When most people think about dive watches or just watches in general, they usually think of large, popular brands such as Rolex, Omega, Casio, Seiko, and many others.
We have already made several guides and reviews about the best dive watches available, so for today, we’ll do something a little bit different.
Today, we’re going to set out eyes on the best microbrand dive watches. Before we start with the round-up, I think it’s best that we first define what exactly is a microbrand watch.
What is a Microbrand Watch?
By definition, a microbrand is basically a small, independent brand. For microbrand watches, they are tiny-fledgling businesses that are generally run by watchmakers and craftsmen.
There are “larger” microbrands out there but they are mostly small-person companies that work with third-party manufacturers to bring their creations to life. There are microbrands that actually create their in-house movements but those are quite rare in the scene.
Microbrand designs are not exactly commercial but most of them are quite creative and can spark the interest of collectors who are looking for something exclusive and rare. The growth of crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter has made it possible for small companies to get their designs and ideas funded.
Some examples of early microbrand watches are the Timefactor’s Dreadnought or the OCEAN7 LM-1. However, it’s worth noting that most of the brands included in this list have expressed some distaste at the “microbrand” terminology.
Best Microbrand Dive Watches
Best Microbrand Dive Watches
|Farer Aqua Compressor Leven||316L high grade stainless steel, Satin sunray brushed top, Silver sunray dial, Oversized polished black steel hour hand, off-white Super-LumiNova, Natural black rubber strap, 30ATM water resistant, 2.2mm double curved sapphire crystal glass front, Solid bronze tapered crown for movement||★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Pantor Seahorse||Miyota 9015 Japanese automatic movement, 316L stainless steel with brushed finish, Sapphire crystal, Swiss C3 SuperLumiNova, 24mm with 15pcs links separately and 6 step micro adjustment, 40 hours power reserve||★ ★ ★ ★ ½|
|Spinnaker Bradner||Japan NH35 Automatic Movement with 3 Hands with Date, Stainless Steel, Waterproof Genuine Leather Strap, Tang Buckle, 18 ATM Water Resistance, 41 hours of power reserve, Swiss Super-LumiNova||★ ★ ★ ★|
|Vostok Amphibia||200 m (20 Bar) Water Resistant, Luminous hands and dots, Official supplier of watches for the Defense Department of the Soviet Union||★ ★ ★ ★|
|Unimatic U1-EM||Aluminium black bezel, Super-luminova lumed dot, Black matte stealth outline dial, Horween Cordovan Shell strap, Unimatic two piece design, NH35A automatic movement tuned to 21600bph, 41h power reserve, Brushed SS signed custom buckle||★ ★ ★ ★|
1. Farer Aqua Compressor Leven
Farer is a British company that has unveiled its first few models back in 2015. All of Farer’s timepieces and are notable for their 60’s inspired designs with a touch of the tropical. The Farer Aqua Compressor Leven is one of the three dive watches that the brand offers.
Modern Classic with a Colorful Touch
The 60’s aesthetic of the Leven is very apparent with its super-smooth silver sunray dial that adds a timeless elegance to the watch. The Leven features a steel cushion case with both brushed and polished elements. The polished ring is quite subtle but it looks great and is a testament to Farer’s attention to detail.
Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the Leven is its dial. From the burnt orange minute hands to the baton’s square color blocks teal edge, there’s a surprising pop of colors present in the dial. At the same time, the watch looks like a mature, classic dive model and will only look out of place for dressier formal outfits.
As for many dive watches, the legibility on this watch is top notch. The minute markings and hands are treated with the Super-LumiNova illumination which not only looks great but functional as well. The split color bezel is a nice touch with a 20-minute detailed scale for decompression times.
This dive watch boasts a 30ATM water resistance. The Leven provides a great balance of sophistication and playfulness.
2. Pantor Seahorse
The Pantor Seahorse is one of the more affordable dive watches in this list. Pantor is a microbrand that somehow went under my radar, and I’m sure on many people’s radar as well. Pantor is a company based from Hong Kong and it has a pretty solid dive watch under its belt.
Earned Its Place in the Microbrand Dive Watch World
The Pantor Seahorse is one of the first models that was released by this microbrand, way back in 2013. However, it’s good to know that Pantor is still in the business of manufacturing watches.
