Best Outdoor Watches Guide
Best Outdoor Watches Guide
If you are looking for the best outdoor watches then you are in the right place. We have seen some amazing time peices over the years and have to come realize exactly what separates the best outdoor watches from the cheap replicas. From high-tech GPS devices that you wear on your wrist to extreme survival watches which keep working in fire and ice, there is something for everybody here.
What makes a good outdoor watch?
There are a few key features that almost everyone looking for an outdoor watch will desire. Things like durability, waterproofing, and reliability are at the top of the list but there is also a plethora of other features available for almost every situation. At the end of the day though, accurate time telling and reliable data is of the most importance. But before you start looking for specific design features you need to decide what kind of outdoor watch you want.
What are the different kinds of outdoor watch display?
There are two main types of watch display to choose from as well as hybrids that combine both digital and analog. Each display type has its own benefits but most people tend to have a strong preference when it comes to the display. There is no right or wrong here but let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Digital watches display the time as digits on a screen and have the potential to do a lot more. Not limited to physical components, a digital watch can display any number of different statistics or data. This can be as simple as showing the date / using a stopwatch or as complex as showing a GPS map on screen with altitude and weather conditions. The possibilities are endless when it comes to digital displays and more and more specialist outdoor watches are now able to sync with your mobile phone. Having an alarm on your watch is also a massive benefit that most analog watches don’t have
Analog Watches display the time with an hour/minute hand and a second hand that rotates at different speeds and points to the current hour, minute, and second. While you don’t get all the gadgets and gizmos that a digital watch can offer, analog watches are still highly engineered pieces of precision movement. These precise mechanisms are made up of cogs and as the saying goes, “run like clockwork”.
High-quality analog watches typically offer the best reliability and can still include many cool features to be beneficial for outdoor use. For instance, you can use the direction of the sun and the hands on your watch to create a makeshift compass. There are some very nice solar and kinetic outdoor watches available that we hope to cover in more detail very soon.
What kind of watch battery is best for outdoor use?
Outdoor watches with good battery life are obviously more appealing because, well, getting new batteries put in is a hassle and can reduce the water resistance if not done correctly. On this point – you should always take your watch to an expert and avoid opening up the mechanisms yourself. That being said, there is no best outdoor watch battery per se, but let’s have a look at some of the different options so you can make an informed decision.
Most lower end and many high-end watches are still powered by replaceable watch batteries or ‘button cells’ which need to be changed every couple of years depending on the watch. They are inexpensive to buy but if your watch features any kind of waterproof seal – you should take it to an expert to get the battery changed.
Solar watches are certainly our personal favorite usually being partially or fully powered by light energy emitted by the sun. The energy is transmitted into electricity through a solar panel which usually sits behind the lens on analog watches or above/around the display on a digital watch. Many solar watches also charge an internal battery that stores enough energy to power the watch for many months without light. So it isn’t like you have to make sure you hold your watch in the sun every day, it just happens.
Kinetic or Automatic
Kinetic or automatic watches use the movements of the wearer to swing mechanisms within that then wind the main spring. The motion of the watch is translated into circular motion of the weight which is on a pivot. Through a series of reverser and reducing gears, the cogs eventually wind the mainspring. Automatic watches can also normally be wound manually using the crown and a fully wound mainspring would power a watch for roughly two days without motion.
GPS and fitness watches typically rely on rechargeable batteries because they require larger quantities of power than can be sustainably be provided by other means. While charging up your watch every week isn’t ideal, you can always use a power bank to recharge on the go.
Key features of outdoor watches
Outdoor watches typically go far beyond your standard Casio. They feature specific designs and technology to provide robust and accurate time keeping as well as instruments to measure altitude, heart rate, or a compass. These features are what set outdoor watches apart from any kind of fashion statement or basic time piece.
As discussed above there are four main types of watch battery type and they all work perfectly well in their own right. The battery life on an outdoor watch that uses disposable batteries can be anywhere from 1 – 12+ years depending on the quality. Solar watches can hypothetically run as long as the sun is around and kinetic watches can easily outlast you and your grandkids if looked after properly. Rechargeable batteries do not typically last very long and need plugging in every couple of days to every couple of weeks depending on how often you use it,
Durability is a big one for most active outdoor people who are more prone to bashing it on a rock or put the shockproofing through its paces. The reason durability is so important is because, without it, the precision movements and accuracy can easily be jeopardized. Once the accuracy is lost the watch is pretty much useless so getting a durable wrist watch is key to its longevity.
