Keeping Time at Depth: The Best Waterproof Watches of 2018
A good watch is more than just a timekeeper—it’s a companion, a trustworthy link to the only constant in the world. Naturally, you want a watch that you can take with you anywhere, and that includes your adventures to the bottom of the ocean. Choosing the best waterproof watch will depend on a number of factors, not the least of which is your own personal sense of style.
Over the past fifteen years I have spent a lot of time in the water, and have used many different watches while exploring the deep blue sea. I have found through trial and error that “waterproof” doesn’t always mean waterproof—so I decided to put my mistakes to good use, and put together a guide to the best waterproof watches out there.
Hopefully, this will help you avoid bad experiences and find your next great timepiece best friend.
Table of Contents
- 4 Best Waterproof Watches - Comparisons
- 4 Best Waterproof Watches - Reviews
- What makes a Best Waterproof Watche?
4 Best Waterproof Watches - Comparisons
4 Best Waterproof Watches - Reviews
1. Casio Master of G Rangeman
You might be thinking that Casio doesn’t belong on this list because their watches always seem to be on the bargain rack at your local department store. However, the G-Shock is a class above even some other brands on the market—I have owned a G-Shock myself for over a decade, and is it still fighting strong.
What sets this Casio model apart from other watches on this list is that it is truly a “go anywhere, do anything” watch. The Rangeman has a triple sensor that tracks altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, and direction. Basically, the only thing this watch can’t do is your taxes.
The altitude measure can track your current water depth down to 2,300 feet, well within recreational limits. It even has a built-in memory that can keep up to 40 records. This isn’t a dive computer, but it works as a great backup incase of a computer failure.
What I love about my G-Shock is that it is almost bulletproof. I have taken it on hundreds of dives, thanks to its depth rating of 200 meters (660 feet). I have also used it in the winter while skiing—it survived the tough conditions thanks to its shock resistance and freezing resistance down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
The final beauty of this watch is the digital display that is atomically set via satellites so you never have the incorrect time. The watch itself is solar-powered and can last up to seven months without needing to be exposed to light. This never-wrong, never-needs-a-battery-change combo makes the Casio Rangeman an excellent choice for divers and other adventurers alike.
What we liked
- Seriously rugged
- Reliable solar battery
- Easy to read in low light
- Easy-to-use buttons
What we didn't like
- Watch is a little bulky
- Secondary dials (temp, pressure, etc.) are small and hard to read
2. Citizen Eco-Drive Men's Promaster Diver Watch
A good companion is one that is always there for you, and the Citizen Promaster is as dependable as it gets—thanks to the Eco-Drive technology that uses light to charge the battery. This watch can convert both natural and artificial light into solar energy to keep the device constantly charged. A few minutes of light every day is enough to make sure you always are on time.
The no-battery design of this watch means that there is no need to open the watch case—this great feature tells me that there is nothing that will reduce the ability of the Promaster to withstand a leap into the water.
The body of the watch is made from stainless steel that shines beautifully underwater, as well as on land. The dial is only 45 mm (1.7 inches) wide and is encompassed by a one-way rotating bezel that you can use to track how much time you have been in the water.
I really like the band on this watch—it is made from polyurethane which is durable and comfortable, but it doesn’t collect water spots. So with a quick rinse this watch looks great whether I’m on a dive or in a meeting. The blue band that I got even has the no-decompression dive time limits down to 200 feet—of course, this isn’t a replacement for tables or a computer, but is a good reminder while I’m under.
What we liked
- Strong and durable build
- Doesn’t need a battery
- Depth rated to 200 meters
What we didn't like
- Clock face illumination is low for limited visibility of in the dark
- Date window is too small
3. Seiko Men's Diver's Automatic Watch
You gotta love a watch that keeps time and winds itself with the simple movements of your arm, doing the things you do every moment of every day—thisgives you a consistently functioning watch that you don’t have to worry about letting you down due to a dead battery. Seiko has been around for 125 years and has established a consistent record of performance and fashion.
This Seiko watch has a classic look with time-tested functions. The Kinetic Direct Drive technology used to charge the watch and keep time is encased in a stainless steel body. The hands and numbers of the watch are luminous, which makes them visible at night or in murky water—all of these features make this watch a trusty companion in almost any situation.
As a waterproof watch, the Seiko automatic watch is rated to 200 meters, or 660 feet. You can take it down to the depths as you glide over wrecked ships or swim with whale sharks. The rubber strap contrasts nicely with the stainless steel face, and is comfortable enough to fit against the skin, but durable enough to wear over a wetsuit for a week of diving in the Caribbean.
