Investing in a watch can be a big deal. Watches are functional, fashionable, and may act as powerful symbols of wealth and status. For every consumer, no matter the price range, there should be a drive to find the product that will protect their investment the best. In that spirit, waterproofing on watches is a necessity for those who want their watch to stand up to every possible condition and come out on top.
Waterproof watches are rated on a variety of scales, one of the most popular being the International Organization for Standardization rating, or ISO rating. The ISO rates a products waterproofness using one of two standards, the ISO 2281 and the ISO 6425.
The ISO 2281 is made up of a series of water resistance tests that confirm the capacity for a consumer product to resist water penetration up to the depth that the company has tested for, to a maximum of 200 meters. The ISO 6425 is specifically for diving watches and has a more rigorous set of tests, for watches capable of reaching down to 300 meters.
There is a vast range of prices that you can pick up a waterproof watch for. Low-end watches, good for those with tight budgets who only really need something functional, may range from 50 to 100 dollars.
Functional watches with improved durability and some extra features may cost you anywhere from 100 to 250 dollars.
For a higher grade watch that offers almost everything you need in a durable and stylish package, you may spend between 250 and 400 dollars. At the bottom of high-end top brand watches, which generally offer the best of the best in terms of quality and features, may range from 400 to 600 dollars.
Beyond that, be prepared to pay 600 to 1000 or more for top-quality brand name watches that offer the best in durability and style for those who want a new status symbol and who want to make sure their investment is protected.
Movement. The watch movement is the driving mechanism behind the 'ticks' that move time forward on the watch. There are two categories of watch movement, quartz movement and mechanical movement. Mechanical movement is further delineated into manual and automatic movement. Quartz movements are cheap, accurate, and easy to maintain but do not require the same kind of craftsmanship nor do they have the impressive mechanical anatomy of a mechanical watch. For that reason, they are somewhat less desirable than mechanical watches for watch enthusiasts. Mechanical watches are the type that most often come to mind when thinking of a watch, with numerous gears of all sorts and sizes proudly displayed for all to admire. There are manual mechanical movements, which require periodic rewinding to continue to function, and automatic movements, which only require that the user wear the watch regularly in order to stay wound.
Water resistance rating. Affording a product water resistance is a costly task that requires a longer, more intense design phase and more advanced and expensive manufacturing processes. Higher water resistance ratings generally correlate to higher prices. Lower prices, naturally, indicate lower ratings. This is not always true, though, as factors such as brand and features play a role as well.
Date indicator and alerts. Most watches can tell you the date as well as the time if you remember to set the correct date manually. Advanced features include automatic dating and even push notification from your smartphone. Some watches may have a few functions that will alert you to specific information, such as specific times, dates, and other useful information.
What are the more advanced features that I should consider in a high-end waterproof watch?
Seiko is a high-end luxury goods manufacturer. Among some of their numerous products, which include jewellery and electronics, are luxury watches.
The Seiko Diver's Automatic is a functional luxury watch, designed to be classy and practical while remaining affordable. It on the lower end of the price range, a class above low-grade watches but not higher than a mid-grade watch.
The Seiko Diver is designed to be as functional as possible without sacrificing its aesthetic. This comes through in the rubber band and an ISO diving rating, making the Seiko the only watch on this list to have a diving rating.
Despite the extra cost associated with being a certified diver's watch, the Seiko is set at a reasonable price. This is likely due to the inexpensive materials used in its construction. The two closest products in price to the Seiko, the Orient Ray II and the Navy Seal Blackout, have similar designs.
All three watches are rated for 200 meters, and have ISO ratings, although the Seiko is the only one with a divers rating. Both the Seiko and the Ray II have automatic mechanical movements, and the Blackout and the Seiko both have rubber bands.
The Blackout sacrifices some external aesthetic for improved durability, which is likely why it is the most expensive of the three, while the Ray II uses less expensive material in its construction in order to achieve a better price.
Several customers have complained about three major issues. These included receiving faulty products, receiving products that stopped working after a fairly short time, and about the poor customer service they received.
Several customers received watches that didn't work upon arrival, were missing parts, or which did not work correctly right out of the box, mostly in regard to their ability to keep time.
Several customers also complained about receiving watches that stopped working after a few months of use. In both this case and the cases above, customers who tried to get refunds, replacements, and repairs were practically unable to do so due to the poor quality of the customer service.
Timex is a 164-year-old company that has been manufacturing clocks since its inception in 1854. Timex has been manufacturing watches since 1914, continuing their legacy of successful products into the modern age.
The Expedition is an authentic, reliable watch for outdoor outings in style. It is affordable as a bonus, being on the very low end of the lowest price range.
Despite in-depth research, we were not able to find any mention of or reference to ISO testing in regards to the water resistance of the Timex Expedition. Inspection of the back panel does not reveal any ISO water resistance marking, either.
There isn't anything particularly bad about in-house depth testing methods, the main issue is that they aren't standardized. Some companies that use in-house methods may have very strict testing parameters, while others may be laxer.
