5 Tool Watches I’d Buy If I Didn’t Want to Spring For A Rolex Submariner
by John Keil
Let’s face it, the Rolex Submariner is by leaps and bounds the most iconic dive watch to have ever existed.
Probably the most iconic watch of any style to have ever existed for that matter.
As a “watch guy,” I get constantly asked my opinion on watches I like, what watches I own, what I think of (insert brand name here), etc. If you get questions like this all of the time too, then you’ve probably also noticed that the most frequent inquiries seem to have to do with – justly – Rolex.
Most of my friends wouldn’t drop $5,000 to $10,000 on a watch, and often times they’ll just ask, “What’s the best Rolex to buy?”
My opinion is that if I were buying a Rolex, it would be the Submariner. More specifically, a no-date Sub Reference 114060 (see 5 Reasons I’ve Never Owned A Rolex, But . . . There’s A “But”).
Once I tell them that a brand new one will cost them upwards of $7,500, most of the time I hear, “Oh, I wasn’t thinking of spending that much!”
A very similar conversation occurred this past week, which inspired the writing of this post.
Obviously nothing will replace the brand recognition, perceived status of one wearing a Rolex, and in many cases, the quality and craftsmanship. However, if I were to recommend a brand new (not pre-owned) functional dive watch to a friend who was looking to spend within a certain price range, here would be my suggestions.
Or, more specifically, here is what I would purchase myself.
Under $500: Seiko Prospex Monster, Second Generation Reference SRP313K1
When you’re spending less than $500 on a new watch, the Seiko Prospex Monster is quite possibly one of the only modern (that you can buy new) watches on the market that will garner you any respect from “watch snobs.”
Covering all there is to know about this collection from Seiko isn’t possible in an entire post, much less a paragraph or two, however the Seiko Monster has a ton of value and features packed into this light price range.
There is a third generation of Monsters on the market with only a few modifications, however, the price has more than doubled and I don’t see the value in making the jump from the earlier series.
For more information, please visit www.seiko-prospex.com/sea/srp581k1.
Quick Facts Seiko Prospex Monster, Second Generation, Reference SRP313K1
Case: 43 x 14 mm, stainless steel with screw-in case back and domed Hardlex mineral crystal, water-resistant to 200 meters
Movement: automatic Seiko movement, 24-jewels
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking seconds; day, date
$500-$1000: NTH Antilles White
Okay, there are a lot of options in this range that I personally love, and I happen to be a big fan of a lot of the newer micro-brands coming to the market.
What seals the deal for me about the NTH Antilles White is that the white dial is fully covered with blue lume.
Now typically when a full dial is luminous, it can look cheap in the light. But not the Antilles. Additionally, for a watch under $1,000 it offers anything I could want in a diver’s style tool watch.
For more information, please visit www.janistrading.com/antilles-white.
Quick Facts NTH Antilles White
Case: 40 mm x 12 mm, 316L stainless steel, solid steel case back, double-domed anti-reflective sapphire crystal, water-resistant to 200 meters
Movement: automatic Swiss Tech Prod. Cal. STP1-11
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; rotating inner bezel (second time zone)
$1,000-$2,500: Oris Divers Sixty-Five
The Oris Divers Sixty-Five with blue dial, black bezel, and a blue NATO strap is an easy pick for me.
I love the aesthetic style and vintage inspiration of this piece; one of my favorite elements is the very domed sapphire crystal. And it wears amazingly comfortably at 42 mm.
For more information, please visit www.oris.ch/en/watch/oris-divers-sixty-five.
Quick Facts Oris Divers Sixty-Five
Case: 42 mm, 316L stainless steel, screw-down case back, two domed sapphire crystals, water-resistant to 100 meters
Movement: automatic Caliber 733 (base Caliber Sellita SW 200-1)
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking seconds; date
$2,500-$4,000: Tudor Heritage Black Bay Reference 79230B
Tudor Heritage Black Bay? I know . . . “John, what a copout!”
