Of the eye-watering embellishments added by luxury watchmakers to their watches (and there are a few), one that can leave consumers completely non-plussed is the definition of ‘water-resistant’. When you look at the back of a dressy Swiss watch and see that it says ‘water-resistant 30 metres’ on it, you could be forgiven for assuming you could do some entry-level scuba diving with it on your wrist – if you really wanted to. But not only would you be mad to consider it, you’d also ruin your watch.
Because most (not all) wristwatches claiming to be water-resistant anything up to 50 metres really aren’t very water-resistant at all. They might be good for getting caught in the rain and maybe, maybe for wearing in the shower (although, why?). But a lot of them you shouldn’t get wet at all. And in fact, if you want a watch you can do anything more than a bit of light-snorkelling in, you need a watch citing 200 metres water resistance on it.
So, with that in mind, here’s a list of the five best watches for swimming in the sea – whether you’re taking a quick dip, snorkelling, diving or falling absent-mindedly into a pool. It’s up to you.
1. Tudor Black Bay S&G
Tudor’s diving credentials are impeccable, but that’s not strictly why we’re here. Yes, the Black Bay is based on a Tudor diver’s watch first seen in 1954, but the reason for plucking this ‘S&G’ version from the pool is because it’s got trend-hit written all over it. In keeping with the current invasion of all things Seventies into our wardrobes, this update to the steel and gold (hence the name) version of the smash-hit Black Bay has a raffish champagne dial, a complement to the gold bezel and crown detailing. On that versatile, tightly woven golden green fabric strap, it’s voguish and practical – with 200 metres water resistance. Think of it as a double dip.
£2,720, shop now
2. Ball Watch Engineer Master II Skindiver II
We’ve not said much about Ball Watch here previously, which is in part an oversight and in part because it’s very easy to be put off by the names of its watches, this model being a case in point. Looking past the fact it may be the only watch in the world with the same Roman numeral in the name twice, what we have here is a robust, well designed, Swiss Made (the company was originally American) diver’s watch boasting 500 metres water resistance and a retro steel bracelet. It’s also shock-resistant to 5,000 Gs and anti-magnetic to 4,800A/m, and has an automatic helium escape valve, useful were you ever to consider upgrading your summer holiday diving hobby to a profession.
£2,260, shop now
3. NOMOS Glashütte Ahoi Automatic
Hard to imagine a Swiss company brave enough to call its most tool-like watch ‘Ahoi’, and even more to sell it as a ‘swimming watch’, as German outfit NOMOS Glashütte did when it first launched this watch. These days, it talks about the Ahoi as a ‘stormproof’ sports watch, which feels about right. In the flesh, it has plenty of gravitas and much more heft than the rest of the brand’s elegant, day-wear watch designs. It’s water-resistant to 200 metres (while still managing a sapphire case back – once unthinkable in diving watches but increasingly common these days) and comes on a ‘waterproof’ textile strap.
£2,980, shop now
4. Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Acciaio – 42mm
I was introduced to this watch on launch last year in the company of a man I know to be a watch collector of some taste and means. He took one look at it and said: ‘That’s a Submariner killer, I’m telling you.’ I couldn’t agree with him, at least not in a literal sense. I struggle to see Rolex quivering at the launch of anything in the same bracket as its iconic diver’s watch. But if allowed to interpret him metaphorically, I’d be more inclined to agree. Panerai’s Luminor Submersible has always been a great-looking watch, an icon in its own right, but for too long it’s been far too big. Shrunk down to 42mm, it makes so much more sense and becomes a real contender. Steel on a concertina rubber strap with a three-day power reserve in-house movement, and good for 300 metres water resistance.
£7,500, shop now
5. Tissot Seastar 1000 Powermatic 80
Tissot’s latest diver’s watch delivers what you’d expect of the Swiss brand – a no-nonsense piece of design with an impressive roster of functions for a distinctly reasonable sum. In this case, you get a uni-directional rotating bezel with a scratch-resistant black ceramic bezel, an automatic mechanical movement with an 80-hour power reserve, and water-resistance to 300 metres. The gradient blue dial is a nice aesthetic touch, while the rubber strap and crown protectors are practical additions that will serve you well when the sea is simply too good not to dive into.
£545, shop now