Leading an active lifestyle requires a watch fit for the purpose, and an onslaught of sporty watches from haute manufacturers recognises the general consumer’s desire for tougher, water & sweat proof executions.
Picking a suitable timepiece for a day out is an ever-present challenge because you never know where you could end up – be it the gym, swimming laps, the oval, ocean or the bar (drinking low-calorie seltzers of course).
The ideal sportsman watch should be robust, resilient and waterproof, preferably on a bracelet, nato or rubber strap. Here’s a handful of sporty watches we love – ideal for active lifestyles and summers at the beach – from affordable activity trackers to mechanical divers, all under $10,000.
Garmin Instinct Tactical Outdoor Watch
Garmin’s unwavering commitment to crafting the ultimate sports watch sits at a comfortable middle with the Garmin Instinct. It’s not quite pushing the price limits of the top-range Fennix line, but retains enough hardcore outdoor features to offer exceptional value as a sports watch, especially for swimming. Plus it looks the part with a brutish, shock resistant body that can shrug off harsh conditions.
A huge range of basic and specialised activity tracking modes have been calibrated, while support for Galileo and GLONASS offers plenty of mapping coverage. With no screen to power, the battery life will last weeks – not days – and the Garmin soft silicone strap makes for category-leading comfort.
Fitbit Sense Innovative Health Watch
With the Fitbit Sense, the pioneering sports watch & fitness tracking company edges closer to a better balance between its signature performance-based features and smartwatch capabilities.
Feature-rich, the Sense sits at the top-end of Fitbit’s varied collection, sporting an FDA-approved ECG sensor, the ability to read heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and stress monitoring functions like electrodermal tracking and skin temperature alerts.
The full suite of wellness functions, which includes guided meditation and mindfulness tutorials, are only made available to Fitbit Premium subscribers, so you may want to consider the ongoing cost before you make the dive.
Much like the Fitbit Sense, one of the hero features of the more traditional looking Withings ScanWatch is a medical-grade ECG sensor, putting a great deal of focus on proactive health tracking as much as the traditional fitness-geared features this sector is built upon.
The Withings ScanWatch is a statement from the brand, joining the likes of Apple, Samsung and Fitbit in deftly blurring the lines that typically divide the several schools of thought that are found across the wearable market, balancing features like AFib detection, Sp02 measurement, heart rate, photoplethysmography (to monitor blood circulation) with 24/7 health features like sleep tracking which not only gives a comprehensive sleep score but can also scan for possible sleep apnea and breathing issues.
Apple Watch Series 6
The Apple Watch Series 6 improves upon the acclaimed Series 5 in every way, packing in a chip that’s touted as 20% faster, and featuring a display that’s 2.5x brighter, with the ability for an always-on ambient mode and an unparalleled level of customisation while prioritising battery life. An Sp02 blood oxygen saturation sensor is the newest feature to add to the stack of dependable specs, on top of heart rate and ECG sensors for comprehensive proactive health tracking.
Basic sleep tracking has been included, while Apple’s leading fitness features are refined, resulting in a huge range of workout modes, a built-in GPS and a fitness reading that measures in calories burned rather than steps taken.
There are also the industry-standard smartwatch features including Apple Pay, notifications, and ability to handle more demanding apps like Google Maps.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Featuring the brand’s slimmest design yet, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is one of the best looking hybrid sports watches available. And the design team had the good sense to bring back the widely praised rotating bezel, used to easily navigate the user-interface in a smooth, responsive fashion that is much more satisfying to use than the usual chunky multi-function button.
The attractive circular AMOLED display illustrates a feature-rich set that includes a medical-grade ECG, heart rate and Sp02 monitoring, a blood-pressure monitor, fall detection, advanced and comprehensive sleep tracking, and detailed post-run analyses.
There is enough here to track 40 different workouts, along with a digital running coach who provides real-time feedback about pace and form.
Seiko Prospex SRP779K1 (aka Seiko Turtle)
When it comes to durable sports watches, the Seiko Prospex – affectionally known as the turtle (due to its cushion-shaped case) – is the undisputed king, with the reputation to match. Despite its relatively large, 45m case, the short lugs result in a watch that wears far smaller than it looks.
Paired with an indestructible silicone strap, trusty rotating bezel and reliable automatic movement with 41-hour power reserve, it’s hard to justify spending anything more if you’re looking for shock proof mechanical watches for men.
