Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

The lauded Rolex Submariner is one of the most popular luxury watches in the world. Easily the most popular steel-cased (or otherwise) luxury diving watch, the Rolex Submariner sets the bar in many ways when it comes to timepieces of its type, at its price point. aBlogtoWatch has reviewed the Rolex Submariner here, offered a long-term review of the Rolex Submariner No Date watch here, and even compared the Rolex Submariner to its “cousin” watch the Tudor Heritage Black Bay here. With that said, the Rolex Submariner isn’t for everyone, and a lot of people who already have a Rolex Submariner still like the genre of high-end steel sports diving watches and are interested in other watches like it.

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

Let me first say that Rolex as a brand, and the Rolex Submariner as a model, are among the most copied things out there. Not only is there a vast underworld of fake (which we very much recommend against) Rolex watches, there are lots of “lookalike” timepieces out there which merely seek to emulate the look and feel of a Rolex Submariner for the benefit of another brand. Those aren’t the types of watches I’ll be talking about in this list. Oh, and I’d also like to say that all of the watches included in this top 10 list are being currently produced at the time of this article’s writing – but it is possible to find other stuff out there that is no longer in production.

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

To kick-off a possible new article series, I’d like to list my personal top 10 alternatives to the Rolex Submariner that still exist within the design, quality, and overall luxury pricing of the Rolex Submariner. Further, I’d like to focus on dive watches that share a few important things in common with the Rolex Submariner. Those things, for our purposes, are 1) available steel or titanium case construction with matching bracelet, 2) high-quality mechanical movement, 3) time-only display (date optional), 4) mostly (or entirely) monochromatic design with dark colored dial, and 5) a sporty design that can be feasibly be dressed up for a more elegant or formal look.

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

Nothing can absolutely replace the Rolex Submariner, and in many ways the Rolex Submariner is the best of its kind when blending price, features, and quality. Also, Rolex has some of its own “alternatives” to the Submariner which arguably include the Rolex GMT-Master II, Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000, and the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller. I won’t mention those below, but you should know about these more “deep-diving” watches that Rolex produces which are technically Submariner alternatives as well (even though they arguably look very similar).

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

Last, I would like to mention a few basic tech specs of the Rolex Submariner to keep in mind. The watch is 40mm wide in 904L steel, water-resistant to 300 meters, and has a wonderful matching bracelet that has a handy micro-adjust system for a more precise fit that can be adjusted on the fly. Rolex uses their own in-house-made movement which promise arguably class-leading performance, and the Rolex Submariner’s bezel is produced from ceramic. Current retail price for the steel Rolex Submariner 114060 “No Date” is $7,500, and the Rolex Submariner Date 116610 is$8,550.

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

Strengths: 45mm wide and with an in-house movement, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique 5015 (aBlogtoWatch review here) collection has an available steel model with a matching bracelet and black dial that is thematically in the same category at the Rolex Submariner. It is expensive, but it is also well-made and beautiful.

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

How it compares: With a heritage similar to the Rolex Submariner in terms of origin and purpose, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms currently exists a bit higher on the price ladder than the Rolex Submariner, even though it arguably isn’t a “better” watch. The Fifty Fathoms does have an attractive curved sapphire crystal over the bezel (versus ceramic), and which you prefer is a matter of taste. Blancpain’s has a different look that some say is a bit more on the elegant versus “tool watch” side. The Blancpain is also the more original choice with a higher price premium and far fewer of them out there.

Price: $14,500

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

Tudor Heritage Black Bay

Strengths: Tudor is owned by the same people as Rolex (they are careful to say they are not owned by Rolex), so there is a lot of design and construction carry-over from “the crown” brand. Starting in 2016, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay (hands-on here) also has an in-house movement along with a handful of interesting design refinements. It is easily one of the best values around when comparing design, construction, and mechanics.

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

How it compares: The Tudor Black Bay is slightly larger than the 40mm Rolex Submariner with a 41mm-wide steel case, and it is a bit thicker as well. Perhaps the biggest “down-side” is its aluminum bezel insert material versus the Rolex Submariner’s more durable ceramic – though you do get more interesting color options in the Heritage Black Bay, such as burgundy red. Solid dial design was historically inspired by the Rolex Submariner, so the differences are only slight, though noticeable.

Price: $3,675

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean

Strengths: Omega has spent decades refining and honing its Seamaster collection… which has actually resulted in a huge amount of variety. At the top of the ladder when it comes to fancy dive watches is the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean, which combines the appeal of a serious diving tool with a good-looking lifestyle product. The Planet Ocean is just sober enough to not look showy, but it certainly has an impressive wrist presence and a lot of very attractive movements today.

