This is a question which has puzzled and intrigued watch experts and enthusiasts alike for many, many years. The Submariner, the Seamaster and the Fifty Fathoms have battled it out for the place on the highest diving board, but in 2020, which is the best of the bunch? 

That’s right, we’re taking a modern approach to the age-old question, which is the ultimate dive watch?

Let’s start with the original diver, the Fifty Fathoms

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda Limited Edition

Image Credit: Hodinkee

Most people are not aware of the fact that the Fifty Fathoms is the original dive watch. Many believe that the Rolex Submariner was the first modern dive watch, but this isn’t actually true. Blancpain was able to release a number of innovations a year before the Rolex Submariner and therefore claims the title as the original modern dive watch. So, it wouldn’t be bold to say that heritage-wise, the Fifty Fathoms is the top of the tree. 

As we’re focussing on the modern versions of the trio, heritage plays an important, but not all-encompassing role in determining which is the best. So, let’s talk specs…

  • Brand: Blancpain (pronounced Blonpaa)
  • Model: Fifty Fathoms Barakuda
  • Reference: 5008B 1130 B52A
  • Diameter: 40.3mm
  • Case Material: Stainless Steel
  • Movement: Calibre 1151 Automatic Movement
  • Water Resistance: 300m
  • Price: £11,370

So, you’ve now had a chance to see the watch and peruse its specifications. Expensive right? But boy, this is totally justified. The level of finishing and the overall craftsmanship is where this watch totally exceeds its rivals. This is in a whole new category of its own, high-end dive watch. The price point is also justified in that it is a limited edition, and only 500 pieces will be made. You’re not buying a mass-produced watch in the regular sense; this is something special.

What makes the Fifty Fathoms special? 

Internally, the watch boasts the calibre 1151 automatic-winding movement, which has an incredible, 100-hour power reserve. With the clear case back, you are constantly reminded that this isn’t your everyday dive watch, this is something completely out of the ordinary. 

At this point maybe you’re more convinced of the price tag. But finishing and limited edition can’t surely justify more than £4,000 above a Submariner. Well, I’m sure that aesthetics also counts for a large part of the price difference. 

This is one of the best-looking dive watches on the market. Is it the best of the three? Not in our opinion, but it is undoubtedly more than just your average watch. The vintage feel, paying homage to the original Barakuda watches, is something you don’t get with our other watches on offer. 

Although it’s controversial, we’re fans of the faux patina on the hour markers and hands, it adds to the aged appeal of the watch. It’s a reminder of the heritage of not only the brand but the watch. 

The Name’s Seamaster, Omega Seamaster

Omega Seamaster Reference:

Image Credit: Menswear Musings

Next up is the most modest and humble of the offerings. It doesn’t scream exclusive or rare, but it’s the more friendly of the bunch. The important element of this watch is that you can actually buy it! The other two are either limited editions or wait-listed. So maybe that plays a big part in your decision. 

This Seamaster is the baby of the bunch, only 27 years have passed since the very first iteration was released in 1993. But despite its relatively short production history, compared to the other three, this humble beast has achieved quite a lot, all things considered. It’s been the preferred watch of a certain spy, named James Bond. 

It’s also been the watch of choice for the future King of England, Prince William. So, it’s clearly not any old dive watch.

  • Brand: Omega
  • Model: Seamaster
  • Reference:
  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Case Material: Stainless Steel
  • Movement: Calibre Omega 8800 automatic movement
  • Water Resistance: 300m
  • Price: £4,450

What makes the Seamaster Special? 

So, not only does this watch sit considerably lower in terms of price than its competitors, but it’s also bigger in diameter, bolder in its design language but arguably it’s also the most legible of the bunch. The blue dial offers something different to the others, and although the Blancpain is different too, the Seamaster doesn’t scream at you, it’s very subtle, despite the blue and the 42mm case diameter. 

The case diameter is definitely a make-or-break point. Have you got smaller wrists? If yes then this will be big, otherwise it should fit you well. But at the end of the day, its main purpose is legibility and functionality when diving. 

So, the increased size is certainly a bonus when using the watch for its original purpose. Of course, most people nowadays buy dive watches for their rugged ability and build quality. From this Omega you’ll get a well-reputed brand, and a fantastically built watch all for the modest price of £4,450. If that’s not a bargain, then I’m unsure what is.

The King of the Watch World

Rolex Submariner 126610LN

Image Credit: Epicrally

The undisputed heavyweight champion of the Watch World is the Rolex Submariner. When anyone thinks of dive watches and watches in general for that matter, most would think of the Submariner. 

Rolex’s most iconic watch has been worn by divers, spies, and many famous actors. This watch needs no introduction and according to most has little competition. Or does it?

  • Brand: Rolex
  • Model: Submariner
  • Reference: 126610LN
  • Diameter: 41mm
  • Case Material: Stainless Steel
  • Movement: Calibre 3235 automatic movement
  • Price: £7,300

In 2020, Rolex released some new versions of the Submariner line, including the 126610LN, or to everyone else, the Submariner Date with the black bezel. It provided a new movement with a 70-hour power reserve. Where we saw more changes in the design language, the slimmer lugs, and the bigger case.

The overall aesthetics of this watch has been made sleeker and more refined. We’re fans of the no-date and when picking we’d probably go with the no-date, but the 126610LN offers the added complication, which for the modern watch enthusiast, is a great addition. 

What makes the Submariner special? 

Legibility, much like the Seamaster, is great. If you’re using it for its designated purpose then aside from the Seamaster, there’s not a lot better than this. The 904L grade stainless steel from Rolex is incredibly durable so you can ‘use and abuse’ this watch; however, few people will actually treat a luxury watch that way. 

Rolex does offer you a really great overall package here; a watch suitable for every occasion. But our main gripe, as I’m sure you’re aware, is the waitlist. Getting your hands on one of these will be very difficult unless you’ve got an extensive buying history with your Authorised Dealer or you can enter a competition!

Well then… what’s the ultimate dive watch?

Don’t be fooled by the Blancpain watches luxury Haute Horologie appeal. This is a tool watch too. But I feel as though this piece may make you feel inclined to protect it at all costs. So, in that sense, you may not get the most out of it. 

The Rolex is much of the same. If you’re lucky enough to buy one, you’ll be acutely aware of its value on the grey market. Again, this is why you may baby the watch a bit more than the Seamaster. 

Ignoring the value of the secondary market and the inaccessibility we would have to say that the Rolex Submariner is the best of the bunch. It offers all the rugged dependability you’ll be looking for in a tool watch, whilst being somewhat subtle compared to the Blancpain. Although the Seamaster offers the best value for money and the Blancpain is the best looking, the Rolex has the most complete overall package. The waitlist is of course a big factor, but going on the watch alone, there’s a reason why the Rolex Submariner is the King of the Watch World.