Like most (all?) watch nerds, I have a recurring nightmare where I am forced to pick between my watches — I have to pick the one to wear for the rest of my life. No others, only one. How do I even begin such a task? I have four watches right now, and even with that small collection I cannot pick between them.
It’s a true nightmare for those who love watches.
Then, when I write posts about bug out bags, I need to think about what might be the best watch for a bug out bag if you had no limits on what you could squirrel away in such a bag — what watch would be good for that? Sure a G-SHOCK, but no, a Submariner, Sea-Dweller? Shit.
You see, there’s a vision I have where the apocalypse has hit — we are talking Hollywood level of fucked — food is scarce, and I spend my days wandering around with my GORUCK backpack on. And when you unzip my GORUCK the internal MOLLE webbing reveals a collection of watches hanging from it — because even in that world I can’t pick just one.
But this indecision makes it hard for people who don’t have the luxury of not picking, who are in the majority — who are lucky to get one good watch to begin with — and thus what is that one watch they should buy above all others? The one watch to recommend to those who will only get one shot — mom’s spaghetti — and they need/want to get it right the first time…
Is this even possible? Sure, maybe, I don’t know.
Typically, I don’t ruminate on these things, but the absurd criticism of President Biden wearing a Rolex at the inauguration got me to thinking. Because it wasn’t that he was wearing the ‘president’ (all yellow gold Day-Date) or that he was wearing any other watch. For me it’s that he was wearing a Rolex Datejust.
Reading about his watch had me thinking something over and over again: is the Datejust the best one watch you could own? What would possibly be better? (I am sure watch people are on fire with what could be better, but alas, no comments on this site, bummer.)
What watch could be a better pick than a Datejust? The Datejust can be worn with a suit, a tux, or t-shirt and jeans. Hiking? Sure. The case means you can legitimately wear it to 100m of depth — sorry you’ll never out water the water resistance on the Datejust. And let’s face it, at best someone might snorkel with it in Hawaii which… ok…
Simple style and design which is for the ages, Datejust. And then there’s the date that snaps into place when today changes to tomorrow like the crisp start a new day is — perfection.
All you need, and nothing more.
And as I started down this vortex, I settled on three thoughts as to what could possibly be the best watch you could get if you had to. Not for zombie times, but for our lives as they currently exist. I gave myself no budget and got to thinking.
I narrowed it to three options:
- Rolex Datejust: (I could go 41 or 36 on this, but I prefer 36) with baton indices, and a black/gray/dark blue face, Oystersteel. Get the bezel you like (fluted or smooth), and the bracelet you like (Oyster to stay sportier/simple, or Jubilee to class the joint up a bit).
- Weiss Field Watch: the Weiss 38mm Standard Issue Field Watch with a dark blue or white face. There is, I think, no more classic watch which so easily flys under the radar no matter where you take it. It could be dressed up with a leather strap, or well suited for casual with a canvas or suede strap.
- A G-SHOCK Casioak: depending on how you look at ‘best’ it’s hard to say G-SHOCKs are not the best by default. They are darn near indestructible, and they do that while being accurate and low fuss. They have stood, and continue to stand, the test of time — I doubt that will ever change. For our purposes we will talk about the GA2100-1A, nicknamed the Casioak which is a true gem of a watch.
This has been a hard one for me. I don’t have those last two models, but I have had many watches close to them to be able to speak to what they are and aren’t, so let’s talk this through a bit more.
The Datejust I have, the rare/unknown Datejust Thunderbird Turn-O-Graph was given to me after my grandfather passed — it was his, and worn by me without missing a beat for well over a year. It can be your only watch — I’ve lived that. I’ve swam, showered, worked on the house, and everything else in that watch. It still is sweeping its seconds hand along.
The reason the Datejust has my vote as the best singular watch is that of all the points for it, it is the only one which both will retain value, and will work for everything you do. A good watch should be optimized for what you do most of the time, but capable of handling the edges of what you might do as well. For most this means likely working at a desk. Thus you need a watch that looks smart and works well. Which can go to board meetings and then the bar. On a hike, a trip with your friends, or a romantic weekend away. Or something like that. No matter how you slice it, a Datejust is perfect for it. It always works with the situation.
