Don's Top 5 Dive Watches under £2,000 in 2023
 

Don's Top 5 Dive Watches under £2,000 in 2023

8 min read
Don Russell

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Watch Buying Guide

Don Russell

Categories

Watch Buying Guide

As you know, the 'Top 5' series is a WatchGecko team series, but as a diver, my choice may seem odd to others in the team.

Divers look for different things in a watch and although surprising, many divers don't actually dive in the dive watch that they wear all the time! Quite a few years ago, you'd only ever see a dive watch on a diver's wrist, but over the years, their popularity has grown to such an extent that most people own, or have owned, a dive watch at some time or other. For many years I earned my living below the waves, and even now, one of the current projects involving pirate treasure has seen me dust off the gear and descend once again into that magical underwater world of adventure.

So how have we defined a Dive Watch?

The dive watch category isn't quite as straightforward as many might imagine; first and foremost, the watch has to do a job regardless of its looks, and some of you may find the choices in this 'top five' somewhat unexpected. What's also surprising is that £2000 is very much middle ground bordering the lower luxury end, and unfortunately, many of these don't do the job particularly well. Others, like the Formex Reef, Certina DS Action and Squale 1000m, fell short on minor technical issues. With that in mind, the top five possess what matters most to divers while participating in their subsurface activities!

At No. 5 it's the Ligure 'Tartaruga' Scuba Diver

Ligure Scuba DiverLigure Scuba Diver - Credit WatchGecko

This is an odd one! The Ligure Scuba Diver makes the No.5 spot because of its clarity underwater. The 200m depth rating is the lowest of the top 5, but nevertheless, it's more than adequate. The Scuba Diver is a very plain and unassuming sort of watch in many ways, but it gets the job done admirably and without fuss. There's much more to this watch than meets the eye; every component of this watch lives in harmony with every other. I've dived in the Ligure, and the simple, no-nonsense dial delivers clear information at a glance when underwater. Basic specifications are 200m depth rating, 316L stainless steel case, sapphire crystal, 120-click uni-directional bezel, fully lined ceramic bezel insert, screw-down crown and case back. The movement is the Sellita SW200-1 automatic.

ligure scuba diverLigure Scuba Diver - Credit WatchGecko

Conclusion

The Ligure Scuba Diver is content just being on your wrist. It doesn't constantly shout 'I'm here', but it's always ready when the time comes to perform; it's as happy above the waves as it is below. The Ligure's design and quality finish somehow betrays its ability to be there by your side when the going gets a bit fraught, but when it's all over, and you're back home with a mug of tea and a chocolate Hobnob, the Ligure will bring a smile to your face once again. The price is a quite modest £710.00

At No. 4, it's the DOXA Sub 300T

DOXA Sub 300TDOXA Sub 300T - Credit DOXA

1200m and not in the top spot! How can this be? Of course, the DOXA Sub 300T has to be in the top 5, but although the watch is legendary, it just fell a smidgeon short. Things have moved on, and a few years ago, it would have probably taken the top spot here. The clarity of the dial underwater is very good, as you'd expect, and overall it does the job very well. It has the deepest depth rating of the five, but that's not everything. Basic specifications are 1200m depth rating, sapphire crystal, 316L stainless steel case, screw-down crown and case back, helium escape valve and a stainless steel 120-click uni-directional bezel with 'no-decompression' times. The movement is the ETA 2824-2 automatic.

DOXA Sub300TDOXA Sub 300T - Credit DOXA

Conclusion

The DOXA 300T is an iconic watch thatwill last a lifetime if treated with respect. The quality falls short when compared to the ORIS Aquis, but nevertheless, it'll go where you go and do what you do without complaint. I have to admit that I've been tempted on more than one occasion with that incredibly bright dial. The price of the 'beads of rice' bracelet is £1890.00, and that's not too bad for a watch with so much heritage.

At No. 3, it's the Christopher Ward C60 1000m Elite

C60C60 - Credit Christopher Ward

I own the GMT version of this watch, and the quality is exceptional. I've heard that others have had issues with Christopher Ward, but I can only comment on my own experience. The watch arrived, and it was perfect! Those who have read my articles will know that when I say it was perfect, it was perfect! So why not the top spot? It's all about underwater! Although the clarity is good, well, it's better than good, really; it just falls short in delivering the information in the brutally unambiguous way that's required by a diver. However, the upside to the C60 Elite is that it sits under a suit perfectly and looks the part in any situation. Make no mistake here, the C60 Elite has an impressive specification, and it's a great performer, above and below the waves. The basic specifications are 1000m depth rating, all titanium construction, screw-down crown and case back, sapphire crystal, helium escape valve, 120-click uni-directional bezel, fully lined ceramic bezel insert and exhibition case back. The movement is a Sellita SW220-1 automatic chronometer grade movement.

C60C60 - Credit Christopher Ward

Conclusion

My experience with the GMT version of this watch has been exceptional; it delivers on every level and is, without doubt, a great all-rounder that looks the part as well. The C60 Elite has the highest specification among the top five; the build quality and attention to detail puts many others to shame. The price of the titanium bracelet is £1350.00, and that's pretty good considering the specification. It's a pleasure to wear and exudes confidence in all situations.

