“A gentleman’s choice of timepiece says as much about him as does his Saville Row suit.” – Ian Fleming
Our top recommendations
Bell & Ross Diver Automatic
The Bell & Ross is really a special watch. This comes in matt black also and includes a sapphire crystal, rubber strap, luminescent hands and hour markers as well as sporting 300 meters of water resistance. This watch is not inexpensive. It’s also not a throwaway and can be worn outdoors as well as at the office.
Alpina Seastrong Diver
Not many are familiar with the Alpina but this is a truly quality time piece. It’s stainless steel with a black rubber strap and 300 meters of water resistance. Furthermore, it’s a quality automatic. If you want to save some money and don’t mind a quality quartz, the Seastorm Diver also comes in a quartz movement for under $800. This is a steal for this quality.
Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Auto
Hamilton is still a quality name in watches and this dive watch is a great example. Yes, it’s a big drop in price from the Bell & Ross but it still is an automatic with 80 hours of power reserve, a sapphire crystal and rubber strap. Again, this is a keeper at a very reasonable price.
Victorinox Swiss Army
The Victorinox is somewhat of a sleeper. Here we’re at 200 meters of water resistance but still with a sapphire crystal. This is also a Swiss-made quartz movement with stainless steel and rubber strap. If you’re interested in Titanium, be sure and check out the options on this watch as Titanium versions are available at close to the same price.
Luminox Navy Seal Dive
Luminox is a favorite and for good reasons. Yes it’s a Swiss Quartz movement with rubber strap and now a mineral crystal vs. the sapphire one, but with luminescent markers that will make night time reading a breeze. As will all the recommendations, you’ll be able to find replacement components like straps for years to come.
Seiko Ion Prospex
The last recommendation comes from Japan with a stainless steel case, quartz movement and 200 meters of water resistance. This watch, however, features an automatic movement with 41 hours of power reserve but at this price a mineral cyrstal. Still an attractive and well price piece.
Tissot Seastar 1000 Powermatic
The Seastar is very close to the Hamilton Kahki above. It’s slightly larger and has 300 meters of water protection vs. 100 meters. They’re both quality watches and are highly regarded. Additionally, they are almost exactly the same cost making your selection that much harder. What a nice problem to have.
Tissot PRS Automatic
This might be one of the best deals out there but you need to know what you’re looking at. The Tissot is a great name in watches and this watch is an excellent example. It is black PVD stainless steel with a sapphire crystal and screw down crown. It also has an unique transparent case back. It’s only 100 meters for water resistance but if you’re not scuba diving, you’re fine. What a great watch at a great, great price.
What characteristics are necessary for an outdoor watch
Water resistance, which is a legal wiggle term for waterproof is measured in meters. Usually 100, 200, or 300. Each increase allows more secure use in wet environments but all work well with rain and occasional dunkings. The 300 are for scuba diving while 100 is more for dips in the pool. Most of the watches above are 200 – 300 with the occasional 100. All will work fine for outdoor use.
Even the most expensive dress watch is typical without luminescence. With an outdoor watch, this is critical. You need to be able to tell the time in the dark and luminescence is important to fulfill that need. All of the above work well with the Luminox probably the easiest to read in the dark.
All of the watches are durable with rubber straps and either stainless steel or ceramic cases. The sapphire crystals are more durable, but mineral crystal is still better than what’s offered on many other watches.
How are outdoor watches constructed
Mineral vs. Sapphire Crystals
Sapphire crystal is as close as you can get to the hardness of a diamond. Mineral crystal, especially some of the hardened mineral crystal used on watches comes in a close second. Make sure you know which one you’re getting.
Crowns, can be simply a push/pull, screw down or some more elaborate locking mechanism. These functions obviously as the most important feature of the watch’s water resistance, with 100 meters affording a push/pull and the 300 meter watches being constructed with screw-down and locking mechanisms.
Quartz vs. Automatic
Automatic movements are more expensive and are simply works of art. Some watches, such as the Patek Philippe are completely hand constructed and will even appreciate in value over time. The truth is, however, the quartz movements are more accurate. Either will meet your needs for an outdoor watch and many collect both types.
All of the cases show above are either stainless steel or Polyurethane. Another common material is titanium which reduces the weight but typically adds to the cost and is often more prone to scratching. Still, titanium are great casings.
Bands can be of leather, metal, nylon or rubber/silicone. The rubber and silicones are by far the best choice for outdoor use. Metal is constantly scratched against the elements of nature (i.e. rocks) and leather too easily absorbs the moisture from your body (sweat) and nature. Nylon is okay, but you know what nylon looks like after being roughed up. Not good.
All these watches, except the Tissot, use a tang buckle strap which is simple to use and effective. The Tissot uses a deployant clasp which is a joy to use.
If you can, go rubber.
There are some common features in all these recommendations.
For example, they are all keepers. Too many consider watches as throw-away items to be replaced in the upcoming Christmas. Good watches are meant to be kept and have replacement parts available, year after year. All of these watches will still be available next year and the year after and warranty repair and replacement parts will be readily available. That’s an important consideration.
These are all waterproof 100, 200 or 300-meter ratings. Many are even dive watches. Why? Because they will survive the outdoors which, as many will attest, is wet at times.
Most are constructed with more durable sapphire vs. mineral crystals. Again, sapphire is more durable and will survive rocks and other outdoor obstacles.
All have various levels of luminescence. You need to see at night without light – these watches allow for that.
All have rubber bands. Other materials, such as metal and leather, just won’t hold up in outdoor use. Rubber rules.