Every product is carefully selected by our editors. If you buy from a link, we may earn a commission.

The Complete Buying Guide to Fossil Watches

They're affordable, and you can buy them at the mall — like, any mall. What's not to love?

fossil watches
Gear Patrol

Welcome to Brand Breakdown, a series of comprehensive yet easy-to-digest guides to your favorite companies, with insights and information you won’t find on the average About page.

Fossil, an American-founded company, carried the generational baton from Timex in the horological relay race for market share. To reinforce the significance of Fossil in the marketplace, it’s best to let its competition do the talking: During Apple Events, the benchmark for Apple Watch sales is those of Rolex, The Swatch Group, and Fossil. Fossil continues to be relevant and should be in the conversation. Today, it remains one of the largest watch manufacturers in the world by volume, generating much of the Fossil Group’s $2 billion of annual revenue.

Fossil’s watch offerings vary from quartz to mechanical and from traditional to smartwatches, and can be found in almost every major department store for $100-300. The combination of availability, price accessibility, and variety of styles make Fossil’s watches ubiquitous, found on countless wrists around the world. If you're overwhelmed by the sheer variety of the brand's offerings, this guide should help you out.

Brand History

Fossil was founded in 1984 by American entrepreneur Tom Kartsotis, with their first watch made available to the public for sale by 1985, near the tail end of the Quartz Crisis. This period marked a time when upmarket European brands that produced mechanical watches had seen over a decade of declining sales as customers shifted buying preferences towards more affordable battery-powered timepieces. Fossil saw an opportunity and leveraged mid-century American watch aesthetics combined with low-cost overseas manufacturing and quartz movements. It was a hit.

tim kartsotis showing watches at the new shinola location
"Tom Kartsotis (left) gives U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez a tour of a new Shinola location."
US Department of Labor, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Affordable quartz watches, such as Fossil, gained popularity in the mid-1980s — especially as they became a fixture in department stores’ jewelry sections. It took less than ten years for Fossil to reach $20 million in annual sales. To further disrupt the traditional watch industry, in 1990 Fossil began participating in the iconic watch and jewelry trade show Baselworld alongside traditional Swiss watch brands. Fossil’s highly stylized quartz timepiece offerings created a popular market by providing a less expensive alternative to luxury European timepieces.

The popularity of Fossil watches continued to grow in the 1990s, with increasing annual revenue leading the brand to becoming a publicly traded company (FOSL) on the NASDAQ. The increase in operating capital allowed the brand to diversify its offerings into leather accessories, sunglasses, and handbags. It sustained the trajectory of growth throughout the 1990s, opening Fossil-branded stores to solidify its position as a lifestyle brand. By the mid-1990s Fossil began acquiring the rights to manufacturing and distribution of watches made for fashion brands such as Emporio Armani and intellectual property giants such as Disney.

Fossil eventually departed from midcentury designs in favor of more modern ones, such as their patented “BIG TIC." (This design uses traditional hour and minute hands; however, instead of a seconds hand, the dial contains a large LCD digital displaying the seconds.) Other innovations during this period include the 2003 launch of the (pre-smartwatch) Fossil Wrist PDA that ran Palm OS. These innovations were only part of the growing Fossil brand, now part of the Fossil Group. The Fossil Group continued to acquire other watch brands, most notably Zodiac and Michele, as well as license watch design and manufacturing from fashion brands such as Burberry, Diesel, Michale Kors, and the National Football League.

fossil store
Fossil’s headquarters in Richardson, TX.
Fossil

While building a juggernaut to increase its product offerings, Fossil bought suppliers and manufacturing facilities to combine with state-of-the-art warehousing, distribution, and retail stores. The Fossil Group was able to fully integrate its supply chain by founding Swiss Technology Production (STP) to manufacture its watch movements — this allowed it to break away from buying movements from outside suppliers such as ETA or Stellita. Fossil even began offering a Fossil Swiss line to move upmarket, which it did by placing the Fossil watch design studio in Biel, Switzerland — the same town in which Rolex is headquartered.

Fossil founder Tom Kartsotis developed a close friendship with Jake Burton Carpenter, founder of Burton Snowboards and has since served on the board of directors there since 2004 (while serving as CEO of Fossil Group). Kartsotis and Carpenter’s entrepreneurial stories have similar paths, with roots in American design that leveraged overseas manufacturing to grow their companies into full lifestyle brands. Jake Carpenter loved watches, and he’d only been known to wear Rolex, selections from the Fossil Group, and Shinola.

Kartsotis stepped down as CEO of Fossil in 2010 to re-launch Shinola as a lifestyle brand focused around watches, and also has a financial stake in American outdoors and leather goods company Filson. The Fossil Group is currently run by Tom’s brother, Kosta Kartsotis, with headquarters in Richardson, Texas.

Smartwatches

fossil smartwatches
These are Fossil’s fully digital touchscreen devices.
Fossil
Gen 5E Smartwatch Brown Leather
fossil.com
$249.00

The 5E Smartwatch by Fossil is powered by Wear OS, Google’s smartwatch operating system. Users interface with the watch through the color touchscreen display and manipulation of the crown. Wear OS allows you to access preloaded apps, utilities, personal health/fitness tracking, and notifications.

Dimensions: 44mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 30m

Strap: Leather 22mm

Movement: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ Wear 3100 / Wear OS by Google

Gen 5 Smartwatch The Carlyle HR Black Silicone
fossil.com
$295.00

Carlyle HR takes Fossil’s smartwatch features from the Gen 5E and adds a heart rate monitor for additional personal health analytics. The operating system, Wear OS by Google, links to any phone running Android™ 6.0+ or iOS 12.0+. Additional user interfaces can be found by using the chronograph pushers.