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

How it compares: Comparing the Omega Planet Ocean to the Rolex Submariner really depends on the model since Omega makes not only different sizes, but different versions – and that applies even to just the three-hand automatic models (the image above shows the Planet Ocean Master Chronometer). There is no perfect 40mm-wide analog, but there are Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean models similar to the Rolex Submariner in terms of features and size. While Rolex still arguably wins when it comes to fit and finishing, Omega is clearly chasing Rolex when it comes to movement performance, dial and case construction, as well as overall popularity. It’s certainly worth a close look.

Price: Starting at around 5,700 CHF

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

Bulgari Diagono Scuba

Strengths: The newest generation Bulgari Diagono Scuba (aBlogtoWatch review here) is the best Diagono diver watch made to date, offering an interesting Italian-theme to the idea of a Rolex Submariner alternative. Built on the Diagono family of watches, you see distinctive design elements such as the hinge-style lugs, bracelet, and dial design, which here is the cleanest we’ve ever seen it on a Diagono Scuba. It also happens to mix sportiness with elegance very well, just like the Rolex Submariner

Top 10 Watch Alternatives To The Rolex Submariner ABTW Editors' Lists

How it Compares: The 41mm-wide Diagono Scuba is about the same width as the Rolex Submariner, and they have similar thickness profiles as well. On the wrist, they have a very different feel, even though they attempt to serve the same purposes. Both are 300-meter-water-resistant divers and contain in-house movements. The Bulgari Diagono Scuba doesn’t have a ceramic bezel (it uses an all steel design) but is an admirable and lower-priced Rolex Submariner alternative with a more modern, designer twist to it.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On

Collaborations and tie-ins are nothing new to Hublot. The brand thrives on them. And as part of the company’s release strategy, Hublot has also created numerous limited-edition watches to commemorate these relationships. For the most part, these limited-edition watches are variations of existing references – new dial colors, new case materials, new straps… that kind of stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m sure many readers would prefer to see something a little different and special. It seemed like Hublot has heard our pleas because the limited-edition Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu is one of the more outstanding and unique limited-edition Big Bang watch that I have seen in recent times.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

A little background is necessary before I talk about the watch because it is instructive to the design of the Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu. Sang Bleu was founded by Maxime Buchi, a Swiss tattoo artist, entrepreneur, and a watch lover. The company is described as a multimedia platform and creative agency. It consists of Sang Bleu magazine, a publication that focuses on contemporary art and culture; Sang Bleu Physical, a streetwear clothing label; Swiss Typefaces, a type-design studio that specializes in creating logos and corporate typeface; and finally, Sang Bleu Tattoo Studio. If you head over to their site, you see that it’s all edgy, hipster stuff, which is fitting because the Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu is one of the edgiest takes on the Big Bang design.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

It won’t be a stretch to say that the Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu is a totally redesigned Big Bang. Available in titanium, titanium with diamonds, King Gold, and Black Ceramic, the case of the Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu measures 45mm wide, which is standard stuff for Big Bang watches. What is drastically different, however, as you may have already noticed from the photos here, are the case and dial.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Both the case and dial have been designed by Maxime Buchi and it is even more striking in the flesh as compared to the press photos that I have seen. The bezel, for instance, is now cut and beveled and features a hexagonal shape that contrasts greatly against the other Big Bang watches. The top side is satin-finished while the angled, beveled edges are mirror-polished. The facets act as surfaces on which light is reflected, giving this new Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu case a greater sense of depth. The only design element that seems to have been carried over to the bezel are the signature Hublot H-shaped screws. Water resistance is 100 meters, which as I have mentioned many times before, should be the absolute minimum for a luxury sports watch.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The dial also sees big changes, in place of hands and counters, what you see is a series of octagonal gold-plated discs with symmetrical lines within them, stacked upon each other. The effect of this is quite profound. I’m almost tempted to say that it looks somewhat tribal, but then I realized that the shapes here were inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man drawing, and I figured the word that I’m actually looking for is probably classical.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

There are three discs in total, and if you look closely, you can see that the tips of two are them are coated with white Super-LumiNova. It’s actually quite easy to read the time once you know what you are dealing with: the outer and largest disc indicates the hour, whereas the smaller disc shows the minutes, and the smallest unmarked disc in the middle of the dial spins to indicate the seconds.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

