The ultimate guide to freediving watches

Octopus wrapping itself around a diver's wrist, exactly where a freediving watch would be
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Getting yourself a freediving watch is a special day. It shows you are committed to taking your freediving seriously.

But what is a freediving watch, how does it differ from a regular watch, and why should you get one? All these questions and more will be answered in our ultimate guide to freediving watches.

What is a freediving watch

As the name suggests, a freediving watch is made specifically for diving. Freedivers wear them to track: the depth and duration of the dive, time spent on the surface between dives (this should be 3 x your dive time), number of dives, temperature and time.

The main difference between a freediving watch and a regular watch is the way it tells time. Regular watches tell you the current time of day, whereas freediving watches tell you the time elapsed underwater. 

What are the benefits of a freediving watch?

Freediving watches aren’t just novelties or fashion pieces, they’re actually just as essential as freediving fins when diving. 

Regulate your breathing

When diving on a single breath hold, how you manage your breathing techniques also requires accurate time management. For example, it’s essential to know how long you need to rest on the surface between dives.

For spearfishermen, known as spearos, this is incredibly important as it reduces the risk of decompression Illness or sickness, known as DSI or DCS. Remember the more time you spend resting on the surface the more relaxed you will be on your dive.  

Regulate your depth

One of the great functions of a freediving watch is that you can set depth alarms. Depth alarms are great tool to make sure you don’t descend deeper than you originally planned.

For deeper divers, you can set an alarm for when you would charge your mouthfill (usually around 15-17meters.)  If you would like to learn about mouthfill techniques check out our 5 day master program that we run in Lake Eacham, QLD. 

Another thing regulating your depth helps with is your Frenzel equalisation. Frenzel equalisation is an ear popping technique that alleviates pain in your ears due to water pressure. In order to do it, you need to know how deep you are so you pop at the right intervals. Having a robust diving watch is crucial if you want to equalise correctly. For more on Frenzel Equalisation, see the video below!

Check your progress

If you dive for sport, it’s only natural that you’ll want to measure your progress. For example, if you’re diving for a record timed breath hold, seeing your freediving watch ticking along towards your goal time is extremely satisfying and a big part of why you freedive.

It’s also a great way to improve your body awareness as it’s easer to track when you are having good days and bad days. Dan Parsons loves tracking all data from his watch and noting what feels good and what doesn’t. His motto is “progress without stress.”

A freediving watch help you only do dives that feel good!

Here is an example of what dive diary could look like to track your own diving

Day 1 – Felt good great to be back in the water. Started with dives that only felt good and some nice hangs. (hangs are when freedivers stop at a depth and stay there for a duration of time. Its sooo relaxing)

Depth / Discipline / Time 

15m        FIM – Hang   1.45     

25m        FIM – Hang   2.30

30m        FIM – Hang   3.00

30m        CWB – Hang    1.12

30m        CWB                 1.22

35m        CWB                 1.34

*FIM – Stands for Free Immersion 

*CWB – Stands for Constant Weight Bifins 

What are the characteristics of a great freediving watch?

Because they are so integral to the safety and effectiveness of a freedive, freediving watches must have certain characteristics

Water resistance

First and foremost, a freediving watch needs to be water resistant. To qualify as a dive watch the case should be water resistant to 100m, but more advanced ones will often have a limit up to 200m.

Easy to use

Before buying a freediving watch be sure to check out reviews to see if it’s easy to use. The ideal watch is one that switches on as soon as you dive under water like the Sunnto D4F. This watch turns on as soon as you put the watch 30 centimetres underwater! 

Once back on the surface it also automatically starts timing your surface interval. This is a must! 

Sturdy strap

No matter how good the watch is, it’s useless if the strap breaks and it slips off your wrist. Freediving watch straps must be resistant enough to withstand the wear and tear of underwater use. This means they’re usually made of steel or rubber, rather than cloth based materials that degrade quickly, especially when waterlogged. 

Battery life smart watches vs battery watches

Smart watches are a big thing in the diving world these days. There are plenty of good watches but their battery life just doesn’t cut it.

For instance, the one watch we would never recommend is the Sunnto D5. It looks great and has good features but it would be lucky to last one day freediving. You need to recharge it constantly, and turn it out of live mode as soon as your are no longer using, it if you want it to be viable.

The Garmin MK1 and MK2 are amazing on battery life for freediving, lasting for up to 4 days without having to recharge while in freedive mode. The only drawback is that this excellent performance also comes with a high pricetag.

For an old school battery watch that happens to be our favourite, the Sunnto D4i and Sunnto D4f will last up to two years! This gives confidence that you wont run out of battery unexpectedly during a dive or course when you need it most! 

How do you use a freediving watch?

When you’re freediving, you have a lot of things to focus on, so freediving watches are designed to be easy to use. 

How to operate a freediving watch

when you’re freediving there is a lot to focus on. A good freediving watch is automaic and easy to use.

How to wear a freediving watch

Just like choosing the right freediving mask, it’s important that your diving watch is tight enough to not slip off or rotate around your wrist. With that said, you also don’t want it to be so tight that it is painful or cuts off your circulation. Getting the right balance is key. 

How much should you spend on a freediving watch?

For beginners, a watch is most useful for depth and surface interval tracking. You don’t need to spend big for an entry level watch.

For advanced freedivers, it’s definitely worth spending slightly more for a good watch. 

One of the great uses for a good freediving watch is the data that comes from the dive profile. This helps for dive plans. For instance, our very own Dan Parsons uses his watch over training cycles to track his progress in his own personal dive diary. Tracking all dives, durations and feelings over a 1 month block makes it very easy to track depth progression. 

Our recoomended watch is the Sunnto D4F and can be purchased for $399

The top 5 freediving watch brands

Reputable brands 

Freediving watches are put under a lot of force and pressure. They are a safety tool and we really rely on them! A good dive watch must have high quality components that have been assembled well. The last thing you want is for your watch to break mid-dive!

If you feel unsure about a watch be sure to send us an email and we can help you get the right one.

For now, let’s point you in the right direction with these top five freediving brands you can trust.


Suunto Descent MK2 Freediving Watch



Suunto is a Swedish company that specialises in making freediving watches. Their watches are used by the various militaries and are of exceptional quality. 


Omer prides itself on having its watches used by athletes across the globe. If you want to wear what the best divers wear, get an Omer watch. 


Aqualung are known for their innovation. They have a long history of ingenious wetsuit designs and have since branched out into freediving watches as well. 


Mares is a part of HEAD Group, a global supplier of high quality sports gear. This means you can have peace of mind that any freediving watch you buy from them is of the highest standard. 


Garmin Descent MK2 Freediving Watch

Garmin is an Australian company that designs watches for rigorous use. This includes for athletes, cars, gym equipment and thankfully, for marine applications like freediving as well. 

Freediving Central

If you’re interested in buying yourself a freediving watch, you’re probably also after some lessons to learn how to put it to use. 

Well, if that’s the case you’re in luck! 

At Freediving Central, we offer beginner, intermediate and advanced courses, as well as courses for instructors.

No matter your skill level, Freediving Central can help you improve. 

To get in touch and book a lesson, visit our contact page.


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