The dive watch is one of the most iconic and popular watch designs ever made. Originally born in the 1950s for professional divers who needed a functional and waterproof tool to help them keep track of the time underwater, the dive watch is today considered one of the most versatile watches ever made.
The huge popularity of dive watches has resulted in countless different designs, styles, iterations, and of course price ranges. Whilst the Rolex Submariner has established itself as one of the most iconic dive watches ever made, not everyone is willing to spend more than 10k on a watch. In addition, considering the purpose for which a dive watch is made, it doesn’t always make much sense to wear an expensive luxury watch that will be subject to harsh conditions, knocks, and bangs.
If you want a stylish, high-quality dive watch with a unique design, great performance, and a unique, interesting design that stands out from the crowd and is also reasonably priced, your best bet is to look at microbrand watches.
The good news is that there are a lot of great microbrand dive watches to choose from. In this article, we are taking a look at some of the best and most popular microbrand dive watches. What they all have in common is that they have all gone their own route in terms of style and design – giving you something truly unique and intriguing. At the same time, they offer a hard-to-beat balance between price, quality, and performance.
Without further ado, let’s dig in.
Squale – Squalematic – 60 ATM
First up, we have the Squale Squalematic 60 ATM. This is a dive watch that takes inspiration from classic dive watches whilst still managing to create a distinct and unique design. The watch features a “von Büren” case measuring 44mm in diameter and with clear vintage-inspired design cues including details such as beveled, thick lugs, a large crown, and a big unidirectional rotating bezel.
On top of the case sits a double-sided anti-reflective sapphire crystal. Whilst the overall shape and design of the case are clearly vintage-inspired, the addition of bright colors makes it a vibrant and fresh timepiece that is fun and eye-catching. The bright blue sunburst dial paired with the blue bezel insert and orange minutes hand makes for a really intriguing color combination.
What makes this watch even greater is Squale’s long and rich history of making watches. And in particular dive watches. Back in the 1950s, Squale started designing and developing dive watches, which ties perfectly together with Squale’s dive watches today, including this one that is designed with a nod to the brand’s past.
Read more about it in our Hands-On Review: Squale Matic 60 ATM Light Blue
- Diameter: 44mm
- Movement: Swiss automatic ETA-2824
- Water resistance: 300m/60 ATM
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Thickness: 16mm
Alsta – Nautoscaph Superautomatic
The Alsta Nautoscaph Superautomatic has a clear vintage-inspired design that is reminiscent of the dive watches from the 1970s. This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise because it takes a lot of inspiration from Alsta’s original dive watches that the brand released during the 1970s. As a matter of fact, it is strikingly similar to a dive watch that Alstra released in 1970.
The original Alsta Nautoscaph Superautomatic was actually worn by Richard Dreyfuss (playing Matt Hooper) in the movie Jaws which certainly adds appeal to the model. The brand started out with a re-edition of the classic jaws watch with the Nautoscaph II, as inspired by the Nautoscaph dive watch worn by Richard Dreyfuss. This particular watch, is described by the brand as the ”21st-century iteration of the classic which Matt Hooper chose as his dive companion.”
Back in the day, Alsta focused on making robust, functional timepieces for many different professions, including divers. This concept has been revived after the Alstra brand was resurrected in 2014.
With that said, this watch is a functional, sporty, and durable dive watch with great performance and a clear vintage-inspired design. It has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 38mm and a lug-to-lug of 38mm. It has a slight cushion shape which contributes to the vintage look and obviously makes a ton of sense considering the fact that it is the exact case shape of the original.
It is powered by the Automatic Seiko caliber NH35A and offers a water resistance of 300m – more than enough for most divers and certainly enough if you’re just going swimming. It has a unidirectional rotating bezel, and in traditional vintage-style, the luminous markers on the dial are painted and not applied. Furthermore, the luminescent material is slightly cream-color to go with the vintage theme.
