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06/03/2024
 5 minutes

Affordable Diving Watches: 100 Bar and Beyond

By Sebastian Swart
2-1

Affordable Diving Watches: 100 Bar and Beyond

Diving watches made to withstand 100 bar of pressure were originally designed for professional divers, but they're increasingly finding their way onto the wrists of laypeople. Here are some high-performance divers you won't want to miss.

Sporty, durable, and some even bordering on elegant, diving watches are at home in maritime environments thanks to their high levels of water resistance. Legendary models like the Rolex Submariner, Omega Seamaster 300, and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms are beloved among enthusiasts. For decades, Rolex and Omega have been vying for the top spot in water resistance with their Sea-Dweller and Plant Ocean lines, both of which are designed to withstand the inhospitable conditions of the Mariana Trench.

Most standard diving watches boast a water resistance between 20 bar (656 ft, 200 m) and 50 bar (1,640 ft, 500 m), making them ideal for nearly any scenario. However, in a bid to make their timepieces even more impressive, some manufacturers take things to the next level and seal their watches so they can withstand 100 bar of pressure (equivalent to 3,280 ft or 1,000 m underwater) or more. The models in this article are all from the latter category of diving watches, available at different price points.

What to Look for in a Diving Watch

In order to survive unscathed at depths over 3,000 ft, a watch has to meet several particular specifications.

Divers with extreme depth ratings are most often made of stainless steel or titanium. The latter is the preferred choice due to its low weight, strength, and corrosion resistance. It’s also essential that the watch’s crown, case back, and crystal are appropriately sealed to prevent any ingress of water, even under extreme pressure. Rolex achieves this with their Triplock crown system, which has three sealed waterproof zones. Another key feature of professional diving watches is a helium escape valve, a necessity for saturation diving. This allows helium gas to escape from the case during decompression, preventing any damage to the watch’s internal workings.

Moreover, it is vitally important that a diver be highly legible and easy to operate even in poor visibility. Luminous indices are considered standard on this type of watch, as is a unidirectional rotating bezel with a luminous marker. Of course, the caliber powering any high-performance timepiece must be reliable and precise, as you’d expect from a timepiece in the mid- to upper price range.

Which diving watches are considered classics?

The classics in any given watch category most often hail from large, well-known brands. The same goes for high-performance diving watches. Here are two of the most iconic models:

Rolex Sea-Dweller

One of the most famous professional diving watches is the Rolex Sea-Dweller. It was the first diver to be equipped with a helium escape valve. This feature has not moved from its central position on the left-hand side of the case since its inception. Modern versions of the Sea-Dweller can withstand depths to 4,000 ft (1,220 m, 122 bar). The current ref. 126600 is housed in a 43-mm stainless steel case and sells for around $14,800 new.

Ein Klassiker unter den leistungsstarken Taucheruhren – Rolex Sea-Dweller
A classic among high-performance diving watches – Rolex Sea-Dweller

Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M

Another legend is the Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M. Most of the current versions, such as the ref. 227.90.55.21.01.001, have a distinctive titanium case measuring an impressive 55 x 48 mm. In contrast to the Sea-Dweller, the Ploprof features a helium escape valve at 4 o’clock, while the crown sits on the left-hand side. This model’s most striking feature is the orange bezel locking mechanism sitting at 2 o’clock. Expect to pay $12,300 for an unworn copy.

Laut und kantig – Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200 M
Bright and bold – the Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M

With price tags of over $10,000, these two can’t exactly be called “affordable” diving watches. If you’re looking for a diver that can handle 100 bar but won’t break the bank, take a closer look at some of the options below.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver

The Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver ref. BP5A8A.BF0619 has been in the TAG Heuer range since 2022. The 45-mm case is made of titanium and, in typical Aquaracer fashion, is paired with a dodecagonal bezel, giving the watch its characteristic look. The orange segment of the bezel between 0 and 15 is both eye-catching and functional. TAG Heuer complements this feature with orange-accented minute and seconds hands. The model has a helium escape valve located on the left-hand side of the case and large luminescent dot indices that ensure a high level of legibility even in poor lighting conditions.

The Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver is powered by the in-house automatic caliber TH30-00, which boasts a power reserve of 70 hours. In addition to the standard time display, this movement also offers a date at 6 o’clock.

While the model isn’t exactly a bargain at around $5,500, it is significantly more affordable than the competitors from Rolex and Omega. Thanks to its added features and appealing design, it may even prove a future classic.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver – hält bis zu 1000 m (100 bar) dicht.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver – water-resistant to 3,280 ft (1,000 m, 100 bar)

Sinn U1 – Bona Fide Tool Watch

The Frankfurt-based watchmaker Sinn is the brand behind the popular U1 diving watch collection, which includes a model that is water-resistant to over 3,000 ft. A unique selling-point of the 44-mm watch is that the case and crown are made from German submarine steel from manufacturing giant ThyssenKrupp. According to the watchmaker, this type of steel is particularly resistant to the corrosive effects of saltwater and has non-magnetic properties.

Like many Sinn models, the rotating bezel on the U1 is firmly fixed to the case to prevent accidental separation. The black dial is very straightforward: Square, luminous indices mark the hours and rectangular hands indicate the time.

This timepiece is powered by the proven automatic Sellita caliber SW 200-1. The movement features a date display at 3 o’clock and has a power reserve of around 38 hours.

You can purchase a Sinn U1 in new condition on Chrono24 for around $2,300.

Perfekte Toolwatch mit 1000 m (100 bar) Wasserdichtigkeit – Sinn U1
The perfect high-performance tool watch – the Sinn U1

Mühle Glashütte S.A.R. Rescue Timer

The Mühle Glashütte S.A.R. Rescue Timer (ref. M1-41-03-MB) is yet another German diving watch. This 42-mm timepiece is likewise made of stainless steel. The model was developed in tandem with offshore search and rescue crews and thus has some unique attributes. For instance, the bezel on the Rescue Timer is made of soft rubber to prevent injury. The watch is also equipped with a robust, 4-mm thick sapphire crystal. Thanks to its simple dial design with large triangular indices at 3, 6, 9, and 12, the watch is easy to read at speed.

The Sinn U1 and S.A.R. Rescue Timer share the same Sellita caliber SW 200-1, although Mühle refines the movement to its own specifications. The watchmaker outfits the caliber with its proprietary “woodpecker neck” regulation, which prevents the regulator arm from moving upwards. This makes the caliber particularly shock-resistant and robust.

You can find the Mühle Glashütte S.A.R. Rescue Timer on Chrono24 for around the $2,000 mark.

Für die Seenotrettung entwickelt – Mühle Glashütte S.A.R. Rescue Timer
Developed for sea rescue – Mühle Glashütte S.A.R. Rescue Timer

With that, we’re rounding out our list of high-performance, low-cost diving watches. Which is your favorite?


About the Author

Sebastian Swart

I've been using Chrono24 for years to buy and sell watches, as well as for research purposes. I've had an infatuation with watches for as long as I can remember. As a …

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