Sport watches have long been an important category in watchmaking. But what exactly constitutes a sports watch, and – maybe more importantly – a good outdoor watch? The underlying requirement, first and foremost, is reliability. A good sports wristwatch needs to be built using materials that can weather the elements. It needs to have a good movement inside that tracks time – and often more – with precision, and it helps if that movement is protected from shocks and magnetism.
Other than that, there are a host of features that make the best outdoor hiking watches and trekking watches even better. Those features include chronographs for timing a climb up or down, an altimeter to measure heights, a barometer to measure weather, a compass to find your way, and so much more. Not every outdoor sports watch needs every feature, but the watch you bring along on your hike or bike road or climb should have at least some useful function other than to indicate the hours and minutes.
Additionally, many outdoor enthusiasts seek the best GPS watches for biking, running, mountain climbing, and more. While some die-hard traditional watch fans deny the value of smart and connected watches, many outdoorsmen and women embrace the technology. While traditional watch lovers say you can only rely on mechanical movements, especially when you are so far away that a smartwatch can’t get a connection, smartwatch gurus say there is always a cell tower within reach and insist that the value of the information these watches can track and store is more important than mechanics.
Great outdoor watches should be made of steel or titanium, or of some high-tech alloy that helps protect the movement within. Don’t be afraid to look at dive watches or even aviation watches, since they are typically anti-magnetic and anti-shock, as well as high-tech. There is no right or wrong when choosing the best outdoor sports watch. Like any other watch, it is all about personal preferences. Still, choice is a good thing. Here we take a look at 10 top outdoor watches that include mechanical, quartz, and smartwatches.
Doxa Sub 200 Professional -Price USD 950 – USD 990
As mentioned, a dive watch can be the perfect companion for the great outdoors, as well, because it is built to sustain the elements. The Doxa Sub 200 Professional is made of high-quality 316L stainless steel and features a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that has an anti-reflective coating on it to eliminate glare. It is powered by an automatic self-winding movement with 38 hours of power reserve and comes with an orange rubber strap or a stainless steel bracelet.
There may be no other ultimate outdoorsman than Bear Grylls, who has teamed with Luminox to create his own series of watches. Luminox, which also provides watches to the Navy Seals, creates a multi-functional design with state-of-the-art materials, including the highly durable Carbonox™ carbon-based alloy that is proprietary to the brand. The watches boast different functions that include compass, morse code checks, sales, and Luminox Light Technology – meaning the lit sources are the brightest on the market and last for up to 25 years.
Ball Watch Engineer III Marvelight Chronometer – Price USD 1,699
Ball Watch Company is known for its precision mechanical watches and has been since its inception in 1891. This Engineer III Marvelight Chronometer watch is highly reliable thanks to the self-winding movement, but also it features luminous gas tubes on the dial so that the markers light up green, the 12:00 marker is orange and the hands are yellow — like a rainbow on the wrist at night. The tubes can produce light 100 times brighter than other luminous materials and last for 25 years. The movement is a COSC-certified chronometer, protected by a magnetic shield.
Breitling Emergency – Price USD 16,475
Breitling is renowned for many iconic watches, but it is the Emergency that is credited with saving lives. The Emergency is the world’s first outdoor wristwatch equipped with a dual-frequency distress beacon that launches alerts and homing for rescue operations. The titanium watch boasts a SuperQuartz™ movement and offers a countdown timer, alarm, and more.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer – Price USD 8,350
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer and Explorer II are designed to take on the rugged outdoors. In fact, this watch has been to the top of Mt Everest and scaled a host of other mountains on the wrists of polar explorers, spelunkers, and mountaineers. This version is crafted in Oystersteel and features hours and markers in Chromalight for a blue glow in the dark.
Richard Mille RM 25-01 Tourbillon Adventure Watch – Price USD 983,000
When you want the best watch for the great outdoors, you go to the man who has survived out there – or has the image of ultimate survival: Rambo. Or, in this case, Sylvester Stallone. Richard Mille teamed with Sly for the ultimate adventure watch that is made with two bezels in Carbon TPT that offer 24-hour scale or compass points to be used with the compass in a bayonet mount on the watch. The RM 25-01 Tourbillon Adventure Watch also boasts a water-tight compartment to store water purification capsules if you are lost in the jungle. Just 20 pieces will ever be made.
TAG Heuer Connected – Price USD 1,800 – USD 2,150
TAG Heuer was among the first traditional brands to embrace the concept of connected watches. Now, its lineup is pretty impressive and offers dials that mime mechanical watch dials but offer so much more when synced to the TAG Heuer Connected watch app. Wearers can personalize the dial, but the watch not only tracks laps, steps, sleep, and more, but also offers stopwatch functions, sunrise and sunset times, a 10-hour weather forecast, and non-medical grade heart rate sensors.
Alpina AlpinerX – price uSD 965
Alpina’s AlpinerX outdoor watches are designed for enthusiasts who like to live life actively. This black/orange or blue/orange version tracks hours, minutes, seconds, date, activity, sleep, and more and offers altitude, compass, temperature, barometer, and UV indication, among other things. The 45 mm case is water-resistant to 330 feet.
Citizen Super Titanium Armor – Price USD 550
Capitalizing on one of the toughest metals on Earth, Citizen Watch offers the Super Titanium Armor watch whose case and bracelet don’t react to sunlight or saltwater and is corrosion resistant. The chronograph watch boasts Eco-Drive technology, meaning it is powered by light without the need for a battery.
The all-new G-Shock Master of G collection of tactical watches now includes the Gravity Maser GRB 200 with a proprietary Carbon Core Guard construction, carbon-infused resin bezels, and resin bands in black, orange, or blue for lightweight and durable cases. The smartwatch can be synced with Bluetooth to the G-Shock Connected app that offers altitude, current location, and via Quad Sensor technology, includes a compass, thermometer, step tracker, and more. It is shock-resistant and water resistant to 200 meters, showcases sunrise and sunset data, and has a countdown timer.
About the Author
Roberta Naas is a veteran watch and jewelry journalist who began her career in the early 1980’s, and was the first female watch journalist in the United States. She is the editor and founder of the authoritative watch blog, ATimelyPerspective, has written six books on watches, writes for numerous consumer publications (including Forbes and Elite Traveler) – and always brings forth in her work the essence of what makes watches tick. She tirelessly travels the world in search of watch news and stories that she turns into compelling and enlightening articles.