Dive watches continue to reign as one of the most popular timepiece styles out there, and the sheer breadth of choices in that genre — in the areas of size, design, colorway, and especially pricing — can be intimidating to the new watch enthusiast who might be just on the verge of taking the plunge (you should pardon the expression) into purchasing their first dive watch. Here we've gathered a dozen of our favorites with the budget-conscious consumer in mind: everything on this list can be had for $500 or under. (In a few cases, even though the MSRP comes in higher, you can acquire them below the $500 threshold directly from our online store; just follow the shopping links.)
Price: $69.95, Reference: DW9052-1B, Case Size: 48.5mm x 43, Case Height: 14.7mm, Crystal: Mineral, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Quartz Digital
Since its landmark release in 1983, the Casio G-Shock has represented perhaps the watch world’s purest expression of high technology blended with trendsetting style at a price accessible to just about everyone. G-Shocks have long been go-to gear for military and law enforcement operators, and the DW9052-1B is a large reason why. It’s not only tough, multifunctional, and dirt-cheap; it has for many years been standard issue at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City Beach, Florida, assigned to divers along with their fins, masks, and knives. Built to be virtually indestructible, the watch’s array of military-grade functionalities include a backlight, 200 meters of water resistance, a 1/100-second stopwatch, alarms, a full auto calendar, and both 12-and 24-hour timekeeping.
Price: $124.95, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 15mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Crystal: Acrylic, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Automatic Vostok Caliber 2415
The Russian-made, bargain-priced Vostok Amphibia rose to somewhat unexpected fame among dive-watch enthusiasts after it was worn by Bill Murray in the 2004 film The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. The titular character was an oceanographer in the mold of Jacques Cousteau, who famously wore iconic divers like the Rolex Submariner and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms; Murray’s fictional Zissou, a sort of washed-up version of Cousteau, opts instead for a more obscure, and significantly cheaper, timepiece. Russia is not renowned for horological heritage, but many of its Soviet-era dive watches, particularly the Amphibia, have acquired a cult following: enthusiasts love their bayonet-style casebacks, with threaded locking rings that push tightly into extra-large rubber gasket as the water pressure increases, and the thick acrylic crystals that flex under high pressure. In both aesthetics and engineering, the Amphibia is stark, simple, and classically Soviet, right down to the Russian-made movement.
Scurfa Diver One
Price: $250, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 14.4mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47.7mm, Lug Width: 20mm Water Resistance: 500m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Quartz Ronda 715SM
In 2014, commercial saturation diver Paul Scurfield, frustrated by the inability of existing, so-called “professional” dive watches to hold up to the hard usage they faced in his profession, founded his own watch brand. A longtime watch enthusiast in addition to being a seasoned diver, Scurfield focused on creating a range of watches for divers that were not only tougher and more reliable than those produced by well-known luxury brands but also priced within reason for diving professionals. The Diver One Titanium (pictured) will fit the bill for many, boasting a rare 500-meter water resistance, a helium release valve for use in a diving bell, a sapphire crystal and a high degree of luminous material on the dial for legibility in the depths. A Swiss-made quartz Ronda caliber beats inside the 40mm case (which is also available in steel for $30 less).
Citizen Promaster Eco-Drive Diver 200m
Price: $280, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 11.6mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Mineral, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive E168
Citizen unveiled its Promaster line of professional-grade sports watches in 1989 and its Promaster Diver models — equipped with the Japanese brand’s proprietary Eco-Drive technology, which uses light to perpetually charge the movement — have proven to be among the most popular of Citizen’s vast portfolio of timepieces. The 44mm steel case features a 60-click rotating bezel made of aluminum (here in maritime blue) and a screw-down crown positioned at 4 o’clock. The blue dial sports wide hands and large applied hour markers, all bearing generous amounts of lume for underwater visibility, and a date window at 4 o’clock. The prominent minute hand with its orange detailing adds another layer of contrast, and hence legibility, to the dial. The Eco-Drive movement offers six months of power on a full charge and boasts an accuracy of +/- 15 seconds per month.
Citizen Promaster Dive Orca
Price: $323, Case Size: 46mm, Thickness: 14.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50.5mm, Crystal: Mineral, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive Caliber E168
With a massive 46mm steel case, whose bulging contours were inspired by a killer whale, and a unidirectional ratcheting bezel with a coin edge and deep notches for gloved fingers, this version of the Promaster is built for serious deep-sea exploits. The dial’s stylized curving indexes also evoke the silhouette of the eponymous sea mammal while the distinctive hands are coated with Super-LumiNova. Inside the thick, antimagnetic case, which resists water pressures down to an ISO-compliant 200 meters thanks to its sturdy build and screw-down crown, is a Citizen Eco-Drive caliber, which will run for 180 months on a single charge from any light while also boasting a +/-15-second monthly accuracy. An image of a swimming orca graces the solid steel caseback, and a raised ridge in the center of the black rubber strap evokes the whale’s dorsal fin.
Orient Kamasu Blue Dial
Price: $335, Case Size: 41.8mm, Thickness: 12.8mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Automatic Caliber F6922
One of Japan’s best kept secrets, though one increasingly raising its profile throughout the rest of the world thanks to its robust quality-to-price ratio, Orient makes a slew of affordably priced dive watches that balance sporty stylishness with functionality. One of the standouts is the Kamasu, regarded by fans of the brand as the upgraded successor to the Ray II and Mako II models that preceded it to the market. The steel case offers a professional-grade 200 meters of water resistance, the ratcheting coin-edge bezel has 120 distinct clicks and an aluminum dive-scale insert, and the crystal is made of sapphire. The dial under the crystal has luminous-coated hands and indexes and a day-date window. The automatic caliber inside is made in Japan and includes a hacking seconds function.
