Our Favorite Adventure Watches of 2021

These are the timepieces we want to take adventuring in the coming year.

adventure watches

This story is part of our end-of-year series This Year in Gear rounding up the most notable releases of 2021. For more stories like this, click here.

As 2021 nears its end, you might still be looking for that chance to get away. We feel ya. Whether you're exploring is urban, backyard or further afield, watch brands in 2021 have prepared us well for whatever type of adventures await in the year ahead.

Dive watches, pilot watches, field watches, tool watches and more are popular not only because they're useful and often built to last: their very nature evokes excitement. Here's hoping that 2022 brings more chances to put those watches to the test and and use them in the adventurous purposes for which they were made.

Here are some of the most functional, badass and ready-for-fun watches of the year.

Spinnaker Bradner

spinnaker watch
Spinnaker

Presented by Spinnaker

Inspired by the utility, aesthetics and legacy of nautical watches, Spinnaker prides itself on making detail-oriented watches that perform on and off the water. This philosophy shapes the design behind the Bradner — a returning design that's a cult favorite among fans of Spinnaker's archive of watches. Known for a compressor style 316L stainless steel case that houses a unique three-dimensional, internal bi-directional turning bezel, Spinnaker has brought the iconic silhouette back with a few improvements. This includes an upgraded water resistance (now up to 180 meters), improved luminosity on the hands and index markers and a retooled leather strap — that's not to mention the box shape sapphire lens or the NH35-TMI Japanese automatic movement. While it's always a great time to invest in a Spinnaker watch, the reemergence of the Bradner model makes that decision easier than ever.

Price: $285

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Yema x Worn & Wound Superman Maxi Dial Limited Edition Watch

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Collaborating with watch website Worn & Wound, Yema gave its popular Superman dive watch a "maxi" dial — meaning the markers are bolded. The somewhat quirky look results in one of the coolest versions of the (already awesome) Superman automatic dive watch yet — and a reasonable price makes it all the better.

Price: $990

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Baltic Aquascaphe Dual-Crown

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What if you want the rugged, handsome simplicity that characterizes dive watches — but in a form that stands out from the gazillions of watches that more or less look like iterations of a single design? The super compressor offers just that: an alternative take on the dive watch. Now, one of our favorite French microbrands has just come out with one of the best looking examples in recent memory. Baltic's new watch, the Aquascaphe Dual Crown, has a fresh design that's underpinned by the classic features of a super compressor. And a highly accessible price — starting around $775 retail — makes it look even better.

Price: ~$775

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Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze

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It's tough to argue with one of the most affordable, perfectly sized mechanical field watches on the market. But what if it were...bronze?! Outfitted with Hamilton's H-50 hand-wound movement and given the full nautical treatment, the new Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze takes everybody's favorite soldier's watch and ups the ante. It still measures a perfect 38mm in diameter and ships on a brown leather NATO strap, but now, it'll develop a unique patina over time for a truly one-of-a-kind feel.

Price: $825

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Seiko 5 Sports SRPG Field Watch

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The ultra affordable Seiko 5 automatic field watch you most likely know is the SNK. This isn't quite the SNK, but it's everything else you've been longing for. The modern Seiko 5 Sports line shows that the brand hasn't left fans of its affordable beater watches behind, and the new field watch is right at the entry point for Seiko automatic watches. It's 39.4mm wide and features the same 4R36 movement that powers the Seiko 5 Sports dive-style watches, and it's going to make a lot of first-time watch buyers and established collectors alike quite happy.

Price: $275-$315

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Rolex Explorer 36mm

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The new references 124270 (steel) and 124273 (two-tone steel and gold) have been downsized to 36mm — the size of the original Explorer from the 1950s, and most subsequent Explorer I models until 2010 or so. This is the first time that a two-tone model has been made available, though both references are otherwise the same: powered by the automatic cal. 3230, they ship on matching Oyster bracelets and feature black lacquer dials with Chromalight lume for low-light legibility. Other perks include a 70-hour power reserve and 100m of water resistance. (Maybe don't take the two-tone Rolesor version up Mt. Everest, though — you might get some weird looks up there.

Price: $6,450-$10,800

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