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The 25 Best Outdoor Watches

We break down the perfect watches available for your next outdoors adventure.

outdoor watches
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In our guide to field watches, we pondered what exactly constitutes a field watch, and the answer we arrived at is a solid one: a field watch should be simple, durable and legible. “Dials should have big, contrasting markers and little else adorning them. Cases should protect movements from hard knocks. There should be lume aplenty,” we wrote.

All this is true of a watch that can perform in the great outdoors. But the category of Outdoors Watch is so large that its very definition is somewhat hazy. We spend time outdoors for thousands of different reasons. Almost no watch can cover every pursuit; even powerful smartwatches with “ABC” (altitude, barometer, compass) functionality, GPS and heart rate tracking might not rate for SCUBA diving or be too bulky for, say, bouldering.

So we have to ask ourselves: What do we decide fits the bill? Is a $10,000 Rolex that can keep perfect time despite being knocked on a rock but that any sane person would not risk knocking on a rock to begin with an outdoors timepiece? Is a $50 Timex made to be roughed up but that could easily break any more of an outdoors watch?

man being ejected from aircraft
A Bremont MBII watch withstands live ejection and MFOS crashworthy testing, extreme temperature endurance, vibration, altitude testing and aircraft carrier deck testing.
Bremont

In order to answer this question, we’ve provided you with a wide range of watches that fit into as many outdoor pursuit categories as we can: The mechanical beauties that befit a summit photo; chunky dive watches whose brawn make them ideal for the deep sea but also help them survive above the treeline; affordable watches powered by quartz movements, less flashy but more suited to shock survival; or the aforementioned ABC smartwatches, a potent tool for the trail runner looking to log his miles and the hunter hoping to find his way to camp. There is no perfect outdoors watch. But somewhere on this list is the perfect watch for your next adventure.

Notable Moments in Outdoor Watch History

Sir Edmund Hillary Summits Everest with a Rolex: In 1953, Edmund Hillary became the first man to summit Mount Everest, and on his wrist was a Rolex. As he described it, this watch “experienced considerable extremes of temperature, from the great heat of India to the cold temperature at over 22,000 feet, and seemed unaffected by the knocks it received on rock climbs.” His “pre-Explorer” can still be seen at the Beyer Watch and Clock Museum in Zurich.

edmund hillary and pointed peak 19,500 feet from col at head of chola khola
Sir Edmon Hilary on Mt. Everest.
Royal Geographical SocietyGetty Images

The Enicar Seapearl Summits Everest Just a Few Years Later: A much different-looking watch made it to the summit of Everest shortly after Hillary. The Enicar Seapearl, a dive watch with a gaudy color scheme and no rotating bezel, was worn by several members of a Swiss team that summited Everest in 1956. Enicar afterward added the “Sherpa Guide” moniker and started a line of tool watches. Sherpa itself became insolvent in the 1980s and was sold to a Hong Kong company, which still distributes its watches.

An Omega Speedmaster Professional Saves the Day: There’s the outdoors, and then there’s the outdoors — in 1970, when an oxygen tank exploded aboard the Apollo 13 service module, the astronauts onboard were dealing with the latter. Without navigational and targeting computers, they had to aim their ship back home using a manual burn. Jack Swigert timed the 4-minute, 24-second burn using his Omega Speedmaster’s chronograph.

Seiko Straps Its Dive Watches to a Submarine: In 2014, Seiko grabbed two of its Marinemaster Professional Dive Watches off the assembly line and strapped them to the hull of the KAIKO 7000II, a deep-sea submersible on its way to one of the deepest parts of the ocean. The quartz version didn’t stop until it reached 3,284 meters, and the mechanical watch kept on ticking until it reached 4,299 meters down. Both watches are rated to only 1,000 meters.

A Rambo Watch for the Blueblood: Sly Stallone famously loves Panerais. But it was Richard Mille he teamed up with in 2014 to create the “Rambo” watch released in 2018. Price tag: $983,000. Its features are a bit above and beyond standard survivalist tools: a tourbillon and a titanium compass-lid bezel that can be equipped with a bayonet mount.

Buying Guide

Since “outdoors” watches are a broad category, we’ve opted to divide this list into several distinct categories, all of which can be utilized for different types of outdoor activity. Some of the picks may overlap into different categories, but this only means that these watches are particularly versatile.

Mechanical Field Watches

Mechanical movements, incredible machines though they may be, are no longer the best movements suited to withstand the rigors of the wild — quartz movements, though perhaps less interesting to behold, do this job better. Fortunately (because we do love mechanical watches), some companies have toughened up their mechanical movements with anti-magnetic soft iron cages, anti-shock mounts, and hardened bezels and crystals.

