With the conclusion of the Sochi Winter Olympics the other week, it seemed like a good time to do a feature on our favorite sport watches for men who enjoy sports and the outdoors. Regardless, of whether or not you’re a pro or amateur;golfer or snowboarder, these watches will take a beating and still come back ticking for more.
While we couldn’t include every sport, we focused on some of the most popular ones enjoyed by many of our readers. For each sport I considered a variety of watches at various price points. I then shortlisted my favorites based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to reliability, practicality, craftsmanship and details, and then chose a top pick for each sport. I hope you enjoy this feature and please remember that many of these watches can be used for more than one sport, and there’s many watches that are ideal for each sport I’ve listed. These are simply my opinions and may not reflect that of your own or other horologists and professional athletes.
As always, if you are not familiar with a watch term, find out what it is in our watch glossary.
Top Pick: The Reconvilier Hercules Golf Master with Titanium Dial
The Reconvilier Golf Master is a GPS driven Swiss mechanical timepiece designed specifically for ambitious golfer. Available for purchase at Brooks Brothers Madison NY or online, the Hercules Golf Master features an automatic ETA calibre 2892.A2 movement with fairly basis water and shock resistancy. Similar to a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, the analogue time display flips over to provide a high tech application that measures distance to green using advanced GPS-technology. While at first glance, the Golf Master appears to be no more spectacular than most golf watches, what separates it from the Garmin and ESN made watches is in fact the movement. The 2892.A2 is an automatic winding, twenty-one jewel movement that has actually been considered by some critics as being more accurate and reliable than some in-house Rolex movements. While I am not inclined to agree, I will say that it’s a step up from the more basic 2824. To provide you with a comparison if you’re not familiar with this movement, both Breitling and IWC have used the 2892.A2 considerably in their timepieces since it offers a relatively good base for more complicated watches.
Racquet Sports Watch
Top Pick: The Richard Mille RM27-01
At almost $700,000 the Richard Mille RM27-01 is not a watch for everyone. But, then again, most people don’t wear a watch while playing tennis or racquetball. Made famous by, and in conjunction with pro tennis star Rafael Nadal, the RM27-01 is lighter upgrade from the original RM027 he made famous such a short time ago. One may argue that a watch in tennis is pointless, the argument can also be made for any other contact sport. When Richard Mille placed a watch on Nadal, they took a stance in an effort to prove how impenetrable and robust their watches were. Capable of taking on 5000Gs of force and outfitted with a suspension shock system, the RM27-01 weighs in at just 19 grams, and features an absolutely incredible house-made mechanical movement with a tourbillon escapement. I can only assume that Richard Mille is so proud of this movement due to the overwhelmingly detailed skeleton case they made to showcase it. The one part of this watch that really bothers me and I feel compelled to vent about is the ridiculous velco strap. I get that it’s lighter than many of the other straps and bracelets, but in my opinion it just cheapens the appearance. Despite the strap, the RM27-01 is a definite step up from the original RM027 of which some broke, and others were famously stolen. This newly revised RM27-01 has set a new standard in both tennis and watchmaking, and is now proving match after match that for those interested in keeping track of the time, there is no better choice than the RM27-01. For those who cannot afford the steep price tag or simply can’t get a hold of one of the fifty limited edition watches, try checking the time on the bench where your watch can be safely stored in the confines of your gym bag.
Hunting / Shooting Watch
Top Pick: The 5.11 Tactical HRT Titanium
Manufactured for use by tactical police and military units, the relatively inexpensive 5.11 Tactical HRT watch (under $300) is engineered for outstanding durability in all environments. What really separates this watch from others is that it comes with a built in SureShot ballistics calculator which allows the wearer to calculate point of impact solutions from up to 1,000 meters away in MILS, TMOA or SMOA. A anadigi quartz watch operating on separate batteries, there are also a variety of other standard digital functions built in including two alarm clocks, a day-date display, as well as a stopwatch and timer. The watch is water resistant to 100 meters, and features an anti-glare coating to ensure a low profile. It has chargeable luminescence and controllable backlights for low light hunting and shooting at dawn or dusk and comes with both rubber and leather straps that can be interchanged in a matter of minutes using the included hex key.
