The masculine profile of the Rolex Submariner Oyster Case has inspired many imitators, and not just those fakes that you find on the streets of New York City; even well established and highly respected watchmakers have been influenced by the legendary styling of the Submariner watch line, a style that is distinct yet restrained and sporty yet elegant. The price of a stainless steel Rolex Submariner sits at just a few Ben Franklins above $8,000 at the beginning of 2013, making the purchase out of the reach of many. Some of the most recognizable names in the horological world have created their own interpretation of the classic diving watch, and these watches run the gamut of price-points, allowing almost anyone to obtain the classic look of the Submariner. One of these watches might even surpass the Rolex Submariner's benchmark for quality….
Invicta Pro Diver ($200 - $300)
Longines HydroConquest ($1,000)
The Longines HydroConquest model is a relatively competent facsimile of the Rolex original. The HydroConquest adds some unique markers to the dial to give it a distinct flavor, making it seem more like a close family member of the Submariner, rather than a knockoff. The $1,000 suggested retail price gets you an ETA 2824-2 self-winding Swiss mechanical movement and a sapphire crystal, both marks of affordable quality. The HydroConquest is water resistant to 300-meters and keeps things business like with an option of blue or black dial/bezel combinations. For those wanting to spend a few hundred dollars more, Longines also offers a chronograph timepiece built in the same style.
Omega Planet Ocean ($4,500)
The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean occupies a special place on this list, as it is by no means a budget model at all and carries all of the quality trappings of its Rolex counterpart. While the other models on this list cost mere fractions of the Rolex Submariner's $8,200 MSRP, the Omega Planet Ocean model is a watch that is nearly $5,000. While the others in this discussion are mere facsimiles of the Submariner, the Omega Planet Ocean actually rivals the quality of the Rolex Submariner, and in the minds of some watch enthusiasts, it actually surpasses the benchmark set by the much heralded Submariner.
At the heart of the Planet Ocean is Omega's groundbreaking co-axial movement, a movement that is a marvel of modern watchmaking and mechanical engineering. The visual design of the watch also shows that Omega was not content with just emulating the standard-bearer as the watch's level of refinement and slightly rounder aesthetic make it a very fresh take on the classic diving wrist watch. A product that equals the quality of the industry benchmark for a little over half of that standard's price is not cheap but what some would call a value, a wise purchase for the savvy and informed buyer.
Knowing that some watch experts believe the Planet Ocean is actually a superior timepiece makes it a game changer. Omega even offers a chronograph version of the traditional Planet Ocean watch. The price, you ask? A thousand dollars less than the standard three-hand Rolex Submariner. Value-oriented indeed.
Oris ProDiver Date ($1,500 - $2,400)
Oris' offering into the Submariner-inspired diving watch market is a worthy contender indeed. The ProDiver Date starts out at a hint above $1,500 with a rubber strap, while splurging for the model with the stainless bracelet will set you back a hair under $1,700. Oris also offers the ProDiver Date in a rubber-strapped Titanium model with a suggested retail price of $2,400. All of the Oris ProDiver Date watches are Swiss-made with self-winding mechanical movements and sapphire crystals. These solidly built timepieces provide water resistance to 1,000-meters.
Swiss Army Maverick GS ($450 - $500)
The Swiss Army Maverick GS is a remarkable timepiece in terms of value and build quality. The construction of the Swiss Army iteration of the classic Submariner diving watch is a piece that shows credible construction and little variance in fit-and-finish. The rubber-strapped models retail for $450, while the Maverick GS adorned with a stainless bracelet will cost you a little under $500; both models feature a sapphire crystal. Water resistance is meager at only 100-meters, but the Swiss-made quartz movement is quality and the end-of-life indicator on the battery is a nice touch that will ensure your timeless watch is never actually timeless. An optional red bezel allows you to show a bit more flare than most models on this list.
Tag Heuer AquaRacer ($2,700 - $3,300)
The Tag Heuer AquaRacer is another rather costly entry into the diving watch market, but this model is quality. It packs a ceramic bezel like the pricier Rolex Submariner and Omega Planet Ocean models, as opposed to the anodized aluminum bezels equipped on the cheaper timepieces on this list. Stainless AquaRacers sell for $2,700, while the two-tone stainless steel and 18-karat gold plated models fetch $3,300. Those looking to eschew the formal image and don a pure sporting look can purchase the rubber-strapped Titanium model for $3,100. Water resistance for the Swiss automatic mechanical movement is provided to 500-meters on all of these timepieces. The horizontal streaks on the dial really give the Tag Heuer AquaRacer a unique identity, as would be expected from a timepiece in this price range.
Tissot SeaStar 1000 Automatic ($875 - $1,000)
Tissot and Longines are owned by the same parent company, the Swatch Group, which explains why the Longines and Tissot diver watches are so similar. The Tissot SeaStar shares the same ETA 2824-2 automatic mechanical movement with the Longines HydroConquest, while water resistance is also the same between the two corporate stablemates. What separates the Tissot and Longines watches is visual appeal. The Longines has a more traditional design with staid styling cues; its design, particularly the bracelet, closely emulates the Rolex Submariner. Tissot's SeaStar model, however, offers a more contemporary interpretation of a diving watch, giving the wrist watch its own unique aesthetic, albeit one that strays a bit from the original Submariner blueprint.
The contributor has been a watch enthusiast for nearly two decades. His first high-end timepiece was a Rolex Submariner, but he now sports a Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso and an Omega Speedmaster Professional.