To aid owners in reading the time, the dial’s flange indicates the hours and there’s an inner minutes track that aligns with the minutes disc. An interesting detail here is that the numerals on the flange and minutes track are specially created by Swiss Typefaces, which, as mentioned earlier, is the type-design studio arm of Sang Bleu.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The theme of symmetrical lines and geometric shapes continues onto the case middle too with engraved patterns at both lugs. The leather straps, which are made by Italian leather purveyors Schedoni, are not spared too, with embossed patterns that form a very coherent look with the rest of the watch. Taken as a whole, the Big Bang Sang Bleu is easily one of the most special-looking Big Bang watches, and that’s what I like most about it.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Inside, the Big Bang Sang Bleu is powered by Hublot’s Unico HUB1213 movement, which is essentially a Unico movement with the chronograph function removed and the geartrain reworked so as to provide more torque to move the large discs. Power reserve remains unchanged at 72 hours, or three days.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Unique to the movement is the rotor, which continues the polygonal and symmetrical theme of the dial, featuring a silhouette of a triangle, surrounded by other symmetrical shapes and lines. It’s quite neat to see it spin when you give the watch a little shake.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Overall, the Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu is easily one of Hublot’s most remarkable and unique limited-edition watches, and hopefully future limited-edition Hublot pieces will use the Sang Bleu as an inspiration and strive to be more than just a simple variation of existing references. In fact, all brands should aspire to the same goals as the Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu. Limited-edition pieces shouldn’t just be an excuse to sell more watches, they should commemorate the watch for what it is and the Sang Bleu pulls this off successfully. It is easy to see that Maxime Buchi had a large role to play in the design of the Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu Watch Hands-On Hands-On

For fans of Hublot, the Big Bang Sang Bleu is an easy recommendation. It is a genuinely fresh take on the Big Bang collection and it is also really good-looking in the flesh. For other readers who are looking to buy into the Hublot family, the Sang Bleu is not a bad way also. You will be getting a Big Bang that is truly uncommon and special. The Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu is available in titanium, King Gold, black ceramic, and titanium with diamonds, and will begin pricing at $18,800 for titanium, $21,000 for black ceramic, $37,300 for titanium with diamonds, and $39,900 for King Gold. Each version is limited to just 200 pieces. hublot.com

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On

Among the most storied watches, the Omega Speedmaster holds a special position as the watch that’s been to the Moon and back – and a bunch of other places, as we shall soon see. While there is plenty of printed and online literature available to study for those who want to know all about the “Moonwatch,” it is exceedingly rare to be given a chance to go hands-on with some of the actual watches that have been through the historical events which have helped to create the remarkable popularity the Speedmaster enjoys today.

A few days ago, at Omega’s London event celebrating the notable 60th anniversary of the Speedmaster, we went hands-on with not one or two, but six incredible Omega Speedmaster watches that have truly been “out there.” Here’s every one of them telling their story.

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On

First Generation Omega Speedmaster CK 2915 (1957)

It all started rather inconspicuously in 1957, the year Omega introduced its “Professional” line of watches that included the first Speedmaster, the Seamaster 300, and the Railmaster. To see the trio together, check out our hands-on with the Omega 60th anniversary series here.

Omega says – and it makes sense – that they originally had not conceived the Speedmaster for extra-terrestrial use. Although it was in the very same year that the Russians successfully launched the first-ever satellite into space on October 4, 1957, it was not until much later, in 1965, that the first spacewalk happened – once again, achieved by the Russians, as Alexei Leonov spent 12 minutes and 9 seconds in the big vast unknown nothingness (cool story on that from Gizmodo here).

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On

In the meantime, the Speedmaster had been set on its own course, as Omega heavily marketed it to car enthusiasts, motorists, and racing drivers. How? Well, did you know that the Omega Speedmaster CK2915, the first Speedmaster of them all (add Lord of the Rings narrator voice to that bit for added drama), was the first-ever watch to place its tachymeter bezel outside the dial and crystal? An almost laughably negligible “achievement” compared to what the Speedmaster would soon have to gloat about.

Still, the importance of the CK2915 is undeniable, as it was a strong enough beginning – thanks to its almost uncannily well-balanced, sporty, yet elegant looks and a heavy-duty 321 hand-wound chronograph caliber – to merit future updates to it. With its now-famed and highly legible “Broad Arrow” hands, plus excellent overall proportions and wearability, the Speedmaster collection was certainly off to a strong beginning.

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On

The First Omega In Space: 2nd Generation Omega Speedmaster CK 2998 (1959)

1959 saw the introduction of a revised, second generation version, the Omega Speedmaster CK 2998. It retained the symmetrical case and the hand-wound Caliber 321 from Lemania, but introduced a new “Alpha” design handset that replaced the “Broad Arrow” ones seen on the first model. The tachymeter bezel was also standardized in the famous black aluminum version still in use today.

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On
Omega’s CK 2998 tribute limited edition from 2016 with the Alpha hands but now with a blue panda dial.

