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What To Look For In A Dive Watch That Commands Attention (Without Sacrificing Affordability)

With a style aesthetic that is rugged, classy, and versatile all at the same time, a budget-friendly dive watch is an essential part of a man’s kit.

Thanks to About Vintage for partnering with us on this piece, Primer readers save 15% off full price styles and additional 5% off sale items with code PRIMERMAGAZINE

Since the innovation of waterproof timekeeping technology in 1926, dive watches have been among the popular timepieces, having outgrown their functional origins as one need not be a submariner, master of the sea, or even a diver to wear one… or afford one.

The proliferation of watches at every price point is great for guys who want to start getting into these styles, but the variety also makes it tough to navigate these murky waters and understand when a bargain is too good to be true or when a prestige brand is merely charging a premium for the name rather than the technology.

About Vintage 1926 At'Sea
The 1926 At’Sea

Keeping that in mind, there are a few things you can understand to guide your search for a dive watch to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth:

Water resistance

Whether you’re actually going to be diving or not, it’s important that a dive watch live up to its stated functionality by being able to operate underwater. A tested depth of 10 ATM—or 100 meters—is good, but 20 ATM is even better, certainly enough to cover swimming, casual diving, and getting caught in the rain.

close up of a dive watch face indicating 200m of water resistance
200 meters is equal to 656 feet

Quality construction

Cases and casebacks in 316L stainless steel and scratch-proof sapphire glass should be considered table stakes for a quality watch that you’d be proud to wear or give as a gift.

close up of watch bezel

Heritage without homage

That rotating bezel may be crucial to measuring how much longer you can safely remain underwater or it may merely come in handy to entertain you during a boring meeting, but there’s an undeniable class about the traditional dive watch design consisting of this bezel, the luminous hour indices and hands, and a relatively uncluttered dial that wouldn’t require more than a second’s glance to tell the time when it matters most. That said, you may also prefer a watchmaker that distinguishes their own branding rather than copying the elements of a well-known classic model.

About Vintage 1926 At'Sea with mesh strap
1926 At’Sea with mesh strap


If you’re going to be making a financial investment in a watch, even of a few hundred dollars, you’ll want something that can be regularly worn in everyday scenarios, whether that’s weed whacking or attending a wedding. (Though you’ll want to clean it between both… and that’s when making sure it’s waterproof comes in handy!) You can ensure your watch’s versatility by having extra straps and knowing how to change them out—such as a subdued leather strap for dressy occasions, a nylon NATO strap for extra-casual situations, and a matching metal bracelet to serve all purposes in between.

Reliable movement

Last but certainly not least… you’ll want to make sure your watch actually works! There are some vocal proponents for strictly wearing automatic movements, while many quartz advocates will argue for its more budget-friendly, battery-aided operation. Technology has considerably advanced since the quartz revolution in the ’70s with innovations like Seiko’s “second hand sweep” system, so named for its ability to move a second hand smoothly around the watch dial without the noticeable ticking that typically differentiates quartz from automatic movements. The bottom line: an automatic watch isn’t always a signifier of better quality, just as a quartz movement hardly signifies lower quality.

We’re constantly on the search for dive watches that meet these criteria, particularly keeping an eye out for a watch that’s trustworthy while not over-saturated in the market. Enter About Vintage, a Danish brand that offers a robust lineup of not just divers but also chronographs, GMT watches, and dress watches for men and women.

About Vintage branded its dive watches as the 1926 series, in reference to the aforementioned milestone year for dive watches. The 1926 series includes both automatic and quartz-powered watches, though we’re partial to the At’Sea quartz watch with a “black vintage” finish that—especially when paired with a mesh bracelet matching the stainless steel case—evokes the style of one sophisticated secret agent who recently had no time for death.

About Vintage At Sea watch set
You can create a set with an additional strap with any About Vintage watch

The At’Sea checks all of the boxes with its 20 ATM water resistance, 316L stainless case and crystal glass, and a distinguished design that pays a subtle tribute to horological forebears without outright copying. All About Vintage watches offer free engraving plus the option to purchase a set with a second strap of the customer’s choice, such as a tasteful array of leather bands, additional metal bracelets comprised of links or mesh, and sportier straps made of silicon or nylon. Quartz questioners can rest assured by the At’Sea’s VH31 movement, a member of the celebrated SEIKO “Second Hand Sweep” series, though fans of the design can still pick up a mechanical 1926 powered by a Miyota automatic movement with a 42-hour power reserve. Check out the full line up here, and use code PRIMERMAGAZINE to save 15%.

What’s your priority when looking for a dive watch?

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