There don't seem to be any complaints of failing water resistance, and 100 meters is a fairly good depth, so that's a good sign. This is the cheapest watch on this list, and despite that, it offers a chronograph and a real leather band.
It also uses a quartz movement, much like the price-comparable Stuhrling Original. Quartz movements are less difficult to design and manufacture, and generally keep accurate time without any upkeep requirements.
The major customer complaint was in the quality. With products like watches, you get what you pay for. Some may think that 50 dollars is expensive for a watch, but generally, anything less than 100 dollars will be of questionable quality. Despite quality concerns, the watch has a decent overall customer rating.
Some customers received broken watches, which they were not able to get working even after repairs. Several customers complained about lacking quality in three areas. The leather band, chronograph, and face were all areas that had quality issues.
Some customers had issues with the leather band tearing and even coming off. Several customers couldn't get the chronograph to work. Finally, several customers had watches whose hands stopped working after a short time.
Orient is a Japanese street fashion brand that exclusively produces wrist watches. They pride their pieces for their form as well as their function.
The Ray II one of their best displays of that design philosophy. This watch combines a high-class aesthetic with functional durability and depth capacity, all while remaining within a reasonable price range.
Customers who bought the Ray II complimented it on its comfort and beauty. In terms of features, it offers basically everything the Seiko offers, sans the rubber band, at a slightly reduced price.
The Seiko is backed by the Sekio brand, which is a big name in the luxury goods market. The Seiko Divers Watch is also marketed as a divers watch, complete with an ISO 6425 rating. These two factors are likely behind the increase in price, considering the Seiko and the Ray II are not significantly different otherwise, except for the ability to manually wind the movement.
Most automatic watches can only be wound by the motion from the wrist. The ability to manually wind is a useful feature for automatic watches because they may not keep time perfectly, especially at lower price ranges, and so the ability to keep time is important.
The manual winding may come in handy often, as several customers complained about the Ray II's ability to keep time. Customers also complained about general quality issues, including receiving broken and damaged watches more than once in a row.
Several customers also complain about the overall durability of this watch, citing anecdotes about how easily it broke during use. Similar to the Timex, you get what you pay for.
Victorinox is the company behind the actual Swiss Army Knife, and they manufacture four other product types including watches. Anyone who's owned a Swiss Army Knife knows that Victorinox is dedicated to quality and consistency for consumers at every price range.
The INOX is designed to take a beating and keep on ticking. It is a little bit more expensive than the Seiko, putting it at the top end of the functional and stylish watches that don't quite make it to mid-grade.
This is the most expensive watch on this list so far, and compared to the last three, it shows. Besides the Victorinox brand backing this watch, it is designed with maximum style in mind while maintaining a high degree of durability.
In that spirit, the INOX comes with a polymer guard that attaches to the outside. This extra piece allows the user to wear their INOX in a wider range of rough and tumble locations without scratching or damaging the face.
The INOX combines an ISO certified 200-meter depth rating, a dependable and minimum-maintenance quartz movement, and a rubber band in order to meet the demands of a consumer who needs a watch that they can wear in almost any situation.
Several customers received defective products that they had a difficult time returning, and some customers received the wrong band. It is unclear if this is an issue with Victorinox or with their distributors, but regardless the difficulty with returning the watches warrants note from the vigilant consumer.
Several customers complained that the steel exterior scratched easily, even with the polymer faceguard. Many customers took issue with the quality and design of the rubber band, claiming that it didn't fit comfortable and broke somewhat easily.
TAG Heuer advertises themselves as the premier watch manufacturer for those looking for a durable, long-lasting high-end luxury watch. They have a wide selection of options for budgets both large and small.
The Formula 1 is a top quality watch, built to last and designed to fit a certain type of look for a certain type of lifestyle. It sits at the top of the high-end price range and will cost you just over 800 dollars.
This is the first true high-end watch on this list. The Formula 1 is, design-wise, a lot like the INOX but for a much higher price range. It features a rubber band, a quartz movement, and is backed by a powerful brand name.
The Formula 1 also has the same depth rating, at 200 meters or 660 feet, but TAG uses an in-house method of depth testing instead of paying for the ISO rating. As we explored with the Timex, an in-house method does not mean that the depth rating is less meaningful, it just means that an intrigued customer should do a little more digging for product information.
There is no indication based on customer reviews from multiple sources that the depth rating is inaccurate, so we can feel secure in the Formua 1's in-house depth testing methods.
This watch is far outside the price range of the average consumer, and for the inflated price it doesn't offer any special features. It seems to be made of a higher grade steel and rubber, however, the main reason for the price hike is likely the brand.
In fact, some customers even commented that the watch was only average, again citing that it offered little in the way of features for the huge price tag. Some customers, whose watches malfunctioned, complained about the very long repair time after sending it back.
