RJ’s 7 Rolex Submariner Killers For Under 5K
Rolex Submariner Killers sounds a bit aggressive, but this is by no means meant to slaughter one of the most famous diving watches in the world. And it is also not meant to get the Submariner out of your head. If you want it, get it. But if you have a budget of €5,000 (~ $6K USD or CHF5,5K Swiss Francs), it is virtually impossible. The retail price of the Submariner is €7,700 and €8,700 for the Submariner Date. So what are the alternatives? Are there alternatives?
Sure there are! Either in terms of specifications or in looks, but also keep in mind what I wrote above. If you really want a Rolex Submariner, there’s no alternative. But then you’re also buying into the story of the Submariner, and perhaps the perception of its brand name. And sure, that does count. I had my share of Rolex Submariner watches but didn’t keep a single one. I am more of a Sea-Dweller (ref. 16600 and previous references). But the thing is, they are also above the budget I set for this article. So what’s out there that can be considered proper (because the Rolex Submariner definitely is one) diving watches for under €5,000? I have compiled a list of 7 Rolex Submariner alternatives together with my colleagues this morning over a coffee. Let’s see.
7 Rolex Submariner Killers
So you want a dive watch like the Submariner, or at least with the same or better specifications. Meaning a solid movement, a diving bezel, 300 meters of water resistance, and just like the Submariner, you can opt for a date (or not). I have gathered a few watches with proper brand recognition as well as similar or better specifications, and a few under the radar pieces that have similar specifications, and maybe a great story to tell on top.
Omega Seamaster Diver 300M
How can’t I start with the main competitor to Rolex, and probably the main competitor to the Submariner? This model was introduced in 1993 and didn’t rely on any existing model or heritage. Yet it grew out to be the bread and butter piece for Omega. Unfortunately, the full steel on steel model is not available anymore under €5,000, but the version on a rubber strap is €4,800. I had the 300M in black/Sedna gold on a rubber strap for a while, and I enjoyed wearing it a lot. A great piece and definitely a deserved spot in this overview of 7 Rolex Submariner killers. Click here for my review on the 300M on a rubber strap. The Seamaster 300M (reference 126.96.36.199.04.001 is pictured above) has a 42mm case diameter, a ceramic bezel, and dial, and houses Omega’s caliber 8800 movement. A Master Chronometer certified movement that also ensures your watch is anti-magnetic to > 15,000 gauss.
Tudor Pelagos LHD
If you enter a Rolex boutique or authorized dealer and tell them about your budget and wishes, they will direct you to Tudor. Tudor is part of Rolex as you know, and until 2012 or so, it was a bit in the shadow of its bigger brother. That changed with the introduction of the famous Heritage collection. The Heritage Chrono, Black Bays, and of course the Pelagos. I remember seeing the Pelagos for the first time, and it reminded me a bit about the — then — discontinued Sea-Dweller 16600. Like a modern interpretation of that watch. Anyway, a few years later Tudor introduced the LHD version, with the crown on the left side of the case. Somehow I always was under the assumption it was a limited edition, but our quest for 7 Rolex Submariner killers taught me something new. It still is in the current collection. A 42mm case made of titanium, an in-house caliber MT5612-LHD movement (chronometer certified), and a retail price of €4,320.
Breitling SuperOcean OuterKnown
A brand that mainly focuses on sports watches and has a rich history when it comes to diving watches. I could also have opted for a SuperOcean Héritage on a mesh bracelet, but I think this OuterKnown edition has some cool things to offer as well. The retail price of €4,100 is below our set budget. The steel case measures 44mm in diameter and has a lug-to-lug of 53mm. This is not a small watch, but the specifications also aren’t small. It has a water resistance of 1000 meters! The movement inside is a Breitling caliber 17, which is based on the ETA2824-2. Sure, some others have in-house movements in this list of 7 Rolex Submariner killers, but only “in-house” doesn’t say much about the performance or quality of a movement unless it’s certified or meets specific standards. Anyway, Breitling’s caliber 17 is chronometer certified. The NATO strap on this watch is called Econyl and made from recycled fishnets and other stuff floating in the ocean. If you don’t like it, you can add one of Breitling rubber straps.
