Scuba diving is an immensely popular recreational sport in spite of the inherent dangers it has. Thanks to the many innovations and advancements of dive equipment over the years, a scuba diver can drastically reduce the chances of getting into an accident or survive one if they do find themselves in that predicament.
The most common mistake beginner divers make is surfacing too quickly, causing decompression sickness that is not only painful, but life-threatening. The physiological effects on one’s body increases the deeper one dives underwater, and therefore careful monitoring is required to keep these effects to a minimum.
That is why a reliable dive watch with depth gauge can be helpful to track not only the duration of one’s current dive, but also the depth. Both the time spent underwater and depth are important variables to help calculate decompression time required at given depths.
Why Use a Dive Watch with Depth Gauge?
It is a Matter of Life and Death
One of the first things you’ll learn in your Open Water course is the effect of breathing compressed air underwater. On land, the air we breathe is composed of 79% nitrogen and only 21% oxygen. The compressed air you bring along also has the same composition. The difference is that, while underwater, the pressure affects how much nitrogen your body absorbs.
Specifically, the deeper you dive, the more nitrogen you will absorb, throwing the balance out of whack. Too much nitrogen consumption results in nitrogen narcosis, which is what happens when you are slowly suffocating to death – you will feel drowsy and find yourself in a stupor. In order to avoid this, divers must eventually surface to release the excess nitrogen in their body, but surfacing too quickly leads to another issue: decompression sickness.
When the nitrogen in your body is released too quickly, bubbles can form in your tissues and blood. This will not only feel extremely uncomfortable, but can cause you to lose consciousness while underwater. If you do not have a dive buddy looking out for you, then this can be fatal.
You must be able to track the depth and duration of their dive in order to calculate using decompression tables how much decompression time is needed to safely surface. Your body needs a precise amount of time to adjust when ascending from a dive, and you don’t want to spend more time underwater than you need to, so this calculation is vital.
Thus, it is very important to measure the duration and depth of your dive by using a dive watch with depth gauge.
With that said, these calculations are done automatically and on-the-fly by watch dive computers these days. However, many divers still prefer the old-fashioned way of diving with a mechanical depth gauge, even if it is relegated to a back-up watch.
Lastly, you don’t even need to be a diver to wear a dive watch. Have you seen just how beautiful they look? Dive watches wouldn’t look out of place whether you are relaxing at the beach or sitting in a boardroom meeting. Plus, there are many practical applications for tracking elapsed time on land such as timing how long of a break you wish to take, how long something should be left in the oven, and so on.
Best Dive Watches with Depth Gauge Recommendations
Citizen Eco-Drive Men’s Promaster Aqualand
The Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Aqualand makes quite the statement on your wrist, and it is built like a brick wall. What’s more, it is absolutely beautiful, highly durable, and it doesn’t even have a battery.
That’s right, with Citizen’s Eco-drive technology, the Promaster Aqualand absorbs solar/light energy so that it is constantly recharging. Other dive watches that run on batteries must be sent to an authorized technician in order to get it replaced which is time-consuming and costly. This dive watch, however, can run for over 6 months on a single charge. As we mentioned, it is always recharging, so this hypothetical scenario would never happen anyways.
As for diving features, there is lots to love as well. The Eco-Drive Promaster Aqualand is water-resistant up to 200m (660ft), with a depth display of 70m. It has luminous indices and bright hands which show up brightly at night or underwater.
Next, it features a unidirectional rotating bezel, screw-down crown and case back, polyurethane straps, and pushers. This dive watch has a 10h pusher reset and 8h pusher maximum depth, with a power reserve indicator and auto start dive modes. You can find the date on the 3 o’clock position.
Lastly, this watch has numerous safety features such as a rapid ascent alarm to alert you when you are ascending too quickly. This reduces the chance of experiencing decompression sickness. Furthermore, the Promaster Aqualand has a 6mm anti-reflective curved crystal which is highly durable and lets you read the watch clearly. The Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Aqualand is our top choice for best dive watch with depth gauge.
Casio G-Shock Frogman
If you are not a fan of analog watches and prefer a digital watch with a depth gauge, then consider the Casio G-Shock Frogman. As with all of the watches in Casio’s G-Shock line, this shock-resistant watch is praised for its resilience and robustness. One glance at it and you can tell this watch can easily survive many hits.
Despite its asymmetric shape and bulkiness, the Frogman is surprisingly comfortable and fits snug on the wrist. Its scratch resistant display is highly visible and provides a clear view to the display. Labels are printed clearly next to each button so that you can easily figure out what does what, and overall the watch is easy to use.
The Frogman has a depth display of 80m and is water resistant up to 200m (660ft). It is solar powered, so you never have to worry about changing out the battery or recharging it with a cable.
Many divers use the Frogman as their backup device in case their dive computer malfunctions. The reason is that it shares many features with a dive computer, such as depth gauge, temperature reading, and compass bearing. Furthermore, its robustness is valued by divers involved with rescue activities or marine research.
