Dive watches help to ensure the safety of scuba divers. They also look cool and are popular with men and ladies. Here are the features to look out for.

Dive watches are used to:

  • Track dive time, to avoid running out of air.
  • Time decompression stages when ascending.

Even with today’s dive computers, a good diving watch (and a waterproof card printed with decompression tables) serves as a safety backup. Popular brands include Casio, Seiko (Monster series), Citizen, Swiss Army, Timex, Luminox and Invicta.

Dive Watch Water Resistance, Dive Depth and Screw-down Crowns

Scuba divers don’t dive to 200 meters but 200 meters water resistance is generally considered to be the minimum for a diving watch.

For analog dive watches, screw-down crowns are said to be more waterproof but some 200 meter watches have push-pull crowns and work fine.

How to Use a Rotating Bezel Watch

The rotating bezel is the defining feature of an analog diving watch. It is used to track elapsed time. Time is marked by zeroing the bezel to

  • the minute hand, to time up to 60 minutes
  • the hour hand, to time up to 12 hours

Ideally, the bezel should

  • Be removable for cleaning.
  • Have engraved, not printed, markings to resist wear.
  • Be unidirectional, turning only in the anti-clockwise direction. If accidentally knocked, the elapsed time will appear longer, causing the diver to cut his dive short. This is safer than the opposite: staying underwater too long. Some watches have lockable bezels.

Digital watches have a built-in stop watch and/or countdown timer instead.

Underwater Watch Illumination Options

Illumination helps the diver read the time in the dim underwater light.

  • Digital watches will have LED or other lighting. This can run down the battery, so solar powered watches are best if the light is used often.
  • Luminous paint on analog watches is popular. They need to be “charged” with light to glow in the dark. Better paints glow for hours, others only an hour or two.
  • Some analog watches use vials of Tritium that glow without needing to be charged with light. They can be brighter than luminous paint but will slowly fade over the years.

Wetsuit and Drysuit Watch Straps

For metal link straps (bracelets), a “wetsuit extension” link allows the strap to expand and fit over a wetsuit.

For drysuits, more extension is required. Plastic buckle straps are the answer. Third party straps such as the Zulu nylon straps are popular. Extra-length straps are available to fit drysuits.

Rubber straps will need to be replaced after a few years. Unfortunately many dive watches use proprietary strap mountings that make finding replacement straps difficult.

Batteries, Waterproof Watches and Warranties

Some manufacturers void their waterproof guarantee if the watch is opened to change the battery. Even if the warranty is not voided, reducing the number of times the watch is opened is still a good idea.

Mechanical wind-up and automatic self-winding watches need to be opened only for servicing and repair.

Quartz watches should
  • Be solar or hand-motion powered to extend the life of the battery. The rechargeable battery will still need to be replaced after a few years.
  • Have traditional screw-down backs. Watch backs secured with screws (common for plastic watches) are less reliably waterproof after a battery change.

The Best Dive and Dress Watch

Practical dive watches can range in price from the digital Casio G-Shock series all the way up to an automatic Rolex Submariner.

Scuba divers should carefully consider their budget and requirements as their watch is a piece of safety equipment. The main criteria should be reliability.

Non-divers are free to enjoy the aesthetics of a well-made dive watch, not having to worry about extreme waterproof reliability. An analog dive watch with its distinctive rotating bezel makes a good dress watch.