Picture this scenario: you’re at a party and there’s a big tub of ice that’s full of tasty drinks. You plunge your hand in to grab one, and as you do, the realization smacks that you’ve just put your cool new watch under water! Uh-oh. These things are waterproof, aren’t they? Or…wait. They’re water resistant, right? I can shower with my watch on, can’t I? What about swimming? Well it’s good that you have so many questions, because we’re going to, A) provide the simple overview of the whole waterproof thing and, B) we’re going to show you our Top 10 Best Waterproof Watches for Men. Some great looking pieces that, yes, you can get wet — to a greater or lesser extent. Before we get to the watches, let’s lay out the facts about H2O and watches.
UPDATE – This post was updated January 12, 2018.
Waterproof Watch vs. Water Resistant Watch
The big news with waterproof watches is this: there are no waterproof watches. Water resistant watches, yes. Waterproof, no. This isn’t a matter of semantics, or even marketing. It’s a fact that’s established by the ISO — the International Organization for Standardization. ISO is the global, United Nations-recognized organization that sets standards for trade, and has been adopted by 163 member countries. In this case, ISO 22810 establishes that the word “waterproof” can’t be used when talking about watches. In fact, there is a separate standard, ISO 6425, that specifically addresses dive watches, which is a breed of watch that is, generally, for the kind of folks who make their living working underwater (oil rigs, etc.). Even still, for both regular watches and dive watches, “water resistant” is the accepted terminology. In this piece, we are talking about water resistant watches. In fact, in any piece, anywhere, the writer is talking about water resistant — not waterproof — watches.
Waterproof Watches: A Deep Subject
Okay, great: now that we know water resistant is what we’re looking for, it’s time to dive into the details of just how water resistant is that watch? When it comes to getting wet, watches are rated using “atmospheres” as the rating scale. It’s simple – the deeper the water, the more ATM. If you’re 10 meters under water, you’re at one ATM. If you’re under 100 meters (328 feet) of water, you’re at 10 ATM. When a watch is rated at 10 ATM, that means it can withstand the pressure exerted at 100 meters deep. These guidelines are an amalgamation of all sorts of references, because individual watch manufacturers…gearhead websites…reference materials — they all differ in their recommendations. Taking them all into account, here’s our handy breakdown for your watch wearing needs:
1 ATM – don’t get it wet
3 ATM – water splashes, light rain are okay
5 ATM – you showered with the watch on: you’re cool
10 ATM – you can wear your watch while swimming
20 ATM – go ahead and snorkel or surf
30 ATM – diver’s watch needed (but you probably knew that)
So if you want a “waterproof” watch — a watch that you don’t have to worry about getting it wet — just make sure you match your WP (wet propensity) with your W (watch). Are you going to be doing any deepwater scuba diving? No. So you don’t need a diver’s watch. Are you training for Ironman, and you’ll be swimming? Yes, so make sure your watch is at least 10 ATM. Are you allergic to water? Go ahead and forget about the whole waterproof/water resistant thing, get yourself something in Hello Kitty, and get help for that allergy!
Men’s Watches: Other Categories
If you’re also considering a watch that doesn’t require an emphasis on water resistance, we’ve got a few other lists for you to consider. Our Top 10 Best Cool Watches for Men is focussed on watches that lean toward the cool in looks or pedigree. Some of them are, as you’ll see, water resistant. If it’s a skeleton watch you’re after, check out our list of the Top 10 Best Skeleton Watches for Men. (And for those of you who don’t know what a “skeleton” watch is, we do give a thorough explanation in the piece.) If you’re looking to keep your watch price down, take a spin through our Top 15 Best Men’s Watches Under $100.
Waterproof Watches: The Movie
In the meantime, take a moment to watch a cool little Vimeo video from Hodinkee.com (a great website for high-end watch collectors) that shows what Rolex does when it runs one of its pieces through the water resistance test. We can’t vouch for the music in the video, but we do dig the cool retro equipment in the lab. (And, no, Rolex isn’t represented in this list because it was outside our price point parameters.)
We also included videos after many of the reviews. Mostly, the videos are simply there to give a better idea of what the watch looks like. Some of the videos are better than others and we’re not endorsing any of them.
