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Six Boutique Dive Watches: The Very Best

Right now, we’re in a golden age for dive watches. Companies such as Giovino, Palladium and others have made it possible to start your own company with as few as 400 watches, and the Internet has enabled the global reach that lets a niche company flourish. There are many out there, but for this post I’d like to collect my current favorites, representing a range of styles and prices, and in no particular order.

Ocean7 LM-1 PVD with PVD sapphire bezel

Six Boutique Dive Watches: The Very Best ABTW Editors' Lists

Why I like it

This one is kind of like buying a car – tons of options, both pre and post sale.
Sapphire bezel. PVD case or cold-hardened steel. Optional chronometer-rated movement. Killer luminosity. Good bracelet. Great price ($1,322 maxed out). User-changeable bezels to mix up the look. Workhorse ETA 2824 movement. What’s not to like?

Things I dislike

You can see some distortion from the curvature of the crystal, and I’d prefer just white hands instead of Plongeur style orange. Minor nits.

OWC 5517 Milsub

Six Boutique Dive Watches: The Very Best ABTW Editors' Lists

Why I like it

Lumed ceramic bezel. Antireflective sapphire crystal. High-end Soprod A-10 movement. Obsessive/compulsive founder Dan Fock. Versatile and restrained at just under 40mm by 12mm. Ultra legible sword hands. Amazingly well priced at $705.

The design is based on the vintage Rolex 5517, a 1950s design for the military, which currently sells for 80 to 120 thousand dollars. The OWC version has a better movement, crystal, bezel, depth rating and lume, and you can actually dive with it.

Things I dislike

Dang it, I know the milsub genre, but I like having a date window. Some of use lose track. A grey or black rehaut would be nice too, or even print the minute markers there to clear more space on the dial.

Bremont Supermarine Descent 500

Six Boutique Dive Watches: The Very Best ABTW Editors' Lists

Why I like it

Arguably not a boutique diver, but stunningly gorgeous, nice ETA 2836 movement, sapphire bezel, well-designed (and tough) Trip-Tick case and superb marketing. Unusual 9-layer, dual-sided anti-reflective sapphire crystal, sapphire bezel, ornate hands, day and date display. (see the Bremont Supermarine 500 watch review here.)

Things I dislike

At around $5,000 it’s just too expensive. The design is so good I want it anyway. (Yes, that’s a dislike.) A bit less detail on the dial too, it’s just a hair busy.

Christopher Ward C60 GMT

Six Boutique Dive Watches: The Very Best ABTW Editors' Lists

Why I like it

ETA 2893 GMT movement, respectful hat-tip to the Rolex GMT master that’s not a copy, lovely design and CW’s usual attention to detail. Why oh why does Rolex refuse to use anti-reflective coatings, for example, on their crystals? So very foolish of them when brands like CW are there to innovate in their place. A steal at $725 non-EC.

I like the ‘aged lume’ version; it’s also available with plain white, pepsi bezel, etc.

Love the trident on the end of the second hand.

Things I dislike

About the only thing I’d change offhand is the date – make the wheel black and lose the polished window.

UTS GMT 1000m

Six Boutique Dive Watches: The Very Best ABTW Editors' Lists

Why I like it

Handmade, one-of-a-kind cases, galvanic dial with sunburst finish, built like a tank and bold as brass. Superb legibility with Bauhaus-style design, nuclear-level luminosity, and build quality on par with the finest Swiss watches. At $2,550 on the bracelet, still a deal compared to the prestige brands. I’ve written about this watch here before, and it’s still on my bucket list.

Things I dislike

A bit thick at 14.5mm, and it only has anti-reflective coatings on the inside of the crystal. No crown protection, like my IWC, weird looking lugs.

Linde Werdelin Hard Black II

Six Boutique Dive Watches: The Very Best ABTW Editors' Lists

Why I like it

At almost Rolex-level pricing at $7200, the Hard Black II is hardest to defend. From “The One” series, it’s an unusual take on the dive watch in yellow and black. Only 88 made, and LW often does runs under 200 watches total. Special case for the snap-on hiking or diving computers, it’s look is beyond bold and you’ll know immediately if you want it. I almost chose the Spido-Lite but on a dive watch I want a moveable bezel; just super useful. The snap-on dive computer tipped this one over the edge; a great idea to transform your daily wearer into a hardcore diving instrument.

Things I dislike

Super expensive, non-standard lugs (the IWC curse too), pricy add-ons.

There are many others

I’m certain that this list will irritate readers out there whose favorites I omitted, and part of the golden age is the sheer quantity of watches out there – there are excellent blogs devoted to nothing else, for example! I hope this has given you some ideas and some brands to learn about, and do please leave us comments to vote for your favorites.

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Comments

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  • whatmeworry

    Great post! Well written with a nice range of watches to boot. Onne day an OWC MilSub will be mine!

  • DaveC

    Interesting post. Love that Bremont so much.
    Surprised not to see DWATCH on the list though.

  • Ulysses

    How about Deep Blue or Helson? They make solid dive watches that look better than any of these (except the Linde Werdelin 😛 ) for well below $1000. The Bremont looks like a snooze-fest.

    • Chris

      Good to know I’m not the only one bored to yawns by the Bremont. The design is ho-hum, the water resistance is unremarkable, and the price is laughable.

      The Linde Werdelin on the other hand…

      • PatrickUSVI

        What’s wrong with 500M resistance? How is that unremarkable ?

    • Maximiliano

      Well, the DeepBlue and Helson are not bad looking things, but it gets tiresome when you have 10 brands using the same case, dial, plongueur hands, etc… I applaud the effort of some small brands into making from scratch their own cases/etc instead of just ordering standard stuff from a HongKong catalogue.

      From Ariel’s list, I’d pick the Christopher Ward (so cheap and classic good-looking!). If I had unlimited funds, the Linde (looks über-badass).

  • Chris

    I can’t explain it, but that Ocean 7 really interests me in a way that few other dive watches have. Just looking at it, I want to put it on my wrist and find a cenote. It’s oddly compelling, even if I’m not a fan of the hands.

  • Kris C

    I actually quite like the Bremont, and love the LW – of course I have to like the 2 that have retarded pricetags.

    I like CW, but the hour hand they use on this model makes this a deal breaker. That right – just the hour hand alone has me walking away. Just awful.

  • stephen

    anyone who likes the Bremont should check out this vid from ATG Watches

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7zC2YVQWgg

  • phillipchouzenoux

    Excellent review and selections and agree on including a date, crown guards because of activities and an un-cluttered dial irregardles of being a Dive Watch-a purist in design. What I abhor in present day watch designs is the emphasis on exact Homage watches, I have purchased 2 Divers which exude a classic-timeles design, original and of sheer importance are the 12,3,6 and 9 numerals, the font being important.

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