Alternatives to the Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner is the ubiquitous modern dive watch. Safe to wear in a tux as well as at the beach. In fact, as I write this there's a gentleman sitting opposite me on the train comfortably wearing one. With its storied history, the Submariner has become the trophy of the hard-working backbone of society. As a result of more well-to-do ambitious workers, demand has become disproportionate from Rolex's stable supply. Therefore, alternatives are being sought from brands that have cemented their own history in aqua nautical timekeeping but have not mastered the cross-cultural recognition that Rolex has amassed. These are the best alternatives to the Submariner, which has a current RRP of £5,750.
In 2018, Omega’s Seamaster Professional Diver 300M was once again brought into the spotlight, this time reviving the wavy dial that had been absent for 5 years, but also modernising the watch from clasp to dial. The bezel is now in ceramic with recessed white enamel numerals to reduce fade over time compared to the outgoing aluminium bezels of older Seamaster Professionals. The movement has also been brought up to date with a Master Chronometer self-winding co-axial movement. This in-house calibre 8800 is tested independently by METAS and is guaranteed to withstand up to 15,000 gauss of magnetism and has a 60-hour power reserve. As mentioned, the carved wavy dial has returned the 90’s charm, this time produced in ceramic with laser cuts. The waves are broader and not as frequent as the original models but do provide some much-needed texture to add depth. The date window has migrated from the 3o’clock position to 6o’clock following a similar change made to the Seamaster Aqua Terra. The 9-link bracelet is updated for the Seamaster Professional’s 25th anniversary with a diver’s extension clasp but there is no taper. Personally, I would wear it mostly on the sportier rubber strap to compliment the summer beach look but buying with the bracelet is always the better option. The Omega Seamaster Professional 300M in steel on the matching bracelet is £4,170.
Breitling is a brand that is part of the western popular psyche. The classic brand has spent the last few decades making overly masculine watches that have appealed to many but shunned the core watch enthusiasts. From a commercial point of view, Breitling needed to step their game up in the lucrative Far Eastern market, which had escaped them previously. Employing the global marketing prowess of Georges Kern of IWC fame, Breitling has unlocked an avenue the brand rarely explored…their eclectic back catalogue and heritage. In 2018, Breitling revitalised their classic 60’s dive collection, the SuperOcean Heritage. A great model name that emanates the lifestyle but also pays homage to a time the dive watch was an all-purpose tool. For the new collection, Breitling revived the arrow head hour hand as seen on the 60’s SuperOcean but also modernised the bezel material to scratch-resistant ceramic. Interestingly, the movement is now provided by Tudor, with the Tudor Black Bay Chrono in-turn using a Breitling movement. The SuperOcean Heritage is a cool and classic dive watch from a reputable brand, that exudes heritage for the modern lifestyle. The Breitling SuperOcean Heritage 44 in steel on the awesome shark mesh or “Milanese” bracelet is £3,840.
In 2014, Tudor returned to the UK retail market after a 10-year hiatus. The collection of the time included the Advisor alarm watch, the Heritage Chronograph, the deep diving Pelagos and the burgundy and navy Heritage Black Bays. Now known just as the Black Bay, the watch became to Tudor what the Big Bang was to Hublot. The Black Bay is still a huge success and fulfils the purpose of Tudor as Hans Wilsdorf intended as a more attainable watch brand compared to Rolex. Less luxurious than a Rolex but Tudor owners feel safe in the knowledge that their Tudor can take more knocks without putting too much focus on the value retention. The Manufacture MT5602 movement with a 70-hour power reserve is shared with the aforementioned Breitling SuperOcean, but features such as a ceramic bezel and helium escape valve are omitted in the interest of keeping the Black Bay a value proposition. Although details such as the fantastically engineered bezel rotation inspired by the vault lock safe in Tudor’s Geneva headquarters help the Tudor elevate above its price point. The Black Bay with dive bezel comes in a 41mm case, but for a more vintage feel, the Black Bay 58 is available in a 39mm case with a slimmer case profile. The Tudor Black Bay in steel on the rivet-style bracelet is £2,670. For a more vintage flavour, the Black Bay 58 is £2,600.
For Oris, this Divers Sixty-Five was really a crucible for the revitalisation of the brand. From there, Oris have gone strength to strength by releasing vintage-inspired limited-edition models such as the Big Crown Pointer Date, but keeping the consistent selling Aquis fresh and interesting. In recent times, Oris have unveiled a multitude of bronze cases and accents that extends past the Carl Brashear models. The Divers Sixty-Five receives a Bronze treatment on the outer bezel grip to develop a patina but also warm the colour palette. There is even a bi-colour Divers 65 that has bronze centre links on the rivet bracelet. The Divers Sixty-Five is now available in 36mm as well as the 40mm case width that has been in place since 2015, which replicates the size of the vintage inspiration skin diver from 1965. The variety of Divers Sixty-Five is vast but interesting and there is bound to be a model that offers something to those looking for a thin, sporty and heritage-inspired skin diver watch. The Oris Divers Sixty-Five in steel on the rivet-style bracelet is £1,370.
Many thanks to T. H. Baker in Horsham, West Sussex, UK for allowing me to photograph the watches you see in the article. The Omega, Breitling and Oris are available for sale as well as a multitude of models within these brands as well as Chopard Jewellery and Montblanc pens and leather goods.
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