Watch Review, Invicta Pro Diver Automatic

The Invicta Pro Diver is almost universally hated by watch snobs. None of their reasons are more deep than “it’s cheap, and looks like a Rolex Submariner.” Both of those things are true to an extent.

First up, yes the Invicta Pro Diver Automatic is cheap. But there are other watches in the same quality and functionality category that you can get for cheaper. Parnis comes to mine, and I don’t know anyone who recommends Parnis.

Second up, yes it does look like a Rolex Submariner, once you get past the big INVICTA machined into the watch body, the Invicta logo on the watch face, and Invicta cross on the crown. There is no mistaking this watch for a Rolex at reasonable conversation ranges, although maybe you could make that mistake far across a room.

But, if you don’t mind an inexpensive watch that superficially resembles a Rolex, there is a lot to enjoy about an Invicta Pro Diver and if you really want a watch that doesn’t look like a Rolex, you can always get the “Grand Diver” which has scuba bubble heads on the face and band and “Grand Diver” etched into the crown side of the watch just opposite the big “INVICTA” etched into the other side.

So the good, an SII NH35A movement. Essentially a Seiko. Runs at 3 hertz, 21,600 beats per hour. Not as “high beat” as a Miyota 9000 series or ETA 2824-2 that you find in the next price category up, but it’s a movement often capable of precision plus or minus a few seconds per day. And I should say that “precision” is how reliable a watch is at gaining or losing seconds ever day, and “accuracy” is how well that gain/loss is centered around exactly 24 hours. A low precision watch that is minus 20 one day, plus 15 the next, minus 5, then plus 20 is going to be more “accurate” than a more “precise” watch that is consistently between minus 9 and minus 12 seconds.

So the NH35A is quite a “precise” movement, and the regulator mechanism is essentially a user adjustable lever easily accessible after the case back has been removed. I haven’t removed mine yet to speed up my movement simply because I don’t have the tools, and I can live with a minus 12 +/- 3 seconds a day watch, at least until I buy some tool. Right now my watch is most consistently a minus 12 watch plus or minus 3 seconds, and that’s pretty darn good for an automatic watch that cost less than 50 bucks on Amazon Prime Day.

The NH35A is also quite a “rugged” movement. It’s been used in a large number of dive watches with a higher price tag. The bad news is that because it is so rugged and reliable, it is often cheaper to replace it with a new NH35A movement than repair it. If you want a quality affordable dive watch with a movement designed for service and repair, look to the Orient Mako II line.

Another “good” in the column is that the bezel works and it is rated for deeper depths than recreational divers are certified to go. It’s a 120 click bezel, so more than twice as precise as it needs to be for a dive watch, you don’t time your dive to the thirty second mark or at least I don’t. There have been some reviews on the internet where people scoff at using a cheap dive watch for actual diving. If you are a serious diver, odds are you should already have a dive computer on your octopus, and your watch should be the backup. I have no problems recommending this as a backup dive watch to a dive computer. The “seamaster” style scalloped edges don’t get caught on things the way a coin edge bezel does, but Invicta offers both styles. Currently I’m using the scallops, and haven’t had them unintentionally slip the bezel even once, although they are more difficult to move than the coin edge bezel.

The bad, it is built to a price point. The band is nothing to write home about, but it is functional. The case is a mix of “brushed and polished” which saves manufacturing costs as the “brushed” is clearly just what was left after the machining process was done on that part. But you can remove and add links to your hearts content to size the bracelet to your wrist, although if you transition to a NATO strap you may notice the case area normally hidden by the stock watch band is only roughly finished. The crystal is “flame fusion” which is a simply a name brand for mineral glass. If you want sapphire, you have to step up to Invicta’s “Sea Base” line of watches which has different branding (a much more stylized diver helmet) but still the same NH35A movement.

In low light the illum on the hands is usable, the illum on the dial face is mostly not usable. If you were underwater, simply putting the watch in front of your dive light for a few seconds would “charge it up” enough to be usable. But in the 50 dollar price range, there aren’t any really great alternatives.

And finally, there are two types of people who buy Invicta watches. People who buy them to use them as a watch, and people who buy them to modify. The watch modding community has been doing some really nice cosmetic changes to Invicta, Tauchmeister, and Seiko watches for quite some time now, and while it’s not the same thing as getting a truly nice high end Swiss watch, it is a way for people to get something more unique without spending the cash on a high end Swiss timepiece. A 500 dollar Steinhart is an homage watch to a Rolex, but it is a real swiss movement watch made in Europe, and I could buy ten Invicta Pro Divers for the same cost.

As a total disclosure, this is the second Invicta Pro Diver watch I’ve owned. The first was a gift from my wife, with a Japanese quartz movement with chronograph complications. She paid 60 dollars, from Costco I believe. That watch lasted every bit as long on my wrist as the G-Shock it replaced, and now sits in my drawer waiting a new battery and a replacement crystal. But I took that watch to war, and it came back.

Up until now, I’ve firmly been in the camp of “watch wearers” rather than “watch modifiers.” But with the price of an Invicta being so affordable, I understand why the watch modder community. If there were one thing I would change stylistically about this watch it would be the bezel, as I prefer a bezel that sits higher than the crystal, and eventually this crystal will have to be replaced by a sapphire crystal because I’m hard on watches.

Bottom line, if you don’t mind watch snobs being snobby towards your watch, it’s a great buy at 50 bucks. Use it, tinker with it, drive on. If not on sale or you want something more distinctive, look for an Invicta Sea Base (for sapphire crystal) or Grand Diver for something that doesn’t look like yet another Rolex homage. And please know that Invicta does make some horrendously ugly watches too, some absolutely hideous monstrosities.

If you want something more precise than an automatic movement, but without the hassle of battery changes, solar powered quartz dive watches start just over the price range of a Pro Diver and go up from there. From a Citizen Eco Drive diver all the way up to 500 dollar not marketed in America atomic timed Casio solar powered dive watches.

But, I like wearing an automatic watch for the exact same reasons I like shaving with a Gillette adjustable slim DE razor. It isn’t the better shave, it’s that I’m more connected to shaving. An automatic watch isn’t more precise on time, it’s that I’m more connected to setting the time on my watch, ensuring that I’m on time. Although if I do to back to war again, odds are dang good it’ll be a quartz watch on my wrist.

Comments are open for your thoughts on time.

More information on the SII NH35A movement: 

UPDATE: I purchased a second Invicta Pro Diver automatic for 52 dollars with tax and shipping on a black Friday special from Amazon (in 2018 for all you future readers). I figured that I’d give the rubber watch band version a shot, and it has a much nicer case finish in the area that the metal oyster style band covers up. So if you want the better finished case, get the version with the rubber dive style watch band. I figure that when my boys grow up and move out they can take an automatic dive watch with them and think of me every once in a while when they check the time.

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2 Responses to Watch Review, Invicta Pro Diver Automatic

  1. Simon says:

    Greetings from Australia. Enjoyed your Invicta review very much, and your other stories have struck a chord too. Nice profile photo – where is that? Reminds me of Vancouver but I presume not.
    All the best, Simon


  2. rthtgnbs says:

    The banner photo is of Tromso, Norway, if I recall correctly.


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