Waterproofing is vitally crucial for any outdoor watch because it is absolutely inevitable that one day or another you are going to get it wet. Whether that is in a torrential downpour or washing your hands, most watches can withstand a splash, but can they keep ticking after sustained underwater use? Diving watches can often go beyond 200 meters but for most people, 50 meters is more than sufficient for swimming, snorkeling and any other kind of water sport.
I don’t know many people who enjoy wearing oversized watches but it seems a lot of the cheaper GPS watches are overly massive, no matter whose wrist they are on. I certainly prefer a smaller watch face that is light on my wrist and doesn’t get caught on clothing or stop me putting my hand in my pocket. Most manufacturers make it very clear how big the watch face is before you buy it and especially so if you are looking for outdoor watch sales online. Compare the measurements and get something that is proportionate to the size of your wrist.
Pretty much all outdoor analog watches will be circular due to the movement of the hands but digital watches are quite popular in more of a rectangular shape. GPS watches often need larger screens and so rectangular shapes make sense for these mini computers. Just like with the sizing, you need to imagine the watch on your wrist before you buy it and consider how the shape looks on your wrist. I prefer a classic style analog watch on most days but can definitely appreciate the slim rectangular shape of certain digital watches.
Because most outdoor watches are so small and are rarely taken off your wrist, weight really is not an issue. Obviously, metal watches are going to weigh more than plastic watches but who really cares? The only time it might make even the slightest bit of difference is when ultra lightweight packers get involved with GPS watches.
Straps are another large point of discussion around outdoor watches and again it comes down to personal preference. None are perfect and there is no right and wrong choice. Leather and plastic straps offer some flexibility and possibly the most comfort but a metal strap does look great on a nice watch. Obviously, the choice of watch strap is less important than the watch itself but if you are wearing it everyday then you should strive to find a comfortable one.
The precision of the movement and time keeping accuracy is what sets the best outdoor watches apart from your average timepiece. You really get what you pay for here and there is a strong case for digital watches if the high-end rotary action watches are out of your price range. With so many intricate cogs and wheels working together it takes a master to put them together properly.
The fit has a lot to do with the shape of the watch as well as the strap. That being said, if you choose the size of your watch wisely then the strap can always be adjusted or a link removed if you choose a metal outdoor watch. Never underestimate the way a watch feels on your wrist and if the fit isn’t right when you get your watch, it probably never will be. Try on a few watches at your local jewelers to get a feel for what works for you.
How easy is it to change the date and time, or check the altitude on a hiking watch? Some watches are easier to use than others but truth be told, it doesn’t take long to figure out how to use them. Obviously, the more features you have, the more complex the controls become. Limited by space and with the aim of being as simple as possible, most outdoor watches don’t have any more than 4 or 5 buttons max.
Having GPS capabilities built into a wrist watch would have been mind-blowing 20 years ago and yet today it is commonplace to use digital maps in everyday life. And while most GPS watches are still too big to be worn as a regular wrist watch, technology is getting smaller all the time. I would not be surprised to see GPS watches any bigger than your bog standard Casio in the near future.
This little feature comes on very high-end activity watches and tracks the altitude often within a couple of meters. I feel like this is a very specialist tool that only a handful of climbers or mountaineers would actually use. But it is cool none the less and if you have one, you darn well make sure that you use it wherever you can.
This is a very useful feature to have on an outdoor watch because a barometer measures air pressure and can predict tendencies in weather to a certain degree. Weather can have a big impact on outdoor activities and so it always pays to be one step ahead. This is definitely a feature made for outdoor people and hopefully, we see it on some more watches in the future.
Compasses are a good asset to have on your watch. If you are into mountaineering, hiking, or biking then you don’t always need to rely on a pocket compass which isn’t always at hand. As previously mentioned, you can use any analog watch to determine north from south by lining up the sun between the two hands and following these tips.
I have never found thermometers on watches to be all that useful because wearing it around your wrist gives you a false reading unless you take it off for 30 minutes or more to let it reach ambient temperature. Never the less, some people like to know these things and if it is built into your watch, it means you don’t have to carry a separate thermometer.
Bluetooth and Wi-fi
This mainly applies to smartwatches but the feature itself allows you to connect your watch to other devices. Smartwatches are often used in conjunction with a smart phone and have a range of around 100 meters. This kind of watch will no doubt be part of the next generation of outdoor watches that are essentially a wearable microcomputer.
Multi-Band 6 is the worlds first radio-controlled system built to receive time calibration signals from six transmission stations around the world. Outdoor watches with radio receivers will automatically synchronize to the correct time at least once a day via the closest transmitters. This daily update makes sure that you can keep the time very accurately.
Thanks for reading this Best Outdoor Watches guide and stay tuned for our top recommendations.