What we liked
- Great mix of classic looks and modern functionality
- Dependable timekeeping
- Solid and durable construction
What we didn't like
- Band is comfortable, but it’s a bit stiff
4. Nixon Mens the 51-30
The Nixon 51-30 is a seriously good-looking watch—the 51mm watch face is encased in a brushed stainless steel case. I will admit that I was first drawn to this watch because of its Star Wars specialty design, however, I stuck around for the excellent performance it offers.
For starters, and a key feature for our list, this watch is rated to a depth of 300 meters—that’s almost 1000 feet! Chances are you will never take the watch down to that depth, but this means that you won’t have to worry about this watch dying on you no matter what water you are jumping into.
The two-inch dial features six hands that keep track of time in both 24 and 12 hour formats simultaneously. The dial also has a date window, making the watch versatile both in and out of the water. The 51-30 uses Miyota Japanese quartz to keep accurate track of the time.The numbers on the dial are large enough to view without being overly large and cumbersome.
What we liked
- Consistent performance
- Looks good enough to wear to dinner
- Durable stainless steel case
What we didn't like
- Sub-dials are hard to see
What makes a Best Waterproof Watche?
Having “waterproof” stamped on a watch doesn’t necessarily make itsafe to take with you on an adventure through dancing kelp forests or rainbow-colored reefs. In order to be a reliable piece of equipment, a watch needs to be made with the proper materials, and have the proper design to actually keep water out as atmospheric pressure weighs down on the flexible spaces of your watch.
Here are the key features to look for in your newest time piece:
Waterproof or water-resistant?
When you are picking a watch, pay close attention to this phrase. Water-resistant watches are designed to withstand the average hand-washing or light rain shower. Try taking one of those puppies underwater, and you will end up late to that date you’ve been looking forward to.
Waterproof, on the other hand, means that the watch is designed to with stand the increased atmospheric pressure caused by descending underwater. These watches will also have a depth rating which you must pay attention to. In truth, no mechanical object is 100% waterproof, but they are rated to withstand being submerged in water up to a certain pressure.
Given that most recreation diving is done at depths less than 100 feet, it’s a good idea to go for a watch that is resistant to 200 meters (20 BAR / ATM or 656 feet). Choosing a watch with this rating will ensure that it can survive diving, swimming, snorkeling, or whatever water activities you enjoy.
Just as important as the ability of a watch to withstand pressure is how well it can stand up to the torture of ocean and pool environments—pool chemicals and salt water wreak havoc on almost any material, but some are more resistant than others.
Stainless steel—stainless steel is known to be resistant to corrosion, one of the main effects of submerging metals in water for extended periods.
Silicone rubber—this material is almost impervious to the effects of water. It is also softer and more comfortable to wear than most metals.
Titanium—titanium is one of the best materials for a watch—it doesn’t corrode at all, and it is able to stand up to the abuse of an adventurous lifestyle. Plus, it looks pretty good.
Disclaimer: Even though these materials stand up to water activities very well, you’ll still need to rinse your watch in fresh water after every dive to make sure it lasts a long time. I have a watch that has been on hundreds of dives with me, and over 12 years the only sign of wear is that the strap buckle broke once.
Comfort really should be at the top of your list—it doesn’t matter how many features a watch has, or good it looks, if wearing the watch irritates you, you simply will not use it. So, pick the watch that is comfortable both in and out of the water.
Does it look good?
Let’s face it, you will be wearing this watch when you get out of the water too—so you shouldn’t sacrifice its looks because you get an extra few feet of depth. If you think the watch is ugly and doesn’t match your style, you will not like wearing it, and it will end up thrown in a drawer just waiting to be donated to your local thrift store.
Do you have the time?
Keeping track of time is vitally important anywhere you go. Especially for divers. Even if you have a dive computer, having a solid waterproof watch as a backup is almost a necessity—select a watch that is capable of surviving water excursions without leaking, and is made of materials that will hold up to saltwater and chlorine.
Each watch on this list will work for almost any adventure that you can imagine. At the same time, they also look pretty good so you can wear them for business or for a night out with someone special. I am partial to the Casio G-Shock because of my long history with this watch. I also like that it is a matte black color that doesn’t make it flashy. The fact that it can go almost anywhere is a huge plus for me too.
If you are looking for a watch that looks professional and elegant, without sacrificing functionality, the Nixon 51-30 is an incredible intersection of fashion and function, and the Citizen and Seiko watches are good go-betweens for excellent performance and a rugged, professional style. All models on our list of the best waterproof watches are sure to leave you satisfied.