Except for the movement, the watch is entirely made in Switzerland.
If you want a classic vintage-inspired microbrand dive watch with an interesting history, this is definitely a great choice.
- Movement: Automatic Seiko caliber NH35A
- Diameter: 38mm
- Lug-to-lug: 43mm
- Water resistance: 300m/30ATM
- Crystal: sapphire
Spinnaker – Croft
The Spinnaker Croft is a dive watch with a classic and simple case design. It has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 43mm and a sapphire crystal on top. The lugs are thick, have beveled edges, and a large crown at 3 o’clock. In other words, all of the elements that you will find in many classic 1950s dive watches.
This particular model is inspired by Robert Croft who was a US Navy Diving Instructor. Croft became the first person who free-dived to a depth of 200 ft in 1967. With this said, Spinnaker released the Croft model to celebrate his achievement. And what better way to do so than with a div watch?
Beating inside this watch is a Japanese Miyota caliber 8218 offering a power reserve of 40 hours. The watch has a water resistance of 150m/15ATM which is more than enough for swims and most dives (with the exception of deep dives).
What makes it stand out is its red aluminium insert for the unidirectional rotating bezel, yet still, it works perfectly and makes for a great choice if you want something more interesting than a traditional monochrome dive watch.
At 3 o’clock, it has a date window with a cyclops on top. Naturally, the hour markers and hands are large to ensure perfect legibility, and the luminous mass is cream-colored, giving the watch a more vintage-inspired look. Positioned offset above 4 and 5 o’clock, it also has a sub-dial for the seconds.
- Movement: Japanese Miyota Caliber 8218 with 42-hour power reserve
- Diameter: 43mm
- Water resistance: 150m/15ATM
- Crystal: sapphire
Zelos – Hammerhead v3 – 300m
The Zelos Hammerhead V3 is a striking dive watch with an aggressive and sporty design that certainly stands out from the ordinary. If you want a sporty watch that has its very own design that does not go into the traditional footsteps of what a dive watch is expected to be, this one is definitely for you.
Let’s start with the 44mm stainless steel case with a lug-to-lug of 48mm. The case has aggressive and sharp lines throughout, from the sides to the angled lugs. With the lack of round and flowing shapes, the result is a timepiece that looks both sporty and aggressive. This of course makes perfect sense if you’re going to wear it on casual and sporty occasions.
Positioned at 4 o’clock, it has a screw-down crown which is protected by the case. The benefit of the crown position is also that it doesn’t dig into the wrist in the same way that a regular crown at the 3 o’clock position does.
As a dive watch should, it features a unidirectional rotating bezel.
The dial has a brown dial with a sunburst finish, contrasted by a yellow seconds hand. The hands and hour markers are large which provides good contrast. Also, what makes this watch stand out from most other dive watches is that it has generous luminescent details. The markers on the bezel are luminous, and equally so the outer part of the dial – in addition to the hands and markers.
All in all, it is a sporty, masculine, and functional dive watch for anyone looking for something different and unique.
- Movement: Automatic Seiko caliber NH35
- Diameter: 44mm
- Lug-to-lug: 48mm
- Thickness (without crystal) 13mm
- Water resistance: 300m/30 ATM
Le Jour – Hammerhead – LJ-HH-001
The Le Jour Hammerhead is a retro-inspired timepiece with inspiration from the 1970s dive watches. It includes several vintage design traits that give it its very own look.
It is presented with a fusion shape case with a diameter of 42mm with a nice combination of brushed and polished elements. At 3 o’clock, it has a large crown, and on top, it has a unidirectional rotating bezel with a black ceramic bezel insert. For improved legibility, the bezel has luminescent markers.
The dial is black with a beautiful sunburst finish and a date window positioned at 3 o’clock. It features large applied hour markers filled with luminescence and large contrasting luminous hands. For sportiness and versatility, it is presented on a three-link bracelet made in 316L steel. For a vintage and appealing touch, it has a domed sapphire crystal.