Tissot Seastar 1000 Powermatic 80
The handsome and reliable Tissot Seastar 1000, part of the T-Sport sports watches collection is a wise choice for watersports enthusiasts, boasting 300m of water-resistance and a malleable silicone strap for use with or without a wetsuit. It boasts the brand’s Powermatic 80 movement with silicon balance spring and power reserve up to 80 hours.
Exceptional underwater legibility is provided by its broad hands and large numerals within the unidirectional ceramic bezel. A transitional deep blue to black dial shimmers in the sunshine, making for a captivating daily whatever the occasion.
Alpina Seastrong Diver GMT
From the relatively unknown and extremely underrated manufacturer Alpina, comes the entry-level Seastrong Diver with useful GMT function – essential for active travellers.
Water-resistant to 300m and finished in a 44mm steel case with titanium DLC coating and strapped to the wrist with rubber, the Seastrong is a reliable companion in quartz or it’s more expensive automatic iterations.
For the conscious consumer, Alpina has also added a sustainable Seastrong Gyre to the family, made from recycled plastic and glass fibre.
Stowa Seatime Black Forest Edition
The Germans are making great sports watches across the board, from Lange all the way to Stowa. This Stowa sports watch is a seriously cool piece of kit and priced very well considering its case is made from Titanium.
The Seatime features the brand’s first application of their DYNADOTS bezel which displays the passing of time with the increasing size of the luminova. Light and innovative the Seatime is sure to impress but you’ll have to get in quick because it’s limited to 200 units worldwide.
TAG Heuer Connected Watch
Now in its third generation, TAG Heuer Connected sports watches present the pinnacle of stylish come luxury smartwatches and is a fantastic entry point to the esteemed brand. The new model improves on previous generations with enhanced fitness tracking, improved software, and a more refined design with ceramic bezel, faceted horns and ‘modular’ interchangeable straps.
Available in 45mm steel or titanium case or as a specialist ‘Golf Edition’ sports watch – which is praised by those who play – there’s a model suited for enthusiasts of all outdoor pursuits.
Norqain Adventure Sport Watch
With a wealth of experience sitting behind this young watch brand, there’s plenty to love about the Norqain Adventure Sport – a robust and powerful sports watch made for the allrounder.
Based on the workhorse ETA2824-2, the watch sports a reliable calibre NN09 movement and a 38-hour power reserve, holding court over a sizeable 42mm case. Notably, a diamond-like carbon coating has been used to ensure high scratch resistance, taking a beating no matter what rugged activity it faces. Norqain sports watches are well worth checking out.
Rado Captain Cook Watch
Designed to persevere in the deep, the Rado Captain Cook is a remarkable dive watch that elegantly sketches nostalgia onto a fiercely modern design. Hinged on vintage detailing with iconic grains of rice bracelet, this is a perfectly balanced example of rugged beauty retaining the style and grace of a lifestyle timepiece.
A high water resistance up to 200m is complemented by a shock-resistant screw-down case back and protective sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating. The watch is available in various case styles, but the 42mm represents a nice sweet spot for Rado’s impartial position between suave and sporty.
Sinn 856 S UTC (Dual Time) Watch
Helmut Sinn passed away in 2018 at the age of 101 leaving behind an instrument watch legacy, unknown by many. His watch designs are known for their legibility and their robustness, constructed from German submarine steel and with Sinn’s patented Tagiment coating.
This particular Sinn has a second timezone for travellers and a number of features that guarantee maximum reliability even in the most extreme of conditions. Whether you choose it on rubber strap with deployment clasp or the bracelet, it’s the ideal sports watch for active lifestyles with the black PVD case also less susceptible to sun glare.
Longines Heritage Collection – Legend Diver Bronze
The Longines Heritage Collection is without doubt the brand’s most attractive range of products and it was the Legend Diver that really kickstarted its popularity. The Legend Diver is vintage re-edition with an interior rotating bezel, gorgeous hands and beautifully engraved case back and now it comes in Bronze.
The design makes it a comparatively subtle dive watch, one you could easily wear with a jacket and trousers. The super compressor case allows diving to depths of 300m so the occasional Red Leaf session shouldn’t hurt it at all.
Breitling Endurance Pro Watch
Brand new in 2020, the Breitling Endurance Pro, marketed towards triathletes and runners, is designed to be the ultimate sports watch weighing just 65 grams.
Constructed from the brand’s new, ultra-light Breitlight case – a robust material 3.3 times lighter than titanium and 5.8 times lighter than steel – it features a COSC-certified SuperQuartz movement delivering precision, reliability and attitude through its vibrant colour selection.
Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 Watch
Given a muscular boost from Oris’ proprietary Calibre 400 movement with standout five-day power reserve, the Aquis Date Calibre 400 is a series-topping timepiece studiously designed for flexibility, performance and reliability, sharing a striking blue dial with its Clean Ocean cousin.
The dive focused sports watch is constructed from high-performance materials, aiming for a new standard with its exceptionally efficient escapement design, silicon lever and 43.5mm steel case with a water resistance of up to 300m.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Watch
Originally launched in red, the Tudor Black Bay arrived with a popular flat navy bezel years later with a reduced Fifty Eight case size more recently. Since launch, the Black Bay has turned perceptions of the brand on its head, establishing its own reputation as a value-conscious, versatile daily, benefiting from the R&D and build quality of Rolex.
The Fifty-Eight sees Tudor pack the Black Bay vibes into a svelte 39mm case, housing a COSC certified Calibre MT5402 movement offering approx 70 hours power reserve and 200m of water resistance. Paired with a rivet bracelet and a selection of all occasion straps, the Fift-Eight has proved itself as a sophisticated and sporty watch.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver Watch
The BR 03-92 was Bell & Ross’s first diver in their iconic aviation-inspired square case, which required endless R&D to ensure its reliability down to depths of 300m.
Utilising the brand’s Cal.302 movement – based off the workhorse Sellita SW 300 – the 42mm piece sits proudly and comfortably on the wrist on rubber and looks unlike any dive watch you’ve ever seen. This sports watch is a whole lot of fun.
Gorilla Outlaw Drift Watch
Gorilla’s brand name and polarising aesthetic aren’t for everyone but their approach is to be admired, producing unique designs complemented by interesting materials and functions. The Outlaw Drift arrives in a tonneau-shaped titanium case on hybrid rubber strap and sports a wandering hours, Vaucher movement. It’s also limited to just 250 pieces.
Nomos Ahoi Atlantik Watch
Another German powerhouse NOMOS is producing some of the best value, in house built watches on the market. For the Ahoi Atlantik Nomos has refined their minimalist style to create a functional dive watch on a braided nylon strap that you could wear everyday – even with a suit.
We’re big fans of supporting independent watchmakers and NOMOS are the kings of the category.
Panerai Luminor PAM00774
As a long time fan of the PAM000, I feel Panerai’s introductory offers present great value for such a desirable brand, steeped in diving history. The 44mm PAM00777 not only features a reference number sporting a James Bond reference, but it also boasts a new, hand-wound, manufacture calibre with 3-day power reserve and a handsome textile strap.
I suggest optioning it with the brand’s caoutchouc (natural rubber) strap for $210, in orange, to increase its versatility and sports watch appeal.
IWC Aquatimer Automatic
The base model IWC Aquatimer Automatic presents great value for the budding dive enthusiast seeking a notable brand. In recent years, IWC has opted for a more subtle approach to the collection dropping the bright colours and referencing the functional design of the first Aquatimers in the 1960’s.
This watch features a handsome 42mm case concealing the ETA based Cal.30120 and wears very well as an everyday sports watch on both the casual rubber band or steel bracelet.
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 38mm
The Omega Seamaster 300m diver has a somewhat polarising bezel and the Planet Ocean, while attractive, is too big for many wrists. The solution resides in the brand’s Aqua Terra collection – specifically the 38mm case, which was first designed for the wrist of Daniel Craig when he wore as Bond in Skyfall.
Originally a 38.5mm, the watch features a vertical teak concept pattern dial finished in Navy Blue – today’s iteration is now horizontal. It is as versatile as a sports watch gets – functional and elegant.
Linde Werdelin 3 Timer Nord
Founded in 2002 by Morten Linde and Jorn Werdelin, their boutique, namesake brand, is highly regarded for technical sports watches, designed for land and sea adventures. Linde Werdelin is a small scale manufacturer producing limited edition pieces in three families – 3 Timer, Spido & Oktopus. The 3 Timer presents the brand’s iconic case as a GMT with blue Fume dial and makes a unique statement just shy of $9,000.
Sports watches come in all forms – many with endless functions – which is what pushes consumers to mechanical choices, minus another screen and battery life anxiety. Remember, waterproof straps are an essential element of a dependable daily so make that a priority when making your choice.
In the market for a new timepiece? Check out our massive round-up of the best watches for men.