Let’s face it: 95% of the dive watches sold never get further than the occasional splatter of water from the washroom basin.
Dive watches are loved for their robustness, long heritage and of course, how good they look on the wrist.
If you’re also interested to know more about dress watches below SGD 1,000, go here: Buying Guide: Best modern dress watches under SGD 1,000
While the most iconic dive watch (or wrist watch, for that matter) is beyond a shred of doubt the Rolex Submariner, the watches touched upon in this article cost 7-10 times lesser so cash tight (aren’t we all?) enthusiasts can have a bit of fun.
If you’re interested to know more about the history of dive watches and why they were created in the first place, I invite you to check out my earlier article: The history of dive watches: Who created the first?
Is it really possible to write an article about any category of watches below SGD 1,000 and not mention Orient (or Seiko)? No, it is not possible.
These 2 Japanese heavyweights simply produce the best pieces when measured on a price-to-value ratio and their watches look fantastic.
While Seiko has a long line of dive watches that also fall below the 1k mark (Prospex, Monster & Tuna), I’ve picked the Orient Mako for how close it sticks to the classical dive watch look (which you might think as boring) but trust me, this is a design you’ll never get sick of.
The Orient Mako comes in black, blue and orange; I personally prefer the black or blue version. Its dial design is straightforward and easily readable with applied hour markers coated with lume.
Impressively, the logo is applied (not printed on) which is not a common occurrence in watches in this price bracket.
I’d do away with the day/date window since it’s not a critical function that’s needed underwater but as mentioned earlier, you’re probably not going more than 1 feet with this so having a day/date function might just serve its purpose during your daily ‘desk-diving’. The date can be easily set with the crown while the pusher at 2 o’clock sets the day.
My favourite feature of the Orient Mako are the hands: ‘sword’ hour and minute hands exuding a masculine vibe and a sweeping seconds hand ending with a red arrow tip.
It has a unidirectional bezel, which can be used for a whole host of non-diving related endeavours e.g. timing the 5.5 minutes it takes to soft boil an egg perfectly (I do that, no kidding).
The numerals on the bezel are a little too small compared to the large font used on the dial and after prolonged staring, it comes across as rather unbalanced but don’t mind me; most people don’t stare at watches that long and it’s still a great looking watch overall.
Measuring 42 mm, it falls within the right size for a dive watch and the case features a brushed top with polished sides, which continues onto the stainless steel bracelet with consistency.
While the bracelet is sturdy and solid, the usage of mineral crystal (as is always the case for entry level Orient watches) means that you’ll have to be careful about knocking it on the face.
On the insides, the in-house automatic calibre 46943 powers the watch and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that Orient has shipped more than 100 million watches with this movement and it has worked like a charm.
The Orient Mako retails for approximately SGD 280.00 and can be found at the shops located in Bras Basah Complex for a slight discount.
Alternatively, you can purchase online from Amazon directly for less than $200 + free shipping by click on your preferred model below:
Deep Blue Master 1000 Automatic (Ceramic Bezel)
It is one thing for a watch company to produce dive watches but starting one with the express interest of equipping professional divers with an exclusive focus on dive watches is quite another.
Founded in 2007, Deep Blue has stayed close to its very short motto ‘Precision Diver’ by introducing tough-as-nails dive watches that do not compromise aesthetics in return for technical brilliance.
With a name like Deep Blue, you know that these guys mean business. But if you need further convincing, they’ve formed a partnership with National Geographic and have been equipping Alex Alvarez – an underwater cave diver – to test out their watches in some pretty harsh environments; these are watches made for what they were meant to do.
While Deep Blue has watches that can go as deep as 3,000 metres (which is 3,000 times deeper than most of us will ever go), we’ll be taking a look at one of its entry level models, the Master 1,000 Automatic Ceramic Bezel that still packs an impressive 300 metre depth rating.
Like the Orient Mako, the Deep Blue Master 1,000 comes in a variety of colours but the black one is my favourite. The dial is clean, rounded by white printed hour markers with thin minute markers encircling it on a railway track outside the main face. I like that the logo at 12 o’clock is presented very strongly beneath the dual baton markers; this is not a brand you commonly see here so it’ll definitely make a statement.
