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September 9, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Dive Watches

September 9, 2020

At Shinola we’ve crafted dive watches that are as much a tool as a fashion accessory. Our Monster Automatics are ready to go to the depths with you. Find out more about what makes a timepiece a dive watch.

The best experiences come with careful planning and preparation. Before you dive head first into adventure, equip yourself with reliable gear. Start with your time keeping instrument. A good dive watch can help you keep track of elapsed time above or below the water. Whether you are going out for an afternoon surf, a week long scuba dive trip, or just headed out on the water for the weekend, a reliable waterproof watch can bring an added measure of safety and peace of mind. In this article, we are going to take a deep dive into the most important aspects of the best dive watches

History of Dive Watches

The first dive watch was invented in the 1920s. In addition to consumer use, waterproof watches became a strategic asset for military professionals. For example, in the 1930s, the divers in Italy’s Royal Navy added waterproof watches to their military gear. Over the next 100 years, recreational sports enthusiasts to diving professionals would begin to utilize the benefits of durable, waterproof watches

In response to the high consumer demand, many watch companies have joined the movement by creating their own high-grade waterproof watches. Dive watch technology continues to improve with each new release. In fact, most dive watches today can operate at levels too deep for human exploration.  

The Anatomy of Dive Watches 

Dive watches are designed to withstand extreme pressure and wear. These water resistant watches look similar to regular watches with a few differentiating features in the movement, case, dial, bezel, and strap.


Reliable movement is paramount in an underwater dive. The automatic watch movement is the most popular for its functionality and dependability. Proper dive watches should maintain accuracy with a substantial power reserve for longer dives. Seek out wate resistant watches from reputable companies that meet universal requirements for the ISO standard 6425 (Discussed below).


Water resistant watch cases must be sturdy, resistant to corrosion, and hold up under pressure. A dive watch’s case requires a ferrous metal layer to protect against magnetism, for instance a soft iron shield.


Dive watches will also include a unidirectional bezel used to keep track of elapsed time underwater and subsequently, estimate the amount of gas left in the breathing tank. The bezel works by aligning the bezel marker’s zero to the minute hand at the beginning of the dive. Using the bezel, the diver can track how much time has elapsed since the initial descent, without needing to remember the exact time that their dive began. 


Divers might occasionally nudge their bezel during a dive. If the bezel is adjusted accidentally and shows a shorter dive time than is accurate, the diver’s safety could be compromised. The diver may think that they have more air supply than they really do. To prevent this from happening, bezels should be unidirectional. This means that if a diver bumps their bezel and accidentally adjusts it, the bezel can only move to show a longer dive time. This way, a diver might resurface earlier with extra air, but they won’t risk running out of air. And divers tell us that more air is better than less. 




The dial is designed with underwater visibility to provide a clear indication of time. A high contrast between the minute, second, and hour hands allows divers to quickly read the time.


The best dive watches will have an adjustable strap allowing for easy lengthening to ensure the perfect fit for underwater exploration. These straps will be made of either high quality metal or rubber. 

What Is the ISO Standard for Dive Watches? 

In 1982, the Internal Organization for Standardization (ISO) created a list of specifications for a watch to be recognized as a dive watch. The ISO standard has been updated as of 2018. In alignment with the standards, companies will list in the product description if their watch has been ISO 6425-tested. To reach the standard, watches are tested to check that:

- Mechanisms function below water

- The interior surface is protected against condensation

- Settings and crowns are resistant to external force

- Appropriate water-tightness

- Protection against thermal shock

Water Resistant Classifications 

Not all water resistant watches are suitable for deep dives or even exposure to shallow water levels. Understanding the meaning of your water resistant classification will help you best care for your watch. Below are the most common water resistant ratings and the type of activities fit for the rating.

Difference Between Waterproof vs. Water Resistant Watches

Water resistant and waterproof watches are often used interchangeably. However, these two words have a significant difference that influence the care of a watch. The main principle is that “All waterproof watches are water resistant, but not all water resistant watches are waterproof.” 

As mentioned above, there are different levels of water resistance. Not all levels will be safe for full and long-term submersion in water. Depending on the water resistant level, other watches can survive various degrees of water exposures. The water resistance level should be taken seriously to ensure the guaranteed lifespan of your watch. 

Caring for Your Watch 

Extreme temperatures can cause some watches to expand or shrink, thereby tampering with the seal of the watch dial. Avoid hot tubs and extremely warm water temperatures that could cause mostiture leaks. Overall, the best way to care for your watch is to understand the water resistance level. Read the owner's manual and follow the recommendations as outlined by the manufacturer.

Benefits of Dive Watches & Other Waterproof Watches

Despite their name, dive watches are not just for divers. Other individuals have found multiple benefits from selecting a dive watch or another high water resistance watch over a regular chromatic watch.   

Peace of Mind 

The best dive watches are created with high-grade material meant to endure intensive activities. Individuals looking for a waterproof watch that can withstand high-adventure activities should consider a dive watch. Having a reliable and high-quality watch allows you to live spontaneously without worrying about watch damage. 

Unique features

A dive watch has unique features that improve overall functionality. These features include a rotating bezel and high luminosity. The luminosity is advantageous in low-light areas such as cave exploring, camping, and other night activities. The rotating bezel can measure elapsed time up to an hour.

Style Status 

Some individuals may find the unique appearance to be the greatest benefit of a dive watch. The modern techy look can become the perfect complement to a confident wardrobe. 

Take the Plunge 

Whether you are a brave diver, adventure enthusiast, or modern trendsetter, a dive watch may be the next big improvement to your watch collection. At Shinola, we have a wide selection of waterproof watch designs created to complement your unique style. Take the plunge and dive deep into the lasting benefits of dive watches.

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