But think about it: for less than $4,000, you get a Rolex-quality case and bracelet (Tudor is Rolex’s sibling brand) as well as an in-house automatic manufacture movement with 70-hour power reserve. Not to mention that this watch is a homage to Tudor watches of the past, not a copy of a watch from another brand.
The truth of the matter is I can’t think of another dive watch within this price parameter that could begin to compete.
You may also enjoy Give Me Five! Bronze Watches At Baselworld 2016 From Hautlence, Urwerk, Bell & Ross, Tudor, And Oris.
For more information, please visit www.tudorwatch.com/watches/heritage-black-bay.
Quick Facts Tudor Heritage Black Bay Reference 79230B
Case: 41 mm, stainless steel, water-resistant to 200 meters
Movement: automatic manufacture Caliber MT5602, officially C.O.S.C. certified chronometer, 70-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Remark: comes with additional matching textile strap
$4,000-$6,000: Bremont Supermarine S500
I’ve owned the Bremont Supermarine S500, and to date it has been one of the best watches that I’ve ever had the pleasure to beat the ever-living crap out of!
This was my go-to watch for any type of water sports or activities including surfing, wake boarding, and jet skiing.
As the name suggests, the 500-meter water resistance is more than sufficient, but what makes this my choice is that the Supermarine S500 has a special shock absorber that ensures the movement avoids damage at much higher impacts than almost any other watch.
In addition, Bremont hardens its stainless steel so that the cases are seven times harder than the traditional 316L stainless found in most other fine watches. After years of literal abuse, my Supermarine still looked and functioned like brand new!
For more information, please visit www.bremont.com/watch/s500.
Quick Facts Bremont Supermarine S500
Case: 43 x 16 mm, stainless steel, Trip-Tick case construction with DLC-coated case band, inner soft iron anti-magnetic Faraday cage, screw-in case back, water-resistant to 500 meters
Movement: automatic Caliber BE-36AE (base ETA Caliber 2836-2), officially C.O.S.C. certified chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, day
Everyone certainly has their personal preferences and even my watch geek friends would disagree with some of my choices. That said, feel free to let us know what your picks would be in the comments section below. It would be interesting to know what our readers like!
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Steinhardt makes a perfect molding with gray face and Eta 2824-2. It costs under $500 and has date but no cyclops.
Also a great watch for the price! Thanks, Harry!
Beautiful choices, love the Bremont
I think I’d fit a Seiko Marinemaster 300 in there somewhere.
Not necessarily in place or the Oris, actually I’d keep that too.
The Bremont is nice, but at that sort of money it makes more sense to add a little more and get Rolex, which will depreciate a lot less, making it better value.
Not so sure about the Bremont. A lot of puffery in their marketing and little heritage. I can’t see why it is Amy better (if as good) as the Oris. It is stylish though…
I think you’d be surprised if you got your hands on the Bremont, Go Ju.
As I had mentioned, the case is hardened making it almost impervious to scratches and scuffs, and the movement has a very effective shock absorption system that’ll allow you to abuse this watch during almost any activity.
A lot of people do feel they way that you do with regards to their marketing and lack of long heritage, but that stuff doesn’t faze me. In this case, the SM500 does all of the talking to form my opinion.
Thanks for your thoughts. We do appreciate them here! Cheers!
I will choose the Tudor from your list and if you can afford it, then get a Rolex Submariner, choose the version that you like the most, it is the best watch ever design.
When ever l read articles like this and the IWC Aquatimer is not at the top of the list, l have to question how much these so called experts know about watches and actual tool watches at that.
Thanks for commenting, Scott. I mean that. I like to chat watches,and in particular real discussions about what people like and differences of opinion.
I’ve owned a few Aquatimers and loved every one! Amazing watches and no doubt I’ll own one or more again in the future. Truth is, for this article, I laid out what tool watches I’d personally buy at 5 different price points. For me the Bremont was my choice in the price range that the IWC falls into. As mentioned, I wore my Supermarine for a few years and didn’t baby it a bit. The hardened steel and shock absorption system kept the Bremont like new through a ton of abuse.