Seiko Prospex SRPE99 PADI
Price: $413, Case Size: 45mm, Thickness: 13.2mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47.7mm, Lug Width: 22mm Water Resistance: 200m, Crystal: Hardlex, Movement: Automatic Seiko 4R35
This jumbo-sized, colorful divers’ watch was developed in partnership with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), with whom Seiko has been working since 2016. The glossy blue dive-scale bezel, with the first 20 minutes of the scale highlighted in contrasting red, has a robust non-slip grip design with fluted riders, and snaps into place in half-minute intervals. The turtle-style case in stainless steel measures a substantial 45mm in diameter. The blue dial’s bold hands and indexes are coated with the Japanese maker’s Lumibrite material for deep-water legibility and covered by a Hardlex crystal. A day and date display appears on the dial at 3 o’clock. Shielded inside from water pressures down to 200 meters is the in-house automatic 4R35 movement, which holds a 40+-hour power reserve when fully wound.
Seiko Prospex Sea SNJ025 “Arnie”
Price: $420, Case Size: 47.8mm, Thickness: 13.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Hardlex, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Solar Caliber H851
The bulky, analog-digital Seiko watch that Hollywood action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger strapped on his wrist in testosterone-driven blockbusters Commando and Predator — Reference H558-5000, nicknamed the “Arnie” — has recently been resurrected within Seiko’s sporty, performance-focused Prospex collection, retaining the bulky "tuna can" case of the original (emblematic of many Seiko divers since the 1960s) while replacing its standard quartz movement with a modern, solar-powered version. The Prospex’s steel case is even larger than the original's, which measured just under 46mm (Arnold would likely approve), and boasts an ISO-certified 200 meters of water resistance. Its array of functions, displayed on the digital screen at 12 o’clock, include a 1/100-second chronograph, daily alarms, a full calendar, and an LED illuminating light function that adds even more clarity to the dial’s already impressive array of luminous-coated elements.
Zelos Hammerhead V3 300M
Price: $449, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Quartz ETA G10.212
The blocky, angular steel case of the Hammerhead, produced by Indonesian microbrand Zelos, calls to mind the powerful shark from which it derives its name. The case’s array of delicate curves and facets, enhanced with contrasting finishes, make the watch an intriguing value proposition, and its relatively modest thickness of 13mm makes it comfortable to wear on most wrists despite the intimidating diameter. Zelos (the name comes from the Greek deity of zeal and passion) offers a variety of eye-catching gradient colorways on the dials, including the maritime blue pictured here. The signed, fluted crown screws into the case at the unorthodox position of 4 o’clock, helping to secure the lofty 300-meter water resistance, and the integrated link bracelet attaches to the wrist with a push-button safety clasp, another bonus at this accessible price point.
Luminox Original Navy SEAL
Price: $475, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug Width: 21mm Water Resistance: 200m, Crystal: Hardened Mineral, Movement: Swiss Quartz
Luminox takes its name from a portmanteau of two Latin words, “Lumi” for light and “Nox” for night, an indicator of the Swiss brand’s commitment from the get-go to “offer cutting-edge luminescence and readability in its line of high-performance sports watches.” In 1992, Luminox debuted its Navy SEAL watch in partnership with that elite U.S. military group and has been producing versions of it ever since. The Swiss-made watch has a 43mm case and rotating bezel made of Luminox’s proprietary Carbonox material, a lightweight yet durable carbon alloy; a double-security-gasket crown protection system; and a dial whose hands and indexes feature microtubes of bright-glowing, long-lasting tritium for maximum legibility in the darkest conditions. The dial is of hardened mineral glass, the movement inside is Swiss quartz, and the strap is made of genuine black rubber.
Nodus Retrospect III
Price: $475, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 22mm Water Resistance: 200m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic Seiko TMI NH35
Los Angeles-based Nodus takes its name from the Latin word describing the intersection of pathways, which signifies the microbrand’s mission of merging the two worlds of vintage and modern design. The first watch launched by the SoCal-based brand was the Trieste in 2017, a robust, retro-designed divers’ watch, which was discontinued after its initial run but continues to inspire successor models, like the Retrospect III dive watch, which takes its stylistic cues from early diving watches of the 1950s. Its inwardly sloping divers’ bezel draws the eye into the retro-look dial (here in a sharp salmon color) and helps protect the dive-scale insert made of matte black DLC steel. The watch has a double-domed sapphire crystal, a screw-down crown, an automatic Seiko movement with a 41-hour power reserve, and a three-link bracelet with Nodus' proprietary extension clasp.
Tissot Seastar 1000 Chronograph
Price: $495, Case Size: 45.5mm, Thickness: 12.82mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Quartz Ronda 715SM
Tissot’s flagship divers’ watch, the Seastar 2000 Powermatic 80, acquired a stopwatch-equipped sibling in 2022, the Seastar 1000 Chronograph, which as its numerical name implies is half as water-resistant as the Seastar 2000 (300 meters rather than 600). Also differentiating the watch from its three-hand predecessor, which has an automatic movement, the Chronograph carries an ETA-built quartz caliber inside its substantial 45.5mm stainless steel case, accounting for its impressive affordability. The movement, behind a solid screw-down caseback, allows for 1/10-second chronograph measurements and “ADD/SPLIT” functionality, and the unidirectional rotating dive-scale bezel, with an aluminum ring, surrounds a three-register dial offered in an array of brightly colored gradient colorways.