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What to Look for in a Sports Watch

As its name suggests, a sports watch is designed to withstand the stresses of a sporting activity. But the term is more generally used for watches that are casual and durable, with functional attributes that make it a go-to timepiece for everyday use or for the more rugged activities for which it was built.

The most popular material used for crafting a sports watchcase is undoubtedly stainless steel, but other materials like titanium or ceramic are also frequently used, favored for their light weight, sturdiness and scratch resistance.  Sports watches are available with mechanical or quartz movements, and they may be digital or analog (or both), depending upon the user’s preference and the watch’s planned use. Prices range from barely a blip in the budget to tens of thousands of dollars, depending mostly on the brand and the number and type of functions the watch includes.

Sports watch functions

Available functions are numerous within the realm of sports watches, many specific to the intended sport.  A chronograph, for example, is a popular and useful feature for timing events (think Rolex Daytona and Omega Speedmaster). And leaning into the dive-watch models, rotating bezels, easy-to-read illuminated indexes and serious water resistance are important. A dive watch most often includes a screw-in caseback and screw-in crown or crown protector for added protection. 

Look for a substantial scratch-resistant crystal and overall shock resistance if the watch is destined for high-contact sports. Most sports watches produced today are solid enough to take a bit of knocking around without appreciably impacting timekeeping capabilities. But check with the manufacturer for more accurate info if needed.

As for the bracelet or strap, comfort and security are key. A double safety clasp on a metal bracelet is a good choice, as are materials impervious to moisture when considering a strap—like rubber or nylon.

A note about size

Personal preference, wrist circumference and comfort determine the size of your sports watch, but suffice it to say that the larger-than-life watchcases seen several years ago have played out their popularity.  Most contemporary sports watches hover at around 40mm, plus or minus a bit.

Luxury Sports Watches

While you may not envision yourself surfside in your Patek Philippe Nautilus or Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas, both collections offer great examples of what’s available in the upper echelons of sports watch-dom. While pricey, these timepieces are handsome, reliable, and perhaps most importantly, come from well-respected brands. Handle with care.


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