For the average reader of this site, including me, there simply is now better option than a Datejust. It’s the one. That doesn’t mean you should like it the most, but it will be the best option.
It is near perfection. The issue though is that the Datejust 36 is $7,050 retail (mine is the 36 reference, and I think the 36 is a better size for most unless your wrists are larger than normal — then get the 41). That’s not, umm, affordable. And really not attainable for most.
But as I thought about it more I felt the need to select something a little more unique as the second pick. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Seiko by any means, but I think the next watch is better.
Which is why the Weiss 38mm Standard Issue Field Watch is my second choice. It is not inexpensive like the Seiko, so it is not reachable by everyone, but at roughly $1,500 it is not as out of reach for many — certainly not as out of reach as the Rolex is.
38mm Standard Issue Field Watch, Weiss
Let’s talk about why such a different watch is my second choice to the Datejust. First, it is spectacular in its simplicity and execution. A field watch might be the most classic thing out there, and is arguably what made wrist watches a popular item (thanks WWII?). And this watch is that item distilled to perfection.
It is clean, highly legible, and a watch-persons-watch. The founder of the company is what makes this watch and the movement housed inside special. It’s not a Rolex, but when someone notices it and knows what it is, then you know you have found another watch person.
I prefer the 38mm over the 42mm for the placement of the small seconds hand and aesthetically the 38mm will work in greater circumstances than the 42mm. This is a watch that can be more chameleon based on the strap you pair it with — and I would choose the dark blue face for the most versatility, or the white if you want to make a statement.
The only place this watch will struggle is in more formal attire — which is something not many of us have to deal with. And even then, I think that with the right strap it will be just fine. But for the rest of life this watch is seamless — subtle and yet balanced.
Ok, I get it though, $1,500 is a big ask. We are talking about two watches which could last you a lifetime, be handed down to a kid and last them a lifetime. But, money is money, and for many these are not affordable.
Which is why my third pick is a humble Casio G-SHOCK. Specifically the GA-2100, also known as the CasiOak — so named after this watch. When this Casio was first released you couldn’t get it because everyone wanted one. At under $200 this watch is a beast. It comes in several color options but these two get my votes.
So what makes this particular G-SHOCK a contender in the same ranks of a Rolex? That’s easy: it looks like nothing and yet like everything. It looks fancy, and most importantly it looks like a watch.
Can you wear this with a tux? Technically there’s no rule against it, but hmm. If you are somehow wearing a tuxedo so much that it drives your watch buying decisions, yet you are not rocking a Rolex — then you live an interesting life.
Here’s the thing: this G-SHOCK looks infinitely better than an Apple Watch, and people wear that shit everywhere. We G-SHOCK fans owe a debt of gratitude to Apple Watch owners as they have decided to make ugly watches the normal, thus elevating G-SHOCKs to their rightful place on our wrists since they are objectively better looking than any Apple Watch.
So can you wear this with a tux? Yeah, you bet your ass I would. In fact the next time I have a need to don a tux, I’ll put this on my wrist just for you. It’s also a G-SHOCK so it can be worn swimming, lounging, at bars, in the mud, or literally at war. Take your pick.
And I need not sell a G-SHOCK to you, because it is <$200 and on Amazon. Buy it, return it if you want, whatever. It’ll never fail you, because that’s what G-SHOCKs do, they just work.
Actually, the more I think about it, maybe I have this entire list backwards. Maybe the G-SHOCK is the best singular watch you could own, with the Datejust coming in 3rd. Shit, I need to consider getting that G-SHOCK for my my GORUCK-apocalypse wandering days.
My Watches, in Pictures
Because you came for pictures, not my ramblings…
Montblanc Sport Chronograph…
Garmin Instinct Tactical…
Tudor Black Bay GMT…