The water-resistance of 200m/660 feet is what can be expected from a dive watch, making it suitable for both swimming and diving. Beating inside is a Swiss automatic ETA 2824 caliber. All in all, the Le Jour Hammerhead combines intricate details with functionality, performance, and interesting retro design traits.
If you appreciate vintage designs with affordable performance, this is an appropriate choice for an everyday watch or a functional tool watch.
- Movement: Automatic Swiss Sellita caliber SW200
- Diameter: 42mm
- Water resistance: 200m/20ATM
- Crystal: domed sapphire Crystal
Zelos – Abyss 3
The Zelos Abyss 3 stands out from the ordinary in so many ways.
Let’s start with the 43mm bulky and robust Marine-Grade Bronze case which is a great alternative if you want something different than the ordinary stainless steel.
What truly stands out, however, is its greatly impressive water-resistance of a whopping 3000 meters/9,842 feet. To make this possible, it is equipped with a manual helium escape valve at the 2 o’clock position.
The case is beautifully finished with brushed elements and polished beveled edges which is nice to see in a watch at this price point, showing that Zelos has paid great attention to the details. It is equipped with a unidirectional rotating bezel with a lovely light blue ceramic bezel insert made of Zirconium Oxide that has great scratch-resistant properties. On top of the case sits a sapphire crystal treated with an anti-reflective coating on the inner side.
For excellent performance and functionality, it has a sunburst blue dial with large hands and hour markers filled with luminescence. For convenience, it has a date window positioned at 6 o’clock.
- Movement: Automatic Swiss Sellita caliber SW200
- Diameter: 43mm
- Thickness: 18.5mm
- Water resistance: 3000 meters/300 ATM
Vandaag – Primus
Clean, simple and functional; These design principles have always been the requirements for typical German design and are particularly important in watch-design. VANDAAG adapted nicely on them with their Primus collection, without trying to sell it as “Bauhaus watch”.
The Primus is inconspicuous at first glances and deserves a second look: The details and composition of the organic design language on this watch are very convincing. With that said, let’s take a closer look at the Primus.
VANDAAG rather created a modern proportioned watch with the appeal and design characteristics of a plain vintage dress watch. The design is minimalistic, but not as much as you might think: Everything is organically shaped; Domed sapphire crystal, rounded bezel with only a slim straight edge sitting on a tapered case, which yet again has a fine indentation on both sides that go from one lug to another.
If you want to know more read our blog post VANDAAG Primus Automatic – Timeless German Simplicity
- Movement: Automatic Miyota 821A
- Diameter: 40.0mm
- Lug to lug: 46.0mm
- Height: 10.8mm
- Glass: Scratch-resistant sapphire glass, 2-fold anti-reflection coating
- Waterproof: 50m
- Limitation: 999 pieces (individual serial number)
Crafter Blue – Hyperion Ocean – Blue Sunburst (HOSS002.SB.R)
With the Hyperion Ocean collection Crafter Blue has successfully created a stunning timepiece that has a great balance between performance and versatility. Despite having a rather sporty design, it is surprisingly versatile and works both for everyday use as well as sporty occasions.
Despite its versatile style, it is intended for professional saturation diving and therefore has water resistance to 600m/2000ft. To make this possible, it has a helium escape valve.
The watch is presented with a 45mm cushion shape stainless steel case with a domed sapphire crystal on top. It is powered by a Swiss-made Sellita SW200 caliber.
The dial is perfectly executed with a dark blue color and a sunburst finish. It features large applied hour markers filled with luminescent material, and as a nice well-thought-out detail, the frames of the hands are black which makes them blend in more nicely with the dial. This just goes to show that Crafter Blue has really paid attention to the details. At 3 o’clock, we also find a date window which can be practical to have.