Seiko Prospex Alpinist SPB121
seikousa.com
$725.00

It’s maybe the funkiest-looking watch on this list, but don’t let that fool you: the Alpinist is a dark horse favorite in the outdoors. Seiko makes a dependable movement, and though the watch comes on a leather strap that looks ready for cocktail hour, it also has an inner rotating compass ring for navigation and a thick, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal; throw it on a NATO and you have an instant watch for adventuring.

Movement: Seiko 6R35 automatic
Case Diameter: 39.5mm
Water Resistance: 200m

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CWC Navigator
cwcwatch.com
£479.00

CWC has been making watches for the British military for decades. This one is based off a model from the 1970s, and has all the Ministry of Defence specifications aimed at helping it survive in the field: Luminova on the hands and hour markers, a two-piece stainless steel case and water resistance to 5 atm (164 feet). (For a more affordable option, check out the quartz-run G10 version.)

Movement: ETA 2824-2 automatic
Case Diameter: 38mm
Water Resistance: 50m

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Luminox Atacama Field Automatic 1907.NF
luminox.com
$1,095.00

The rest of the Atacama lineup from Luminox has chunkier numerals and quartz movements — consider this one a slightly more refined option. At 44mm, its stainless steel case is a sizable hulk, and its tritium gas tubes illuminate the dial beautifully.

Movement: SW220-1 HH5 automatic
Case Diameter: 44mm
Water Resistance: 200m

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Damasko DK32 Ocean
$1,680.00

Damasko is a German watchmaker that flies below the radar but makes very tough, simplistically sharp timepieces. The DK32 has a dial that's not just a pretty blue but packs value with the brand's own movement, and its beauty in the outdoors is more than skin deep: It’s made to take a beating without showing it, thanks to Damasko’s patented, hardened stainless steel case.

Movement: Damasko A26-2 automatic
Case Diameter: 39mm
Water Resistance: 200m

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Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage
ballwatch.ch
$2,299.00

Ball Watch started making durable watches for rail workers in 1891, and today it’s still known as a compelling watchmaker offering tough timepieces at prices that feel like a steal. The Engineer II Skindiver is a simple three-hander plus day and date, powered by an ETA movement surrounded by the brand’s “Amortiser” shock-absorbing, anti-magnetic system. At night, thanks to 31 micro gas tubes, its straight-laced dial lights up like a firework.

Movement: ETA 2836 automatic
Case Diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 200m

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IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII Heritage
iwc.com
$4,650.00

The Mark XVIII Pilot’s watch is the descendant of IWC’s Mark 11, a legendary watch first worn by British pilots in 1948. The Mark XVIII carries on the legibility, simple style and toughness of that forebear; the Heritage version adds a titanium case and keeps the automatic movement sheathed in an anti-magnetic soft iron case.

Movement: IWC 35111
Case Diameter: 40mm
Water Resistance: 60m

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Omega Seamaster Railmaster
watchesofswitzerland.com
$4,900.00

The modern incarnation of the Omega Railmaster — part of a classic tool watch trio that includes the Seamaster and Speedmaster — is far too often overlooked. After all, it has a movement that is both chronometer-certified (long story short, it’s very accurate) and super resistant to magnetism. And its new dial is lumed to the max.

Movement: Omega 8806
Case Diameter: 40mm
Water Resistance: 150m

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Bremont MB-2
bremont.com
$5,595.00

British watchmaker Bremont created the MB line in collaboration with Martin Baker, a company that makes fighter plane ejection seats; the watch had to withstand the same the same testing rigors as the ejector seats themselves, success in which involved encasing the movement in an anti-magnetic Faraday cage and anti-shock mount. Unlike some Martin Baker watches, this one is fortunately available to the wider public without requiring that you've actually ejected from a fighter jet.

Movement: Modified ETA 2836-2 automatic chronometer
Case Diameter: 43mm
Water Resistance: 100m

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Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional
watchesofswitzerland.com
$6,400.00

What’s an outdoors watches list without the watch that went so out-of-doors that it escaped the earth’s atmosphere? You’ve heard the story a million times before: When NASA was looking for the right balance of accuracy and toughness in a watch for its missions in 1965, the Speedmaster won out. Astronauts wore their Omegas on spacewalks, and eventually, onto the surface of the moon. Jack Swigert later used his to time a vital burn while getting Apollo 13 back to earth. If this isn’t a watch you can trust for a weekend in the backcountry, what is? And updates for 2021 make it more compelling than ever.

