When it comes to buying their first “real” watch, people in my immediate circle usually come to me for advice. The adjectives they mention when describing this as-yet-unspecified object of their desire are often the same: robust, easy to maintain, stylish, and versatile. Since a certain type of watch has all of these features, people tend to take an interest in classic diving models.
As the conversation progresses, I normally divulge my passion for Rolex and emphasize the qualitative attributes of the iconic Rolex Submariner. It’s not uncommon for the other person to complain about the limited availability and price tag attached to that legendary diver. Sound familiar? If so, then you’ve probably already asked yourself the following question: Are there more affordable diving watches that have the characteristics I mentioned before and command respect in the watch community?
The answer is yes. All three of my recommendations meet the criteria to the best possible extent in their respective price categories and are unreservedly accepted in the watch community. At 50%, 8%, and 3% of the list price of the Rolex Submariner, these timepieces are significantly more affordable than the icon with the crown. What’s that? 8% and 3%? That’s right! It’s not a typo. And although these affordable alternatives aren’t in the same league as Rolex, all three references work well as a one-watch collection or part of a high-end wrist repertoire. And I’m confident that two of these budget-friendly specimens weren’t even on your radar.
Tudor Pelagos 39 Ref. M25407N-0001
Let’s start with the half-price option. I have to admit, I’m not exactly a big Tudor fan. The way they organize their catalog is befuddling, and the protagonists are too predictable. They also still haven’t developed a line of their own models that’s truly exclusive. Not to mention the fact that their current models tend to be too bulky for my tastes.
Nevertheless, I’m of two minds, thanks to the imaginative ways Tudor has of diversifying their catalog. The Rolex subsidiary has really mastered repackaging like no other company in the industry. Objectively speaking, the brand not only offers the best bang for your buck, it also dares to be bold. Tudor are curious, open to experiment, timely, prolific, and, at the end of the day, available. In short, all the things their parent company hasn’t been in recent years.
The Tudor Pelagos M25407N-0001
The Tudor Pelagos 39 is my favorite in the diving watch collection. There’s already been a lot of hype about the ref. M25407N-0001, so let’s jump right in and look at some of the key reasons for buying one.
The diving watch is 39 mm across and 11.8 mm thick, making it ideal for everyday use. The case is made of satin-brushed, grade-2 titanium, and has angled, sandblasted edges that immediately catch the eye. Together with the tapered crown protector, the watch looks really “tooly” and masculine. At the same time, by not including a date display, Tudor has afforded the ref. M25407N-0001 an excitingly simple look. The luminescent, unidirectional ceramic bezel has no bead at the 12 o’clock position, and the Lumeshot markers glow a radiant blue that is unmatched in the underwater world of diving watches. Hats off!
The Tudor Pelagos 39 features a black, satin-finished dial that, as the light changes, reveals a subtle sunburst pattern when viewed up close. Against this background, the luminous, monobloc ceramic indices are particularly striking. The nostalgic red lettering of the model name on the dial is reminiscent of the famous Rolex Red Submariner generation or the current anniversary tribute, the Rolex Sea-Dweller 43 ref. 126600. There are two things that I especially like about this design: the pronounced sunburst pattern on the black ceramic bezel and how well it suits the overt expressiveness of the dial. The latter even allows you to forgive (or at least tolerate) the chunky snowflake hand as it jibes with the angular hour markers. Overall, the dial looks very tidy, and the various components not only complement each other but contribute to what is essentially an extremely well-balanced design.
The diving watch can be worn on a 22-mm titanium bracelet with Tudor’s “T-fit” fold-over safety clasp or an additional black rubber strap with a pin buckle. Since I like to wear my diving watches on a rubber strap, and the Tudor band does not directly touch the case but connects with a pre-set end link, I would turn to a strap from Everest or Rubber B instead. The watch is powered by the COSC-certified in-house caliber MT5400, a self-winding mechanical movement with a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. That’s remarkable!
It must be said, this robust daily rocker delivers some high-quality workmanship. When it comes to fit and finish, the dimensions, cut, and polish make the watch look extremely valuable. The watch also stands out for its remarkably harmonious design and versatile look, well-suited to daily wear. You can call the ref. M25407N-0001 yours for just $4,600, i.e., about half the price of the Rolex Submariner ref. 124060.
Thanks to a broad and highly diversified watch catalog, Seiko are in the best position to fulfill the needs of watch lovers across all price segments, right up to and including high-end luxury mechanical timepieces. Emerging from a long line of diving watches dating back to the Seiko ref. 6217 released in 1965, the Seiko SKX007 debuted in 1996 and wasn’t discontinued until 2019 – the longest production run of any Seiko diver so far. What’s so special about the SKX007? And how does a timepiece in this price category attain such fame and glory? Let’s find out.