The hour and minute hands are generously broad with a dark blue rim around the edges and the base while the seconds hand is line-thin and sports a round white dot midway; all white surfaces (including hour markers) are coated with lume and its luminescence is professional-grade.
A bidirectional ceramic bezel insert pairs nicely with the jagged outer ring in brushed steel. Ceramic, being a matte looking material, reduces glare which echoes the utilitarian nature of Deep Blue’s motto.
The presence of a helium escape valve at 10 o’clock further strengthens Deep Blue’s positioning as a dive watch specialist. As a diver stays submerged under great depths for prolonged periods, helium (the smallest natural gas particles) accumulates inside the watch building up considerable pressure, which can damage the watch or cause its sapphire crystal to pop off if decompression is not done prior to resurfacing. The helium escape valve, as its name implies, allows the helium to exit the watch upon unscrewing.
The Deep Blue Master 1,000 comes in a 44 mm stainless steel case and has a burly bracelet with big solid centre links. The crown is also big enough for a diver to easily screw/unscrew it with diving gloves on.
It uses an automatic movement from Seiko, Calibre NH35, which sits on the lower end of Seiko’s product line but that doesn’t make it a bad movement; it’s still of reasonable functional quality that would serve you well for years to come.
If you’re looking for a dive watch that belongs within the insider circles of real divers, look no further than what Deep Blue has to offer.
The Deep Blue Master 1000 Automatic retails for approximately SGD 580.00 and there is only one retailer (Hour Boutique) in Singapore, located in Peninsula Shopping Centre: http://hourboutique.com/
Alternatively, you can order online at: http://deepbluewatches.com/
Steinhart Ocean Black DLC
Yes, I hear you. Why does this watch look shockingly similar to the iconic Rolex Submariner? That’s because it was meant to be.
While I won’t go into a discussion about the merits (or lack thereof) of homage watches, just be clear that they are not ‘fake’. Homage watches are created in honour of well loved designs from brands that are a lot more expensive. There is rarely a ‘sitting on the fence’ opinion when it comes to homages; you either love them or you hate them.
I happen to be a rare exception. Would I buy one? No. But do I hate them? Also no.
I take it as something that you buy to ‘scratch that itch’ while saving up for the real deal. With that said, even the most extreme haters of homages would grudgingly agree that they are still miles above wearing a ‘real’ fake watch.
Steinhart – a German watch company – has a line of Rolex homages but I’ve picked the Ocean Black DLC as there are key differences between it and the Submariner.
First off, the dial has a matte grainy finishing which looks really good (the Submariner’s dial is smooth). The hour markers – though an exact replica of the Submariner in terms of shape and size – are painted in pale yellow. Combined, it gives off an old world vibe and looks like it has taken a bit of a beating.
The Ocean Black DLC also bears the Submariner hands and a small date window at 3 o’clock albeit without the cyclops magnifier on the crystal.
There is little to criticize about the dial. After all, this design was taken off one of the biggest icons in horology.
The case, bracelet and crown would be the components setting the Ocean Black DLC apart from the Submariner. As its name implies, the entire watch has been through a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating – a process whereby chemically fortified carbon (bearing the physical properties of diamonds) is used to coat over a material.
The result is a watch possessing super hardness with a high corrosion resistance. Oh, and the black hue it acquires from the process is just beautiful.
The Steinhart Ocean Black DLC wears nicely with a 42 mm case. The jet black crown sandwiched between the brushed black crown guards is particularly attractive as well. It uses a Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement with a power reserve of 42 hours.
All black watches have a certain power to them and tend to draw you in for a closer look; and that just might be what you’ll do with this particular piece if you can get past the whole ‘anti-homage’ syndrome. Give it a chance, it’s not an exact copy and enough has been done to set it apart.
The Steinhart Ocean One DLC retails for approximately SGD 680.00 and can be found exclusively at Gnomon Watches located in Millenia Walk (www.gnomonwatches.com)
Orient Ray II or Mako II is out and I reckon they’re a good improvement. The new movement includes hacking and hand winding. It also gets rid of the 2 o’clock pusher a lot of people don’t like.