Dimensions: 44mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 30m

Strap: Silicon 22mm

Movement: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ Wear 3100 / Wear OS by Google

Hybrid Smartwatches

fossil hybrid watches
These watches have the functionality of a smartwatch in more traditional-looking packages.
Fossil
Hybrid Smartwatch Neutra Luggage Leather
fossil.com
$155.00

Appearances may be deceiving: The Fossil Hybrid Smartwatch Neutra offers many of the functional features of a smartwatch. but uses traditional analog watch aesthetics to tell time as well as perform basic smartwatch alerts. Benefits include long battery life (up to 6 months) and a compelling price point. Robust smartwatch features of the Fossil Hybrid Smartwatch are synced with your phone via low-energy Bluetooth and are accessed through the Fossil Smartwatch App.

Dimensions: 44mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 30m

Strap: Silicon 22mm

Movement: Neutra Hybrid

Hybrid Smartwatch HR Everett Stainless Steel
fossil.com
$219.00

The Fossil Everett is a hybrid smartwatch that borrows design elements from high-end horology — specifically the integrated stainless steel bracelet and angular lines of the case. The Fossil Everett Hybrid Smartwatch does require charging every week, though it can reach 80% of its battery life on the charger in less than one hour. The negative display makes the Fossil Everett easy to read in bright sunlight.

Dimensions: 45mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 30m

Strap: Bracelet 18mm

Movement: Neutra Hybrid


Mechanical Watches

fossil mechanical watches
No battery's required in these automatic Fossil watches.
Fossil
Townsman Automatic Black Leather Watch
fossil.com
$219.00

The open heart of the dial displaying the Fossil Townsman Automatic's mechanical movement is fun and makes a great conversation piece. It also demonstrates that the watch is mechanical, not quartz. A gold-colored PVD coating and Roman numerals on the dial make it a great choice for a formal occasion.

Dimensions: 45mm

Material: PVD-coated stainless steel

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap: Leather 22mm

Movement: Automatic

Inscription Automatic Brown Leather Watch
fossil.com
$219.00

The Fossil Inscription line offers a modern, squared case shape with a traditional automatic movement — a skeletonized dial allows it to be on full display. It also makes a great vacation watch, especially if you add a blue silicone strap.

Dimensions: 42mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap: Leather 22mm

Movement: Automatic

Leather Watches

fossil leather watches
Any Fossil that comes on a leather strap is included in this category.
Fossil
Forrester Chronograph Luggage Leather Strap
fossil.com
$129.00

The Fossil Forrester Chronograph is highly legible thanks to Arabic numerals at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 positions, while three subregisters feature running seconds, a 30-minute chronograph timer, and a 24-hour hand. Fossil offers classic colors for the Forrester such as blue, brown, white, and gray, though gunmetal and gold PVD cases are also available if you have a proclivity for a little extra flair.

Dimensions: 46mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap: Leather 24mm

Movement: Quartz

Everett Chronograph Brown Leather Watch
fossil.com
$149.00

The brown leather strap and complementing dial give the Everett Chronograph a soft and earthy feel. Fossil balances the design with a black PVD coating on the steel case, though if you prefer something even more monochromatic, the Everett Chronograph is also available in gunmetal.

Dimensions: 42mm

Material: PVD-coated stainless steel

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap: Leather 18mm

Movement: Quartz


Stainless Steel Watches

fossil stainless steel watches
A selection of Fossil watches available on steel bracelets.
Fossil
FB-01 Three-Hand Date Stainless Steel Watch
fossil.com
$129.00

The FB-01 Three-Hand Date is one of Fossil’s most popular watches for a reason: The modern-but-not-too-large 42mm size combined with traditional dive watch styling has broad appeal. 100m of water resistance makes it fully capable of recreational swimming. And there are multiple colorways for dial and bezel options, “Pepsi” (Red/Blue) being a fan favorite. Even when adding an extra strap, the total package is under $160.

Dimensions: 42mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 100m

Strap: Bracelet 22mm

Movement: Quartz

ARC-02 Multifunction Stainless Steel Watch
fossil.com
$149.00

Complications don’t have to be complicated. At a glance, the Fossil Architect (ARC-02) Multifunction appears to have the three sub-register layouts of a traditional chronograph. However, the subdials display different information such as a 24-hr hand, the day of the week, and the date. The slick format along with a black dial gives the Fossil Architect a place among the brand's cleanest designs.

Dimensions: 44mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap: Bracelet 22mm

Movement: Quartz

Minimalist Watches

fossil minimalist watches
These Bauhaus-inspired designs blend minimalism and functionality.
Fossil
The Minimalist Two-Hand Black Leather Watch
fossil.com
$129.00

The Minimalist Two-hand Black Leather Watch is Fossil’s sleekest design, so if busy and chunky watches turn you off, start here. The subdial with a running seconds hand at 6-o’clock balances the midcentury design with a modern color palette. And adding Fossil’s 22mm Stainless Steel Mesh Bracelet ($49) is always an option for those who don’t care for leather.

Dimensions: 44mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 30m

Strap: Leather 22mm

Movement: Quartz

The Minimalist Three-Hand Brown Leather Watch
fossil.com
$129.00

The creamy beige dial of the Fossil Minimalist Three-Hand watch is extremely versatile — by experimenting with different strap colors and materials, you can make it compliment any wardrobe. Fossil also offers free case back engraving, making the Minimalist a great gift for grads or groomsmen.

Dimensions: 44mm

Material: Stainless steel

Water Resistance: 30m

Strap: Leather 22mm

Movement: Quartz

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Brand Breakdown