The depth gauge measures in 10cm increments up to 80m; the temperature sensor monitors changes in water temperature in 0.1 degree celsius increments; and the compass can track bearing in one degree increments and works even when slightly tilted. Lastly, the Frogman features an excessive ascent rate alarm to remind you not to ascend too quickly.
If you want a higher-end dive watch with a sophisticated, timeless look, then take a look at the Oris Aquis dive watch. This watch has a unique way of determining the wearer’s current depth. This Swiss watch runs calculations based on the “Boyle Mariotte Law” which has to do with the relationship between volume of gas and pressure.
Specifically, it uses a tubule located around the dial with a small opening which lets some water in. As the diver descends, the water that enters through the opening gets compressed by the water pressure. Depending on how much water makes it inside and the amount of water pressure there is, the Oris Aquis can accurately determine your precise depth underwater, up to 100m.
Now that the nitty-gritty stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about some normal features. The Oris Aquis has an incredible water-resistance rating up to 500m (1650ft). In practical terms, it will be fine no matter how deep you take it. This watch has a sleek, stainless steel case with a stainless steel bracelet.
Next, like all good dive watches, it has a unidirectional rotating bezel that has a silver-tone and black ceramic top. The Aquis features automatic self-wind movement, and it has luminescent hands and markers. It has a black dial contrasted by silver hands, and all of this is clearly visible through its scratch-resistant, anti-reflective sapphire crystal.
Lastly, a watch this good deserves to be shown to the world. It wouldn’t look out of place whether you are 100m underwater with a thick drysuit on or dressed to the nines on a ballroom floor. The Oris Aquis isn’t something you keep in a glass display case, only to be worn for special occasions. It strikes the perfect balance between beautiful, durable, and functional. If you have the funds for it, you deserve a dive watch like the Oris Aquis.
Nowadays, the usefulness of a dive watch, even one with a depth gauge, is starting to wane due to the rising popularity of affordable watch dive computers. The reason for that is dive computers are basically like your personal assistant on a dive. They will handle all of the annoying calculations for you and alert you about important reminders.
If you are not a fan of decompression tables and having to track all of this data on a dive, a dive computer like the Cressi Leonardo will automatically record the data and store it in its internal memory. You can easily track your depth, elapsed time, and get alerts about your ascent rate. Using this data, the Cressi Leonardo can calculate the amount of deco stops you need to safely surface.
This dive computer features an intuitive easy-to-use interface that can be operated using only two buttons. What’s more, the Leonardo is available at an affordable price and provides numerous diving modes such as Air, Gauge, and Nitrox. The downside of dive watches vs. dive watch computers is that dive computers are not nearly as good looking, and some may even be too bulky to be worn out of the water.
You can read our full review of the Cressi Leonardo here.
Digital Dive Watches with Depth Gauge
You have the choice of getting either a mechanical watch or a digital watch with depth gauge. If you decide to go digital, you might consider getting a dive computer instead. Dive computers are highly advanced watches that not only track your dive depth and duration, but can calculate deco times on-the-fly.
Dive computers can record information about your dive and store it in their memory. The more times that you dive, the more complete a dive profile it can create for you. That means that its recommendations for deco stops gets more accurate and it further reduces the chances of getting decompression sickness. Dive computers have a whole host of features which you can read about in-depth here.
If you are adamant about getting a digital dive watch with a depth meter, then consider getting a watch from Casio. Their G-Shock series watches are some of the most durable on the market and you can’t go wrong with them.
How Does a Dive Watch with Depth Gauge Work?
A dive watch can monitor your depth using a sensor on the side of the case. The sensor is not tracking depth, but rather the water pressure. Based on the water pressure, it is able to accurately calculate the depth in feet or metres and display this number on the watch face with a designated hand.
Some manufacturers may have their own proprietary way for their dive watches to calculate depth. For example, the Oris Aquis uses a small tube wrapped around its crystal with a tiny opening that lets water enter. Based on how much water enters this opening, the watch can calculate the diver’s depth. How they manage to do that is anybody’s guess, but apparently it works. Isn’t math just wonderful?
Even though a dive watch with depth gauge is made redundant with the popularity of advanced watch dive computers, you can still decide to get one if you don’t trust a dive computer’s calculations. Dive watches are a traditional way for old-fashioned divers to monitor their dive, and they work just fine. What’s more, dive watches typically have a deeper depth rating than many entry-level dive computers.
Lastly, dive watches just look so good on anybody’s wrist. Not all dive computers look as sleek as a traditional watch. There is something timeless and elegant about their appearance. Even if you have never been on a dive nor plan on diving in the future, you can easily wear a dive watch as your daily timepiece. It wouldn’t look out of place at the beach or in a formal setting, and you can get some very good ones for under $500.
As you might imagine, they are more than able to withstand rain or showers. You can even take it with you on your outdoor adventures, whether you are swimming, kayaking, boating, it will withstand just about anything you throw at it.. The standard depth rating of these devices is 200m (660 ft), so water damage will never be an issue.
If you’re certain you want one, the best dive watch with depth gauge will have the reliability and quality to last you for years.