The Rolex Milsub is one of the most sought-after collector's watches in the world. The reason is quite simple: it is a military-issued timepiece with actual historical value that was produced in small quantities.
To this day, only 150-200 examples are still around from the 1,200 (or so) originally manufactured. With such scarcity and high demand, it's easy to understand why a clean Rolex Milsub can now fetch well over $100,000.
For us common folks, the more sensible option is to buy a sub-$1000 homage and spend the balance on a house. In this list, you will find the 7 best Rolex Milsub homages money can buy!
1. Armida A2
Armida is a great microbrand; they're one of the few who actually test their watches for water resistance and movement accuracy. When buying the Armida A2, you're getting a rugged tool watch that could actually be used by the military.
With the A2, Armida replicates every single one of the Milsub's most important features: Sword hands, 60-minute bezel with individual marks, and a beefy bezel that's easy to grip. Also, the 200m water resistance rating and screw-down crown allow you to go diving, like the original.
This piece is powered by the Seiko NH35 movement, which has demonstrated its effectiveness as a reliable mechanical caliber that hacks and hand-winds. Furthermore, you get a sapphire crystal with inside AR-coating, which is great for durability.
Finally, the Armida A2's hands, indices, & bezel are painted with a thick layer of Superluminova C3 application, which will glow brightly for hours on end.
2. Helenarou 5517
The Helenarou 5517 is the perfect Rolex Milsub homage if you're looking for a piece without a random Chinese company's branding. Helenarou sells their 5517 replica with a sterile dial, which I know is a prerequisite for some of you guys.
The Helenarou 5517 is a bit more expensive than other Milsub homages, but you're rewarded with a high-quality movement.
Indeed, it comes equipped with an ETA 2824-2 regular caliber. This is a movement that's sold in much more expensive watches (think Tag Heuer, Tudor, Sinn, etc..) and that's beloved for its high accuracy.
One aspect of the 5517 which shows the great attention-to-detail of Helenarou is the presence of fixed spring bars. These were a prerequisite for the Ministry of Defense on the original Rolex Milsub to avoid accidental loss of the watch.
However, this means that your strap choice will be limited to nylon for the Helenarou (which is perfectly fine if you're going for an OEM look).
On this Milsub homage, you get a superdomed acrylic crystal that is strongly reminiscent of vintage watches.
3. Steinhart Ocean 1 Vintage Military
Steinhart is getting more and more respect in the last few years for being able to go toe-to-toe with watches 10 times pricier. For instance, I compared the Steinhart Ocean 1 to the Rolex Sub in this article, only to find out that the differences are negligible.
In my opinion, the Ocean 1 Vintage Military is by far the best bang-for-the-buck Rolex Milsub homage on the market. For instance, this one is slightly cheaper than the Helenarou, and it features a better movement. Indeed, Steinhart uses the ETA 2824-2 "Élaboré" which kicks up the accuracy from +-12 seconds/day to +-7 seconds per day.
This is one of the few homages that replicate the circled "T" in the middle of the dial, which meant that the watch was tritium-lumed. Instead, Steinhart paints a circled "1" in reference to the model name.
To try and reproduce the original Milsub as best as they can, Steinhart uses the Superluminova "Old Radium" formula, which is meant to replicate radium (the lume used on the first Milsub model).
The Ocean 1 Vintage Military also gets you a medium-domed sapphire crystal with two layers of AR-coating on the inside, a 300m water resistance rating, and a solid-links stainless steel bracelet.
4. Squale 20 Atmos Militaire
If you don't know, Squale is probably the biggest Steinhart competitor out there. In fact, lots of you guys asked for a Squale vs Steinhart comparison, which I did in this article. Per usual, the Squale Milsub homage is a bit pricier than Steinhart, but you get a slightly better finish.
Although the general quality of the Squale Militaire is awesome, there're a few drawbacks that you'll have to overlook. For instance, Squale is notorious for stamping their logos multiple times on a watch (twice on the dial, once on the crown, and once on the bracelet). Also, the 20 Atmos Militaire is only offered with a date display, which isn't true to the original.
If you can overlook these peculiarities, you will get great specs such as a ceramic bezel insert, domed sapphire crystal, Superluminova Old Radium, and "Élaboré" ETA 2824-2 movement.
