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Rugged Watch Buyers Guide

Posted by Craig Carter on

Rugged Watch Buyers Guide

Some watches are made for wear in formal settings. Dress watches provide the necessary gravitas for business, parties, or other engagements but may lack the necessary strength for high-powered, specialized activities. Whether traversing land, sea, or the skies, the following sports watches have been made for high performance to meet the needs of any adventurer. 

On Land 

We begin this list by examining watches that go the distance in the circumstance most wear them on a daily basis: Dry land. A watch used on land doesn’t need to survive the deep-sea dives expected of dive or nautical watches, nor does it necessarily need to have the complications found in pilot’s watches. 

For Racers

This watch is made for the speed demons, whose hearts race with the engines of their cars along the open road. The Mirabeau Chronograph showcases that same watch complication originally used to measure horse races, making it a popular inclusion in any racing watch today. 

The unique color choices showcase subdials that perfectly match the dial and tri-colored subdials for an eye-catching pop of style. Like the sky-blue variant linked above, some versions come with a matching punched-leather band, which gives it a look and feel unique to the watch.

For Outdoorsmen 

For those who do their land journeying on foot rather than by car, the Overland Solar is a timepiece that sustains and even rewards its wearers for exposing themselves to the great outdoors. A variation on Jack Mason’s classic Solar Watch, the Overland Solar features a unique solar-powered movement charged through the perforated dial and a manual compass complication.

The solar movement, when fully charged, can last for six months at a time. The caseback, showcasing a compass and what, on closer inspection, reveals itself as a topographic map, makes this a perennial watch for any hiker or outdoorsman.

Another highlight of the Overland Solar is its manufacturing process: The case itself is cast recycled to reduce our waste. While this offering comes with a leather strap, the original Solar Watch comes with a velcro strap made from recycled ocean plastic.

10% of all profits from both solar offerings are donated to the Jan & Oscar Foundation, a humanitarian organization that supports groups worldwide, focused primarily on improving the lives of those in Thailand affected by the disaster. 

At Sea 

Water can be alternately beautiful, serene, treacherous, and awe-inspiring, a haven for all sorts of adventures. Unfortunately, there is nothing more dangerous for a watch than overexposure to water. Precious metals can rust, and if the gaskets which prevent water from getting into a watch fail, the piece can become flooded, permanently damaging the battery and mechanical pieces used to power it. 

No watch is truly waterproof. However, watches can be made to be highly water-resistant. Water-resistance testing refers to the amount of water pressure, which increases with depth, that a watch can safely withstand when sitting in static water. Because of the word “static,” the actual depth a watch can be used at is often less than the depth stated.

For example, watches with 30 meters or 3 ATM of water resistance are only splash resistant. Watches with 100 meters of water resistance are safe to swim with, and watches with a stated water resistance testing of 300 meters and above make for ideal diving tools.

For Swimming 

The Halyard GMT presents a refreshing, powerful nautical watch for those who spend more time over or on the waves than far beneath them. The Halyard line takes its name from a naval term, “haul the yards,” referring to a series of ropes. GMT naturally refers to Greenwich Mean Time due to a capability made possible through the bezel of the watch.

The watch’s bezel is made of anodized aluminum, through a process that makes it highly durable and incredibly corrosion-resistant. The bicolored blue-and red pattern symbolizes night and day, and the hour markings on the bidirectional bezel make it possible to set the time in multiple time zones at once. 

Visually, the Halyard GMT is an understated timepiece whose coloration appears all the more brilliant for the stark white dial, silver indices, and stainless steel metal bracelet it presents with. The caseback, in case there was any confusion about the purpose of the watch, showcases water testing at 100 meters and other core design elements. It reveals an anchor surrounded by a pattern of laurels and the waves of the ocean.

For Diving 

The Seatrek, deserving of its name, is designed in every aspect to evoke the beauty and match the power of the waves. Water-testing at 300 meters is complemented by a durable sapphire crystal, a case made of highly rust-resistant 316L stainless steel, and a screw-down crown. 