Movement: Omega 3861
Case Diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 50m

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Rolex Explorer II
Rolex rolex.com
$8,550.00

If the Explorer II had been available in 1953 when Hillary summited Everest, chances are he might have had this white-dialed beauty on his wrist. Originally developed for spelunking, it has a 24-hour fixed bezel, lumed indices and a bright orange-tipped 24-hour hand for absolute clarity when darkness and low oxygen levels threaten to overcome you. Its 3187 movement also features enhanced shock resistance.

Movement: Rolex 3285
Case Diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m

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Quartz Field Watches

When it was first released in 1969, the quartz movement threatened mechanical watches in part because both its accuracy and toughness were superior to that of its mechanical counterparts. That hasn’t changed. They’re also usually — but not always! — more affordable than mechanical movements, which is a good thing when there’s a risk your watch could fall off your wrist into a volcano.

Timex Expedition Sierra
timex.com
$79.00

It costs just around eighty bucks, so don’t expect the Expedition to deliver the goods like other more expensive watches on this list. Still, Timex does here what it does best: provide a decently constructed beater watch, in this case made with a steel case and an Indiglo backlight for visibility. And you won’t cry if it falls off a cliff.

Movement: Quartz (unspecified)
Case Diameter: 40mm
Water Resistance: 50m

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Bertucci A-2T
amazon.com
$200.00

Bertucci watches, with their affordable prices, solid construction and even, in some cases, hard plastic covers, are favorite watches of folks whose hands take a beating daily. The A-2T combines a classic military field-style design with a titanium case that’s light and strong, a sapphire crystal and a thick zulu nylon webbing band.

Movement: Swiss quartz (unspecified)
Case Diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m

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Marathon Pilot’s Navigator
marathonwatch.com
$385.00

As noted in our latest Field Watch buying guide, military-issued watches are not so much a thing anymore; soldiers tend to buy their own watches. However, Marathon’s Pilot’s Navigator, like many of its watches, is still made to American military specification. It has tritium tubes for visibility, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal on the newest models, a fibershell high-impact case with stainless steel back, and is both water- and shock-resistant to the level needed by a pilot or parachutist. All for around $400.

Movement: ETA FØ6 high-torque 3-jewel quartz movement
Case Diameter: 41mm
Water Resistance: 60m

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Victorinox Swiss Army INOX
bloomingdales.com
$346.50

Victorinox built the I.N.O.X. with all the design subtlety of a dumbbell. If you can get past that, the chunk of stainless steel is a great watch to survive a beating, including, according to the company, being driven over by a 64-ton tank and then tossed into a washing machine. Survivalists can also buy it with a paracord strap, and you can get an automatic version, too, if you want.

Movement: Quartz (unspecified)
Case Diameter: 43mm
Water Resistance: 200m

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Breitling Emergency
breitling.com
$18,760.00

Technically, this is an upgrade of Breitling’s first Emergency watch, released in 1995. Besides being a beefcake on the wrist (consider the “why-not-make-it-indestructible?” black titanium-cased version), it has a dual-frequency distress beacon that you can activate so that search-and-rescue will come get you out of any tough situation. Barring a real scare, you can always use its SuperQuartz movement to power the included chronograph, countdown timer, second time zone, and alarm (the normal, wake-up kind).

Movement: Breitling 76 SuperQuartz
Case Diameter: 51mm
Water Resistance: 50m

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Dive Watches

Dive watches really are great for a lot more than diving. Building a watch that can survive hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface tends to also make it tough for hiking, biking, and backpacking, and a tradition of bulky designs and chunky tool bezels make for a watch case that can take a beating.

Orient Mako USA II
amazon.com
$189.83

Orient is a Japanese brand known for delivering solid mechanical watches at affordable prices. The Mako USA II is just that: its case is hearty and good down to 200m; its crystal is scratch-resistant sapphire for good measure. If you want an affordable, tough watch with some character to boot, this is it.

Movement: Orient F6922 automatic
Case Diameter: 41.5mm
Water Resistance: 200m

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Marathon TSAR Quartz Medium
marathonwatch.com
$1,000.00

Just like Marathon’s Pilot’s Navigator, the TSAR (Tritium Search and Rescue) is made to military specifications regarding shock and water-resistance, illumination markings, and spring bar strength. It has a Swiss quartz movement, a steel case with a unidirectional bezel, and tritium gas tubes for easy reading in the depths (or just the dark). As Jon Custis, a former Marine who wore one while stationed in Iraq wrote, “Despite the abuse endured on operations, my TSAR hasn’t skipped a beat.”

