowned 1538 quartz caliber and comes on a stainless steel bracelet. As far as sports watches go, this reference is more on the elegant side, but still has an impressive depth rating of 300 m (984 ft) and a helium escape valve at 10 o’clock – a fine all-arounder that can be dressed up or down.

The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M ref. 212.30.36.61.01.001
The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M ref. 212.30.36.61.01.001

2. Tudor Submariner

The vintage watch market is a great place to look for diving watches with smaller diameters, and you’re likely to stumble upon the Tudor Submariner 75190 in your search. While it clocks in at a more compact 36 mm, this diver offers the same box of tricks as the 40-mm heavy-weight version: automatic movement, water resistance to 200 m (660 ft), and a date display. While blue dial variants are available, I prefer the black option, which is arguably more versatile.

The Tudor Submariner ref. 75190
The Tudor Submariner ref. 75190

3. Oris Divers Sixty-Five

The Oris Divers Sixty-Five finds itself in the happy medium between vintage and modern. It takes its design cues from the brand’s first diving watches, but boasts modern technology in equal measure. Nevertheless, you will have to make peace with “just” 100 m (328 ft) of water resistance. There’s also a beautiful pink dial version, but I’d probably have a hard time convincing the men among our readers that it’s a unisex watch!

The 36-mm Oris Divers Sixty-Five has manageable dimensions.
The 36-mm Oris Divers Sixty-Five has manageable dimensions.

4. Seiko Prospex SNE575

Not only can we thank Seiko for their affordable prices, but they also deserve praise for making room in their portfolio for more conservative dimensions. The Seiko Prospex SNE575 measures 38.5 mm across and thus offers great wrist presence without being too flashy. The blue detailing on the bezel and minute hand provides a welcome contrast to the black dial and gives us a little of that oceanic feeling. Not only that, but this timepiece uses one of Seiko’s solar movements, so the wearer is truly in harmony with the elements.

This steel diving watch is a steal at under $500.
This steel diving watch is a steal at under $500.

5. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to present a watch that can be said to be a diver in disguise. Thankfully for us small-wristed folk, Blancpain understands that not everyone is able (or wants) to wear a 43-mm beast, and also produces a 38-mm edition of the Blancpain Bathyscaphe. The luminous dot indices on the dial mimic diamonds, at least at first glance, and award the watch an element of refinement not achieved by the scores of more conventional-looking diving watches. Contrary to popular belief, the original Fifty Fathoms model predates the Rolex Submariner as the first diving watch with a rotating bezel, so it also pays homage to a piece of watchmaking history.

The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe 38 is an incognito diving watch.
The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe 38 is an incognito diving watch.

That wraps up my top-five picks. It goes without saying that there are plenty more fantastic diving watches with manageable dimensions. The market is well-developed, and you also won’t have any trouble finding models on both ends of the spectrum: Women definitely don’t need to compromise on glitz and glam if they don’t want to, and men with sturdier wrists can turn to one of the many XL models out there. That said, don’t overlook the prowess of mid-sized models!


About the Author

Emer Browne

My interest in watches has snowballed since joining the team at Chrono24 in 2022. I now get to spend hours each day delving into the ins and outs of the craftsmanship, various brands, and industry lore.

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