“As we demonstrated with this list, there are a number of great affordable alternatives to the Rolex Submariner. Each one of them having their own rich history and their own distinctive design features.”
Affordable Alternatives to the Rolex Submariner
- Timex M79 Automatic ($279)
- Orient Kanno ($425)
- Mido Ocean Star 200 ($920)
- Seiko Prospex SPB051J1 ($1,000)
- Squale Drass Galeazzi ($1,190)
- Oris Aquis Date ($2,050)
- Tudor Black Bay 58 ($3,500)
- Tudor Pelagos ($4,500)
- Omega Seamaster James Bond ($9,200)
The Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner is without any doubt the most iconic dive watch there is. Maybe a Blancpain Fifty-Fantoms can compete to a certain extent when it comes to history, but when you look at the numbers of watches sold, the Submariner is far ahead in the race. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise, the Rolex Submariner was introduced back in 1954 and was the first-ever dive watch to receive a water resistance certificate of 100 meters. It also was worn by countless iconic actors like Sean Connery in the role of James Bond, adding to the popularity of the watch. The Rolex Submariner just is this iconic, extremely good-looking, sporty yet timeless watch, which, still to this day, is very sought-after.
But usually, if a story sounds too good to be true, there is something wrong. And so, in this case. Yes, the Rolex Submariner is a very good watch, I would even say it’s the greatest watch in the $8,000 (list) price range. Sounds like a fair price to you?
For the quality you get, it definitely is. But, with the shortage of Rolex steel sports models, it’s nearly impossible to get one from your local AD. Instead, you will have to look out for one on the grey market. And there, for an unworn Rolex Submariner No Date, from 2020, you will have to pay around $12,000. And since you clicked on this article, I assume that this is just too much money for you.
No worries I got you. In this new series, called “Affordable Alternatives to…”, we will go through the most prestigious and sought-after luxury watches, that cannot be bought at a retail price and/or are just way too expensive for the average watch enthusiast. And you will get a list of affordable alternatives to satisfy your cravings. Usually, the prices of the watches in the lists range anywhere between $100 to $10,000. In this range, I assume, we will find something for every budget. Oh, and by the way, this list is sorted after price, going from most affordable to most expensive, not personal taste or preference.
Timex M79 Automatic ($279)
Let’s start off with the first pick of the day. The Timex M79 Automatic. The M79 is inspired by the 1970’s Q Timex watches and was therefore designed to have a distinctive vintage look to it. And you can see that in almost every aspect of the watch. From the hour markers with faux patina all the way to the aluminum bezel which features the typical diver markings.
The Timex M79 features a modified automatic Miyota movement which is housed in a 40mm stainless steel case that has a sapphire crystal on top and a see-through caseback, which also features a sapphire crystal. The whole package has a water resistance of up to 50 meters and a power reserve of around 40 hours. The dial and bezel of the watch are very clean and simple, which is the typical diver’s design.
Combine those specs with a price tag of just $279, and you got yourself a great affordbale alternative to the iconic Rolex Submariner.
Specifications: Price: $279, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 14.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: n/a, Lug Width: 18mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Modified automatic Miyota movement, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Acrylic
Orient Kanno ($425)
Next up is the Orient Kanno. Orient was founded back in 1950 and is known today for its modest pricing and impressive Price-to-quality ratio. And the Kanno model is no exception to that.
Measuring 44mm in case diameter, the Orient Kanno is a heavy watch and will demand its presence on your wrist. For those of you that can live with the case size, this watch has a lot to offer for the price. A stainless-steel case with a rich combination of polished and matte surfaces, an in-house F6922 Caliber Automatic movement with a power reserve of 40 hours, 200 meters of water resistance, and an iconic design. Speaking of the design, the hands of the watch remind me a lot of those of a Rolex Milsub, which was issued as a dive watch to the British military. Just a detail worth mentioning…
You see, for a price tag of just $425 you get a lot of watches (figuratively speaking, 44mm is a LOT). Besides the impressive specs, the design and the toughness of this watch are what really make it a great affordable alternative to the Rolex Submariner.
Specifications: Price: $425, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 12.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: In-house F6922 Caliber Automatic movement, Power Reserve: 40 Hours, Crystal: Mineral
Mido Ocean Star 200 ($920)
The Mido Ocean Star 200 embodies the diving spirit. Mido is a company based in Switzerland which is making high-quality, swiss-made watches since 1918. There is a lot of great history about this brand, if you are interested to learn more about that, head over to midowatches.com and take a look for yourself.
When we look at the design, it doesn’t scream Rolex Submariner right away, and it probably will never. But that’s a good thing, Mido tried to go their own way and made a very clean and simple design that perfectly represents the minimalistic design approach behind every diver, especially the Rolex Submariner.
