We are still in the midst of the biggest small-sized revival of the decade, so surely all the bargains have already been snapped up? With patience, you’ll find hidden gems from the late ’90s to the end of the ’00s. But with many of these having been big-watch years, finding small but tough neo-vintage dive watches should be nearly impossible, right?

We’re looking at the era of whopping Breitling Chronomats with rider tabs that could knock an enemy unconscious or 47mm Panerais overpowering the most muscular of wrists. But believe me, look closer, and you’ll find some pretty tough sports watches offering great value. And they’re all no bigger than 41mm — true story!

Small But Tough Neo-vintage Dive Watches

Image: Mornington Watches

TAG Heuer quartz bargains

Let’s kick things off with the Q word and its big-bargain power. If you don’t mind a solid Swiss quartz movement, TAG Heuer has a lot to offer for very little money and sometimes even less than €500. That’s a microbrand-low price for a solid Swiss sports watch, usually with an ETA quartz movement like the 2000 above. I do have a weak spot for the all-steel versions, especially the 2000 with the angular bezel.

Image: Kangkas

You will probably find most of them quite battered with a few dings and scratches, but they are serviceable tool watches with a strong reputation. If you decide to snorkel or dive with one, I would have it pressure tested unless it comes with a service record. But other than that, these are no-loss watches that will offer fun summer wristwear for a very low price. I’d go for the 38mm 2000 ref. WN1110-0 and put it on a bright yellow FKM rubber strap. Check out my Chrono24 search for TAGs under €1,000 and below 40mm in diameter. You just might find some surprises.

Image: AP Watches

Breitling SuperOcean

Today, we all know the pure diving intent of the Breitling SuperOcean series. But back in the 2000s, the brand only made big and blingy watches like the 44mm Chronomat and huge Avengers, right? I’ll let you in on a secret from the early 2000s. This was right before brands began telling us our dive watches had to be 44mm+ to make it down to 200 meters. Enter, the SuperOcean A17040 with a mineral crystal and A17340 with sapphire. These models come on a rounded, chunky steel bracelet or some with stitched leather straps, and they look awesome on colored FKM rubber for summer use.

Image: Creaf

The dial comes in blue, black, or orange with a design more reminiscent of a field watch. Big Arabic numerals mark the hours with an inner 13–24-hour scale and abundant text. And this is where the big surprise is: this sleek-looking 41mm watch had a 1,000m depth rating. But before you adjust the bezel timer with its classic tabs and strap it onto a submarine, make sure it’s had a pressure test. You can find this deep-diving treasure for less than €2,000, and that’s pretty good for a dive tool of such intent.

Small But Tough Neo-vintage Dive Watches

Image: WearingTime Luxury Watches

Omega Seamaster “Pre-Bond”

Thanks to the Seamaster 300M’s evolved design, even 20-year-old models look fresh and modern. But there’s an unsung hero out there. The so-called “Pre-Bond” Omega Seamaster 200 with an ETA quartz movement offers a massive bang for your dive-watch buck. These 38mm babes sometimes sell for less than €1,000 and are ready for the beach as long as they’ve been pressure tested. Honestly, though, there’s such a dressy-smooth quality to this design that I’d probably take it off on the beach.

Small But Tough Neo-vintage Dive Watches

Image: Pfandhaus VS

That’s especially true of the two-tone ref. 396.1062. The small case of this ’90s Seamaster is comfortably round with a bracelet containing plated and nugget-like middle links matching its gold-rimmed bezel. And it remains a very legible watch with the gold-on-gold dial, even if the lume will have faded to a weak state by now. This is possibly the last great Omega dive-watch bargain and a very tempting one.

Image: SwissWatchExpo

Cartier Pasha Seatimer

The dressy neo-retro bling of the Cartier Seatimer is not associated with dive watches or everyday tool wristwear. But have a look at this long-discontinued Pasha variant. If you like its round shape and chunky bracelet, you’re in for a bargain. You will find the black-dial version available for less than €2,000 and ready to go for the summer. It’s a super quirky design that offers great value, looking even more alien on the black rubber-coated bracelet.

Image: SwissWatchExpo

The movement will be a solid and serviceable ETA-sourced caliber. I’ll just offer one big piece of advice: make sure you check the length and condition of the bracelet. Extra links will be very difficult to source, and if the rubber coating is damaged, there’s nothing you can do. Check out some 40mm bargains here on Chrono24 because this circular French dive chic is well within reach.

Image: Catawiki

Montblanc Sport

The inspiration for this story on neo-vintage dive watches was the Montblanc Sport, a piece I recently encountered and tried on. It’s a forgotten watch by all means, but why is that? I think it’s mainly because it existed in a time before a massive social-media focus on watches and Montblanc as a brand. The 38mm small and chunky design is good but offers more polished details than today’s tool focus. You may debate whether the swoopy font was the right choice for a dive bezel, and how about the rather delicate feuille hands? But to me, these cheeky contrasts only make it more fun, and the big crown with its snow-capped top is a winner. So is the very well-made, chubby version of a three-row bracelet. A great example is this pristine one with a tonal silver dial on Chrono24 for €1,499.

Image: Uhren-Fan

You’ll find examples for less than €1,000 on Chrono24, with even a 41mm GMT (admittedly, not a dive watch) at €912. They were released back when Montblanc was still struggling with its image of making brilliant pens but not watches. These days, following the successful restart by the current Bremont CEO Davide Cerrato, Montblanc is accepted within the watch community. But back in the 2000s, it was a different story, and you might find the big “MEISTERSTÜCK” engraving on the case side a bit brash. I happen to love the watch’s small but chunky look. To be honest, the bracelet is sublime for the price as well. This one’s on my list.

What do you reckon, Fratelli? Are you up for some small neo-vintage wristwear? The look is more about polished perfection than all-brushed tool intent. But these nicely sized neo-vintage dive watches are tougher than they look. Let me know your sentiments in the comments below.