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The 7 Best Affordable Dive Watches with a Steel Bezel

Posted on October 27 2021

Steel Bezel Dive Watches

Little changes can make a big difference when it comes to watch designs.

Take the Tudor Black Bay as an example. The version with a red bezel is eye-catching. It looks like a fun, vintage-inspired dive watch.

Now compare that model to the watch with a steel bezel. That simple change gives the watch a whole different feeling. Suddenly, the Tudor looks and feels like a substantial tool watch. It looks spartan and functional.
Tudor Black Bay Red and Steel
It's an aesthetic that I love.

Simple, no-frills and masculine.

For whatever reason, give a diver's watch a steel bezel and it becomes an instrument rather than an ornament.

But we can't all afford a Tudor Black Bay.

So let's have a look at some more affordable dive watches with a steel bezel.

Squale Sub-39 Dive Watch

This model from the Italian brand Squale ticks a couple of boxes. It's Swiss-made, has a steel bezel and has a diameter of 39mm.

If modern divers are too big for you - many are for me - then a 39mm case can be a godsend.

This model references Squale's back catalogue. Specifically, their vintage Skin diver watches. There is also a touch of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms here. That's no surprise considering Squale made cases for Blancpain.

And that is part of the appeal to watch fans. Squale was a Swiss-based company that made its name supplying dive watch cases to the industries biggest names.

This model harks back to that era.

It's a pared-down dive watch. It has a straightforward case and bezel and a large, practical crown. The simple dial has bold Arabic numerals and the familiar Squale shark logo.

It has Squale's signature orange minute hand and a neat date window.

There isn't a great deal of choice for legitimate dive watches under 40mm - especially if you're after a steel bezel. As I mentioned here, 38-39mm is a comfortable size for a diver. But not a common one.

This is Squale's entry into that market. And it's one of the best smaller divers out there.

Squale SUB-39 SUB-39RD

  • 39mm Diameter
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Sellita Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300M Water Resistance

 

Alpina Alpiner 4 Watch
I'm cheating a little with this watch. It's not a dive watch. But I would suggest that despite being from Alpina's Land collection, it does have a diving aesthetic.

Alpina is a Swiss heritage brand that dates back to the late Victorian period. Although still Swiss-based, the brand is now owned by Japanese giant Citizen.

But what is interesting for us is the brand's innovation in the 1930s. That's where the Alpiner 4 ethos originates. Alpina created an early sports watch by building timepieces with four elements.

All Alpiner 4 watches would be anti-magnetic, anti-shock, water-resistant and built from stainless steel.

The result is a tough line of sports watches that retain a smart-casual appearance.

This particular model also features a rich blue dial - known as glacier blue.

Stylewise, it's a versatile piece. Mid-sized and with a simple, legible dial, the Alpiner 4 is a great everyday watch. And the specs are just as good as the design. It has a Swiss automatic movement and a sapphire crystal.

Like the Squale, this is a Swiss-made watch. But they're contrasting models. At 44m wide and with a 22mm strap, the Alpiner is significantly larger than the Sub-39.

That could be a pro or a con. If 44mm works for you - and it does for the majority - then this is a great entry-level Swiss automatic.

And it oozes style. The stainless steel bezel reinforces the Alpner 4 functionality. However, with 100M of water resistance, this isn't a full-blown diver. But the water resistance is more than enough for everyday needs.

I'm tempted to say that this is a great desk diver. Ideal for the office and tough enough for weekend adventures.

Alpina Alpiner 4 AL-525NS5AQ6B

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 13.1mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

Vostok Amphibia Watch
This turquoise watch is a legend.

The original Vostok Amphibia was created for the Soviet military.

It was designed to be cheap, durable and low on maintenance.

In a country where queuing for hours to get bread was the norm, it wasn’t easy to get your watch repaired. The solution? Design a mechanical watch that didn’t break. And that’s what we have here - a bomb-proof automatic watch that was built to last.

This variant has an uncomplicated steel bezel.

Until the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, we didn’t have easy access to Russian watches. We do now, and the Vostok Amphibia is one of my favourites.

It’s quirky and mid-sized and powered by a tough Vostok in-house movement.

Unlike the Alpina, this is a legitimate dive watch - remember, that was its main function. It has 200M of water resistance and a screw-down crown.

There have been endless variations of the Amphibia - a great selection of cases and dials. This cushion case is a classic and it's paired with a turquoise version of the 'Scuba dude' dial.

To perform at depths and in tough weather, the designers had to cut a few corners to stay within budget. So this watch doesn't have the build quality of the Squale or Alpina.

Instead, the Amphibia looks like it was built in the Soviet Union.

In this utilitarian environment, function always trumped aesthetics. This was the home of brutalist architecture and the Vostok has a similar vibe. The rear of the case has various markings in the Cyrillic alphabet which is a nice touch.

If you want an absolute bargain of a watch, with a steel bezel, start with this model.

Vostok Amphibia 710059

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Russian Automatic Movement
  • Acrylic Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance


Northwind Armstrong Watch
Bear with me.

