Summer is just around the corner, which means outdoor activities and sports. To be ready for that jog around the block or your first foray into the ocean, you need a special watch that is perfectly suited to your chosen activity.
Luckily, there are so many general and specialized sports timepieces to choose from, you should have no problem finding the watch that is perfect for you.
Sports watches, in general, are built to take the appropriate amount of abuse. Unlike other kinds of timepieces, sports watches are designed and tested to withstand shocks, tension and torsion, changes in temperature, exposure to the elements, perspiration and corrosion, water resistance and more. Most sports watch manufacturers test their watches to destruction and engineer their timepieces to withstand as much punishment as possible.
One sports watch manufacturer, Bremont, based in the U.K., designed a watch to endure ejection from a fighter plane for ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker. This technology has made its way into their normal line of watches.
TAG Heuer has a “torture room” where watches are smashed and crashed, dunked and destroyed—all with the goal of making sure nothing goes wrong when it is on your wrist.
Water resistance is a key element of the sports watch. None can be completely waterproof, but watches are tested to a certain depth limit, displayed in meters, BAR (one BAR is 10 meters), or ATM (which stands for atmosphere, again 10 meters). The min
imum water resistance for a sports watch is 100 meters, to ensure that you can do a little swimming, go into the hot tub, take a shower with it on and more. If you plan to do any diving or swim a great deal with your watch on, choose a timepiece that is water resistant to 200 meters.
The bottom line is that if you choose your sports watch correctly, you don’t have to “baby” it. Just put it on and forget about it—it can take anything you can dish out.
Sweat it Out
Gone are the days of the black plastic sports watches – today’s sports timepieces are designed to do it all, and do it all well. There are a lot of great-looking sports watches that can go to the gym, time your run in the morning and look fantastic in your office or even out to dinner.
Many sports watches have a chronograph function, or timer, built in. The standard chronograph layout is two pushers, one to start and stop and the other to return the chronograph timing hand to zero. Subdials show the elapsed time. There are a number of interesting varieties of chronograph: monopusher chronographs (with one pusher), flyback chronos (which can return the chronograph hand to zero without stopping it—very handy), split-second chronographs (allowing you to time multiple things at the same time) and more.
In addition to general sports timepieces, there are specialist watches designed with certain activities in mind.
Dive watches have been popular, even among non-divers, because of their oversize design, fantastic legibility and extreme toughness. Dive watches may have started the big watch trend, as to be visible underwater, they have to be larger, and the dial has to be easy to read, including in low light or darkness.
To qualify as a diver, a watch has to be water resistant to at least 200 meters, and several companies have taken this even further. There are watches that go as low as 1,500 meters and more (the world record is 15,000 meters). Though no human being can survive at these depths, it’s a real technical accomplishment to design a watch that can, due to the extreme pressure on the case and crystal of the watch. The thinking is that if the watch can survive at 1,500 meters, it can easily handle the surf on Long Island.
Ride the Wave
There are specific watches for other water-related activities too, including surfing, boating and fishing. In surfing, Nixon has led the way by designing watches with the crown on the left side (it’s usually on the right), so that when you “duck dive” under a wave as you’re paddling out, the crown doesn’t dig into your wrist.
For surfers, boaters and fisherman, there are watches that let you know when the tide will be low and high, wherever you are in the world.
For yachtsmen who have to manage the countdown to the start of a race, several manufacturers have designed timepieces that make this easy work: they feature special countdown timers that can be set to the varying times of yacht race countdowns.
Pilot watches are also very popular, as they combine durability with a vintage feel. The very first pilot wristwatch was developed for the legendary airman Alberto Santos-Dumont by Louis Cartier, as he was tired of having to use a pocket watch strapped to his thigh while flying, and the Santos is still in Cartier’s collection (in many variations).
Pilot watches are designed to be resistant to temperature changes, altitude changes, and shock. On top of that, like dive watches, they are legible at a glance and have a simple, straightforward design.
Today’s sports watches are no longer confined to the gym or your sports bag. You can choose a great-looking timepiece and wear it just about everywhere.
Elegance is Back
In stark contrast to sports watches, which are usually big, bulky and design-forward, many companies are focusing on elegant, sophisticated and classic. Here are the most elegant watches introduced this year. These watches slide perfectly under the sleeve of a tuxedo, but also look great with jeans and a button down shirt.
Baume & Mercier’s Clifton GMT combines a classic style with a modern complication—–a second time zone/GMT.
Chopard’s L.U.C XPS honors the founder, Louis-Ulysses Chopard, with a traditional design and an in-house mechanical movement.
In the past, regulator clocks were used by watchmakers when regulating timepieces. Hamilton’s Jazzmaster Regulator honors this legacy.
Patek Philippe’s newest Calatrava (ref. 5227) keeps its elegant tradition, with a simple dial, while the movement powering it is cutting edge.
Thin is in, and Piaget’s Altiplano Date is one of the thinnest, most elegant timepieces on the market today.
The two-tone Rado DiaMaster Ceramic Automatic Chronograph harnesses high-tech plasma ceramic in the service of a very elegant design.