You can thank Rolex for popularizing the black and white look of professional dive watches. Whilst going to the beach has inherently been a colorful activity, the most serious looking diving styles are usually in black and steel, with perhaps only a hint of a third color. The reason for this goes back to a core need of dive watches, which is to be legible. Apparently divers felt that white numerals on a black background was the best thing for visibility, so the design stuck.
The benefit today is that black and white dive watches are versatile. Something with an orange dial for example, is pretty much only OK with sports clothing. Try wearing it with a suit and see how it looks. Unless you are uncommonly talented at pulling off an orange tie with orange shoes, you probably aren’t going to be wearing your orange dive watch all that often unless you live at the beach.
Going back to the Rolex Submariner, you can see a perfect example of a professional diving tool that looks good with a suit or with a wetsuit. Unfortunately, the entry level price of even a “no date” Submariner is about £7,500. So, I’ve put together a short list of five mechanical Swiss watches that will be satisfying as enjoyable black and white dive watches, at a price under £5,000...
The most unique looking among our collection is the Bell & Ross BR02 Marine. As a follow-up to the brand's famous BR01 pilot style watch, the BR02 was their diver. It has always been a highly underappreciated watch due to its strange “off wrist” looks. However, on your arm it is comfortable and elegant, with a 44m wide steel case and inner rotating diver’s bezel. At 1000 meters water resistant, this is a neat watch and a serious tool to boot.
Another ideal three-hand dive watch with a reasonable price is the Alpina Extreme Diver. Water resistant to 300 meters the Extreme Diver is actually a very reasonable fellow in the skin. Taking a cue from the Submariner, Alpina designed this watch with maximum versatility in mind. It goes from sport to suit in an instant. The 44mm wide case is modern and large, with a cushion-style shape and easy to read round dial.
Even less expensive is the Longines Hydroconquest, which is the lowest price watch of the bunch at under £1,000. It still has a Swiss mechanical automatic movement, and a design that is both classically inspired and sized at 39mm wide. At this size on a metal bracelet you once again have a timepiece that will sink underwater or under your sleeve with ease.
Travellers who like the look of a diver should look for a GMT watch. A few years ago Breitling released a GMT version of their popular Superocean with a handsome black and white dial colored only with a red GMT hand. The 41mm wide case offers a fit suitable for many wrists without being too large or small. Wide lugs and a handsome bracelet help make it feel substantial despite the medium size. Inside the watch is a Swiss automatic movement, and case is water resistant to 500 meters.
Chronograph lovers will gravitate towards TAG Heuer’s latest Aquaracer Chronograph model that includes a 43mm wide case and black ceramic bezel insert. The beautifully designed dial is instrumental yet elegant with a 12 hour chronograph and date. This perfect black and white “tuxedo” watch is an excellent 500 meters diver as well as daily wear when put on a steel bracelet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ariel Adams is founder and editor of world leading watch blog ABlogToWatch. He writes for Forbes.com and is a regular contributor to The Watch Gallery magazine. Read more articles by Ariel Adams. Follow Ariel on Twitter or Google+.