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Five Cheaper Alternatives to the Rolex Submariner

It's tough to beat the original, but these dive watches might scratch the itch.

want this get this rolex sub gear patrol lead full
Rolex

There’s nothing quite like the original Rolex Submariner, but with a base price of $8,100 (in steel and without a date display), even the most affordable iterations of it remain out of reach for many aspiring owners.

The iconic dive watch is handsome and versatile, with a balance of conservative and sporty design. So any alternative should offer similar qualities without feeling like a knockoff. For a worthy alternative, you want something that offers a comparable wearing experience.

Why Is the Rolex Submariner so Iconic and Coveted?

rolex
Hunter Kelley

The Rolex Submariner is the prototypical dive watch and is often seen to embody many qualities at once. More than any other single watch it represents Rolex as a brand, known the world over to stand for quality and prestige. The brand backs up that reputation with nearly unmatched products, but it also helps that the Sub can claim to be one of the OG dive watches and has countless celebrity endorsements.

The Submariner is made and priced like a luxury watch to begin with, but its status has been further boosted by the collector scene and even mainstream hype. This (along with other factors) has driven its actual price higher and availability lower. And people are weird in that the harder it is to get something the more they want it. So although the Submariner's base retail price is around eight grand, you'd likely have to pay even more to get one.

There are more reasons than ever to seek out a Rolex Submariner alternative, and the watch world is full of great dive watches to choose from. The following examples just might scratch that itch.

The Alternatives

Timex M79 Automatic

Timex M79 Automatic
timex.com
$279.00

  • Relatively affordable price
  • Looks a bit like a Submariner
  • Really cool bracelet

  • Non hacking movement
  • Accuracy isn't the best
  • Not exactly built to last a lifetime
  • Easily scratched crystal

If you just want the basic look of a Rolex dive watch on your wrist, well, that's what Timex is here to offer with the M79. With a water-resistance of 50m, this is no diver, and you shouldn't expect a high-end experience, incredible accuracy or a scratch-free crystal for this price from Timex. What you should expect, however, is a basic automatic movement and lot of Rolex cues from its dive-style bezel to its Mercedes-like handset and dot indices. Differences like its bracelet, which we like a lot, set it apart — and more color options will distinguish it even more.

  • Movement: Miyota 8205 automatic
  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Water Resistance: 50m

    Seiko Prospex “Sumo” SPB101

    Seiko
    Seiko Prospex “Sumo” SPB101
    hodinkee.com
    $850.00

    • Strong value for a solid dive watch
    • Solid lume

    • Pretty big at 45mm
    • Bracelet clasp feels a bit flimsey

    One of Seiko’s nicknamed models, the “Sumo” has a traditional look compared to many of the Japanese brand’s often quirky dive watches. It differs from the Submariner in small details like its handset and bezel markings, as well as in more substantial ways, such as its case shape and 4 o’clock crown. Of course, it’s got an in-house automatic movement, as well. The overall impression, however, is of a classically styled modern dive watch that offers something like a Submariner feel. Dot indices look particularly “Rolex,” but as with all Seiko watches, its own character becomes apparent on the wrist.

    • Movement: Seiko 6R35 automatic
    • Diameter: 45mm
    • Water Resistance: 200m

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      Oris Divers Sixty-Five

      Oris Divers Sixty-Five
      oris.ch
      $2,200.00

      • Nice size at 40mm
      • Thin case

      • Only water-resistant to 100m
      • Doesn't come in a traditional black-and-white dial version

      If the Submariner you have in mind is less of a modern SKU and more of a vintage reference like some of the early examples, try the Oris Divers Sixty-Five. It's clearly got a throwback feel with its lack of crown guards, and its 40mm sizing will help it feel even more like a vintage watch. (A 100m water resistance is less than most modern dive watches, but it'll be sufficient for swimming — and is roughly consistent with the first Submariner of 1953.) It also looks great on a strap, but it'll have even more "Sub" vibes on its Oyster-like bracelet.

      • Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic
      • Diameter: 40mm
      • Water Resistance: 100m

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        Monta Oceanking

        Monta Watches
        Monta Oceanking
        montawatch.com
        $2,140.00

        • Refined design and finishing
        • Recalls Rolex quality without aping the look
        • Elaboré grade higher-end automatic movement

        • Often sold out
        • Crown could feel sturdier when winding/setting

        Monta interprets Rolex not as a specific look but as the concept of a perfect, refined tool watch. This has informed the brand’s entire approach and lineup, including the Oceanking dive watch. Your Submariner alternative doesn’t have to look like a Submariner if it feels like one in certain key ways. Monta isn’t exactly offering in-house movements at this price point, but it is offering an incredibly strong value, with a refined diver that punches well above its weight.

        • Movement: Sellita SW300 automatic Elaborè Grade
        • Diameter: 40.7mm
        • Water Resistance: 300m

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          Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight

          Tudor
          Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
          tudorwatch.com
          $3,375.00

          • Palpable quality
          • Ideal proportions at 39mm
          • Incredible value
          • In-house automatic movement

          • The "snowflake" hour hand is polarizing
          • Doesn't come in a traditional black-and-white dial version

          Tudor is Rolex’s own alternative to Rolex watches. As a corporate sibling to the mighty Crown, Tudor makes watches of extremely high quality, just at a lower price point. With in-house-made, COSC chronometer-certified Tudor movements, the Black Bay collection has long been a worthy Rolex surrogate — but the Black Bay Fifty-Eight hits even closer to the ideal mark with its 39mm case size.

          • Movement: Tudor MT5402 automatic
          • Diameter: 39mm
          • Water Resistance: 200m

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