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Skin Diver Watches - The 7 Best Affordable Models

Posted on April 27 2021

The Best Budget Skin Diver Watches

Most watch fans aren't divers.

But a lot of watches are built like they are.

Professional dive watches are often large, tough and come with high specifications. It's not uncommon to find a dive watch equipped to handle diving at 1000M.

Really?

How many people do you know who have dived that deep in their life?

Watch manufacturers aren't stupid.

They know that we love dive watches - but don't need the functionality.

That's why in the 1950s they created Skin Diver watches.

They are lightweight dive watches that tone down the ruggedness. They're slim, comfortable and very stylish.

Let's take a closer look at the best affordable models.

What is a Skin Diver Watch?


You'll be familiar with 'traditional' diver's watches. They're a common sight and in the collections of most watch companies. The Rolex Submariner is the most obvious example.

Each of the major Swiss watch brands has its own model - the Omega Seamaster or the Breitling Superocean spring to mind.

They also have their professional dive watches - the models designed to go to insane depths. Omega's Ploprof is a great example. It's an ugly brute of a watch that has little use outside of water.

But that leaves a gap.

What about watches that can handle a bit of water - say, a dip in the pool on holiday - but look great the rest of the year at work?

What about smaller, slimmer watches, with a dive aesthetic?

In the 1950s, when recreational and commercial diving was gaining in popularity, watch brands spotted this gap.

They began to make these lightweight dive watches. They used rather generic cases with straight lugs. Simple bezels and lower water resistance.

These designs have remained popular and there are some beautiful affordable models. I'd like to take you through seven of the best.

My list includes inexpensive models and some pricier watches - something for everyone's budget.

Rotary Vintage Dive Automatic Watch

What is the best way for a watch company to design a vintage-inspired watch?

Simple. Recreate a watch from their own back catalogue.

When you have 125 years of history, like Rotary, there are plenty of models to choose from. They've re-released a couple of vintage divers, including the Avenger and this model, simply named Vintage Dive.

It has the Skin Diver design that we're looking for and comes in an updated 41mm case. It's a step-up from the Rotary Avenger and is powered by an automatic movement.

It's a straightforward design, with large lumed markers and an uncomplicated bezel. In keeping with the ethos of Skin Diver watches, it has 100M of water resistance.

This is a very affordable and accessible watch, available from a high street watch brand.

Rotary GB00488/04 Vintage Dive

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • 100M Water Resistance


Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Watch

The Zodiac Sea Wolf was one of the original divers watches.

Rolex released the iconic Submariner in 1954. That was a year after Zodiac had launched the Sea Wolf.

It's an attractive and practical watch that has its own distinct style. There is a real vintage appearance that you won't find on many modern watches.

I love it. The Super Sea Wolf, a Swiss automatic, is one of my favourite reissued watches. And it is a stunning example of a skin diver.

It's bold, legible and has a spartan aesthetic. There is nothing superfluous here. It tells the times, displays the date and keeps water out.

If you want heritage and originality, take a closer look at the Super Sea Wolf.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 ZO9204

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance


Citizen Brycen AW1591-01L Watch
The Citizen Brycen is a completely different take on the Skin Diver. It takes the same DNA - a simple dive watch - and inserts cutting edge watchmaking technology.

So we have a retro-looking watch. It has a slightly angular case, clear markers and a functional bezel. But with an eco-drive movement.

That means that this watch is powered by light. Any light. It doesn't have to be the sun. It's handy, cheap and eco-friendly.

If you're a fan of ethical watchmaking, then Citizen's Eco-drive watches are a great starting point. They eliminate the use of batteries.

And this watch is a particularly good example. It's a beautiful marriage of classic styling and Japanese technological innovation.

And it's very affordable.

Citizen AW1591-01L

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Eco-Drive movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


Shark 62MAS Automatic Watch

Seiko launched its first dive watch in 1965. This watch was recognisable as a Skin Diver and became known as the 62MAS. It's an iconic design that Seiko has referenced in recent years.

Unfortunately, the most authentic modern recreation is an expensive watch. So it was inevitable that other brands would release homage models.

Why not? It's a great-looking watch that is the father of all Seiko divers.

Shark is a relatively unknown brand, probably being less of a brand and more of a name used by Chinese factories.

But don't let that put you off the watch. This watch is very good value for money.

Importantly, it is on point with the Skin Diver styling.

It also has a Seiko automatic movement, an impressive 300M of water resistance and a domed sapphire crystal.

If the Seiko rereleases are over your budget, have a look at the Shark. You might be surprised.

Sharkey 62MAS

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300M Water Resistance

 


Timex x Todd Snyder Maritime Sport Watch

This is Timex's interpretation of a classic dive watch. For this model, they've again collaborated with Todd Snyder, a designer known for his military influences.

The result is a smart-looking Limited Edition piece that clearly takes inspiration from Skin Divers. It's an informal watch that uses a simple colour palette and a James Bond coloured NATO strap.

Of the two variations - black and silver - I prefer the latter.

It's comfortable sized and uses a vintage-inspired acrylic crystal. And it has a feature that is unique to the watches I've featured - a backlit Indiglo dial.

So there is a lot to recommend this watch.

A brand with history. A limited production run. The Indiglo technology. You need to take a closer look at this one.

Timex Todd Snyder Maritime Sport

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz movement
  • Acrylic Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance


Spinnaker Fleuss SP-5055-02
In the same year that Zodiac debuted the Sea Wolf, Blancpain released the Fifty Fathoms. It's an iconic watch that is still produced today.

It's arguable whether it counts as a Skin Diver - but I'm going to include the style anyway. The Fleuss is Hong Kong-based Spinnker's homage.

It's a modern interpretation of this familiar design and sticks pretty close to the original. Like the other watches here, it has a strong vintage dive and plain colouring.

Although there is no flair, there is an attractively textured dial and vintage coloured lume. It's an understated and subtle piece.

Like a lot of affordable automatic at this price, it uses Seiko's NH35A movement.

This is an inexpensive way for you to get the Blancpain look.

Spinnaker Fleuss SP-5055-02

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 150M Water Resistance


Squale Sub-39 Automatic Watch

Squale was one of the original manufacturers of Skin Diver cases. They produced watch cases for the leading brands of the 1950s.

The Squale Sub-39 is a homage to their own early watches from the same period. It just about qualifies as affordable, despite being Swiss-made. It's powered by a Sellita automatic movement and is a high-quality watch.

The styling is wonderful, with a very simple and very clean layout.

The touches of flair include the bold orange minute hand and the ornate logos on the dial.

The name gives away one of the main selling points of this watch. If modern divers are too big for you - many are for me - then a 39mm case can be a godsend.

If you must have a Swiss-made watch, and you want vintage styling in a modestly sized case, this could be your watch.

Squale Sub-39 Black Arabic

  • 39mm Diameter
  • 13mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300M Water Resistance


Conclusion


Not all dive watches are for divers.

If you're like me, your watch never gets wet. And I live near the beach!

For those that do dive, there are plenty of professional dive watches available.

There are also traditional dive watches - the Rolex Submariner being the most obvious.

But, slim and comfortable lightweight dive watches? They aren't as common. But of the models that are available, there are some cracking watches.

And most reference earlier watches. They hark back to the 1950s when both diving and dive watches were fashionable.

This list gives you a helpful spread of watches. From very affordable quartz models to more expensive Swiss-made automatics. There should be one that you like here.

I'd encourage you to follow some of the links and take a closer look at your favourites.


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