Why Dive Watches Make the Best Watches for Fishing

Last updated on October 27th, 2020

 Best watches for diving and fishing

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Dive Watches – the Best Fishing Watches

In this post, I’m going to, once again, dive into (pun intended) a topic that touches on two of my biggest passions, fishing, and wristwatches – dive watches, to be precise.

Wearing a watch is a habit for me; my watch is almost an extension of my body – I even sleep with it on. So, it goes without saying that when I’m out fishing, my watch is there as well. In fact, I love watches almost as much as fishing.

But, while there are many types and styles of watches on the market today marketed as “field watches”, “outdoor watches” and so on, for prolonged outings on the water, I find there is nothing better on a fisherman’s wrist than a good diver’s watch.

For me, they just make for the best fishing watches. My main reason for the statement, good looks aside, is that they are built specifically for water environments.  When I’m wearing one while fishing I don’t have to worry about the inevitable splash, dunk or even occasional complete submersion.

My watch is an important piece of fishing equipment, similar to, say, a good reel. Both are instruments that require a high level of precision and durability in order to serve their intended purpose, so from that standpoint, I have a lot of the same expectations.

Both should have fine-tuned internal gears that must be protected from water, dust and other potentially damaging intrusions. The degree to which they are able to keep things dry and moving smoothly internally will play a significant part in determining their overall quality and usefulness.

So, having said stated that, let’s look at some of the qualities and features that make dive watches so popular with recreational fishermen, surface water sports enthusiasts and even those who rarely step foot on the water.

Diver watches (also referred to as dive watches or diving watches) were originally designed for underwater use with features to help divers to keep track of time. The concept of using watches for underwater diving is one that goes back perhaps as far as the early 19th century when “hard hat” divers would place a standard pocket watch in their bronze helmets to help them mark time.

Today, however, the popularity of the diving watch spreads far beyond its original, core audience.  In fact, most people are probably not aware that many features originally designed for diver ‘s watches have since made their way into a variety of other watch types – water resistance, luminous markings and the rotating bezel are just some examples.

Though the advent of dive computers has essentially relegated the modern dive watch to a secondary role for dive pros and hardcore divers, it is still useful as a backup tool and a valuable piece of machinery for those of us who operate around and just above the water surface.

The current crop of the best diver’s watches hits a nice sweet spot for sport fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts with its balanced blend of function and aesthetics that has an appeal far beyond its initial intention. They now as much a fashion statement as they are a tool of the water (we may have the Bond (007) movies to blame for that!).

To put it simply, dive watches are in more demand than ever because they combine the qualities that most anglers and people, in general, look for in a timepiece, to begin with – quality, durability and, of course, rugged good looks.

If you are in the market looking to buy one, here are a few characteristics that you’ll need to consider:

Water Resistance

It might seem like a no-brainer that dive watches obviously need to be water-resistant. But it is precisely its high degree of water tightness that makes a dive watch the best type of watch for fishing, in my opinion.

First of all, we need to understand that watchmakers define the level of water resistance only at a theoretical level. If a watch is labeled as “water-resistant to 50m”, it means that water seepage won’t occur as a result of the pressure of being 50m underwater if the watch and water are motionless.

But if there is movement on either part, then the pressure on the watch increases dramatically (which would explain why the manual for the “water-resistant to 50m watch” will state that it is only rated for swimming and not suitable for snorkeling or diving). If you were not aware of the definition above, you’d probably be asking “Why can’t I go snorkeling if the watch is water-resistant to 50m?”

The following water resistance ratings should help in understanding watch depth/usability (though, if strictly using a dive watch for fishing, you most likely will not have to be concerned with the higher ratings). ISO 6425 Certified ratings have been omitted as they are outside the scope of this post and our purpose (fishing). 

Dive Watch Water-resistance Ratings and Uses (all ratings are appropriate for fishing)

  • Water Resistant 50 meters/165 ft/5 ATM —  Showering, swimming, and other shallow-water activities.
  • Water Resistant 100 meters/330 ft/10 ATM — Poolside diving, recreational surfing, snorkeling, sailing and water sports.
  • Water Resistant 200 meters/660 ft/20 ATM — High impact water activity and surface diving/water sports.
  • Water Resistant 300 meters/990 ft/30 ATM — All activities listed above plus scuba diving

You will also find that diver watches have screw-down case-backs and crowns as opposed to the case-backs and crowns that ’push-down’ that are found on dress watches. The screw-down case-backs and crowns basically have the same effect as screwing the lid on a jar – it seals the watch case and helps in preventing water from seeping in through the edges.

Automatic, Battery or Solar Powered Watch?

Most diver watches you find today are automatic dive watches, or self-wind watches. An automatic watch uses the mechanical motion of your arm to wind up the mainspring and power its movement. Most of the dive watches on the market feature either a Swiss or Japanese movement. Both are excellent, with the Swiss having the edge in quality and the Japanese in affordability.

The advantage of an automatic watch for divers, anglers and everyone else is that you won’t need to worry about changing batteries ever since there are none. However, the stored energy created by a  fully-wound mainspring will normally last only a couple of days),  so you need to make sure that your watch is powered up before any dives.

There are also battery-powered (quartz movement), quartz hybrids (kinetic dive watches) and even solar (no battery change ever needed) dive watches available.  Modern quartz dive watches can keep time very accurately (in most cases more accurately than automatics) and batteries can usually last a very long time.

