Sports watches are watches that are sporty looking, robust, reliable and waterproof. It is by far the largest category of watches made today. Our event this week showed that as more and more watches are designed and invented, including digital and smartwatches, how people think about sports watches is changing. This Blog Post will guide you through where they came from, what they are now, and where to look for more examples.
One of the most famous Sports Watches in the world, a Rolex Submariner.
Christopher Ward Trident Bronze Dive Watch, a common type of modern watch
What is a Sports Watch?
There are a few ways to think about this. A sports watch can be:
- A mechanical watch that suits sporty looks and sporting activities
- A smartwatch that precisely measures and tracks your sport
- A digital watch that can time your activity or measure other important timing functions
- A vintage watch designed to be worn while wearing sporty clothing, but not designed to be used while playing sports
At first glance, this may seem too much to all be called one category of watches, but there are common features across them all. Crucially, you can use these features to find a really great watch, even if you don't want all the tools it comes with.
An Apple Watch Series 1, a versatile Smartwatch that is very useful for tracking sporting activity
Digital and Smartwatches for Sports
It is now possible to get smartwatches designed explicitly for a certain sport, such as golf, or multifunction watches that contain the potential to track hundreds of activities. All-purpose smartwatches like the Apple watch series have apps you download that are very precisely tailored to specific activities. Some digital watches now have specialised functions for hobbies or sports, such as the tide timers found on Casio G-Shock, the many digital dive computer watches, and digital or hybrid watches for pilots.
Casio G-Shock Kanao Ishagashi Collaboration showing the tide height and including many other timing and calendar functions.
Mechanical Sports Watches
Since the invention of the world's first sports watch, the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, watch companies have tried to make watches suitable for more active lifestyles. In the early 20th century this was primarily a problem of waterproofing, solved by Rolex and peers in the late 1920s with the Rolex Oyster, and then it was a problem of shock absorption, which has been solved many times in many different ways.
In the second half of the 20th century, sports watches were developed primarily for diving, and we also saw many watches inspired by motor racing and watches made for mountaineering or polar exploration.
The features developed for these purposes led us directly to the watches we see today. They all have certain features that have proven very popular for watch buyers, whether or not they actually will go diving, climb a mountain, or race a car.
Vintage Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso from 1946, showing how the watch turns over to ensure the crystal is protected while playing sports.
Features of a Sports Watch
Very simply, a sports watch needs to be robust and hard to damage, often leading to a thick and sturdy case. It needs to be waterproof and it needs to be easy to use, with a clear dial and functions.
The Features of a Sports Watch
When we look across the most hyped watches in the world right now, such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus or the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, we see all these features are present. However, there are so many interesting brands out there that you should take the time to look for interesting sports watches that you haven't seen before.
Last summer we looked at a whole series of watch Microbrands, and many of these got started by making a Dive watch or Pilots watch. Similarly, many highly technical brands create tough but easy-to-use watches for people who want to do outdoor activities. These brands, like Luminox or Squale from Switzerland, or Christopher Ward in the UK, provide interesting mid-range sports watches.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus Tiffany Special Edition made for the 170th anniversary of the relationship between the two companies.
Luminox Navy Seal Diver Watch in Steel, Carbon Fiber and Rubber
Squale 2002 Dive Watch with Rotating timing bezel.
Christopher Ward Aquitaine GMT Watch
The Watch Collectors' Club is here to help you explore the watch world. Our watch events focus on different kinds of watches and help you share your watch stories. We create educational content to help you learn more about how things in the watch world work, and we are always happy to answer any questions you may have. If you like what we do, please tell anyone else you think will enjoy it, and make sure you follow us on social media.
A history and guide to different watch case designs, including some historic lots of examples and different styles.
We look at Pilot's watches from 1904 up to the present day.
An explanation of why the Swiss Watch Industry collapsed in the 1970s.