The Rolex Submariner has more homages than Cheers has spin-offs. After all, it’s one of the most popular watches in the world, and it’s definitely the most recognized. What it isn’t, however, is the most affordable watch in the world. As such, we’ve rounded up 10 budget-friendly alternatives to the Rolex Submariner right here, all of which are impressive in their own right.
The timepiece famously associated with James Bond is made up of every best practice in horology and design: Durable construction, legible face, crisp bezel, and of course, timeless and versatile style. So in addition to saving a few bucks, going for a quality Sub-stitute is a great approach if you just want an objectively good watch, regardless of the brand. Some entries are more affordable than others, but they all fall well under the Submariner’s price point.
Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Auto
Without going too far off-template, the Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba bears sleeker design features than the Submariner. Instead of Rolex-style Mercedes hands, the Hamilton has dauphine hands, but with flat tips instead of overly dressy pointed tips. Instead of the Sub’s bubble indices, the Navy Scuba includes lengthened hour markers that touch the edge of the watch face. Overall, the Hamilton is slightly more design-forward. Still technically proficient though, this watch runs on an automatic H-10 movement that boasts 80 hours of power, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and exquisite satin finishes throughout the steel body.
Shinola Lake Superior Monster Automatic Watch
It’s the Submariner—but made in the USA. So naturally, the Shinola Monster Watch is bigger and bolder on a few fronts. The 43mm case takes up more real estate on your wrist than a standard 41mm Sub would, and the links on the bracelet are rounded for a shinier and more ceremonious look. In the Rolex world, curved links are reserved for the extra fancy President and Jubilee bracelets. Function-wise, the Monster is equipped with an anti-magnetic shield, anti-reflective sapphire, and a green lume inspired by the Northern Lights. While this dive is fully assembled in America, the 26-jewel automatic movement is Swiss. But what’s more American than sound and expert sourcing?
The Pelagos is, in fact, the Submariner’s little brother. Yes, Tudor is Rolex’s more affordable sibling (both are owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation). However, the Pelagos has a lot going for it that even the Sub doesn’t, besides its lower price tag. The titanium bracelet and case are 45 percent lighter than stainless steel bracelets and cases, and are three to four times stronger too. The Pelagos also has 500 meters of water resistance, which is 200 meters more than its big brother has. Tudor offers equal quality to Rolex, from the ceramic matt black disc to the sapphire crystal, and even the COSC-certified 70-hour Swiss automatic calibre. This Pelagos sports Tudor’s modern-looking and hard-edged snowflake hands, a highly-coveted trademark of the brand. If you’re looking for an impressive watch that doesn’t use its brand name to beg for attention, go for this guy.
Seiko Prospex SPB143
Prospex is Seiko’s line of professional watches, and the SPB143 is one efficiently-designed diver. It has 200 meters of water resistance and a hard-coated stainless steel construction, fully meeting the dive guidelines of the International Organization for Standardization. What’s especially great about the Prospex SPB143 is that while it looks nigh-similar to the Submariner, it comes with its own history and lore. It’s a reinterpretation of Seiko’s very first diver from 1965. The Antarctic Research Expedition in Japan made the SBP143 one of their pieces of standard equipment, so it’s a real piece of adventurer gear. As with any Seiko, this disciplined timepiece runs on an in-house movement, a 24-jewel automatic with a 70-hour reserve.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300
With the Aquaracer Professional 300, TAG Heuer takes a classic dive and infuses it with some on-brand racing qualities. This results in a more overtly sporty and masculine diver. The 300 bears sharp lines throughout, including on the tread of its dial face, the octagonal shape of its indices, and the 12-sided hard-edged silhouette of its bezel and case. This acutely-designed aesthetic even makes its way into the second hand, which features a pop of rectangular yellow that gets magnified as it passes the 6 o’clock date window. Finally, this robust timepiece runs on TAG Heuer’s reliable Calibre 5 automatic movement.
Vaer D5 Dive Watch
The Vaer D5 Dive Watch is what I like to call a good old days kind of watch. It’s loaded with a lot of charming design features similar to the original Submariners from the ‘50s and ‘60s. The tan indices in front of the stark black dial, domed crystal, and elegantly slim profile add to the vintage flair. Still, this professional-grade diver is functionally modern, with 200 meters of water resistance, a locking crown, and a scratch-resistant sapphire dial protector. The D5’s simple design allows you to pair it with any bracelet, from the classic stainless steel oyster, to the rugged brown leather strap, to the practical-looking khaki nylon.
The Longines HydroConquest definitely wins the legibility award in the dive watch world. Each hour is a circular application, further accented by a baton, with the exception of the 6, 9, and 12 o’clock indices, which are accented by generously-sized aviator style Arabic numbers. Style-wise, the HydroConquest is the perfect watch for you if you can’t decide between a pilot watch and a diver. Even the bezel numbers are bold and wide. The brand’s self-winding L888 movement beats at a respectable 25,200 vibrations per hour, and comes with a 72-hour power reserve.
Omega Seamaster 300
While the Seamaster 300 has several iterations, this offering from Omega is a genuinely rebooted, but fully enhanced, homage to the much loved original from 1957. Everything is there, from the black-and-tan palette, the triangular indices with Arabic markers for every third hour, and the striking arrow hands, all balanced out with the slickly simple bezel—this time, in a polished ceramic construction. The dial is sand blasted, creating a perfectly smooth surface, while the hands are rhodium plated, for jewel-level beauty and tank-like durability. Since this is Omega, the automatic movement is, of course, COSC-certified, anti-magnetic, and co-axial for heightened accuracy.
Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 600
For all you true-blue divers out there, the Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro’s major flex is that you can take it as deep as 600 meters into the ocean. Often, a watch with this intense level of water resistance is an unwearable piece of equipment, but Christopher Ward manages to pack that military-like function into a stylish everyday sport watch. The exquisite lacquered dial is adorned with polished and brushed indices, while the baton-shaped minute hand dances legibly with the boldly stout hour hand. This function-forward timepiece also flaunts a smooth and satisfying crown action, and a zirconia ceramic bezel with responsive and crisp-sounding clicks.
Orient Kamasu Dive Watch
Reliable Orient is known to serve up timepieces that punch above their price points, but their Kamasu Dive Watch really takes it to the next level. While living comfortably in the sub-300 category, the Kamasu features a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, Orient’s in-house 22-jewel automatic movement, a double push-button safety clasp, and a 120-click unidirectional bezel. On the style front, the Kamasu really has teeth, literally. Orient used the barracuda as its inspiration for the dial aesthetic. The hands and markers look like shark fangs, the bottle-cap texturing on the bezel is thin and sharp, and the back features a beautiful almost abstract dolphin design. Impressively, the Kamasu is a timeless diver and a conversation piece all at once.