DON’T FEED THE HYPE: 6 alternatives to the Rolex Submariner

DON’T FEED THE HYPE: 6 alternatives to the Rolex Submariner

Zach Blass

It is finally time to tackle the Rolex Submariner. As a refresher for those who may not have seen previous entries in the Don’t Feed the Hype series, my goal is to provide readily available alternatives that provide a similar essence or merit to watches that have become increasingly unobtainable. It is my hope that these lesser discussed pieces can in many respects offer the same level of satisfaction as the actual watch in question. With the Submariner, there were too many obvious candidates that have repeatedly been discussed at length when this topic arises. So, I have switched up the format just a tad and will offer double the alternatives for your consideration – three “less obvious” alternatives and three “obvious” ones. Here are 6 Rolex Submariner alternatives…

6 Rolex Submariner Alternatives

Three less obvious choices:

Norqain Neverest ADVENTURE Glacier

This diver comes from budding independent Norqain, a brand that has built its status among enthusiast for delivering high-specs and value. The ADVENTURE Neverest offers something the Submariner never has, a white textured, nature-inspired dial that really catches the eye. Framed by a grey ceramic bezel, its “glacier” dial embodies the jagged crevasses of Khumbu Icefall – the most dangerous stage of the climb to Everest’s summit. The watch has comparable dimensions, coming in at 40mm in diameter, 12.55mm thick, and a wrist-welcoming 48.3mm lug-to-lug. Beneath the exhibition caseback you’ll find the COSC-certified manufacture calibre NN20/1, with 70 hours of power reserve. Fun fact: the NN20/1 shares the same architecture as the calibre found in the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight. The trade off, at less than half the price, is 100 metres less water-resistance, but for most people, 200 metres will be more than adequate. Price: starting at $3,240 USD

Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 41.5mm

Another value-driven independent, Oris and its Aquis Date watch is known for delivering a robust ceramic bezelled diver at an approachable price point. Previously only powered by a less glamorous Sellita movement, this new tier of the Aquis Date introduces the in-house calibre 400 that offers two days more power reserve than the 323X series movements in each of the Rolex Submariners. The Aquis Date has also cut back its larger dimensions and is now available in a 41.5mm case only half a millimetre wider than the current 41mm Rolex Submarienrs. Its 300 metre depth rating puts it right on par with the Submariner as well, so when you put the two head-to-head, spec-to-spec, the Oris Aquis Date calibre 400 41.5mm more often that not equates or surpasses what you find with the Submariner. Where it doesn’t stack up as well is its use of 316L stainless steel versus 904L stainless steel, and its bracelet clasp which does not have an equivalent to Glidelock extension. That being said, Oris offers the watch on rubber as well and you can quickly swap between the two at your leisure via its “Quick Strap Change” technology. The amazing thing, once again, is it comes in at less than half the price of a Rolex Submariner. Price: $3,500 USD on bracelet; $3,300 USD on strap

Glashütte Original SeaQ

Sometimes the best alternative to an iconic Swiss diver is to go in an entirely different direction. The Glashütte Original SeaQ diver is an off-the-beaten path option for those of you who want to own a diver you will likely not see as much at a watch gathering. According to Glashütte Original: “The SeaQ is inspired by the ‘Spezimatic Typ RP TS 200’, the first Glashütte diver’s watch. The shape of the case with polished facet is based on this original from 1969.” Owning this modern reinterpretation of Glashütte dive watch history has niche allure – it is a bit of a hipster option. Like the Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 41.5mm, though, if you were someone who missed out on the “Hulk” Submariner with its green dial and green ceramic bezel, this is an opportunity to get in on the desirable colour scheme. For those who enjoy classic dimensions, you’ll appreciate its compact 39.5mm diameter and 12.15mm thickness. If I am being honest, one Achilles heel of this alternative is the in-house 39-11 movement which only boasts approximately 40 hours of power reserve. While not the most attractive in technical performance, of the less-obvious candidates it wins aesthetically with its German pocket watch inspired architecture and finishing. The shame, however, is that the Glashütte three-quarter plate with stripe finish, swan-neck fine adjustment, bevelled edges, polished steel parts, and skeletonized rotor with double-G symbol are hidden beneath a solid engraved caseback – but at least you will know it is there. Price: $10,200 USD (incl. VAT)

Three obvious choices:

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight

6 Rolex Submariner Alternatives

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. If you want a vintage Submariner with modern technology the BB58 is the answer. Its compact 39mm case diameter, 11.9mm thickness, and 47mm lug-to-lug measurement, really suit any wrist that enjoys classic dimensions. The manufacture caliber inside boasts 72 hours of power reserve and an anti-magnetic silicon escapement, and Tudor regulates the movements to run well within COSC certification. Armed with 200 metres of water resistance and a screw-down crown, this was actually the watch I would wear from my own collection whenever I wanted to protect or preserve my own Rolex Submariner ref. 114060. If that doesn’t scream alternative, I do not know what does. Price: $3,700 USD on bracelet

Omega Seamaster 300M

6 Rolex Submariner Alternatives

If it is good enough for the modern James Bond, when a Rolex Submariner was worn in the preceding Connery era, then the Omega Seamaster is definitely an obvious Submariner alternative to consider. There is a wide variety of models to choose from, and as an alternative I wouldn’t disqualify any within the range. Whether the more compact Seamster 300, the Seamster 300M Professional, or even the No Time to Die Seamaster, all of the aforementioned are irrefutably worthy alternatives to consider. They all boast METAS certified Co-Axial calibers, ceramic bezels (aside from the No Time to Die), a greater variety in aesthetic, as well as a greater level of availability at retail. Do not buy, or more realistically queue up for, a Rolex Submariner without at least engaging with the Seamaster in the metal. Price: starting at $5,200 on a bracelet.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

Two dive watches were unveiled in 1953, the Rolex Submariner and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms – each of which fight for the claim of being “first”. For true enthusiasts of luxury dive watches, it is really a choice of one or the other in order to own one of the two watches that really birthed the category as we know it today. The modern Fifty Fathoms typically runs larger than the 41mm Submariner, coming in more commonly at 45mm in diameter and 40mm in limited edition runs. The sapphire capped bezels really stand apart from what other manufactures typically use for their own timing bezels, and Blancpain goes to greater length in dial manufacturing through mixed texture via a sunburst finished central medallion framed by an outer concentrically brushed hour and minutes track. The Fifty Fathoms can be cast aside by some buyers from the outset, due to its premium pricing, but the watch really offers a lot to like. Firstly, there are more colours and materials to choose within the Fifty Fathoms range – where aside from precious metal both steel and titanium are on the table. Secondly, there is the in-house caliber 1315 to consider, which boasts arabesque brushing to the bridges, incredibly well machined chamfers that look almost hand done, the longest power reserve of the “obvious candidates” at 120 hours, and an anti-magnetic silicon hairspring. While the priciest option on this list, its retail price is on par with what you would need to pay to get a Submariner on the secondhand market. Price: starting at $14,500 USD