The Ocean Star 200 has a stainless-steel case that measures 42.5mm in diameter, 11.8mm in height, and is topped off by a sapphire crystal. The case houses an automatic Mido Caliber 80, which is basically a modified ETA C07.621. But probs to Mido for creating their movements in-house, this is a tremendous value for a watch that retails for $920. Speaking of value, for the price of $920 you will also get 200-meter water resistance, a sapphire crystal, a stainless-steel bracelet, and a very good build quality.
Specifications: Price: $920, Case Size: 42.5mm, Thickness: 11.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: n/a, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Automatic Mido Caliber 80 movement, Power Reserve: 80 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Seiko Prospex SPB051J1 (Around $1,000, Pre-owned)
Seiko fans listen up, the next watch is for you! Introducing the Seiko Prospex SPB051J1. I think I don’t have to introduce the brand Seiko to you, the only thing you have to know, is that Seiko produces watches that have a great quality with very competitive price tags attached to them.
And this counts as well for the SPB051J1. This 42.6mm watch is made for you to take with you, on your adventures. Inside the durable stainless-steel case, beats the automatic Seiko calibre 6R15 which is very reliable and has a power reserve of around 50 hours. In true diver fashion, the design of the watch is very uncluttered, which I really like. The matte black dial and the black steel bezel, feature high legibility markers and numbers, which will light up beautifully in the dark, due to the Lumibrite coating.
If you have around $1,000 to spend and are looking for a reliable alternative to the Rolex Submariner, this Seiko will scratch your itch.
Specifications: Price: $1,000, Case Size: 42.6mm, Thickness: 13.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: n/a, Lug Width: n/a, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Automatic Seiko calibre 6R15 movement, Power Reserve: 50 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Squale x Drass Galeazzi ($1,190)
Next up is a very special watch, which was created to celebrate a magnificent partnership between two of Italy’s historic brands. A few days ago, Squale introduced a vintage-inspired limited-edition timepiece to celebrate both the maritime heritage of Drass Galeazzi and the watchmaking legacy of Squale. By the way, Drass Galeazzi is a company that specializes in manned underwater technology. Had to google it myself, never heard of them before.
But in the end, the only thing that counts is the watch. And it’s a beauty. The Squale x Drass Galeazzi is a unique blend of vintage-inspired design, modern materials, and a great underwater performance, with 500 meters of water resistance. To achieve this level of water resistance, one would think that the case must be gigantic and very heavy. But surprisingly, this watch has one of the best proportions on this list. Measuring at 40mm in diameter (42mm with bezel), 16mm in height, and 49mm from lug-to-lug, the watch will be rather comfortable, even on smaller wrists like mine. The watch features a swiss-made automatic Sellita SW200 Élaboré movement, which boasts 38 hours of power reserve. The vintage-inspired diver bezel is made from sapphire glass and reminds me a lot of the original Blancpain Fifty-Fantoms. Overall, I can’t shake the Blancpain feeling when looking at this watch from Squale. But you know what, I love it. The Fifty Fantoms is one of the greatest dive watches that was ever made, so I don’t mind them using some part of the design. And don’t get me wrong, this is in no shape or form a homage, it just takes inspiration from the past era of dive watches.
To sum it up, if you like vintage-inspired watches, especially the Fifty-Fantoms design, then this watch is perfect for you. And looking at the impressive specs, the price tag of $1,190 is also justified.
Specifications: Price: $1,190, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 16mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 500m, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200 Élaboré movement, Power Reserve: 38 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Oris Aquis Date ($2,050)
Following the watch inspired by a time that is long gone, is a watch that takes inspiration from the more recent era. And with that, I would like to introduce you to the Oris Aquis Date.
Oris designed this watch, to make it as close to a dive tool as possible, without making sacrifices on the look and feel part. And in my opinion, they succeeded in it. The 43.5mm case is made from stainless steel, ensuring high durability, even when you take the watch out in the wild. The black ceramic bezel adds both durability and a high-quality feeling to the watch. Not sure what exactly it is about ceramic bezels and dial that make them so attractive to me, maybe it’s the fact that I know that they are higher in quality than ordinary aluminum bezels. Anyway, the watch features an automatic Oris 733 movement, which is based on the SW 200-1 movement. The movement in combination with the durable case gives this watch a water resistance certificate of up to 300 meters, which demonstrates once more, that this watch was made with the intention for it to be used as a tool. Just a very good-looking tool.
And there you have it, the watch will set you back around $2,050 but the price is justified and you won’t be disappointed. Short disclaimer, if you have slim wrists (16.5cm) then this watch is maybe too big for you since it measures a good 43.5mm in diameter. But if you enjoy big watches or have bigger wrists, go for it!