But, even so,  you will need to keep an eye on the battery end-of-life indicator to ensure that your watch has sufficient power for a dive. For most diver watches, the battery end-of-life indicator usually equates to seeing the second-hand jumping in 3 to 4-second intervals (please refer to the dive watches’ manual for specific details).

Watch Case & Band

As you can imagine, diver watches would definitely need to be corrosion-resistant if they are going to withstand the assault of prolonged use in water – even more so for marine diving and saltwater fishing.

As a result, watch cases are usually made out of materials such as stainless steel, titanium, ceramics, and plastics. The strap itself would normally be made out of metal, rubber, nylon and would need to be long enough to be worn around a diving suit sleeve. Most diver watches that come with a steel bracelet usually have a wetsuit extension that caters to divers.

But even though these watches are built with materials that are meant to last in harsh environments, it does not mean that you need not worry about your watch after each dive.

As a general rule, it is recommended that watches should be rinsed in fresh water after using them in seawater. Leaving diver watches overnight in fresh water is also a good method to help in protecting them from corrosion.

Additionally, when looking over the materials that diver watches are made of, you should also be aware of the size and weight of the whole watch. In general, diver watches are big because the watch case has to be thicker to withstand the higher pressure at lower depths.

Some watches, however, are so big (by design) that they might not actually fit under a shirt cuff – this is something to be aware of if you’re going to use diver watches for formal events.

Next, the weight of the watch is determined by the size and the materials the watch is made from (e.g. titanium is lighter than stainless steel). In the end, this bores down to a matter of  individual preference; some might prefer the look of watches made from stainless steel (with the added weight) while others might prefer diver watches made from synthetic materials because they are lightweight.

Rotating Bezel Watch

Diving watches usually have a rotating bezel. It is a disc around the face of your watch that is used to keep track of the dive time. As mentioned earlier, the bezel is one of the features made for dive watches that have been incorporated into and heavily used in other types of watches today.

However, regardless of how the bezel is being used in other watches, it is important that the bezel on diver watches is unidirectional and can only be turned anti-clockwise as this “fail-safe” feature eliminates the chance that the bezel is accidentally turned clockwise – which would effectively show a shorter elapsed time than in reality.

This could prove extremely dangerous if you are diving as it could make you think you have more time available underwater than you really have.

Watch Dials and Markers

The dials and markers on diver watches must be able to be read underwater as well as in low light conditions. For this purpose, watches usually have high contrasting dials and luminous markers with clearly visible hands (which are also luminous).

Another safety feature present in diver watches is that the second hand is made luminous as an indication to you that your watch is still working underwater. A non-functioning watch is not something you’d want to be ignorant of when you are diving.

Suitability for Saturation Diving

I am including this section on saturation diving mainly for educational purposes. These types of diving watches are great for the serious diver but are overkill for the average angler. But they do offer the highest degree of protection against water intrusion and there are some really good-looking watches in this category, so why not mention them.

Diver watches that are used for saturation diving usually come built with a gas release or escape valve to prevent pressure building up in the case from blowing the crystal off. This build-up of pressure is created as helium seeps into the watch in helium enriched environments (helium is used as part of the breathing gas mixture for saturation diving).

Besides the gas release valve, other diver watches feature a gasket that prevents helium from seeping into the case at all. You will be able to see these features in watches that are rated to be water-resistant from 300m to 1000m.

Dive Watch Styles

It is important that a diver watch looks good on your wrist! Let’s face it, many out there probably do not even touch the water – and considering how much some of those luxury dive watches cost, this is not surprising! However, you can bet that their owners are proudly showing them off to other people – who can blame them!

So whether it is at sea or in the boardroom, make sure that you are happy with the size, feel and overall look of your watch. Even if all you do is wear it to the office, you can be sure that your diver’s watch will still be reliable enough for a fishing adventure or an underwater dive while complementing your style.

Paying Up for a Good Dive/Fishing Watch 

As always, when buying diver watches (or any type of product for that matter), it always comes down to price and affordability. Luckily for us, today we have a vast selection of dive watches from which to choose  – from inexpensive watches that cost less than $200 to high-end models retailing for $2000 or more!

However, I would not recommend buying a diver’s watch that is cheap or a name brand knock-off.  My advice is to buy the best dive watch your budget and financial circumstances will allow. In doing so, you will have a watch that will last you through many seasons of fishing and bring you years of pride and joy.

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About Avid Angler

Dave "Avid Angler" Miller has been an author and contributor to Reel Adventure Fishing since its inception, going back to 2010. Dave has fished just about every freshwater and saltwater body from coast to coast and enjoys putting a lifetime of angling experience to use in helping others to become better anglers. In addition to penning featured posts, Dave also writes a good deal of our product reviews.

4 thoughts on “Why Dive Watches Make the Best Watches for Fishing

  1. Lloyd

    The only watches that I wear are dive watches… they’re simply the best you can have. Everyone I’ve had were made with great quality, lasted a long time, and looked like perfection. If you don’t already have one I highly suggest getting one.

    1. Dorado

      I agree, Lloyd. I wear mine almost everywhere. You can’t beat a good dive watch for quality and rugged good looks!

  2. David Mast

    I’ve had my eye on a good dive watch. I love the convenience of having a timepiece that I know can withstand my lifestyle. It’s an investment for sure but you can’t skimp on quality.

    1. Dorado

      So true, David! With watches, even more so than most other things, you get what you pay for. A good outdoor wristwatch that will last years is worth the investment in my opinion.

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