The Rolex Submariner is perhaps the most recognizable watch in the entire world and, for that reason, often the most imitated (and counterfeited).
Why the fame? Well, it’s because it was the first-ever dive watch created and that it remains the best diver on the market at this price.
The Rolex Submariner has been the torch-bearer of style and technical expertise in the realm of dive watches and beyond since its conception in 1953. However, you wouldn’t be here looking for one of its similarly-priced peers if you just wanted to read about how magnificent the Submariner is.
So, we’ve put together this list of 12 Rolex Submariner alternatives for under $10,000 with an eye for highlighting how some of its peers are its equal or – dare I say – superior.
A Brief History Of The Rolex Submariner
Originally, Rolex watches were seen more as novel pieces of jewelry than functional timepieces. They were seen as notoriously unreliable and too delicate for anyone other than a sedentary “Lady of Leisure” to wear.
All of this changed in the 1950s thanks to Public Relations Director, René-Paul Jeanneret. Under his direction, Rolex began making serious tool watches since he was an avid scuba diver. Not to mention his good friend was renowned diver and filmmaker, Jacques Cousteau.
Not long before, Cousteau and gas engineer Emile Gagnan invented the Aqua-Lung. The beauty of the Aqua-Lung was that it increased the length of time divers could remain underwater.
This came as a result of Cousteau being part of the Underwater Research Group for the French Navy. This would become integral to the invention of the first real dive watch to undergo serious test conditions.
And said watch was not the Submariner. Instead, two French naval “Combat Swimmers” created the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. The watch actually came out a few months before the Submariner! As it happens, it’s still a serious dive watch on this list at a lower price than its more famous peer. Ouch!
If this little anecdote shows us anything it’s that the Rolex is not the only decent dive watch out there. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 12 best Rolex Submariner alternatives for under $10,000.
Our Favorite Rolex Submariner Alternatives
- Oris ProDiver Date
- Oris Aquis
- Tag Heuer Aquaracer
- Breitling Heritage II
- Tudor Heritage Black Bay
- Tudor Black Bay
- Omega Seamaster 300
- IWC Aquatimer Expedition Jacques Costeau
- Bremont Supermarine S500
- Omega Seamaster 300m
- Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape
- Panerai Submersible
Let’s kick off the list with a serious tool watch that incorporates technical necessities into a beautiful design. At 43.5mm the case is definitely for the bulkier wrist but since it’s made of titanium the weight reduction more than compensates for its size. Added to that are those stylish wolf-tooth hour markers, Seamaster-inspired machine working on the dial and the detail of the screws on the bezel.
If the fierce predator-esque style of the ProDiver isn’t for you then Oris offers an equally impressive version in subtler tones. The Aquis uses a modified automatic Sellita movement, maintaining its reliability at a depth of 300m. Since it also has a date function, the Aquis is an excellent overall choice and stellar value for money at this price.
The Aquaracer looks like somebody took the very best of 80’s aesthetic, modernized it and added a 2021 engine to its core. Everything about the look of this watch is exciting: its twelve-sided ceramic bezel, the lateral machine working on the dial and the metronome style of the second hand gliding over it. Again, we have a date window here on a watch that has the same water resistance as the Submariner Date but at around $7000 cheaper!
When you think of Breitling you normally imagine big aviator watches with dials busier than 5th Avenue but the Heritage II couldn’t be more different. The dial is extremely clear and the bezel combines utility with a rugged delicacy. What’s more, the screw-down crown is a sign that this is a serious dive watch and it’s a COSC certified chronometer, too!
Tudor is a subsidiary of Rolex and uses nothing less than their finest in-house movements. Just like the Submariner, it was a French Navy watch in the 1970s and the Heritage Black Bay hearkens back to that era with its vintage style. If the bezel-strap combo wasn’t enough to sell this watch then the domed sapphire crystal and 70 hour power reserve definitely should!
Then again, if the vintage look isn’t your thing then you can get all of the benefits of the Heritage in the modern Black Bay too. At 41mm it’s the same size as the Submariner but it ‘only’ boasts 200m water resistance. That being said, it’ll hold its own in the sea or the office and it’s barely half the price of the Rolex.
The Omega Marine was, in fact, probably the first-ever dive watch but the Seamaster has far surpassed it in terms of being the face of the collection for Omega. The detailing on the dial and the way the case curves to the lugs make this one seriously stylish watch that you can dress up or down as you like. However, it’s also an impressive tool watch that even includes a helium escape valve, just in case you decide to spend a few days at insane depths.
The connection with Jacques Costeau is certainly a selling point here but it’s hard to deny that the Aquatimer is an exceptionally stylish watch, too. It has an internal rotating bezel, which helps avoid any mishaps with calculating dive time and this is reminiscent of its inspiration, the classic Aquatimer released in 1967. It certainly diverges from the Submariner’s aesthetic but it is, without doubt, a contender for the crown and significantly cheaper, too.
Bremont has an aviation pedigree, which is borne out by the reference to the Supermarine Spitfire, but they’ve been steadily branching out into many other extreme sports and endeavors over the past few years. They can do this because their watches survive the toughest conditions out there and the Supermarine, with its screw-in back, offers an incredible 500m water resistance (which has been tripled under test conditions). The curved metal strip leading to the crown is both eye-catching and useful as it protects the diver’s hand from impacts from the crown.
If you enjoyed the vintage look on the Tudor then you’re bound to love this homage to the original Seamaster from 1957. Of course, it’s been kitted out with the top-of-the-range modern materials and an automatic COSC chronometer, too. It’s the ultra-clear face with the jagged hour markers that really gives it that vintage style though.
As promised, here we have one of the best-looking dive watches on the market and with a heritage that is literally second-to-none. What’s more, it comes in at 38mm so it will even look great on smaller wrists. The ceramic bezel and strap combination is the epitome of diver-style and the date window at 4:30 just gives it that extra bit of flare.
Panerai began life as the watchmakers of choice for the Italian Navy and they’ve been making timepieces that stand out for their quality as well as their visual impact ever since. The most notable feature is its trademark Luminor crown guard, which only became available for public wrists in the 1990s. With its ultra clear dial and the reserved touches of blue, the Submersible is a watch for divers and non-divers alike.
So, What Is The Best Submariner Alternative?
Well, if this list has demonstrated anything it’s that there’s very little to separate them in terms of their technology. So, let’s focus on style and whether or not you’re actually looking to dive with them.
First off, for the lycra-clad depth-explorers amongst you, I’d go with the Panerai.
Most of the watches on this list would easily survive the depths you’re likely to reach. However, I’d feel a whole lot safer knowing that Luminor crown guard was protecting my investment as well as my lungs from, you know, an annoying lack of oxygen.
Then again, if you’re more likely to get a coffee burn than the bends, I’d go with the Bremont.
Perhaps this is simply a question of personal preference but I’ll try to justify it. There are only a couple of reasons I can think of to go for a Submariner alternative and not the Submariner itself.
The first would be cost, which most of the watches on this list already qualify as ‘better’. The second is because I would want a watch fewer people have.
Although Bremont is becoming more and more popular thanks to the astonishing build quality for their price range, they’re not as instantly recognizable as a Rolex or the Fifty Fathoms. And yet, the crown placement and unique case shape really make it stand out.
Add to that the story behind Bremont, having been founded by pilots Nick and Giles English? Well, you’ve got an instant conversation piece that’ll keep even the least interested listener engaged for at least as long as it takes to drink a cocktail. Or, perhaps just a martini’s worth.
We hope that this list has helped you find the right Submariner alternative for you. Get in touch with us on Instagram to let him know which one you’ve gone for!