Divers with reliable turning bezels can become quite expensive but if you look hard enough you will be able to find some great pieces at a reasonable price. The more affordable pieces would be from a range of mass-produced models this is one of the sacrifices that would need to be made to get your hands on a diver under $500.
Seiko Divers SKX009K1
The Seiko SKX009K1 is a rugged looking diver to say the very least. This is mostly down to the thickly grooved rubber band and the large markers. The large indexes are filled with generous lumibrite and so are the syringe type (with an arrow syringe minute hand) watch hands for maximum visibility. There is a day and date window at 3 o’clock as well and all of this is on a deep blue dial that matches the bezel. The bezel is unidirectional and is red up to 20 minutes and deep blue for the rest. The screw crown is fairly large and can conveniently be found at 4 o’clock which is useful on a diver so that it doesn’t get caught on anything too easily. The crystal is scratch resistant hardlex and the movement is the trustworthy 7S26B automatic drive train all housed in a stainless steel case with a screw-down case back to make it extra water tight. I like the 42mm case size because more people will be able to wear it and it won’t be too big on my wrist. The rubber band is notably stiff but I am sure it will ease in over time. If you are going to be wearing this on a regular basis for water use, diving in particular, then I would recommend hanging on to the rubber band but if you are just a fan of the style I would say strap a NATO on for some added comfortability.
Citizen Promaster BJ8050-08E
If a tank was ever made into a watch I think this is what it would look like. From the outset you can tell that it is as solid as timepieces come and at 48mm it is relatively sizeable. The bulk of the watch is taken up by the case and turning bezel with the bezel being a lot thicker than usual. The black dial has a matte finish and looks small due to the size of the case. The indexes on the dial are stubby and they must be pretty stacked with lume because the Promaster keeps its visibility for an extended period of time. The Plongeur hands have the characteristic larger orange coloured second hand for quick readability and there is a small date window at 3 o’clock which doesn’t seem to be too an important feature on this piece. The bezel and most of the case has a brushed finish with the large ridged on the front of the bezel sporting a bit of a polished contrast. There are large Arabic numerals on the bezel counting from 10 to 50 with the top featuring a luminous dot. The crystal on top is 6mm, curved and coated with an anti-reflective layer. The band is made from reinforced rubber and will be a serious challenge to damage. If you are able to keep this on your wrist and it isn’t uncomfortable then this is going to be your best pick. If you need to replace it you will struggle because of the attachment being different to most watches. As if this piece were not already impressive enough it is also an Eco-Drive which should start running not too long after being exposed to the light and will keep your time accurately, +- 5 seconds, for up to a month. The Japanese quartz in this tank will not need replacing in the near future so you will enjoy a reliable diver for some time to come.
Bulova Oceanographer Devil Diver
And in the mischievous corner wearing a black and red contrasting bezel we have the Oceanographer, popularly known as the Devil Diver due to its 666ft water resistance rating. This remake is almost identical to the original Oceanographer other than its enlarged case. The enlarged stainless steel cushion design is 44mm in diameter that I find is not large when compared to other divers but is a bit bothersome if you were a fan of the original piece. The black dial has the famous raised indexes on it with a red crosshair in the middle and a red line circling the hour markers. The dial size is the same as the original Devil Diver which gives it the slightest smaller appearance due to the enlarged case. The baton watch hands are a bit bloated to make visibility clearer and the second hand has a little luminous ball on the end. An anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal finishes off the piece crisply and the blue hue sometimes makes the dial colour look different. An unnamed Miyota movement, expectedly the 8215, powers this piece and helps keep the price a bit lower. If you are willing to jump on price a bit then the orange dial rendition is probably going to be the more desirable but it is also a limited edition. The non-limited edition is however sturdy and keeps time accurately so you still add a novel, high quality diver to your collection for a significantly reduced price.
Spinnaker Bradner SP-5057-01
The Bradner doesn’t immediately strike you as a diver when you first have a look at it. This is because there is a neatly placed internally rotating bezel that makes the piece look less bulky. The sapphire crystal is more curved than your typical crystal to accommodate the internal bezel that is controlled by the crown at 2 o’clock with the 4 o’clock crown responsible for the usual time and date setting. The case has a brushed finish that partners up with the hand stitched strap to create a decidedly vintage look to this diver. The dial is embossed with large indexes that have a generous SuperLumiNova coating on as well as thick baton watch hands which shine that icy light blue. The minute markers aren’t painted on to the dial but are instead etched on a ring that is placed on to the dial. The Bradner comes with a wealth of choice in terms of strap and dial colour so that you can find something that best suits your personality although I do find the black dial to be the best option of these for best functionality. The movement is the Seiko NH35 and has a hacking second hand, 24 jewels and runs at 21,600 bph. It might be a touch louder than the high end movements but will serve you well for years to come.
Alpina Seastrong Diver 300
The Seastrong is a touch above the $ 500 mark but it is loaded with features so please forgive me for including it here. The black dial sports 3 sub-dials responsible for 1/10th of a second, 60 second and 30 minute tracking. The typical Plongeur hands are smartly elongated to make reading the time quick and simple. There is a large date window at 6 o’clock as well. The dial is protected by a curved anti-reflective sapphire crystal. Everything is coated with a generous lume so that you aren’t left in the dark when you need it most. The chronograph pushers look like two pillars to protect the crown but are in fact the pushers. I like the aesthetic that this creates. The case is 44mm stainless steel with a navy unidirectional rotating bezel. The strap is strong rubber with some needle work down the sides. The quartz movement means you won’t need to worry about time loss and can expect a good amount of use before needing to replace the battery. The Seastrong is a big piece and can become quite heavy on the arm but the leather strap makes it easier for you to get used to it and ensures better comfortability over time as the strap breaks in. I do think that if you have small wrists that there would be better suited divers out there. The stainless steel case has a blasted finish look and the crown is screw-in to prevent any water damage according to its impressive 300m water resistant rating where it gets its name from.
Divers with turning bezels under $500 that will keep serving you well for many years are hard to come by and, as you could tell by this list, I even ended up including a diver that was just over $500. The variety offered above allows a choice between vintage divers and sports divers. The internal rotating bezel on the Spinnaker intrigued me but if you are a diver that needs features the Alpina will be more down your alley. My personal choice leans towards the Devil Diver because of how closely it resembles the original even though it is a bit bigger.
John Wood says
I own the citizen “ecozilla” shown above as a top five divers watch and no doubt it’s as tough as they come but as a daily wearer not so much. It is uncomfortable and almost impossible to get under shirt sleeves unless you leave them unbuttoned. I recently bought the citizen BN0151-09L because I like dive watches and as a daily wearer with great lume [because I’m a lume freak] it’s a better watch. The lume is better than the “ecozilla” which I’ve owned for four years and much more comfortable to wear. It’s also an eco-drive solar quartz watch and is every bit as accurate and the ecozilla has been fairly consistent at plus four seconds a month for four years. that is totally accurate enough for me. I reset twice a year when daylight and standard time change. I don’t bother much with date windows because they are so small I need a loupe to read them with my aging eyes. Honestly, I don’t know why citizen bothers. I’m a minimalist freak and they would look cleaner w/out the date window at all but, oh well. But citizen watches are excellent bargains and I got the BN0151 on amazon for $142 bucks! Way reasonable for the quality and even though it’s only iso rated for 200 meters I can live with that as I don’t dive and I’ll bet most of the real divers out there don’t go that deep or use dive computers if they do. All in all, most dive watches are pleasant looking anachronisms of a bygone age. So I think this watch ought to replace the ecozilla as a top five diver.