As I recently noted in my Apple Watch thoughts post, I am not a fan of wearing my Apple Watch — even when I work out. I noted in my Rucking post that I occasionally wear the Apple Watch for tracking my mile times, however I’ve moved to using Gaia GPS on my iPhone for that purpose and now I don’t use my Apple Watch at all.
For me, there’s nothing more appealing than putting a lovely mechanical watch on my wrist. I wear one almost all day long — typically only removing my watch when I shower. I have many reasons for this, but I tend to think you either already understand why you would do this, or you never will understand it — so I’ll leave it at that.
Over the past few years my watch collection has grown, at the height I had over a dozen watches, most of which were quartz driven. And over the past few months I’ve purged my entire collection down to just three watches:
- Rolex Datejust “Thunderbird”: this was my grandfather’s watch and given to me when he passed. It’s what I wear most days.
- Tissot Le Locle Automatic: this is a fantastically understated watch, which I generally wear when I dress up nicer. I know to some you’ll think “why not wear the Rolex when you dress nice”, and to that I say that a nice understated watch on a leather band is a much classier move when you don a suit.
- Mont Blanc Sport Chronograph circa 2001: this has been my weekend watch and my defacto work out watch.
In pairing this down, I felt like I had a good rotation, but in use, I’ve began to see that the Mont Blanc isn’t great as my harder use watch. It’s not made for that type of use, and so I set out to try and find a hard use — more rugged — watch. Here’s the criteria I used for the search:
- Rugged: this is more in style, but I wanted something which looked at home in the woods.
- Durable: I wanted a watch with a good glass that can take a beating, and good water resistance (200m or more).
- Automatic: there’s a ton of great quartz options out there, but I tend to quickly fade in my liking of any quartz watches. I love automatics.
- Versatile: while I wanted the watch to be rugged looking, it should also be able to look fine wearing about town on a daily basis and capable of being dressed up if the occasion calls for it.
- Not too expensive: looking to stay under $750.
I also wanted a watch that I really liked. Even though the main goal is to get a good watch for my rucking workouts, I also wanted a watch which would be the one I wear daily. I like the Datejust, it means a lot to me, but I also feel self conscious about it at times.
When looking through everything, the watch I’d get if money were no issue is a Submariner (Rolex) or the Deepsea, or Sea-Dweller models. Those are robust and awesome watches, but that’s not in the cards for this search.
I narrowed my list down to a few select options:
- Steinhart: these are German made watches which pay “homage” to many much more expensive or rare watches. I specifically am looking at the Ocean One line, and a few models within that lineup.
- Resco: made for hard use, military applications. Not in the sense that they got one special forces operator to buy them, but in the sense that they strapped them to Navy SEALs in training and looked to see if the watches survived. One thing which caught my eye is the buffering they do to protect the mechanism from shock. Which might mean it would be fine to golf with the watch on.
- MWC: basic looks, and again military inspired.
- Lum-Tec: while these are military inspired, I’d also say they have a hipster vibe to them. They look lovely.
- Seiko: classic, time tested, and good.
- Oris: see above, and then some.
- Aulta: a newer watch company making watches for surfers and divers. They look great and are very inexpensive. Hard to resist.
- Nezumi: no clue. Cool watches.
- Raven: newer company doing limited run watches.
Those are the ones which have a watch or three that caught my eye.
Military / Dive
Most of these watches bill themselves as military or dive watches. For the most part the only difference is in style. Most dive watches start at 200m water resistance and go deeper as you spend more. Military watches generally eschew the bracelets in favor of NATO straps (nylon or leather) and usually have a black PVD coating to make the watch anti-reflective. But keep in mind, a watch billed as a military watch is usually not what most military personnel use.1
I chose to focus more on dive watches as they are more versatile to wear and don’t come with as much bullshit marketing around them. That said, there’s a ton of great looking watches.
I also want a watch with a bracelet, because that’s a far more versatile band. Most watches which use a bracelet look good if you swap them to a NATO band, or a silicone band — most watches which don’t come with a bracelet can’t ever accept a bracelet and look good later on. In that sense, again, dive watches make a better choice for this use as they are far more versatile while still being rugged. I love the look of a leather band on a watch, but they suck when you start to sweat and often cause my wrist to break out.
The bad new here is that this isn’t an area where “Ben goes and buys a ton of watches” — there’s just no way in hell I have the budget for that. I’ll pick one, buy and try it.2
Is there a watch I missed you think I should be looking at? Let me know.
I’ve seen no hard numbers on this, but I would not be surprised to see Casio G-Shocks at the top of the list. Rugged, good, and cheap enough to replace when they are broken or lost. ↩
Yes, I reached out to most of those companies to see if they do review units. And exactly 0 responded. Such is life. ↩