- Movement: Swiss Sellita caliber SW200
- Diameter: 45mm
- Water resistance: 600 meters / 60 ATM
- Crystal: domed sapphire crystal
- Thickness: 16,30 mm
Alsta – Nautoscaph IV
We have already looked at Nautoscaph Superautomatic but the Alsta Nautoscaph IV is another great microbrand dive watch with a slightly different design.
It features a 30mm stainless steel case with a less bulky case design than the Nautoscaph Superautomatic. It has a crown positioned at 3 o’clock without any crown guards for a more traditional, vintage style.
The Alstra Nautoscaph IV still carries a lot of the design traits of the watch that can be found in the watch worn by Oceanographer Matt Hooper in the movie Jaws.
The Nautoscaph IV is limited to 400 pieces and manufactured in Switzerland except for the movement which is the Seiko NH35A 24 jewels.
The watch has a PVD-coated steel unidirectional rotating bezel with teeth/notched edges. The dial is black and has printed luminescent hour markers. For a touch of color to the otherwise monochrome dial, it features an orange seconds hand.
- Movement: Automatic Seiko caliber NH35A
- Diameter: 40mm
- Lug-to-lug: 51.3mm
- Water resistance: 30 atm / 300 meters
- Crystal: sapphire
RZE – Endeavour
Last but not least, we have the RZE Endeavour.
This is a sporty and interesting dive watch that has dared to go its own route in terms of design. In a world where a lot of the dive watches look very similar, the RZE goes against the trend and has a distinct and versatile design.
It features a 40.5mm titanium case and is fitted on a solid Titanium bracelet with ULTRAHex Coating. The full-titanium construction makes this watch extremely light and comfortable on the wrist. It also has top-grade sapphire crystals and VITON® gaskets for the waterproof seal in the watch case.
Designed with a nod to the sea, it is designed to work well both on and off the sea. The water resistance is 200m/660 feet. Beating inside this watch is the automatic Seiko caliber SII NH38A which is durable, robust, and reliable.
Instead of being completely flat and plain, the watch has a nice texture to it which makes it more interesting and gives it a greater personality. Also, the choice of green stands out from most other dive watches on the market yet works extremely well. In particular, if you want something different and unique. As a dive watch should, however, it has large luminous hour markers and hands to ensure great legibility at all times.
RZE med the collection after the HMS Endeavour which is the naval vessel raised under the command of Captain James Cook on his first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand.
- Movement: Automatic Seiko caliber SII NH38A
- Diameter: 40.5mm
- Water resistance: 20 ATM / 200 meters
- Crystal: Sapphire Crystal with inner-side Super-AR
- Thickness: 12,50 mm
4 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Microbrand Dive Watches [List & Guide]”
Ive enjoyed reading your articles. On the subject of the Sean Connery ‘nato strap ‘ on his Rolex and why it was only 16mm. According to sources on the film set , one of the camera crew loaned it to Sean Connery because the stock watch bracelet on the Rolex was too tight to go over the sleeve of Sean Connerys wetsuit , the nylon strap was the only one anyone had on Set that was long enough to fit.
thanks a lot for this info Wayne, pretty cool 🙂
Is like to know (with so many micro brands, and so many variations out there), what are the dream specifications for a watch?
Do people generally look for the Swiss movements, or the more common Seiko and Miyota?
What size, style, lume etc
I think you almost answered your question yourself. The reason for the whole micro and limited edition trend, is that there are no unified dream specifications. What the trend offers is a ton of diversity, catering to vast variety of dreams. I have some really vintage looking divers but with modern Swiss movements and specs like sapphire and 300m WR. Others prefer modern looking Zelos models and others again huge bold things like the VDB or Armand.
There are so many brands and design trying to fit every desire that most models sell out quickly because it’s too risky to produce larger series in case of a flunk.
I think you could put down sapphire, Swiss movement and signed screw down and great lume as general hits but again, not everyone will want to pay premiums for the movement especially. On size and design, nobody agrees, hence the candy shop variety we have today.