Specifications: Price: $2,050, Case Size: 43.5mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 24mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Automatic Oris 733 movement, Power Reserve: 38 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Tudor Black Bay 58
And now finally on to a dive watch which you can wear even if you have slimmer wrists. Of course, I’m talking about the Tudor Black Bay 58. Let’s be honest, this list wouldn’t have any credibility if I wouldn’t include the Black Bay 58. It’s just too good not to include. But let’s dive (pun intended) into the details of the BB58.
I think Tudor as a brand and their Black Bay 58 series don’t need a lot of introduction. The Black Bay 58 measures 39mm in diameter, which is very nice if you are like me and have slimmer wrists. But the smaller case size does not mean that Tudor also reduced the quality and the durability of the watch. The opposite is the case, I think Tudor stepped up their game even more with this one. Inside the case beats the self-winding and COSC-certified Calibre MT5402, which is made by Tudor in-house. The movement has an impressive power reserve of around 70 hours and, in combination with the case, manages to achieve a water resistance of 200 meters.
The overall design of the watch is where Tudor really hits the ball out of the park. Here it gets interesting, while the Black Bay takes a number of traits from old-school dive watches, it doesn’t make any attempt to actually be one. See, the watch has some distinctive vintage features, but Tudor managed to find a balance between those and more modern influences, making this watch unique on the diver’s market.
I think you are tired of hearing this over and over again, but I have to say it. At a price point of $3,500, you cannot beat what the Tudor Black Bay 58 is offering. You just can’t. So, if you are in the market for a well-proportioned, good-looking watch with impressive specs, go for it!
Specifications: Price: $3,500, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 11.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Automatic, in-house, COSC-certified Calibre MT5402 movement, Power Reserve: 70 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Continuing with another watch from Tudor. But this time it’s not one from the Black Bay Line. It’s the Tudor Pelagos. Some may say that this watch is more of a direct competitor to the Rolex Sea-Dweller and yes, you are right. But since it’s smaller and just fits the Submariner target group, I decided to include the Pelagos instead of the Breitling Superocean Heritage, which some of you may have suspected when you clicked on this article.
The Tudor Pelagos is a very good example of a tool watch, which also delivers on the Design side. This watch was designed to be used as a tool. It’s simple as that. The 42 mm titanium and steel case has a Helium escape valve at 9 o’clock, which enables the watch to withstand extreme water pressures up to 500 meters (1640ft) below the surface. The matte black unidirectional bezel is made completely from titanium, which is quite unique in the watch world. The dial of the watch is kept to a bare minimum, to ensure top-notch legibility when you are underwater. Speaking of legibility, the black and white indexes on the dial, the markers on the bezel, and the hands all feature white luminescent material. The watch is powered by the COSC-certified, automatic Manufacture Calibre MT5612, which has a power reserve of 70 hours.
If you are planning to do some serious diving or just want to have peace of mind knowing that this watch will most certainly not die on you after you took a swim in the pool, this watch is for you. Coming at a price of around $4,500, you can get one from your local AD.
Specifications: Price: $4,500, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 14.3mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Automatic, in-house, COSC-certified Calibre MT5402 movement, Power Reserve: 70 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co‑Axial Master 007 edition ($9,200)
And now to the last watch on this list. Remember, the last one but not least. And this certainly is true with this one. The Omega Seamaster 300M 007 edition. I could have just included any of the Seamaster 300’s in this list, but you see them on every list like this, so I decided to go for the one which is worn by Daniel Craig in the James Bond movie “Not Time To Die”.
James Bond’s Seamaster 300 is has a lightweight Grade 2 Titanium case which measures 42mm in diameter. The look of the titanium case is complemented by a brown tropical aluminum bezel ring and dial, which gives this watch something very unique that just speaks to my sense of design. Inside the ultra-light titanium case beats Omega’s Co-Axial Master Chronometer 8806, which has achieved the industry’s highest standards of precision, chronometric performance, and magnetic resistance. The watch is presented on a Grade 2 Titanium mesh bracelet, which rounds off the whole design of the watch.
I must admit that I’m a big fan of this Seamaster. The titanium case has a very intriguing color, which is perfectly complemented by the dial, bezel, and bracelet. For a list price of $9,200 or a grey market price of around $8,900, this watch can be yours.
Specifications: Price: $9,200, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 13.15mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Automatic Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer 8806 movement, Power Reserve: 55 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
As we demonstrated with this list, there are a number of great affordable alternatives to the Rolex Submariner. Each one of them having their own rich history and their own distinctive design features.
In case you made it this far, thank you for taking the time and reading the article! I hope I was able help you in finding the timepiece of your dream.