The Rolex Submariner is a truly awesome watch (I mean, we make one ourselves, so you know we’re fans). It isn’t the glitziest or the rarest or the most expensive or the most technologically advanced timepiece that Rolex makes, let alone other watchmakers. But it is one of the most coveted. The Sub is the quintessential dive watch, with its omnidirectional bezel to keep track of time spent underwater and screw down crown that makes it waterproof to 1,000 feet. It is a luxury watch that doesn’t feel snobby, aided by the stainless steel case and bracelet. It is hefty but not unnecessarily chunky. And it has been worn by just about every member of the cool guy hall of fame, from Steve McQueen to Jacques Cousteau to Sean Connery’s James Bond.
But many of the things that make the Rolex Submariner so great also the same reasons why you shouldn’t get one. The Submariner is a little bit like Stairway To Heaven. It’s a great song that you can rock out to, but its ubiquity and popularity make it tough to call “your own.” Rolex doesn’t release sales numbers for its models, but I’d bet that the Submariner is the brand’s most popular offering. You see them everywhere. When you’ve arrived (or at least want to appear as though you have), it’s the watch to get. The thing about style, however, is that you don’t want your status to be the same as everyone else’s.
There is no shame in loving the Submariner: it’s a purchase you will not regret. But if you’re looking for something that checks off a lot of the same boxes and is also a bit more unique, these watches will be better off on your wrist. Some are cheaper, some are more expensive. Some are bigger and some are larger. But they all stand out in ways that will help show off your own personal style.
TUDOR HERITAGE BLACK BAY BRONZE
Tudor is a subsidiary of Rolex and was started in the 40s as a way for the company to offer a lower-priced alternative to the flagship brand. But Tudors are more than just “cheaper Rolexes”. The watches stand on their own merit, owing to the in-house movements that Tudor began manufacturing in 2015. The Heritage Black Bay family is clearly influenced by the Submariner, but has distinct touches like the bronze case that develops a unique patina over time. The snowflake hands borrow from watches Tudor made for the French navy in the 1970s.
OMEGA SEAMASTER PLANET OCEAN
When James Bond switched from Rolex, the watch he opted for was an Omega. Sure, there was some product placement deal that led to the change, but the Omegas on 007’s wrist still look just as distinguished whether he is in a tuxedo or climbing a mountain. This Seamaster Planet Ocean reinforces its status as a dive watch with the crisp blue ceramic dial and bezel. The arrow-shaped hands add to the watch’s sharp look.
BREITLING SUPEROCEAN II
Known more for its pilot’s watches, Breitling also knows a thing or two about making a great dive watch. The Superocean II has a 42mm case, which is slightly smaller than some of the other watches on this list making it a good option for guys with less bulky forearms. The rubber strap is sportier and complements the look of the dial nicely.
BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS BATHYSCAPHE
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms actually predates the Rolex Submariner and is the O.G. modern diver’s timepiece. The latest version pays tribute to the past while feeling distinctly modern. Everything is very clean and minimal. There are no unnecessary markings on the dial or bezel, which keeps the watch from being too showy. The placement of the date between 4 and 5 o'clock, instead of the standard 3 o'clock position, is a unique touch that also makes it easier to read when you lift your hand up. The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is certainly a watch that will generate plenty of “What is that?” attention.
For a decidedly more affordable option, Nixon’s Descender is waterproof to 1,000 feet, the same as the Submariner. It features a quartz movement instead of a more sophisticated mechanical one, which accounts for the lower price. But it also has some clever innovations such as the placement of the crown on the 9 o'clock side—instead of 3 o'clock—to prevent it from digging into your wrist when you bend your hand back.