At No. 2 it's the Squale 101 atmos. 'Black Round Dots'

This is a beast of a watch and it's a great performer above and below the waves. I own one of these and I have to confess to it being a bittersweet experience. I've had multiple issues with the watch and Squale were less than helpful. I'm fortunate in that I'm able to put these issues right and the watch is now everything that Squale wanted it to be. While Squale's quality control let this particular watch down, the engineering is exceptional and it's built like a tank. As with all good dive watches the dial is basic and clear. The bezel is bi-directional which is unusual for a dive watch. To release the bezel a firm downward pressure needs to be applied, it is then free to rotate through its 90 clicks. Once in position and the pressure is released the bezel is firmly locked and can't be moved accidentally. Even with wet dive gloves, the bezel is easily adjusted. The lume is good and the case is equipped with an automatic helium escape valve for saturation diving. The basic specifications are 1000m depth rating, bi-directional 90 click bezel with fully lumed insert and the movement is the ETA 2824-2 automatic.

Conclusion

The Squale 101 Atmos. 'Black Round Dots' is, without doubt, a good all-rounder; strangely, it slides under a shirt sleeve without any problems; that's quite a feat for a 1000m dive watch! The list price is £1415.00 and it's not that much behind the ORIS. While being a great dive watch, the Aquis can also steel the limelight wherever it may be. The whole package screams quality, giving it the edge, along with the top spot.

At No. 1, it's the ORIS Aquis

Oris AquisOris Aquis - Credit WatchGecko

This watch will last a lifetime! Its quality is immediately apparent and offers a lifetime of pleasure. I bought my other half, the 36mm model, almost ten years ago, and it's never missed a beat. I serviced it myself about 2 years ago, and it looks brand new again. Underwater, the dial is crystal clear, and the bezel is first-class. The ORIS Aquis is, without doubt, the real deal. The basic specifications are: 300m depth rating, 316L stainless steel case, screw-down crown and caseback, sapphire crystal, 120-click uni-directional bezel, ceramic bezel insert with lume pip. The movement is the Sellita SW200-1 automatic.

Oris AquisOris Aquis - Credit WatchGecko

Conclusion

The ORIS Aquis is probably the best all-around dive watch here, so why is it in the No. 2 spot? We're looking at the best dive watch, which means how it performs underwater. ORIS plays both sides with the Aquis; to be fair, it's got all the right things in all the right places. The price of the stainless steel bracelet is £1950.00, and it will turn quite a few heads at that!

The Wild Card! (there's always one!) HELM Vanuatu

Helm Vanuatu

Helm Vanuatu - Credit WatchGecko

This, I'm sure, will make you smile! My remit was to find the best dive watch under £2000 and to keep as close to that limit as possible. However, the watch that easily outperforms the rest is by far the cheapest! This watch is as near to being indestructible as you can get, and when the time comes to venture below the waves, it delivers 100%. Its 'no-nonsense' dial is crystal clear at any depth and delivers the required information at a mere glance. The Lume is exceptional, and the fully-lumed bezel insert is an absolute joy to work with in low-light conditions. The basic specifications are: 300m depth rating, stainless steel case, sapphire crystal, screw-down crown and caseback and 120-click uni-directional bezel. It also features a fully lined, stainless steel bezel insert that's as near to indestructible as you can get. The movement is the Seiko NH35A automatic.

So! Why isn't it standing proud in the No.1 spot? The reason is that you can't actually buy one due to the waiting list, and unfortunately the remit was the top 5 diving watches that are immediately available.

Helm VanuataHelm Vanuata - Credit WatchGecko

Conclusion

The HELM Vanuatu delivers everything that you need in a diving watch, and that's why it has to be mentioned. The real bonus here is that it's very wearable when exploring above the waves! Diving can be extremely hard on a watch; it will get knocked almost continually and get caught on almost everything, not to mention being covered in mud, sand and silt. For a watch to survive in this environment, it has to be the real deal, and there's nothing about the HELM Vanuatu that falls short; even the spring bars on HELM watches are the best in the business! The HELM Komodo and HELM Khuraburi would also have made it into the top 5, all probably jostling for the top spot! These are pure tool watches with no frills. The price for the Vanuatu is... wait for it... $285.00 and that's around £230.00! Do I own one? Yes. Do I dive into it? You bet! Does it work as a daily beater? Without a doubt! Would I recommend it? I rarely do this, but on this occasion, I'll stick my neck out and say... Buy one! Unfortunately, the waiting list is long; in fact, you'd stand more chance of getting a Rolex than a HELM at the moment! Matt tests and ships every watch, so bear with it; no one gets a bad HELM.

That concludes our fifth feature of the Top 5 Series. Do you agree with our opinions, or would you have chosen something different for your number one spot?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Don Russell

About the Author: Don Russell

The timepiece of an adventurer serves not only as a trusted companion, but also as a portal to their inner self. My interest in watches goes back more than half a century; my reliance and passion more than half of that time. My hope is that I may inspire others to use their timepiece on their own adventures so that they may share a passion that has enriched my own life and given me so much enjoyment.

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