Also, the Squale Militaire has the best bracelet on this list. Not only does it get solid center links and end links, but it's also equipped with a proper diving extension.
Additionally, I think the 40mm case diameter and 48mm lug-to-lug length of the Squale make it the perfect size to fit men with small, medium, or large wrists.
5. Namokimods NMK05
If you've ever thought about modding a Seiko watch, you've definitely heard about Namokimods before. Their mods are praised across the whole watch community, but people rarely talk about their pre-built watches.
With its sword hands, the Namokimods NMK05 is clearly a nod to the Rolex Milsub. However, the bezel insert is a reference to a standard vintage Sub rather than the Milsub itself.
Fortunately, you can get the perfect bezel insert without leaving Namoki's website. Above, you can see my NMK05 equipped with Namoki's DSSD ceramic insert.
With this simple tweak, it will now be almost indistinguishable from a Milsub. Additionally, you get top-notch components such as a double-domed sapphire crystal, SII NH35 movement, solid 316l stainless steel bracelet, and 200m of water resistance.
For around $380 USD, the NMK05 is a watch that will easily compete with the pricier Steinhart and Squale watches above.
6. NTH Amphion
NTH really hit the nail on the head with this Milsub Homage. Indeed, the Amphion is the only watch on this list with an actual stainless steel bezel insert. This might seem a bit trivial, but this was very important for the Ministry of Defense to make sure that the bezel would get dented instead of breaking (like ceramic) or getting scratched (like aluminum).
The NTH Amphion is also beloved for a few other idiosyncrasies such as its double-domed sapphire crystal, 300m water resistance rating, and Miyota 9015 movement. It's a bold choice to use a Japanese movement for a Swiss watch homage, but I have absolutely no problem with it.
In fact, I think Japanese movements are a notch above Swiss calibers (like ETA) when it comes to reliability, but the price to pay is a slightly inferior accuracy.
There are also a few features that differentiate the NTH from the original Milsub. For instance, the Amphion has no crown guards, the bezel's minutes track is inversed, and the case is slightly thinner.
7. Tiger-Concept 5508V6
The Tiger Concept 5508V6 is one of my favorite Milsub Homages because it's the one that's most customizable. For instance, this affordable piece is offered with the following movements: DG2813 (entry-level Chinese caliber), Miyota 8215 (mid-range Japanese caliber), and Miyota 9015 (high-end Japanese caliber).
Of course, the price will vary depending on which movement you choose, but it's great to have the option for folks on a tighter budget.
The customization doesn't stop there. You can also choose between a logo or non-logo model, a selection of 4 bezel colors, and you also have the option to buy with or without a bracelet.
Every 5508V6 model (even the cheapest) comes with high-end components, such as a superdomed sapphire crystal, solid-links bracelet, etc.. However, the lower price can be felt in some areas, such as the water resistance, which is rated at 100m (and Tiger-Concept doesn't condone swimming with it).
All in all, I think the 5508V6 is the best Rolex Milsub homage for someone on a very tight budget, but higher-priced watches will definitely give a bit more bang-for-the-buck.
BONUS - Modded Invicta 8926
The last watch on this list will need a bit of work to transform into a Rolex Milsub homage. The Invicta 8926 is already a very popular watch for its affordability and not-so-subtle Submariner influence.
It didn't take too long for the modding community to get ahold of the 8926 and make it into some of the best Milsub homages. Since the base watch is already pretty good (reliable Seiko NH35 movement, 200m water resistance & screw-down crown, submariner indices, etc..) you only need to tweak a few things to get yourself a great Milsub homage.
The two main components that you'll want to change are the crystal and bezel insert. By getting a third-party crystal, you will get rid of the unwanted cyclops lens and get the domed layout that's required. You can also choose between acrylic or sapphire depending on your needs (true to original vs scratch resistance).
You will then want to change the bezel insert for the 60-minute fully graded insert. With these two mods, you can have something pretty similar to the Milsub and call it a day. However, most people will go even deeper and swap the Mercedes hands for Sword hands, and the dial to get the circled "T" and to hide the date display. Above is a great example from Watchuseek user LifeTrekker.