The Rolex Submariner is considered a benchmark for diving watches. It was introduced in 1953 as the first divers’ watch that was waterproof to 100 metres. The Submariner is so popular that some brands have created watches of their own that look very similar.
If you’re not wedded to the Submariner then give some thought to the following three alternative watches that are just as good as the Submariner. What’s more is that they don’t have the hefty price tag or lengthy waitlists making them more appealing.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
The Tudor Black Bay 58 was released in 2018 at Baselworld and celebrates Tudor’s very first divers watch that was introduced in 1958. Tudor has always been seen as the more affordable alternative to Rolex after all it is a sub-brand of Rolex. The Tudor Black Bay 58 is priced at $5000 AUD and is the least expensive of the three alternative models.
What I Instantly loved about the Tudor Black bay 58 are it’s gold hour markers, tudors snow flake hands and minute track of the black and steel bezel. These gold finishing touches are classy and stand out well against the black dial making it easier to tell the time. The black bay 58 has lume on all 12 hour makers, the snowflake hands and the 12 hour pip on the bezel. I’d say the lume on this watch is a strong point as it really pops.
It has a 39mm steel case with a polished and satin finish which is similar to the size of the Submariner’s 40mm case. It’s got a unidirectional rotatable bezel with a 60minute graduated disc. But I found that this bezel isn’t as smooth to rotate compared to the Submariner or the 2 watches I’ll take you through. In terms of depth, the Black Bay 58 is waterproof to 200m whereas the Submariner is waterproof to 300m. To me, this isn’t a deal breaker because honestly how many of you dive to 300m?
With the bracelet, you’ve got 3 choices. A steel bracelet with a folding clasp and safety catch, a brown leather strap or a black fabric strap with a gold-coloured band. You wouldn’t get this selection with the Submariner. The bracelet can be tricky to adjust as it doesn’t have a quick adjustment like the Submariner but micro-adjusting can be done via the spring bar holes in the deployment clasp. This is one of the drawbacks of this watch as this micro adjustment can’t be done on the go.
Tudor black bay 58 has the calibre MT5402 movement that’s Tudor’s second in house caliber and is a self-winding mechanical movement. It offers a 70 hour power reserve which is better than Submariner’s 48 hours.
Breitling Superocean Heritage B20 Automatic
The second alternative to the Rolex Submariner is the Breitling Superocean Heritage B20 Automatic which was released in 2017. The case is made out of steel and is offered in 42mm, 44mm or 46mm sizes. This particular model (photographed below) in the steel mesh bracelet is priced at $6750.00 Australian dollars. It can also be purchased with the blue rubber band for $6,350 Australian dollars.
The first thing I noticed about this watch is the beautiful sunburst blue dial which just pops. The shine of the hour markers is also eye catching. But where the dial lacks is the lume. There are only eight lume dots out of the twelve hour markers. For a divers watch, I feel like it wouldn’t be as easy to read as the Rolex Submariner and the Tudor Blackbay 58 when underwater. But, if you’re not wearing it for diving then it wouldn’t be an issue and over all it’s actually quite a stunning dial.
For the divers out there, this watch is water-resistant to 200m and has a screw down crown. But if 200m is not sufficient for you as a divers watch, then you can opt for the Superocean model that offers 500m at a higher price.
Looking at the high-gloss bezel, you may think it’s made from aluminium but you’d be surprised to know that it’s actually made from ultra-hard, scratchproof high-tech ceramic which is on par with the Submariner and would trump Tudor’s aluminium bezel. Similar to the Submariner and the Tudor Black bay, you can rotate the bezel in a single direction but unlike the Submariner and the Tudor Black bay, the diving scale on the bezel has markers rather than numbers which maybe harder to read underwater.
Moving onto the steel mesh bracelet. There are two things that I like about this bracelet: Firstly, in my view, the mesh design of the bracelet pops more than the Submariner and the Tudor Black Bay 58’s polished bracelets. The second reason is durability, because of the way the mesh bracelet is constructed, I feel that scratches wouldn’t be easily visible to the naked eye. Similar to the Submariner and the Blackbay 58, this mesh bracelet comes with a flip lock safety clasp. There are mixed views on the bracelet in terms of practicality. Some feel their arm hair can get caught in it, but my husband has been wearing this watch and hasn’t had that issue. This Breitling also doesn’t offer quick adjustment.
The Breiting Superocean Heritage is powered by the B20 movement which is not an in-house movement by Breitling but rather a Tudor made movement. It outputs approximately 70 hours of power reserve similar to the Tudor Blackbay 58.
Omega Seamaster Diver 300m
The third alternative to the Rolex Submariner is the Omega Seamaster Diver 300 M. This watch comes in four base dial colours: black, blue, grey and white. The dials can be optioned with either a rubber strap, leather strap, nato strap or the stainless steel.
This watch is priced at $7 400 AUD making it the most expensive watch out of the three alternatives. But, it’s still 43% cheaper than the Rolex submariner at retail Australian price.
The first thing that stands out when holding this watch is the laser cut wave pattern dial. It’s unique and looks pretty cool. Even though the dial is decorated, the watch is very legible as the hour markers and the hands are easy to see. The other thing I love about the dial is that all twelve hour markers are luminous. This watch is beautiful in the dark with its green and blue lume.
It is 42mm in size and is made from stainless steel and has a blue ceramic bezel that’s rotatable with a white enamel diving scale. This white enamel on the bezel means it’ll be longer lasting. It’s brushed and polished steel case isn’t too thick and the added angles to the case provide a nice touch. The dial is made of polished blue ceramic and in this updated 2018 model the date window is now at 6’oclock instead of 3 o’clock. On top sits a domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-treatment reflective on both sides.
People are often curious about the functionality of the other crown at 10 o’clock. This other crown is the helium escape valve which only some divers would need to use. The helium escape valve allows built up helium molecules that are pressurised inside the watch to leave the watch as it comes back up to the sea where the pressure is more neutral. Talking about the sea and diving, this watch is waterproof to 300m similar to the Submariner.
This stainless steel bracelet provides a completely new look compared to the older models. It has a half-link that you can use for further adjustment. The deployment clasp has a divers extension and an incremental micro-adjusting slider.
The Seamaster Diver is powered by the 8800 caliber which is a self-winding movement made in house by Omega. Unlike the Submariner, you can actually see the movement in the Seamaster through the sapphire crystal open case back. It certainly adds a nice touch to the watch. It has a power reserve of 55 hours which is higher than the Submariner. The Seamaster Diver is also anti-magnetic. What that means is that magnetic fields in everyday items like mobile phones, laptops and automatic doors won’t affect the performance of this watch. The Submariner and the other suggested alternatives aren’t anti-magnetic and so overtime they may have the risk of permanent deviations of up to several minutes a day. This is worth pointing out even though the movement may not be important to everyone.
The Rolex Submariner is undoubtedly a desirable divers’ watch. However, the Tudor Blackbay 58, Breitling Superocean Heritage and the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M are worthy alternative watches particularly if you don’t want to wait years for the Submariner or pay a premium price.