This is my brand. A watch that I conceived, designed and put into production.

As you'll notice, it has a full stainless steel bezel.

I wanted to create a watch that told the story of my region - North East England. We don't have the watchmaking history of the Swiss or the recent tech innovation of the Japanese.

But what we do have is a rich industrial heritage. As I noted in the marketing bumpf for the Northwind "From the first train and first electric light bulb to the Venerable Bede or the scholarly monks of Lindisfarne. War, industry, innovation and the constant pursuit of knowledge have defined this area".

The steel bezel was crucial in achieving a design that would reflect the industrial history of my hometown. As was the exhibition back to show the mechanical movement.

This model was named after Lord Armstrong - an inventor, engineer, scientist and businessman.

It's a chunky piece, with a 44mm case and a heavy-duty stainless steel bracelet. And with 200M of water resistance and a screw-down crown, the Armstrong is fine for diving.

Obviously, I'm biased. But I'd encourage you to learn more about the limited edition Northwind Armstrong.

Northwind Armstrong

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 13.6mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance


Victorinox I.N.O.X Professional diver

Like the Northwind, the Victorinox is a chunky, full stainless steel model. This time Swiss-made.

You may be familiar with this brand as the producer of the world-famous Swiss Army penknives. But don't let that distract you from their exciting watch lines. As I noted here, they have created some very attractive watches over recent years.

The I.N.O.X Professional Diver is one such model. It's a substantial watch, with a case of 45mm and a militaristic aesthetic.

Although Victorinox does have some mechanical models, this watch runs off a Swiss ETA quartz movement. It's a practical piece and features a sapphire crystal and 200M of water resistance.

And that is where this watch excels. Victorinox built the I.N.O.X range to be tough watches. It was created to withstand all that you can throw at it.

But still, it's an attractive watch. I'd suggest that it hits that sweet spot where form and function blend seamlessly.

The design is angular, practical and the only use of colour is to highlight the second hand. The date window is tucked away at 4 o'clock and the markers are simple and bold.

This is a Swiss-made beater watch. A durable and reliable piece that you can take anywhere.

Victorinox I.N.O.X Professional Diver 241781

  • 45mm Diameter
  • 15mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance


Boldr Odyssey Cali Dial
Young Singaporean brand Boldr has made quite an impact in its short lifetime. This eyecatching Odyssey model shows why. It's distinctive, quirky and affordable.

Before we get to the unique design, let's look at the specs. Two features jump out. This watch has a Swiss-made automatic movement and a whopping 500M of water resistance.

This is a quality watch.

Again, it's a large model. It has a 45mm case that, like the Victorinox, is very angular. It's typical of the brand. Unlike the Victorinox, the angular case has been used to achieve a vintage appearance.

And that takes us to the dial. It's a California style layout. The top half of the dial uses Roman numerals and the lower half Arabic numbers. It's an unusual combination first used by Rolex in the 1930s.

Boldr has reinforced this vintage style by using aged looking lume on the markers and hands.

I love it. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a similar-looking watch.

It's very masculine and includes a chunky crown and a rugged-looking steel bezel. The look is finished off with a distressed leather strap.

If you want a legitimate diver unlike anybody else's watch, take a closer look at the Boldr Odyssey.

Boldr Odyssey Cali Umber

  • 45.5mm Diameter
  • 14.5mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 500M Water Resistance


Oris Aquis Cherry Red Watch

The Aquis Date is Oris' modern alternative to their popular vintage-style Divers Sixty-Five.

Like Squale, Oris has opted for a smaller case size than some of the others on my list. I like that the watch is a touch under 40mm.

It's smaller than the others, but not small.

This is still a substantial watch and the case is modern, chunky and has prominent crown guards.

The colour of this model - a red sunray dial and steel bezel - gives the watch a pleasing vibrancy. It's an uncommon colour palette that gives the watch a little flair.

The design is clean and sporty. There is only minimal text on the dial and the date window has been positioned at 6 o'clock. It's subtle and gives the dial a satisfying symmetry.

As you’d expect from a watch at this price point, the Aquis is a legitimate diver's watch. It has 300M of water resistance.

Oris is a Swiss heritage brand with over a hundred years of watchmaking history.

But this is clearly a watch from the modern Oris - a brand offering high-performance Swiss watches at a price point lower than some of the bigger names.

And remember. You can see their signature bright red rotor through the case back.

Oris Aquis Cherry Red

  • 41.5mm Diameter
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300M Water Resistance


Conclusion


Diver's watches with steel bezels aren't that common. It's a shame, because when done well - the Tudor Black Bay being a great example - the result can be stunning.

As I tried to do with my own Northwind model, a steel bezel can give a watch an industrial edge. The watch as a tool rather than a piece of jewellery.

As I've shown in this list, a steel bezel dive watch can be a smart or a quirky design. It's a versatile aesthetic. So I hope that you've found at least one watch here that has piqued your interest in this style.

If so, follow the links in my piece. Then let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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