Top Pick: The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner
It may be the obvious choice, but as the saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
When it comes to diving, in my opinion there really is no better choice than the Rolex Submariner. While certain horologists may argue that the Fifty Fathoms by Blancpain or perhaps the Supermarine by Bremont are equal or even superior contenders, the Rolex Submariner perfected the diving market. Waterproof to 300m (1000ft), the Submariner is hermetically sealed the same way a naval submarine is. It has a Triplock waterproof crown, with a triple gasket system that screws down creating a seal against the case to offer an extra layer of protection. Each case is made from a single block of steel, corrosion-resistant alloy or gold, and comes standard with a unidirectional bezel that only rotates counterclockwise so that immersion time can only shorten, preventing accidental movement of the bezel while diving. It’s this bezel that allows the wearer to monitor their time while in the water, preventing them from reaching dangerous dive times. Due to a number of models, we won’t focus on movements other than to say it’s a house-made movement by Rolex which that alone, is often enough to trigger a purchase by luxury consumers. If you’re a serious diver, or just want the other amateurs in the pool to think so, this watch is by and far the quintessential dive watch and whether you’re hunting for treasure in the ocean or taking a hot bath, you’ll never worry about water seepage or pressure buildup.
Top Pick: The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique
The Reverso was invented for use by polo players allowing them to wear a beautiful timepiece, but permitting the dial to be reversed in an effort to prevent damage to the crystal.
To this day, the Reverso by Jaeger-LeCoultre is arguably the most stylish and effective timepiece for this historic “gentleman’s” sport. Since Polo is still considered to be a fashionable activity for the refined gentleman, it is quite fitting that the watch should seamlessly pair with both sports apparel and a dinner jacket.
Top Pick: The Parmigiani Fleurier Pershing 005
This was a difficult sport to narrow down a top pick for. There are so many watches on the market that are excellent for regattas, sailing, yachting or rowing, and one could look at anything from Ulysse Nardin to Rolex for inspiration.
Instead, I found myself going the “less travelled route”. For my top pick, I’ve chosen the Pershing 005 by Swiss watch company Parmigiani Fleurier. Despite having only been in operation since 1996, Michel Parmigiani has developed a name for himself as a Swiss manufacturer and has proven his company can compete with the best. Now, it should be noted that this is not the watch for a small wrist. It’s large, it’s bulky and it’s heavy. It’s also got a lot of unique appeal and while it can function as a dive watch, its name has obvious meaning. What really sets this watch apart from the competition is what’s inside it. The entire movement is impeccable and will excite even the most discerning horologist. While at first glance or to an uneducated observer, the automatic movement may appear to be fairly typical, it’s the 68 functional jewels and more than 303 components that make the movement within the case so unbelievably exceptional. It’s because of how distinctive and unusual this watch is that I chose it as our top pick for the sailing category. In the end there are many wonderful watches, but none that set themselves apart from the pack more than the Parmigiani Fleurier Pershing 005
Top Pick: The Linde Werdelin SpidoLite II Tech Green
This watch is far from ordinary. Mostly skeletonized, with the seconds sundial being the exception, the SpidoLite is an aggressively masculine sports watch that is built with an innovative house-made “Alloy Linde Werdelin” and forged carbon. Despite the brawny appearance, the watch is surprisingly lightweight and although a mammoth of a watch, can still be worn comfortably by all wrist sizes. What really makes this watch so ideal for such an extreme sport as mountaineering is the unique system the SpidoLite has used. While it already uses some of the strongest materials on the planet, the components are held together using not one, but three cases; an inner case, an outer case and the bezel.