One Last Word: Marketing and Waterproof Watches
Now that you got the guidelines, you’ll see that the manufacturers will often veer outside the swim lanes and say that their watch is “waterproof” or that their 3 ATM watch is okay for swimming. That’s when you, the consumer, need to make the decision. We hope that our guidelines will give you a clear idea of everything you need to know so you can make a smart buying decision. As for the look? That’s also up to you and we’re here to help with our Top 10 Best Waterproof Watches for Men.
1. Seiko SKX007 Diver’s Watch
For this piece, we think it’s sufficient to say “It’s great looking. You can wear it scuba diving. It’s a great price. Get it.” All simply true, but we have a few more things to say about the Seiko Men’s SKX007. For starters, it is almost the quintessential diver’s watch look. The black rubber band, the stainless steel case, the black dial with easy-to-see white, luminescent (glow-in-the-dark) hour and minute marks. Water resistant to 200 meters (660 feet), the Seiko is rock solid in performance, fantastic in appearance, and almost too good to be true in price. In fact, Jack Forster, editor-in-chief at the great watch website, Hodinkee, says this beauty is “…a rebuke to over-priced, over-decorated ‘luxury’ dive watches everywhere – and a perennially fantastic value proposition.” If you want to notch it up with Seiko a bit, this version (called “The Turtle”) is a great value. Of course, they’re both automatic, so the watch stays powered as long as you do (i.e., your movement winds it).
- Superior quality
- Almost crazy low price
- Automatic movement
- A bigger case might be nice
2. Nixon Men’s Chrono
Another terrific example of a simple, good looking, tough watch. The Nixon Men’s A4862069 48-20 Chrono is rated at 20 ATM, so Nixon says it’s “…suitable for professional marine activity and serious surface water sports, but not scuba diving.” There are several cool features to this stainless steel watch: it’s a chronograph; the crown and pushers (push buttons) are on the left side of the case; the date indicator is at six o’clock; the even-numbered hours are HUGE (easy to read); and the case is finished in gun metal. As we’ve previously mentioned about Nixon in our Top 10 Best Cool Watches for Men 2017 post, the company’s from Southern California and they’ve got a squad of pretty famous wearers on their “team.”
- Super easy to read
- Left side crown, pushers
- Stationary bezel
3. Luminox Evo Navy Seal Blackout
And in this corner, we give you what is, probably, the toughest watch of the list. The Luminox Evo Navy Seal Blackout is, like the name says, made for the Navy Seals. Luminox, in fact, has long been making watches for several segments of the U.S. military. As such, this great piece has 24 hour time markings on the dial. The minute markers are on the outside rim (the bezel), which is uni-directional, meaning it can be turned either way. Just a quick glance at the watch and you know why it’s called “Blackout.” For something with a little color from Luminox, this orange dial number is a great option. Again, “tough” physically (because of its black polyester, carbon reinforced case) as well as its pedigree with the Navy Seals.
- Designed for Navy Seals
- Tonal black colorway
- Non stainless steel case
4. Casio Men’s Sport Analog Dive Watch
We’re plopping the Casio Dive Watch here because it’s so obviously designed with echos of the Luminox above. And, no, you do not need to adjust your vision: the price is correct. We’ll admit, the low price point did give us pause, but if you’ll note the reviews of this piece on Amazon, you’ll see that a full 84% of the 3,600+ postings are either 5- or 4-star. Also take notice of the ATM rating, which is to 100 meters. This is a good example of marketing making an odd intersection with industry standards. Casio calls it a “dive watch,” while 100 meters really isn’t within the range that generally qualifies as “diving.” Nevertheless, the water resistance is here, as is the very solid, good look of this resin-cased, resin-banded piece. If you’d like something that from Casio that goes deeper (both water and dollar speaking), this Frogman digital piece has several interesting features. We also noticed among the reviews that it might be tough to set the day and date, but once achieved, it works as expected. This dive watch is such a great price, you almost can’t go wrong.
Price: $15.56 (38 percent off MSRP)
- Solid looks
- Day/date tough to set
- Smaller case size (43mm)
5. Technomarine Cruise Original Chronograph
Technomarine has been producing its distinctive lineup from its Hollywood, Florida headquarters since 1997. The Cruise Original is a really solid example of a water resistant watch. Rated to 666 feet, the Cruise can be counted on to withstand a lot of H2O exposure. Reinforcing the water resistant capability is the screw-down crown. This chronograph features a 60 second sub-dial, a 12 hour sub-dial and a 1/10th second sub-dial. Its got a smallish date window at the 4 o’clock position.The bezel is unidirectional and the watch comes with both a black silicone strap and a white silicone strap.
