That old cliché “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” doesn’t tend to hold up well in the lightning fast era of the 21st century but, in this case, the Rolex Submariner is the exception that proves the rule.
Maintaining its iconic black dial, black rotating bezel, bold markers and Oyster case, the Submariner’s aesthetic has barely changed since its release in 1953. In fact, it’s pretty much credited with establishing this look as an easy go-to for watch newbies and collectors alike.
That being said, there’s always room for variety for the forward-thinking buyer and that’s why we’ve put together this list of 15 watches that look like the Rolex Submariner for under $1000 (most are actually under $500).
There Are Dive Watches… and then there are Dive Watches
Much like the original Rolex Daytona, the Submariner was not an instant success from the get-go. It began life as a serious dive watch for serious divers, a new tack for the brand which had focussed primarily on luxury watches until then.
After celebrity endorsements from the likes of Robert Redford, Sean Connery, and Roger Moore, the Submariner began catching the eyes of watch lovers who had never dived deeper than their bathtubs. Still, the Submariner has always doubled down on its utility and durability.
You don’t think so? Well, just look at the Submariner Steve McQueen gave to stuntman Loren James with an inscription that read ‘To Loren, the best damn stuntman in the world. Steve.’
This Submariner reportedly survived the bush fire that tore through Los Angeles in 2016 and destroyed James’ home and all of his Hollywood memorabilia.
Submariners are serious tool watches to this day but even some of its similarly-priced alternatives just wouldn’t make the cut for pro divers. Features like screw-in crowns and backs are necessary for anything more than snorkelling, no matter what the water resistance.
This is a vital piece of information to bear in mind, or else you could end up spending a lot of money on a watch that’ll look like the Antikythera mechanism in no time.
For that reason, in this list of watches that look like the Rolex Submariner, we’ll let you know which watches can really bear the brunt of the murky depths and which just look damn good on your wrist.
15 Of Our Favourite Rolex Submariner Lookalikes
- Casio Duro MDV-106-1AVCF
- Invicta Pro Diver 89260B
- Pulsar PG8293X1
- Pagani Submariner
- Loreo Automatic
- Orient ‘Mako II’ Automatic Diving Watch
- Parnis Submarine
- Citizen Eco Drive Promaster BN0150-28E
- Bulova Marine Star Date
- Victorinox Swiss Army Maverick
- Seiko 5 SNZF17K1
- Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Automatic
- Tissot Seastar
- Seiko Prospex SBDC051
- Longines HydroConquest Automatic
Casio, for all their reputation as ‘cheap’ watchmakers, make some of the highest quality budget timepieces out there. In this case, ‘Duro’ means ‘hard’ in Spanish and this watch is one of the toughest, well-made watches in this price range and a few ranges above. The 44mm case holds a reliable quartz mechanism, boasts 200m water resistance and has a date function on an impeccably clear dial.
We’ve not even hit $100 yet and already we’re looking at a watch with a seriously good automatic movement inside. Invicta are well known for their solid dive watches and this is most definitely one of them. If it’s aesthetics you’re after most of all, then the bezel alone is enough to make this a solid alternative to the Submariner.
Pulsar is a subsidiary of the famous Japanese watchmaker Seiko, so its movements are pretty dependable to say the least. In this timepiece we have a solar movement - that means no more buying batteries - behind a vintage domed crystal and quirky crenelated bezel. If you look closely, you’ll notice that it also has the wave-style machine working reminiscent of the Omega Seamaster’s dial too.
Pagani is a Chinese brand that specialises in homages but many a skeptic has been happily surprised by their build quality. It has to be said that the aesthetic is almost exactly that of the Submariner and it has the trusty Seiko NH35A movement inside, too. Add to that the robust synthetic sapphire crystal and this watch is an absolute steal for $99!
Seagull is the largest producer of watch movements in the world and they offer quality at a price smaller watchmakers can afford. This is why brands like Loreo can make reliable automatic homages like this one for just over $100. Oh, and they added a date window and cyclops lens at 3 o’clock just for a little panache.
Orient is a division of Seiko and they are well known for making excellent timepieces at very reasonable prices. On this watch, we have a sleek 41mm case with bold crown protectors, clear markers and a second hand tipped in the shape of a bloodied javelin. Add to the style, the fact that it has a reliable automatic movement with a 40 hour power reserve and a day-date function and you’ve got a great watch for the price.