Legibility markings on the indices, as well as a unidirectional rotating bezel, make it perfect for timing the length of your next dive. A rubber strap, classic navy blue or bold orange depending on the model, makes for an effective and durable waterproof companion to the Seatrek.

The visual language of the watch is equally considered: One version of the Seatrek matches the orange rubber strap with an understated, eye-catching black dial. The other version showcases a uniquely colored seafoam green dial, whose appearance is only heightened by the navy rubber strap included with the watch.

In the Skies 

In the air, precise readings are the order of the day. Aviator watches showcase large cases to account for the complications necessitated by the nature of the watch, legible faces, and durable materials. These timepieces need to function even without the presence of natural light. 

During WW2, watches were manufactured with radium to provide a signature glow-in-the-dark appearance to the hands and dials, allowing flight missions to occur at night without cockpit lights giving away the position of airplanes.

Also desirable in a watch for the skies is chronograph functionality. The chronograph is a classic watch complication with a deeply nuanced set of uses. Some of the earliest chronographs, as mentioned before, were used to measure races

Their modern counterparts are known for the extremely high standard to which they are tested for accuracy. Stopwatch functionality, traditionally represented on subdials and a tachymeter scale used to measure speed across a set distance, gives these aviator watches the appearance they are well known for. 

Pilot’s Watches

One distinctive pilot’s watch is the Avigator. The Avigator takes its design, and even its name from the original men’s pilots watches. Though, thankfully, the radium has been replaced by subtle SuperLuminova luminosity markings. An impressive 45mm case size and multicolored subdials on select versions of it help to make the avigator a strong piece whose statement is as strong as its functionality. 

Another pilot’s watch to be on the lookout for in the Pursuit Chronograph. The three subdials, distinctively placed at the watch’s 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, and 12 o’clock positions, make for a chronograph with classic function and eye-catching untraditional placement. A 42mm case and sunray dial are complemented by large indices and lettering that maintain legibility. 

Made for the Skies 

Craftsmanship, passion, and precision come together in the AOPA Pilot’s Chronograph. This timepiece, the result of a fruitful collaboration between Jack Mason and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, has been designed with even the most intricate of details with pilots in mind.

The acrylic crystal which protects the dial was chosen for the way it responds to impacts and significant changes in air pressure. By integrating both SuperLuminova and Trigalight H3 markings, the chronograph maximizes legibility by showcasing numerous differently colored markings on the hands, indices, and subdials of the watch.

As far as complications are concerned, the watch reveals classic chronograph functionality as well as a rotating bezel. The piece as a whole is protected thanks to a specially designed, anti-magnetic movement guard ensuring the watch can be utilized unimpeded by the magnetism caused by the components of an airplane.

The visual appeal of the watch is designed to be equally as impressive. A black stainless steel case sets it apart from more traditionally-colored pieces, a design choice reflected in the monochromatic language of the face and caseback.

Mentioning the caseback, the outer edge of it highlights all the precise, pilot-requested design choices which went into the construction of the AOPA Pilot’s Chronograph. Also etched into the caseback are the AOPA logo and the Jack Mason name, proudly declaring the partnership which makes this entire project possible.

All-Terrain Watches 

A person who does it all needs a watch that does it all. With the exception of the Seatrek (water resistance tested at an impressive 300 meters), all of the watches listed above feature testing at 100 meters. They also have 316L stainless steel cases that resist the wear and tear an intensely active watch is exposed to.

These are pilot’s watches, racing watches, and nautical watches, but at their core, our watches are designed to be universal, all-terrain timepieces that remain competitive in any context.



Radioactivity in Antiques | US EPA

Chronograph – Watch Functions, History and Types of Chronographs I History of Watch

Corrosion - an overview | Science Direct

The influence of barometric pressure on watch and chronometer rates | ResearchGate

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