The inner case is made of Linde Werdelin’s proprietary alloy which is a composite metal that weighs about half as much as titanium with the same strength as steel. After the initial build, they apply a coating that allows engraving to be done. They then attach a bezel to the alloy that is partially skeletonized.
Next the outer case is attached. Built out of forged carbon to maintain a light weight but with the strength of an anvil, it uses titanium screws to mount onto the inner case with Hytrel polymer discs that offer some shock protection to the movement.
While there are certainly many watches that are ideal for mountain climbing, what really separated this watch from the pack was it’s durability and capabilities. It’s movement is the LW 04 by Concepto, a relatively superb option in comparison to many of the competitors.
If you need a workhorse of a watch that’s built like a tank, there really is no substitute. While I haven’t actually done it, I get the feeling you could drop it down an elevator shaft and pick it up without much of a scratch. Obviously, I don’t recommend you do that….
Top Pick: The Linde Werdelin SpidoLite II with “The Rock”
We just covered the watch, but here’s what really makes it worth your attention… The Rock, a counterpart to the diving instrument appropriately titled “The Reef”, the Rock is a digital instrument that attaches securely to your SpidoLite and is designed specifically for skiing. With advanced technology for guidance and documenting your runs, the Rock informs the wearer about temperature changes at various altitudes and sends alerts in the event of frostbite dangers. The Rock features a chronograph, has a three-axis compass, and an inclination sensor to predict and warn about avalanches and will even show weather trends with barometric readings.
During the run, The Rock documents and records important data that the user can download directly to their computer. The Rock is rechargeable, and uses incredibly strong hardware to ensure it meets the same durability capabilities as the watch it pairs with.
When it comes to skiing or snowboarding, if you’re anything like me and spend more time on your butt than your feet, you need a watch that isn’t going to break and ideally is going to help prevent you from breaking as well.
Top Pick: The Bremont MBII
Another tough section. There are so many flight watches that can be described as “ideal” for skydiving. However, with such an intense sport, you really need / want a watch with equal or greater intensity. This is why I chose the Bremont MBII. Bremont has long been considered a contender amongst adventure junkies. What many people don’t realize is that the MB stands for Martin Baker which is the company responsible for making a huge percentage of ejection seats. When a pilot ends up having to eject from their plane, they’re automatically given the opportunity to buy the Bremont MBI watch. This MBII is the publicly available version and it seems only appropriate, that a watch named after an ejection seat should be given our top choice for skydiving.
The watch is simple from far, but far from simple. It’s packed with really small and interesting features such as the engraved bullseye on one of the crowns as well as the unique details and finishings. It’s one of those watches you really want to sit down and examine because it really is quite beautiful and complex in such a simplistic way.
Inside it features a modified calibre 13 1/4” BE-36AE automatic chronometer surrounded by a water resistant stainless steel TripTick case with a bi-directional rotating bezel. The movement is protected by an inner soft iron anti-magnetic Faraday cage and a custom made anti-shock case mount.
What sets this watch apart from other watches used in skydiving, is that it’s been designed in conjunction with Martin Baker and tested by the ejection seat program from the moment a pilot’s forcefully ejected to the time they safely touch down.
Top Pick: The Breitling Navitimer World
The most popular watch amongst professional pilots is of course the Breitling Navitimer. While many watch manufacturers make so-called “pilot” or “flight” watches, Breitling has done for flying, what Rolex did for diving. The only thing that exceeds the capabilities of the classic Navitimer is the Brietling Navitimer World. While the world edition is just an add-on to the traditional Navitimer, the World features an easy to read dual timezone system. An additional identifiable red central hand displays a secondary timezone on a 24-hour scale indicating day/night status in the relevant location. A testament to Breitlings almost ridiculously oversized cases, the case back is also practical as it’s engraved with the timezones of the world’s major cities.