There are countless videos online of watch reviewers absolutely gushing over this Chinese ‘homage’ brand. The ceramic bezel and sapphire crystal are examples of Parnis’ reliance on good materials and the automatic Miyota movement is added plus. In the case of the shamelessly-named Submarine, the aesthetics are right on brand too so you’ll have a watch to dress up or down without breaking the bank.
If ‘dependable’ is what you’re looking for then look no further than the Citizen. This solar watch is a formidable player in the diver game so it’s no surprise it comes in at a chunky 44mm. What makes it stand out—aside from that emergency red minute hand—are the date window and crown at 4 o’clock, which really tie off the ‘working watch’ aesthetic.
The Bulova Marine Star Date resides in the ‘dress-not-tool’ watch category but does so with an elegance beyond its price tag. The sleek 43mm case is large but would look very stylish on a wide wrist and the aluminum insert bezel is beautifully balanced. The fact that they eschewed the cyclops lens over the date window adds to the dressier look established by the cursive font of ‘Marine Star’ in the center.
Victorinox really is synonymous with build quality and precision. In this case, we have a dive watch with a screw-in case back, triple-coated anti-reflective sapphire crystal, and an end-of-life indicator to tell you when you need to change the batteries. Combine those technical specifications with a face that looks like a military medal and you’re onto a real winner.
The famous Seiko 5 line famously loved by newbies and aficionados alike because it has become a symbol of affordable quality since its inception in 1963. Its in-house automatic movement is world renowned and even though it only boasts 100m of water resistance, it comes with a 2 year warranty. What’s best about the SNZF17K1 is the subtly dark day date window at 3 o’clock, which is still highly visible behind the robust Hardlex crystal.
Hamilton makes some of the most stylish watches out there and this one, though perhaps a little more brash than their usual fare, is right up there. It sits close to the wrist for a dive watch, especially considering it’s got an automatic movement with an 80-hour power reserve! The contrast of bold colors with the smooth satin bracelet will catch the eye once and then have it darting back again and again to get a better look.
We’re climbing up the price brackets with this one but it really is worth it. Behind the sapphire crystal, you’ll find an elegant blue-black dial and reliable automatic movement with 80-hour power reserve packed into a 43mm case. What’s more, Seastar boasts 300m water resistance, meaning you could probably put it through its paces in the open sea.
I mentioned earlier that Seiko is one of the most trusted brands in the world and I love the Prospex for its almost vintage aesthetic in the coloring of its hour markers. It is perhaps one of the more understated divers on this list but it has an excellent in-house automatic movement and would look great under a shirt sleeve or splashing around in the waves.
A Longines of this quality at this price is truly remarkable. There are a number of features that make it stand out: the elongated crown protectors, the subtle ‘snowflake’ hour hand, the spark of red at the tip of the second hand and the sensation of a dark sunburst emanating from the central depths. And that’s not all the Hydroconquest boasts 300m water resistance and an impressive 64-hour power reserve for its automatic movement, too!
So, What Is The Best Submariner Lookalike?
Well, it kind of depends why you’re in the market for a dive watch in the first place.
If you’re looking for a watch that could really be put through its paces in the water and catch people’s eyes on a night out then I wouldn’t look any further than the Longines Hydroconquest Automatic.
The sheer build quality and mechanics of this watch put it ahead of the curve in this list and more than justify its heftier price. What’s more, it’s just a beautiful timepiece that you can dress up or down, making it a versatile addition to any wardrobe.
If, as many people are, you are more interested in dive watches for their ruggedness and you want a watch that you can wear while doing any kind of sport and just forget about it, then I’ll send you right back to the start of the list with the Casio Duro.
Everything about the Duro screams resilience, from the chunky strap to the solid crown protectors. Even though, at that price, you probably wouldn’t mind if it didn’t last too long anyway. What I like most about it is the legibility of the dial, bezel and even the small date window at 3 o’clock.
We hope that this list has helped you find the right Submariner alternative for you. Get in touch with B on Instagram to let him know which one you’ve gone for!
If, on the other hand, you’re looking to spend a little more to get a little more then don’t miss our accompanying article 12 Watches The look Like The Rolex Submariner For Under $10,000.