An ISO6425 certificate attests to an authentic diving watch measuring 42 mm in diameter. The date and weekday are located at the traditional 3 o’clock position on the dial, in a striking contrast of black and white. The massive crown, with a diameter of 7.2 mm, is located at the 4 o’clock position. Now that’s something that packs a punch. Atop the rounded case sits a unidirectional diving bezel, ratcheting in 120 half-minute clicks. The finished case is wider, which makes the bezel shock resistant. At the same time, the outer ring of the bezel protrudes ever so slightly, to protect the sapphire crystal and aluminum insert with its scale and numbering.
The clean, uncluttered dial is matte black and features white indices without chrome borders. It is precisely this latter detail that underscores the watch’s appealing vintage character. Upon closer inspection, you can even see the subtle increase in luminosity the lack of borders makes possible. Arrow and sword hands are used to indicate the hours and minutes. The secret star of the show here is the second hand: While the long arm is accented in white, the short arm is black. In contrast to more conventional designs, the luminescent ball is at the end of the short, black part of the hand, rather than at the tip. On the predecessor reference Seiko 7548-7000, a quartz diver, the rear placement of the ball for balancing still had a functional relevance. Although this is no longer the case, Seiko has retained this defining feature. I find this to be a special, attractive attribute.
The watch comes on a 22-mm, five-piece link stainless steel Jubilee-style bracelet or a black rubber strap. As with many watches in this price category, the bracelet leaves a lot to be desired in terms of its look and feel, and so I’d opt for the rubber strap.
The diving watch is powered by the trusty in-house Seiko caliber 7S26. The movement has no manual winding mechanism and no stop-seconds function. It is, however, easy to maintain. According to the manufacturer, the power reserve clocks in at 45 hours and the watch is accurate to -15 to +25 seconds per day. In terms of price, the SKX007 has increased considerably in value since production was stopped. Offers can be found on Chrono24 starting at about $700.
Citizen Promaster NY0040
The Citizen Promaster Ref. NY0040
Japanese manufacturer Citizen Watch Co. Ltd. has been making watches since the 1920s. The company significantly advanced the development of diving watches with electronic depth gauges and has left a lasting mark on this type of timepiece. Today, Citizen is the world’s largest watch and movement manufacturer.
The brand’s flagship model was first introduced in 1997, the Citizen Promaster ref. NY0040. The diving watch comes with a day and date display, as well as ISO certification. The watch got its real accolade, however, the year of its release, when it became the official watch of the Italian military – a position it held until 2007. The standard version is water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft), but the military variant was given a gasket upgrade that increased the watch’s depth rating to a more serviceable 500 m (50 bar, 1,640 ft).
The manual caliber Miyota 8203 isn’t much to write home about, but it’s reliable and robust. The watch could run for 25 years or more without servicing, which is pretty impressive. The practical, 40-hour power reserve means you can take the watch off for a few hours or even overnight. And with an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds, the timepiece is certainly nothing to sniff at.
The real prowess of the Promaster NY0040 ultimately unfolds on the wrist. The watch is 41.5 mm across, which may sound a bit big, but it measures just 12.5 mm thick and 47 mm lug-to-lug, offering a balanced and comfortable feel. The rounded, slim-cut case shape unobtrusively embraces your wrist. The unidirectional bezel offers 60 one-minute clicks, and is therefore highly stable when it comes to rotation. The lateral edge of the bezel is fluted and smooth by turns, giving the watch a unique, eye-catching look without compromising its functionality. The equally unique positioning of the diver’s impressive 5.9-mm crown at 8 o’clock means the watch can be worn on the right hand as well as the left. The timepiece features a glossy black dial with a date display at 3. The indices are a light green luminous material with chrome borders – an energizing contrast that ensures excellent readability against the black background.
The Citizen Promaster ref. NY0040 comes with a 20-mm stainless steel Oyster-style bracelet. The bracelet has a matte stainless steel finish to match the lugs and tapers to a pleasing 18 mm toward the clasp. Considering the price, the metal bracelet is generally a pleasurable wear, though the individual links are made of folded stainless steel rather than solid metal. That said, the double safety clasp makes for easy adjustments. Nevertheless, I’d again go for the black rubber strap here. The material is robust and comfortable in the summer heat. If you’d prefer more options, this diving watch is a real strap queen, and can accommodate many third-party alternatives. Regardless of your choice of strap, the watch will fit even smaller wrists.
The Citizen Promaster ref. NY0040 with a stainless steel bracelet is available to purchase for roughly $300. With a rubber strap, it’s not uncommon for the same model to change hands for less than $200. That’s a lot of watch for little money, don’t you agree? Rumors are, however, that the watch will soon be discontinued. The successor model, the NY0082, has already been released and comes with a variety of bezel colors, while the classic variant is no longer available in the USA.
In short: Tudor Pelagos 39 vs. Seiko SKX007 vs. Citizen Promaster
When it comes to classic diving watches, the assortment can be quite diverse. Authentic solutions can be found for every budget. And although many of these timepieces cannot measure up across different price categories in terms of quality, calibers, and finishing, individual models can still rise to the top of their particular class. In the end, all these watches have one thing in common: Thanks to their farsighted cycles of development, these watches are widely recognized to be some of the finest models on the market.