This particular watch features the Breitling 24 calibre, self-winding mechanical movement with second timezone. It has a 42-hour power reserve ideal for long flights and is further complicated by a 1/4th second, 30 minute and 12 hour chronograph. Other functions include a date display at the 3-o’clock aperture as well as a a bidirectional bezel and slide rule. It comes standard with a leather or Navitimer strap but can also be customized through Breitling Made-to-Measure service. The watch is functional, reliable and practical, providing easy-to-read coverage a quick glance. Due to its practical applications, lineage and popularity, the Breitling Navitimer World is our top pick for recreational pilots.
Top Pick: The Rolex Daytona
I need to begin this section by telling you that the Rolex Daytona is not my favorite watch for motorsports. In fact, despite my hatred of Tag-Heuer, my personal choice for a race watch would be a vintage Heuer Autavia. However, for those in the market for a new timepiece at a reasonable price point, the Rolex Daytona is probably the best racing chronograph on the market, not to mention the easiest to use and the most reliable. If you’re a motorsport racer and need to be able to rely on fractional timing, the Daytona is your best bet hands down. Forget the Parmigiani Bugatti watches or the Richard Mille’s, unless you race professionally and have a crew timing you, the Daytona should be your only pick.
It has some history, it has a variety of models to choose from and is available at both reasonable and grossly comical prices. In fact, to give you an idea of just how costly these watches can get, Christies sold a rare Daytona Ref. 6263 at an auction in Geneva last year for what converts to over a million dollars USD.
I won’t get into specific about the case or movement since they vary based on the model and year, but if anything sells you on this watch it should be that Paul Newman wore one from the time his wife gave him it in 1972 until his death in 2008 and refused to rely on anything else.
Extreme Adventurer Watch
Top Pick: The Breitling Emergency II
For the ultimate adrenaline junkie who lives a fast paced life in the most diverse environments, our top pick is the Breitling Emergency II. One might ask why Breitling has been bestowed with such an honor. For most of our readers who have read my past articles, you would know that Breitling is not among my favorite watchmakers. The fact is, any watch sold at Costco is generally a waste of your time and money. However, adrenaline junkies typically have a habit of not listening to reason. They accept the risks of their chosen sport as almost a side effect and don’t think twice about taking a kayak into the middle of an ocean, scaling a mountain or diving into a cavern. Where Breitling really did something astonishing is with the Emergency II. While it’s not necessarily a horological achievement, what they did was provide the injured or trapped extremist with a safety net on their wrist. A titanium workhorse of a watch that has a built-in dual frequency locator beacon. Since it’s made by Breitling, the Emergency II can be used in virtually any environment. Whether you’re in the middle of an ocean squall or in the desert sun, when you deploy the emergency distress antenna, it sends an instant alert to the global Cospas-Sarsat system which uses a network of low-altitude and geostationary orbit satellites in addition to ground receiving stations and control and coordination centers to home in on the distress beacons location and provide accurate information to search and rescue teams nearby. Once the wearer activates the distress signal via the watch, it instantly locates the watch and supplies homing data to the rescue team so they can provide fast and efficient assistance to persons in distress. While many adventure seekers have the “it won’t happen to me” attitude, the system has helped save more than 26,000 lives. Many sport watches are interchangeable and can be used for a variety of pastimes, however when lives are at put at risk, safety becomes the top priority. This is why the Breitling Emergency II is our top pick for the extreme adventurer. Just be aware that it also comes with a massive fine for any “inappropriate use”. In other words, make sure your less-than-gentlemanly friend drinking beer doesn’t pull the trigger just to see what will happen. I’ll tell you what will happen: The military arrives.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this feature. I know many of our readers relish spending time outdoors and it seemed appropriate to focus on some of what I consider the best sport watches on the market. Obviously, there are many others and finding the perfect watch is a very personal choice that should be made by you and not for you. However, if your plebeian mind simply looks at a watch and says “you’ve got a pretty face”, perhaps listening to my advice is a good idea so you don’t end up with a very expensive paperweight. Watch for our next article coming soon. (No pun intended).