Movement: ETA FØ6 quartz
Case Diameter: 41mm
Water Resistance: 300m

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Doxa Sub 1500T
doxawatches.com
$2,390.00

A modern take on the legendary Doxa divers from the 1960s and ‘70s, the Sub 1500T is a monster with a 45mm case, a bright orange dial (it also comes in other colorful options) and 1,500 meters of water resistance. It also has all the makings of a great, tough outdoors watch: shock-resistance, the ability to take a dip and an entirely unique look. If you’re a Jacques Cousteau fan, it’s a no-brainer.

Movement: ETA 2892-2
Case Diameter: 45mm
Water Resistance: 1,500m

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Seiko Prospex1975 Reinterpretation S23631
seikoluxe.com
$2,400.00

As legend has it, Seiko’s “Tuna Can” diver came about after a letter from a commercial diver arrived at the brand’s headquarters, pleading for a watch that could withstand the rigors of the undersea job. The result was the Professional Diver’s Watch, nicknamed the “Tuna Can.” The name comes from its most obvious feature: a shroud covering most of the watch’s case. In its modern-recreation form, the watch has a ceramic shroud, titanium case, is anti-magnetic, anti-corrosive, and has a tough, dependable quartz movement.

Movement: Seiko 7C46 quartz
Case Diameter: 49.4mm
Water Resistance: 1,000m

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Sinn UX EZM 2 B Hydro
$2,550.00

With the UX, German watchmaker Sinn tackled the water resistance problem by filling the watch’s case with a special oil. The benefits are twofold: first, the oil makes the dial, hands, and crystal appear all on the same plane, making the watch extremely legible from any angle underwater. Secondly, and more importantly, the oil negates the main problem depth causes underwater in a gas-filled watch — namely, immense pressure, giving the UX a depth rating of something like 5 kilometers.

Movement: ETA 955.652 quartz
Case Diameter: 44mm
Water Resistance: 5,000m

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Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller
rolex.com
$2,022.00

The Sea Dweller was a legend in its own right long before James Cameron drove a submersible wearing a specialized version of the Deepsea on its mechanical wrist down to 35,000 feet. The Deepsea you can buy can descend to 12,800 feet (that ought to be enough) thanks to a movement that’s shock- and magnetic-resistant, a hardened ceramic bezel, a 5.5mm thick sapphire crystal and a helium escape valve. (Whether you’ll take a $12,000+ watch under the waves is your own choice.)

Movement: Rolex 3235
Case Diameter: 44mm
Water Resistance: 3,900m

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ABC/Smart Watches

Time to learn your ABCs: altimeter, barometer, compass. On a watch, this is a life-saving trio, great for any adventurer no matter what their pursuits. Many ABC watches today have digital smartwatch interfaces, too.

Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400
amazon.com
$300.00
$231.82 (23% off)

The G-Shock specialty watches (Frogman, Mudman, etc.) are favorites of US special operations personnel, which tells you all you need to know about their place as sports and adventure watches. The Rangeman has a “shock-resistant triple sensor” that gives altitude, barometric pressure, compass, and temperature readings; its Multi-Band Atomic Timekeeping keeps it ultra accurate via regular updates via radio signals. The watch is solar-powered, shock- and mud-resistant, and can withstand temperatures down to -14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Weight: 42 grams
Case Diameter: 60mmm
Water Resistance: 200m

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Suunto Traverse Alpha
amazon.com
$829.00

The Traverse Alpha the only watch on this list built specifically for hunters and anglers. Atop Suunto’s (already excellent) outdoors features, like an altimeter, barometer, compass, GPS, weather alerts, and activity tracking, it offers three modes: hiking, hunting, and fishing. Automatic shot detection marks your exact time and location every time you fire a gun; sunrise and sunset alerts and a moon phase calendar provide important information for anglers. All this comes inside a stainless steel case that’s built to military standards.

Case Diameter: 50mm
Water Resistance: 100m

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Alpina AlpinerX
kay.com
$696.50

Alpina is known first for its sporty, Swiss-made luxury watches, so the AlpinerX was a serious departure. The brand paired an analog dial and quartz movement with a digital readout for the ABCs, plus GPS, thermometer, sleep tracking, and more via a paired app. With a black fiberglass case and a rubber strap, it’s hardy enough for your next adventure.

Case Diameter: 45mm
Water Resistance: 200m

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Garmin Tactix Delta Solar Edition with Ballistics
garmin.com
$1,399.99

The Tactix Delta features a huge, 1.4-inch high-resolution digital screen, ready to be filled with all the information Garmin smart watches provide: ABC, GPS and GLONASS with TOPO mapping, heart rate, swimming, cycling, running, and golfing-specific modes, and more. Even though it’s loaded with tech, it’s still built to last, with up to 24 days of battery life and a DLC-coated steel bezel. Plus, you can customize its appearance and settings through its paired app.

Case Diameter: 51mm
Water Resistance: 100m

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