The Most Coveted and Collectible Dive Watches from Japan

The Best Dive Watches From Japan

Posted by Mike Johnson on in Articles, Top 5

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The world of Japanese dive watches is truly something special.

Casually mistaken for cheap or low-quality watches by outsiders, the big Japanese manufacturers easily rival the Swiss companies in innovative design, quality craftsmanship, and rich heritage.

For over 60 years, Japan has been producing some of the world’s most collectable and iconic dive watches, with worldwide popularity only continuing to accelerate.

Segmented into three different price ranges, this list of highly collectible dive-watches from Japan was compiled based on enthusiasm from the online watch community and my own personal preferences for iconic style and design.

Get ready to go deep with these excellent dive watches from the land of the rising sun.

Entry Level Selections

Japan is well-known for producing some of the best bang-for-your-buck values in the industry. At less than $500, these entry-level pieces are a great way to get started with your dive-watch collection.

Here are three excellent choices for an entry-level Japanese dive watch:

Seiko “Turtle” PADI Edition SRPA21

Seiko Turtle PADI SRPA21

Seiko made a big splash this year with the re-issue of the much loved Seiko 6309 “Turtle” from the 1970’s. With this PADI certified special edition, you get a beautiful blue sun-burst dial paired with the iconic pepsi bezel – something you wont find with the standard selection of colors.

Similar in design to the entry-level SKX007/009 but with a different movement, the PADI Turtle carries the upgraded Seiko workhorse calibre 4R36 (giving you better accuracy and hacking).

At less than $500, this is an amazingly well-designed watch that is accessible to all levels of collectors and enthusiasts.

Orient Mako USA

Orient Mako USA White

As a subsidiary of Seiko, Orient is another Japanese watch-making company and in-house manufacture that is able to produce fantastic watches at a remarkable value. The Mako USA is an evolution of Orient’s flagship dive-watch line with design elements largely driven by input from the online watch community.

Build quality here has stepped up from the standard Mako with the inclusion of a Sapphire crystal, 120-click bezel, and solid end-links – and at $225 this is one of the cheapest mechanical dive watches you can get next to the Seiko SKX007.

Citizen Promaster BN0151-09L

Blue Citizen Promaster BN0151-09L

When it comes to diving, sometimes a quartz model is preferable over an automatic. With Citizen’s patented Eco-drive technology, The Promaster gives you all the benefits of a quartz (reliability, accuracy) without the headache of having to change the battery very often.

Although not talked about as much as Seiko, Citizen has a rich history of producing dive watches, including the first Japanese water-resistant watch in 1959 (The “Parawater”).

With 200 meters of water resistance, fantastic lume, and large but wearable 42mm case – the Promaster makes an excellent choice for an entry-level quartz dive watch.

Midrange Selections

If you’re ready to step up your game a bit, you can enjoy some of these excellent mid-priced dive watches. In this range you’ll find higher quality builds and materials, more accurate movements, and better fit and finish.

Here are three solid choices in the mid-range Japanese dive-watch category:

Casio Frogman GF-1000

Casio Frogman GF-1000

As one of the first models for Casio’s “Master of G” line, the Frogman is about as high-end as you can get for a digital watch.

Popular amongst the real-life Navy Seals, the Casio Frogman is Casio’s only ISO 6425 compliant diver, making it an excellent choice for those that actually take their watches into the depths.

In addition to the built in sensors for depth, direction/tilt, and temperature, the fifth generation Frogman has the same Tough Solar and Multiband 6 capabilities of some of it’s modern brothers.

Don’t confuse this for a plastic toy, this is one of the most capable and over-built G-Shocks you can buy. A $1000 quartz watch for desk divers? Maybe, but the Frogman is one cool and highly-collectible tool watch.

Seiko Prospex “Shogun” SBDC029

Seiko Prospex "Shogun" SBDC029

Celebrating quite a cult-following amongst the enthusiast community, the “Shogun” is an often overlooked and under-rated entry in Seiko’s Prospex lineup. Similar to Seiko’s mid-range “Sumo”, the “Shogun” is a highly capable dive watch featuring Seiko’s in-house 23-Jewel 6R15 movement.

In my opinion, the design is slightly more refined than the Sumo’s, and the hardened Titanium case make’s it light as a feather. Being a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) model, you’ll have to import it and wait a bit longer for shipping overseas.

If you can spend a little bit more over the SKX or Turtle, you can treat yourself to the value of the Seiko’s midrange Prospex line and see for yourself why these watches are so highly sought-after.

Citizen Promaster Aqualand BN2029-01E

Citizen Promaster Aqualand BN2029-01E

Another entry in the Citizen Eco-drive category, the Promaster Aqualand is a huge step-up in capability and quality from the aforementioned entry-level pieces.

This is a beast of a watch at 49mm (53mm with crown), and it’s design is a bit over-the-top (if not strangely beautiful), however it’s hidden lugs and soft rubber strap make it easily wearable.

Unique to this watch is the large analog depth gauge to keep your bearings in the murky depths, and the fast ascent indicator releases an audible alarm if you’re ascending too quickly.

This is a serious tool for real divers, although it wouldn’t look out of place at all at the beach or in your backyard.

High-End Selections

If you’re Japanese dive-watch obsession has gotten out of control, it might be time to upgrade to one of these legendary pieces. In the $1000+ range, you’ll find some truly iconic dive watches that will be the envy of collector’s around the world.

Here are three incredible choices for a high-end Japanese dive watch:

Seiko Marine Master 300

Seiko Marine Master 300

One of the holy grails of Japanese dive-watches, the MM300 is Japan’s answer to the Rolex Submariner. A highly capable dive watch by it’s own merits, the MM300 also has the fit and finish you’d expect from a watch in this price range. Taking design cues from Seiko’s long line of vintage dive-watches (namely the 6159), the MM300 is a stunning watch that can be worn seamlessly between casual and professional situations.

Orient Pro Saturation Diver

Orient Pro Saturation Diver

Much like the Seiko MM300, this stainless steel monolith is highly regarded amongst the watch and diving community. Lovingly referred to as the “OSD”, the Orient Saturation Diver is an overbuilt and watertight tool with incredible lume, an in-house movement, and a unique power-reserve indicator on the dial.

Although it doesn’t have the same brand cache as some other divers in the same price range, they often go on promotion and can be had for up to 40% off.

Seiko “Emperor Tuna” SBDX011

Seiko "Emperor Tuna" SBDX011

The Seiko “Tuna” is a line of shrouded divers that are immensely popular with Japanese dive-watch fans as collector’s items. First introduced in 1975, the “Tuna” is nicknamed for it’s thick and prominent shielded case, giving it the appearance of a tuna can on the wrist.

As far as dive watches go, there aren’t many that are as unique as this, and the “Emperor Tuna” is the king of them all.

Unlike the high-torque quartz powered engines of the low-end models, the Emperor has Seiko’s automatic 8L35 Calibre, a high-end movement it shares with the MM300.

If you’re feeling a little sheepish about the size or price, take a peek at the Seiko “Darth Tuna” for a smaller and more affordable quartz version of this iconic classic.

What’s your favorite Japanese Dive Watch? Leave us a comment below.

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About the Author

Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson is the managing editor and primary contributor to Born into a military family as the son of US Navy pilot, Mike spent many of his formative years studying Computer Science and User Experience Design. When not obsessing over watches, Mike spends time hiking, traveling, and spending time with his family in Phoenix, Arizona.

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