Anyway, the Pantor Seahorse is not exactly an original design and it’s clearly inspired by the Rolex Submariner. With that said, the Seahorse is a good-looking watch with a simple and clean dial. The large markers are popping out and great for legibility. The case reminds me a bit of the Seiko Turtle case design but it still looks unique on its own.
The Seahorse is waterproof to 1000 meters which means that even pro divers can use this watch underwater. The automatic helium valve at 9H is also a nice touch. The watch is powered by the ever-present Miyota 9015 automatic movement. It’s not the most superior movement out there but it gets the job done.
Best of all, the Pantor Seahorse is offered at a fairly affordable price.
3. Spinnaker Bradner
When it comes to quirky microbrands, Spinnaker definitely comes to mind. It’s a budget-friendly brand but it still manages to churn out timepieces with out-of-the-box designs. The Spinnaker Bradner is one of the best microbrand dive watches when it comes to sheer quirkiness and whimsy.
Wetsuit-Inspired Dive Watch
While researching the Spinnaker Bradner, I found out that the inspiration for the watch is a wetsuit – then it all suddenly made sense. The watch was named after Hugh Bradner, the inventor of the neoprene wetsuit.
This 42mm dive watch comes with a stainless steel case with a 20mm strap. Despite the size and build of the Bradner, it’s a fairly light watch. However, the comfort level could definitely use some improvement. With that out of the way, the case itself looks aesthetically pleasing.
Of course, you can’t talk about the Bradner without mentioning its dial. The dial just oozes with personality, thanks to the wetsuit-inspired bi-directional rotating inner-bezel. Adjusting the bezel is quite the delight as it doesn’t jump or click, just smooth all the way through. However, I think the hour indicators and hands are not matching up to the bezel, stylistically speaking.
The Bradner is far from perfect but for the sub $500 tag price, I am more than willing to forgive its gripes.
4. Vostok Amphibia
Vostok is a lesser-known brand that’s hailed from Russia. While Vostok is not the biggest brand out there, it has managed to create several iconic timepieces. The Vostok Amphibia offers cheap thrills outside the traditional charms of the Swiss cantons.
A Lesser-Known Classic
The Vostok Amphibia is currently available in many different case styles and bracelets. The watch is named “Amphibia” because it looks like a watch that is both suitable for land and water.
The Amphibia’s design for water resistance is quite interesting because the resistance is improved as the surrounding pressure increases. Central to this interesting design is the caseback system. The watch uses a bayonet style caseback. At increased pressure, the case back is pushed towards the rubber gasket which improves the resistance of the watch.
Truly a watch that’s worthy of the Soviet defense department.
The quirky design of the dial is another feature that attracted me to the Amphibia. The off-beat, retro-infused charm is certainly hard to deny. The lume of the watch is not really that special but it functions as intended. With that said, the legibility of the watch is not that great which can be polarizing for many collectors.
The Vostok Amphibia is crude and simple, and can be yours at a ridiculously low price.
5. Unimatic U1-EM
Unimatic is an Italian watchmaker that’s known for their beautiful, minimalist dive watches. Most of their designs are limited edition runs, so you’d better be fast on your feet. If you are looking for something stealthy and minimalistic, the Unimatic U1-EM should be right down your alley.
Stealthy, Minimalistic Dive Watch
The Unimatic U1-EM is a thing of beauty and its minimalistic design just adds a great deal to its overall look. The black matte stealth outline dial with thick indices look simple but packs a lot of character. However you look at it, the Unimatic U1-EM looks unique and it seems like a deconstructed dive watch.
The case is also a standout with the brand’s signature minimal aluminium black bezel. The sharpness is definitely there and the brushing looks absolutely well done. The domed crystal sapphire with interior AR coating is simply eye-catching and offers a sleek vintage touch.
On the other hand, the luxurious Made in Italy Horween Cordovan Shell strap certainly helps in making the watch feel premium. I can wear it all day and I have experienced no discomfort while using the watch. The watch houses the Automatic calibre Seiko NH35A 21600bph which is a decent movement and very cost-efficient.
The Unimatic U1-EM offers a very compelling package in terms of design, function, and value.
The Rise of Microbrand Watches
This wraps up our buyer’s guide of the best microbrand dive watches.
The microbrand scene is definitely catching on and it’s becoming a wild west as more companies join in on the fun. Overall, this list should be a good starting point for collectors who are looking to start a microbrand watch collection.