10/08/2021
 5 minutes

3 Diving Watches That Are Better (and Cheaper) Than the Rolex Submariner

By Donato Andrioli
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Often imitated, never duplicated? The Rolex Submariner has earned its place as one of the most iconic and sought-after watches of all time. But the legendary diver is selling for higher prices than ever before on the secondary market. With prices well above the $15,000 mark for current references, this Rolex icon is increasingly less attainable for many watch enthusiasts. If you find yourself in that boat, check out these three divers that are not only cheaper but also have a bit more to offer than the Rolex Sub. 

The Omega Icon

If we’re talking about Rolex Submariner alternatives, there’s no way we can’t mention the Omega Seamaster 300M. In my opinion, this watch has everything the Sub has to offer and then some. I think it’s great that the Submariner has only had minimal changes made to it with the utmost care in its 70-year history; that’s part of what makes the famous diver so incredibly successful! At the same time, however, this consistency has undoubtedly led to a few sorely disappointed watch enthusiasts over the years. Some are bound to get tired of the Submariner’s conservative design after so many decades. 

Enter the Omega Seamaster 300M: This model rose to prominence as a Bond watch, but the latest reference has a new look that’s all its own. You definitely won’t see such a completely refreshed design in any other diver. Hat’s off to Omega for their courage in totally revamping this icon. The watch’s ceramic dial boasts a mesmerizing lasered wave pattern that almost looks like a 3D animation. Moreover, the Omega Seamaster comes with a METAS-certified movement that is resistant to magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss and visible through the sapphire display case back – neither of which can be said for the Sub. The overall quality of the case, bracelet, and clasp leaves nothing to be desired, even though I personally prefer the Seamaster 300M with a rubber strap. That being said, you don’t want to do without the practical bracelet extension for diving, so the rubber strap should be purchased as an extra. One slight drawback for me is the bezel. It doesn’t quite live up to Rolex’s in terms of feel or sound. Even so, for a price around $5,000, the Omega Seamaster 300M is probably the best Sub alternative around. 

The iconic Omega Seamaster 300M is cheaper than the Submariner but still wows with its refreshing design.
The iconic Omega Seamaster 300M is cheaper than the Submariner but still wows with its refreshing design.

Tudor’s Modern “Vintage Submariner”

It’s hard to please watch fans. Some have had enough of the tried and trusted Submariner design; others find the modern six-digit Sub references far too bulky. Despite Rolex’s careful attention to consistent design, in 2010, the brand caught up with the times and modernized the legendary diver. The watch was outfitted with a new “maxi case,” “maxi dial,” and an overall bolder look. Many fans of the original Submariner remain disappointed with these changes to this day. The case on the most recent reference has slimmed down in response to the critique. Nevertheless, the Sub’s tool watch look and charm have been sacrificed for a more luxurious general appearance on all six-digit references, much to the chagrin of many Rolex diehards. 

If you feel the same, the Tudor Black Bay 58 might be an attractive option for you. This watch has just about everything that fans love about classic Submariner references. The Tudor Black Bay 58 boasts a slimmer 39-mm case, angles reminiscent of older Sub references, and several other nods to vintage timepieces. The angled case shape and beveled lugs, for instance, are similar to former Rolex Submariner models. Fans of older Subs will delight in the matte black dial and aluminum bezel. So, you can still get all the vintage charm without having to sacrifice on technology! The in-house movement has a 70-hour power reserve, and the case is water-resistant to 200 m (656 ft), making the Black Bay 58 a perfect daily wearer. Objectively speaking, the Black Bay 58 doesn’t outperform the Rolex Submariner. The Tudor simply lacks the same level of refinement. A slightly closer match is the Tudor Pelagos, which technically has a lot more to offer than the Sub with its unique diving clasp and 500 m (1640 ft) of water resistance. However, I didn’t opt to cover the Pelagos in this article because I consider it more of an alternative to the Sea-Dweller. In any case, the Black Bay 58 is an excellent choice if you want a diver that has state-of-the-art technology with a design much closer to that of classic Submariner references. The price is also unbeatable: The Tudor Black Bay 58 is available for less than $5,000. 

The Tudor Black Bay 58 is like a five-digit Sub with modern technology.
The Tudor Black Bay 58 is like a five-digit Sub with modern technology.

Exclusive Italian Design for Less Than the Submariner

When you treat yourself to a luxury watch, you expect a certain level of exclusivity. It’s always a bit disappointing if you keep spotting your watch on other people’s wrists. A lot of enthusiasts count this as a major weakness of the Rolex Submariner. The diver’s status as an icon and recognizability are also its undoing to some degree. The Submariner is so well known and timeless that it even stirs people to buy who aren’t well versed in the watch industry. Plus, it’s probably the most often imitated and replicated watch in the world. Thus, you come across the Rolex, or watches like it, relatively often in everyday life. I think it’s great that the Submariner is so beloved and well-known, but I can also understand if that bothers some watch fans. 

If you’re seeking a bit more exclusivity, you must check out the Panerai Submersible ref. PAM00683. If you hear the name Panerai and can think of nothing but giant watches worn by action heroes, don’t fret; this Panerai Submersible is 42 mm in diameter and sits beautifully on the wrist. I can personally vouch for it after having had the opportunity to try it on in person last year. The overall design is truly unique and miles apart from the Rolex Submariner. You can clearly tell from the watch that Panerai has an extensive history to look back on when it comes to diving watches. I particularly like the robust, tool-like character of this model. It offers absolutely everything you could want from a diver: perfect legibility, a ceramic bezel, and a durable case with a classic Panerai look that is water-resistant to 300 m (984 ft). The date sits in its traditional position at 3 o’clock, and there is also a small seconds subdial. The latter feature isn’t exactly typical of a diving watch, but I think it works. The in-house automatic caliber P900 offers a 70-hour power reserve. At less than $10,000, the Submersible is a great alternative to the Submariner, especially if you’re seeking a more exclusive watch that you won’t see out and about very often. 

Panerai also boasts a rich tradition of diving watches, including the Panerai Submersible PAM00683.
Panerai also boasts a rich tradition of diving watches, including the Panerai Submersible PAM00683.

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About the Author

Donato Andrioli

With the purchase of my Tudor Black Bay 41, I discovered a passion for mechanical watches. I am particularly drawn to iconic watches with long and exciting histories.

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