More importantly, the CK 2998 was also the first Omega in space, as Omega explains: “The CK 2998 was the very model purchased by Mercury astronauts Walter “Wally” M. Schirra and Leroy G. “Gordo” Cooper in 1962 as their private watch. It was worn by Schirra during his Mercury-Atlas 8 (Sigma 7) mission, becoming the first Omega Speedmaster worn in space in October 1962, a full two years before NASA’s now-famous tests that led to the official selection of the Speedmaster for use in all of NASA’s manned missions.” It is here where we should note – since I presume some of you are asking yourselves the question – that the first watch ever worn in space was the one on the wrist Yuri Gagarin who ventured into the unknown on April 12, 1961, after taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in modern-day Kazakhstan. There is no official information on this, but he had most likely been wearing a Sturmanskie, a Soviet watch “brand” not sold to the public but reserved for soldiers at the time.

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On
“First Omega In Space”, a modern, very elegant tribute in Sedna gold from 2015.

Today, the CK 2998 is one of the most collectible Speedmasters out there. Produced between 1959 and 1962, there aren’t many original ones around today in collectible condition with original parts, which sends resale value north of the $20k mark. Just look at the one Omega had on display: it had a lot of wear and tear – which arguably is part of the charm and patina of a vintage watch, if that’s your thing… And if it isn’t, you’ll have to hunt down a discontinued/sold-out steel or gold “FOIS” First Omega In Space produced more recently.

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Qualified By Nasa: 3rd Generation Omega Speedmaster ST 105.003 (1963-1964)

The next development within the Speedmaster family, in Omega’s words, “was a decisive one.” Introduced in 1963 and still powered by the manual-wound Caliber 321, the 3rd generation Omega Speedmaster ST 105.003 is the exact model delivered to and tested by NASA. Responding to a request for “wrist chronographs” in October 1964, Omega’s North American agent supplied NASA with the required number of ST 105.003 Speedmasters, without knowing exactly what they would be used for – and, better still, without even informing Omega headquarters in Biel, Switzerland.

These watches, as well as models from other competing brands (Omega doesn’t specify, but they were from Rolex, Longines, and later from Bulova, even), were evaluated almost to destruction in a series of tests that can justly be described as the toughest trials a watch had ever endured.

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On

To give you an idea, it included: high and low temperature tests (two full days at 70 °C (158 °F), 30 minutes at 93 °C (199 °F), then 4 hours at -18 °C (-0.4 °F); ten 24-hour cycles at >95% humidity with temperatures ranging from 25 to 70 °C; corrosion tests; six 40 G shock tests in six directions, low and high pressure tests, vibration tests and even a sound test where the watches were “shouted at” at a deafening 130 decibels at frequencies from as low as 40 up to 10,000 Hertz for 30 minutes. Key signs of deterioration included the lume falling apart on the hands, as well as, you guessed it, the rate being affected… and yet, the watches had at last been officially certified by NASA.

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On
Edward White and the Omega Speedmaster ST 105.003 on America’s first EVA on June 3rd 1965, during the Gemini 4 mission.

As the Omega Speedmaster became “officially certified” equipment for NASA’s manned space program, NASA procured further examples of the ST 105.003 and officially equipped its astronauts with it. This model reached further fame when it was worn for the first time outside the space capsule: on the wrist of astronaut Edward White, this model became part of America’s first EVA (extra-vehicular activity, or, more plainly, “spacewalk”) on June 3, 1965, during the Gemini 4 mission.

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On

First Moonwatch: 4th Generation Omega Speedmaster ST 105.012 & ST 145.012 (1964-1965)

While Omega had no knowledge of what was going on over in Houston since NASA’s selection process was carried out without involving the respective companies’ headquarters, Omega was nevertheless evolving the Speedmaster. In order to offer additional protection to the chronograph’s pushers and its crown, the Speedmaster case was slightly modified: its right side was slightly enlarged, thus offering more protection and, as an unavoidable side-effect, a newfound, asymmetrical look.

Historical Omega Speedmaster Apollo & Alaska Special Mission Watches Hands-On Hands-On

It was introduced to some select markets in 1964 with the model ST 105.012 that now also featured “Professional” on the dial, as it was at this point a prominent part of Omega’s professional line of watches that, as we mentioned above, they launched in 1957. Still powered by the same trusty movement, the Caliber 321, the model further evolved in 1967 into the reference ST 145.012, with the addition of a slightly improved method of attaching the pushers to the case. This model proved to be the last one to use the Caliber 321, the very movement that guaranteed perfect timing during all six lunar landings up to and including the last mission to land on the moon: Apollo 17.