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The Best Rolex Submariner Alternatives For A Dive Watch With A Difference
Buying Guides

The Best Rolex Submariner Alternatives For A Dive Watch With A Difference

By Nick Kenyon
9 Feb 2024
5 min read

Most of us have wanted to own a Rolex Submariner at some point in our collecting journey, but for those who hesitated on pulling the trigger, alternatives are more than worth considering

If you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly aware of the horological importance of the Rolex Submariner. From its archetypal influences on almost every dive watch that’s followed it, to the deep scholarship of reference numbers and their associated design minutiae, it’s one of the very few watches that genuinely deserves its “iconic” superlative.

However, while we’ve all considered owning a Rolex Submariner at some point, there are two common reasons why people hesitate to pull the trigger. The first is the challenge of buying a Submariner from a Rolex Authorized Dealer and the premium that the alternative pre-owned market demands, which some aren’t willing to pay.

The second more common reason is the enormous popularity of the Submariner and the contrarian desire to zag while others zig. This can result in the internal conflict of respect for the Submariner as in watchmaking history, but a lukewarm interest in having the same watch on your wrist that others have.

For those who find themselves in either of these dilemmas — or even Rolex Submariner owners who are hunting a twist on a design they know and love — a few alternatives might broaden and clarify your thinking. Let’s get into it.

Tudor Black Bay 54

Released in 2023 to praise from both enthusiasts and media alike, the Tudor Black Bay 54 is a perfect watch for dive watch enthusiasts who enjoy heritage inspiration more than most. As its name suggests, the Black Bay 54 is directly inspired by the first-ever Tudor dive watch from 1954. This original Tudor Submariner ref. 7922 shares plenty of design DNA with the earliest Rolex divers  (even sharing the same Submariner name as its Rolex sibling), and measured 37mm in diameter — just like the Black Bay 54 does. Boasting an upgraded 200m of water resistance and powered by the contemporary calibre MT5400, its 70 hours of power reserve makes for an ideal everyday watch. 

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M

No list of Rolex Submariner alternatives could be complete without the inclusion of the Omega Seamaster, a collection that predates the Submariner, but shares more utilitarian intent today than ever before. There is an entire range of Seamaster Diver 300M expressions, however, the through-line that connects them all is a comfortably wearable 42mm case, an ever-reliable 300m of water resistance, and a helium escape valve for proper deep-sea diving. This specific example arrives with an attractive blue dial and bezel — complimented by a rubber strap in the same color — and is powered by the anti-magnetic and METAS-certified Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 8800.

Baltic Aquascaphe

Not all alternatives to the Rolex Submariner will cost you four or five figures, with this Baltic Aquascaphe an affordable option that gets the design details right. With warmly-toned luminous material on the hands and hour markers, a textured granular dial surface, and a remarkably comfortable beads-of-rice bracelet, there really isn’t much to dislike about the Aquascaphe. Plus, it serves up 200m of water resistance and contains an automatic Miyota 9039 movement inside to guarantee you’re getting excellent value for money. 

Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5167A

There’s no doubt the Aquanaut ref. 5167 is a slightly more luxe interpretation of a sports watch, but if you’re after something to effortlessly span the gulf between the boardroom and the beach (and are motivated by the second reason to seek a Submariner alternative), this is it. Featuring a black dial and matching rubber strap, a 40mm stainless steel case, and an exhibition caseback that shows off the stunning calibre 324 S C within, the Aquanaut has a multi-year waitlist from Patek Philippe for a very good reason. 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Date

If your favorite element of the Rolex Submariner is the externally rotating ceramic dive bezel, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Date might not be the alternative for you. However, if you’re interested in the historical development of the dive watch and appreciate the engineering ingenuity of the super-compressor style case’s internal bezel, then it could be right up your alley. Featuring a smokey black and blue dial, Submariner-matching 300m of water resistance and the 70-hour power reserve equipped calibre 899AB, it’s the dive watch of the deep thinker.

Panerai Luminor 1950 BiTempo Luna Rossa

Early Panerai dive watches had more to do with Rolex than you might imagine, as the Wilsdorf-founded watchmaker provided the movements for the military-ordered watches destined to be used by Italian Navy frogmen. This rough and ready origin story survives in the Luminor 1950 BiTempo Luna Rossa, which offers a vision of a quintessential Panerai sports watch. Capable of handling a decent dive, it features a comfortable rubber strap and even boasts GMT functionality for the frequent flier.

IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Cousteau Calypso Limited Edition

The history of IWC is more closely linked to the skies than the seas, however, the Schaffhausen-based watchmaker has produced some excellent dive watches over the years. Among them is the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Cousteau Calypso Limited Edition, which is tied inexorably to Jacques-Yves Cousteau's legendary research vessel — the Calypso — via a fragment of the ship set into the caseback. While Cousteau himself was partial to a Submariner as a diving companion, this 44mm dive chronograph captures the spirit of his relentless enthusiasm for underwater exploration and conservation nicely.

H. Moser & Cie Pioneer Centre Seconds

The team at H. Moser & Cie might be best known for creative twists on classic dress watches, but this Pioneer Centre Seconds is undeniably a proper sports watch. It features a 42mm stainless steel case, no less than 120m of water resistance, and a rotating 60-minute dive bezel. Beneath the attractive blue dial is the in-house HMC 200 automatic movement that delivers 72 hours of power reserve, and being one of just 50 examples produced, this might be the rarest Submariner alternative on this list. 

Blancpain X Swatch Fifty Fathoms Indian Ocean

Another of the more value-driven Submariner alternatives is the BlancpainSwatch Fifty Fathoms. Fusing the fun and affordability of Swatch with the serious dive watch history of Blancpain, its 42mm bioceramic case arrives in a vibrant shade of Indian Ocean-inspired green. Powered by the automatic SISTEM51 movement with 90 hours of power reserve, its 91m water resistance is of equivalent depth to 50 fathoms — offering a thoughtful nod to the legendary Blancpain diver of the same name.

Artisans de Genève “The Sea Shepherd Challenge”

Given that Artisans de Genève began its life in the Rolex factory as a Submariner, its alternative status could be reasonably debated. However, its significant updates to transform into the “The Sea Shepherd Challenge” you see today — including an aventurine glass dial and bezel and engraved moon phase complication — mean it now offers an elevated expression of the Submariner that won’t be found on everyone’s wrist. It won’t be for everyone, but there’s a certain charm that will be undeniable to others. 

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