- Solid 200 meter water resistance
- Handy case included
- Date window a bit small
6. Rip Curl Cambridge
Rip Curl, the Australian surf company, says this watch — which is rated to 100 meters — is “…in general, suitable for swimming and snorkeling, but not scuba diving.” (Another example of the swirl of water resistant/waterproof information taking different tributaries, depending on who’s doing the talking.) Speaking of swirls, the silicone band features a marble swirl. The case is made of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), which is known for its toughness. And in this case, those of you who like a smaller watch will like this piece, which is just 40mm across. The dial, in silvertone sunray, is about as minimalist as you can get, which is an interesting contrast to the busy band. And to contrast this piece with another Rip Curl watch, this Tidemaster — at a significantly higher price point — is very cool because it’s got a tide indicator sub-dial. Handy for those of you who surf; possible conversation starter for you inlanders.
- Unique band markings
- Clean look
- Text here
- Smaller case size (40mm)
- 100 meter water resistance
7. Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Aqualand
A great looking watch with some very impressive features, the Citizen Promaster Aqualand is rated to 200 meters. You’ll know exactly how deep you are because the piece features a water depth sensor. In addition, it’s got a “rapid ascent warning alarm” that will sound if the wearer rises too fast (more than nine meters a minute — slow down!). Like our second entry on the list, the Nixon, the Promaster features two pushers (and the depth sensor) on the left side of the case. The crown, meanwhile, is at four o’clock on the traditional right side. It’s got a stainless steel case, and it is a big boy: 53mm, which is probably getting close to “wrist clock” size. (One reviewer on Amazon says that, without the pushers and crown, it comes in at 48mm, which is still formidable.) It’s also got a power reserve indicator on the left side of the dial. That power, by the way, is Citizen’s proprietary Eco-Drive, and it’s all about getting juiced up from light (any light). Once the piece is fully charged — which takes about a day-and-a-half if exposed to full sunlight — it’s ready to go for 11 months. That’s plenty of water time for you. While this is one of the higher priced entries on the list, it’s at a pretty massive discount from the original MSRP.
Price: $469.99 (51 percent off MSRP)
- Eco-Drive powered (light)
- Left side pushers
- Depth sensor
- Huge discount
- Unprotected crown
- Very large case (53mm)
8. Stuhrling Original Aquadiver Regatta
Another heavy discount on a very solid entry. Stuhrling, a Brooklyn company, presents its Aquadiver Regatta with a 200 meter water resistance. It’s a very simple, somewhat classic diver’s watch look with a black matte dial and, yes, the company calls it a diver’s watch (again, remember the general standards we talked about in the intro). The uni-directional bezel is gear-edged and the screw-down crown is a feature that further strengthens the water resistance of the watch. The band is high-grade silicone and the indices (hour markers), as well as the hands, are luminescent.
Price: $89.99 (92 percent off MSRP)
- Huge discount
- Screw down crown
- Billed as diver’s watch
9. TW Steel GrandeurDive Chronograph
Like most of the pieces on this list, this TW Steel GrandeurDive can certainly be worn to an elegant occasion, particularly, in this case, because of the unique rose gold plated case. The 44mm case pretty dramatically offsets the black and white detailing on the watch: white lettering and hand accents, black ion-plated uni-directional bezel. The chronograph’s pushers, all on the traditional right side, operate three sub-dials displaying 60 second, 60 minute and 1/10th of a second sub-dials. If you’re looking for something a bit different than the somewhat dramatic appearance, and price, of this Dutch watch, this black GrandeurDive with red accents comes in at less than half the price.
- Rose gold plated case
- Unique detailing
10. Nautica Keywest
In some ways, our tenth entry is a pretty simple watch. But, heck, it’s got that orange going on so it really stands out. This watch does warrant scrutiny beyond the bright color because there are some cool details. The hour markers, all silver, feature different international nautical flags and, yes, they each mean something. This piece is stainless steel with a brushed silver finish. The band, silicone orange, is complemented by the orange detailing found in and around the dial: the minute markers, the minute hand and the point end of the second hand. Nautica says this watch is “suitable for swimming and snorkeling, but not diving,” but, as we’ve pointed out, the buyer needs to take all the data (see intro above) into account before determining just how wet they wanna get their new piece!
- Flag markings
- Billed as snorkeling ready
- 100 meter water resistant
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