Oris Aquis Date Caliber 400
Did you know that the Aquis is Oris’ best-selling watch? It always has been a great diving watch for a very fair price (under €2K). Last year, Oris decided to go “manufacture” on it and came up with its caliber 400 movement. An in-house developed movement that has something to add to the table, compared to the Sellita based movements that are used for the Aquis collection. Caliber 400 has a power reserve of 120 hours, is anti-magnetic up to 2250 gauss, and has a stricter regulated movement than a chronometer certified one. -3/+5 seconds per day on average, as opposed to the COSC standard of -4/+6 seconds per day on average. The thing is, the Aquis Date Caliber 400 is not certified by COSC or other organizations. But, they do guarantee that it performs in this bandwidth and offer a 10-year warranty on the watch. And its accuracy. Aside from that, the watch is — of course — water resistant to 300 meters and comes on a very solid stainless steel bracelet. A date window can be found at 6 o’clock. Ben wrote an incredibly nice article on this 43.5m steel Aquis Date Caliber 400 here. With a retail price of €3,000, I still wonder a bit how they can offer a 10-year warranty.
Seiko Prospex “Marinemaster 300” SLA021J1
We’ve written tons of articles on this Prospex SLA021J1 and its variations. It is one of our favorite diver watches out there and deserves a spot in this overview of 7 Rolex Submariner killers for sure. It is partly specifications drive, because of its monobloc 44.3mm case, water-resistance of 300 meters, and the 8L35 movement that is based on a Grand Seiko 9S55 caliber. But also because of its looks, with its Zaratsu polished shiny parts and nicely brushed lugs and bracelet. I know that some people will just respond “But it’s a Seiko”. But that seems to become a bit of a Pavlov response to the brand name by some. I will bet that none of them ever held one of the Marinemaster 300 watches or more recent equivalents in their hands. It is an impressive watch and the Marinemaster 300 SBDX001 actually convinced me back in 2015 how good Seiko really is. The retail price is €3,200.
Doxa Sub 300 Carbon
About two months ago, Balazs wrote about the new Doxa Sub 300 watches made of carbon. This light-weight and strong material isn’t new to watchmaking, but Doxa decided to use it for its iconic Sub 300 collection. The case diameter of the Sub 300 Carbon is 42.5 but the height is “only” 13.4mm. Inside, we’ll find the same movement as in the Breitling SuperOcean, the ETA2824-2 with chronometer certification. The Sub 300 has, as its name suggests, a water resistance of 300 meters. The Doxa Sub 300 goes all the way back to 1967, so using a carbon case adds a bit of modernity to the watch. Doxa offers the Sub 300 Carbon in a variety of colors, and the retail price is €3,790.
Longines Legend Diver
One of the few things the Legend Diver has in common with the Submariner is its water-resistance of 300 meters. But, I do think it is an interesting watch to consider if you want something that doesn’t look like the average diver’s watch. The inside diving bezel is operated by the extra crown on this super compressor case. Longines has a wonderful heritage and this Legend Diver has been a model they’ve re-issued many years ago already. First in only two versions, like the Submariner with and without date, and later on in all sorts of dial variations. These are all with a date aperture though. There’s also a bronze version of the Legend Diver, which has no date. This brown dial version of the Legend Diver is a very attractive looking piece, but also has some professional divers specifications on top. The retail price of the Legend Diver is very friendly, at €2,260. And that’s the main killer aspect of this watch.
Other Rolex Submariner killers
The list of mechanical divers watches is endless. The brands mentioned have more than one diver model in their collections, but I want to stick to one watch per brand. During the compilation of this list of Rolex Submariner killers, I noticed that some of the classic alternatives are not available anymore under 5K Euro, as everything tends to get more and more expensive these days. The interesting thing to realize is that the Rolex Submariner killers can often be had a little bit cheaper than its retail price, but the Rolex Submariners themselves are not even available through official channels. The Submariner almost forces you to either go pre-owned or dive into the world of grey market offerings. And that’s a pity. If you really want a Rolex but not prepared to shell out over 10K for a Submariner on the (grey or pre-owned) market, consider a Sea-Dweller 16600. You can find them for around retail of a Submariner, and I think it looks nicer too. But that’s personal, of course. Let us know what you’re favorite diver’s watches are!