The Rolex Submariner is one of the most famous watches of all time. This is true for both the classic no-date version and the Submariner Date with its iconic Cyclops lens. Rolex achieved a timeless design icon with this legendary watch, whose popularity has continued unabated since its release in 1953. And if we’re honest, the Submariner is probably even more popular than ever – and rightfully so, because this iconic diver has more than earned its reputation. Nevertheless, the world of diving watches has more than a few great alternatives to offer, each with its own unique designs and noteworthy heritages that are sure to delight watch enthusiasts. Let’s take a closer look at three of them today.
Submariner Alternative 1: The Affordable One – Tudor Black Bay
Tudor went all-out with the release of the Black Bay in 2012. The vintage-inspired diving watch by Rolex’s sister company not only hit the right note with fans and the watch industry but also opened the pathway for Tudor to ascend to an entirely new level of notoriety and take on a unique identity. The Black Bay is Tudor’s most popular, sought-after model. Let’s take a closer look at the entire Black Bay series and see exactly why this is such a great Submariner alternative. While some enthusiasts fault Tudor for placing too much emphasis on its Black Bay collection, as a watch fan, you have to love the vast selection of timepieces it offers. There’s truly something for everyone: the 41-mm steel model is available in three different versions, each of which features a red, blue, or black bezel.
The smaller, highly popular 39-mm Black Bay 58 is available in stainless steel, silver, and yellow gold and offers a wide selection of dial variations. The steel and gold models with a date function are amazingly subtle and refined with their matte gold accents. In contrast, Tudor’s flagship ceramic and bronze model achieves a completely different look. Although there’s not enough space here to mention all of the Black Bay models, no matter which one you decide upon, you’ll be getting an in-house caliber, a 70-hours power reserve, 200 meters (20 bar, 660 feet) of water resistance, and an unmistakable design exuding vintage charm. These timepieces also bring a ton of Rolex know-how to the table, not to mention an unbeatable price. So if you like the Submariner, be sure to have a look at the watches in Tudor’s Black Bay collection that bear a striking resemblance to the icon’s references of yesteryear while offering a more playful, colorful look than the legendary Rolex.
Sending shockwaves through the watch world since 2012: the Tudor Black Bay
Submariner Alternative 2: The Head-Turning One – the Breitling Superocean Heritage 42
Today’s Submariner no longer has the stripped-down, “tool-y” character seen with its earlier references. The resplendent ceramic bezel and case shape you’ll find on today’s models make a much more luxurious impression than those from previous decades. However, if you compare the Submariner with the other watches from the current Rolex portfolio, it’s clear that it still has a “tool watch” character. In particular, the black Submariner flies under the radar thanks to its richly satin-brushed case and bracelet. This understatement is even clearer when considering its lack of a Cyclops lens, which would otherwise immediately identify the watch as a Rolex. The Breitling Superocean Heritage, on the other hand, takes an entirely different approach. This timepiece immediately catches the eye, thanks not only to its pronounced, shining ceramic bezel reminiscent of a piano’s surfaces but also to its entirely high-gloss polished case.
Although this may not be the watch for the “scratch-wary,” the Superocean Heritage undoubtedly stands out with its luxurious, elegant looks. Its applied golden “B” logo on the dial, shining indices, and stainless steel Milanese bracelet are certain to turn a head or two. Functionality? How do 200 meters (20 bar, 660 feet) of water resistance and a 70-hour power reserve sound? It’s worth noting that this watch “only” has a modified Tudor caliber that Breitling refers to as its B20 in-house movement. Personally, that really doesn’t bother me at all, especially at this price point. The Breitling Superocean Heritage 42 delivers a great-looking, elegant alternative to the Submariner that stands out from the Rolex classic in its own right. By the way, for those looking to turn some heads with an even “louder” watch, I strongly encourage checking out the Superocean Heritage ’57 “rainbow” limited edition.
Submariner Alternative 3: The Lesser-Known One – Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
The Submariner’s popularity is one of the strongest arguments for purchasing the legendary diving watch. For some enthusiasts, however, this is a reason not to, precisely because this is the watch you’ll probably see over and over again on the wrists of others, especially the very well-loved Date version. If that’s the case, I’ve got a watch for you that you’ll see worn a lot less frequently by other folks, but that is certain to have you stand out as a true watch lover: the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. A true icon in its own right, it’s baffling that this watch doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as the Submariner. We are, after all, talking about the very first modern diving watch. Like its Rolex counterpart, the Fifty Fathoms debuted just before the Submariner in 1953. Back then, however, the Fifty Fathoms was the only diving watch with a unidirectional rotating bezel. Patented by Blancpain, this safety feature was not yet available for Rolex to offer with its Submariner; only later would it be introduced on its models.
Just like Rolex, Blancpain has made very few changes to the appearance of its iconic diving watch over the years. With the Fifty Fathoms, you’re getting a classic, iconic design that never seems to go out of style. It’s manufactured from the highest-quality materials, comes on an extremely high-end steel bracelet, has 300 meters (30 bar, 1000 feet) of water resistance, and a jaw-dropping five-day power reserve. At 45 mm in diameter (not including the crown), more than 15 mm thick, and just over 50 mm lug-to-lug, the Fifty Fathoms is uncompromisingly a watch for larger wrists and/or fans of big timepieces. That’s always been true for Fifty Fathoms; its first reference had a healthy 42-mm case diameter, anything but “every day” back in the 1950s. Maybe that’s the reason why, despite its heritage, it never became as popular as the Submariner: It simply isn’t the watch for every wrist, which is why you won’t see every enthusiast wearing it. However, if you are a fan of big watches, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is a great, iconic Submariner alternative that can be something special and unique just for you.