They’re just my picks. I see no need for hosility and the “so-called expert” talk.
Seiko Tuna for me in the 1k – 2.5k range. You can get some pretty nice ones in that price range.
On the sub-1000 range, I love my C60 Trident pro, red bezel, black dial.
Delighted to see the NTH Antilles chosen for inclusion in this list of highly rated and desirable tool watches. As an owner of a white Antilles, I can confirm that the watch fulfills every criteria for owning an exclusive and very high quality timepiece, besides the the obvious outstanding good looks.
The obvious focus is that stunning dial which is swept by the subtly shaped skeleton hands.
That the Antilles has been chosen to be compared with some rather expensive alternatives speaks volumes about the true value of such a watch, for me, it is truly priceless.
This is nice article, but not for me as I still wear my Submariner. But if I have to choose … it will be Tudor Heritage Blackbay, cause it is a 41mm watch.
Seiko monster second generation is not of the prospex line. Third gen is Prospex but it has upgraded movement (6r15) and loop over date only display. The picture of SRP313 you have chosen seems to be of a franken seiko as ther is no Monster model with day + date without loop and prospex logo on dial
The Bremont looks great, but I’m surprized that the Tudor Pelagos is not on your list. I have been wearing it non-stop for 3 months and I love the robust quality of the watch.
Nice article John! I was just reading doc vails blog and followed the link here, didn’t know you wrote it until I was reading the comments – John Keil…why do I know that name…oh yeah! Watchgauge!
I preferred the Azores dial to the Antilles, but after what went on with the Azores, I was very tempted to get the white faced Antilles – instead I bought a Diver Heritage 65! I loved the look and the bracelet of the Azores so much, (although I found the clasp a bit wonky with no microadjustments, and too sharply machined, plus as you know, it wasn’t compatible with my bad tech aura that destroys things). Again, I liked a slightly different model of the Oris, I went with the 40mm with the retro numbers dial, you’re right about how comfortable, low and perfectly sized it is. The Rubber strap is the most comfortable I have (besides the Ball Skindiver I was hoping would make this list)
I’ve bought a couple watches since then, but after my most recent (the Ball) I decided to go into watch buying abstinence until I can get (you’re going to love this) A tudor black bay with the maroon bezel!
And just to top it off, I also got a Helm Khuraburi – which has a number of design similarities to the Bremont. Which, beautiful, I’d have to agree with the other commenter, would probably too close to a pre-owned Rolex to pull the trigger on.
I guess I mean to say in too many words as always, that either you must have great taste, or I do. 😉 Cheers buddy!
You recommend the Rolex Submariner no date over the Submariner with date. I am left wondering why. Will you please elaborate on that point?
I notice all of these tool watches are divers.
I have a different tool watch. A Breitling Aerospace. It’s quartz titanium so its thin and light on the wrist.
I always walked past it – meh quartz – but I had to swap a watch and my Breitling boutique offered me a selection including the Heritage divers, the B13 Navitimers, Super Avengers and Chronomats. I read up up on all of them and the thing that struck me in various user comments was that Aerospace buyers tended to wear it as their daily driver and consider it as a watch for life
So I decided that this time, rather than ignoring it I would try it on. All of the other watches looked more beautiful on the shelf. But when I tried it on, the Aerospace came alive on the wrist. And it’s so thin and comfortable. My wife wanted me to take the more expensive Navitimer, but I knew the Aerospace was mine and I would regret it if I didn’t take it home
Now it’s my daily driver
Let’s be honest. The submariner isn’t a tool watch. An the inclusion of only diver’s watches is silly.
A tool is something that you don’t worry about. That you buy because you need it. Nobody would seriously maintain that a Submariner does the job any better than a host of much cheaper watches. Its not even ISO certified!
So let’s be real, eh?
Whether it’s a Hamilton Khaki Field, or a Citizen Pro master, very VERY few people need to spend more than about $2,000 for a wristwatch that will perform.