Vintage divers are hot as hell right now if the skyrocketing prices — on everything from old Seikos to Rolex Submariners — are any indicator. They may have outlived their lives as useful underwater tools, aging gaskets being what they are, but their no-nonsense looks and slim, compact cases (compared to many of today’s hulking divers) have made them highly sought-after statement pieces. Fortunately, since recreational diving and the watch style became immensely popular in the ’60s and ’70s, every watchmaker under the sun seemed to be building divers, and you can still find lesser-known examples at a decent price. Here are three you can grab for under a grand.
What we like: Wittnauer was an interesting, albeit forgotten watchmaker. It was an American company that dabbled in military and tool watches early in its life, and sourced movements from European makers. The succinctly named Diver here appears to be in great shape and features a 37mm case kept slim thanks to a hand-winding movement from German movement-maker Durowe. The black-and-red “coke” bezel is a stylish touch rarely seen on affordable dive watches like these, as are the blocky lume plots at twelve, three, six and nine o’clock.
From the seller: Mint, original condition with only minor signs of wear consistent with age and very light use. Sharp stainless steel case appears to be completely unpolished with the original finishes throughout. Original matte black luminous dial; nice original hands with all luminous material present and intact.
Rado Captain Cook
What we like: This Captain Cook is a great example of the cushion-cased, internal-bezeled dive style that became popular in the 1970s. The internal countdown bezel is control via the secondary crown at four o’clock, and the deep red and aged tritium markers pair so well with the inky black dial. This one even comes with its original bracelet.
From the seller: Signed Rado rolled link bracelet with spring loaded stretch deployment clasp, would fit up to 7.50-inch wrist. Recently fully serviced and offered with our 1 year warranty of accurate timekeeping and operation.
Bulova Accutron Deep Sea
What we like: Bulova’s myriad of 666-foot divers from the ’60s and ’70s are becoming incredibly popular with collectors these days, and this Accutron “Deep Six” is particularly interesting. It doesn’t use a mechanical movement, rather an electronic (though non-quartz) module with a smooth, sweeping seconds hand. Like the Wittnauer above, this watch comes with a red-and-black bakelite (!) bezel, as well as a cross-hair dial that gives the watch unmistakable retro charm.
From the seller: This stainless steel 1970 watch measures 40mm. and has a pristine red and black bakelite bezel. The original dial and hands have taken on a vintage patina. The stainless steel screw-back case is without any major dings or scratches. The Bulova Accutron electric movement is keeping accurate time.