Casios a well know manufacturer of electronics and luxury consumer goods. They want to help shape cultures and redefine markets with their top quality products and they hope that each of their items can provide some essential function in society.
The G-Shock Frogman Solar sits firmly within the bottom of the high-grade price range, and offers most everything you might expect from a high-grade watch at a better price than competitors.
The Frogman sits between the top-class Formula 1 price range and the moderately priced INOX price, at just under 500 dollars. This puts it squarely at the bottom of the high-end price range, a grade above mid-range and thus designed to be the best in durability and overall quality while undercutting the high-grade watches by a significant margin.
This is the first digital watch on this list, which means it simply runs on a battery and uses multiple radio signals to keep atomic time for maximum accuracy in China, Germany, the USA, Japan, and the UK.
As a digital watch, the Frogman comes with several features you likely won't find in an analogue watch, as well as a lack of the aesthetic value that collectors and watch enthusiasts will find unappealing.
The Frogman is solar powered and provides data on moon and tide phases. It is also diver rated, hence the name Frogman in reference to combat divers who need reliable, top quality watches when they go on diving missions.
The band is made of a tough, friction resistant black resin that can also resist puncture, tension and impact. It can keep dive time, display city codes, and has a daylight savings mode.
As with other high dollar items on this list, the Frogman is far out of reach of the everyman who just needs something functional and fashionable. Speaking of fashionable, while some may appreciate the utilitarianism of the Frogman, some may find it inaccessible and off-putting.
Customers have complained that the watch is too bulky and too heavy to be practical, so it is up to the customer to decide what works for them.
Garmin is a very popular brand of sports watches, and they manufacture some of the most durable and multi-functional watches on the market.
Their Fenix 3 is a testament to that, being one of their most advanced and top-class watches to date. The Fenix sits just above the bottom of the high-grade price range, a little bit over 400 dollars.
The Garmin Fenix 3 is in many ways a direct competitor to the Frogman. They are very close in price, sitting a little over the 400 dollar mark, and they are both digital watches. While the Frogman is designed to be as practical and utility as possible, the Fenix 3 goes for a sleek modern feel.
The Fenix 3 is the only watch on this list that uses the International Protection marking, or IPX. The IPX rates water resistance on a scale from zero to nine with nine being the highest. IPX ratings can be a bit vague, especially level eight because level eight refers to a product that can be submerged in one meter or water or more.
Regardless of the vagueness, the product still has to conform to IPX standards, which are quite extensive in most cases. The Fenix is rated for 100 meters, only half as much a the Frogman and not under as strict of testing conditions as the Frogman's ISO diver rating.
Besides the depth rating, the Fenix is designed to be a lot more functional as a fitness tracking smartwatch over a general utility watch, like the Frogman. The Fenix 3 can measure heart rate, as well as general fitness stats like steps. It also tracks more advanced fitness metrics like you running form and stride length.
This is a fairly expensive fitness watch. For those who want a waterproof smartwatch for fitness purposes and more, there are some decent options at much lower prices that offer fewer features.
The Fenix 3 is more focused in its metrics than the Frogman, but it loses some usefulness that way, too, by not being as versatile.
Many customers have complained about hardware problems rendering the watch useless after a few months of use. Customers praised the technical support for its patience and kindness, but ultimately criticised it for it unhelpfulness.
Hamilton began as a watch manufacturer for the American railways and Airmail. Since then they have designed a broad range of upscale consumer watches from the classic to the avant-garde.
The Khaki Field watch is marketed as an ultra-durable plain jane, with no unnecessary frills or extras to get in the way. It bills itself on quality of construction and ultimate functionality, without sacrificing style. For that, you'll have to pay top dollar, a little more than 600 for this high-grade piece.
Next in the theme of products in between price ranges, the Hamilton sits neatly between the Frogman and the Formula 1. It doesn't seem to be a higher quality of construction than the Frogman, but it is backed by a big brand that makes themselves known for their luxury products. It is also much more stylish than the Frogman.
For comparison, the Formula 1 is all about brand and image, which is likely part of its large price. Both the Formula 1 and the Hamilton are made of top-notch materials, which also contributes to the price.
The Hamilton is also designed specifically with durability in mind. It has a titanium case and a comfortable, strong textile band. Added to that are a decent water resistance and a scratch-resistant sapphire face, making the Hamilton true to its nature as a plain-jane with no extra frills and a lot of durability.
For the price, the depth rating isn't great, and the Hamilton doesn't have any kind of standardized rating that we could find. As we've stated in previous entries, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and for a company that bills itself on the durability of its watches, you should have anything to worry about.
However, for the price, it's odd that they didn't invest in any standardized water resistance tests. Customers generally complained about receiving defective units that stopped working and poor customer service that didn't want to help them with said problems.
Luminox literally makes watches for special forces units around the world. Obviously, when selling to consumer markets it's easy and cheap to cut back on the quality a little bit, but that still leaves a lot in the quality department anyway.
The Blackout is a moderately priced watch as waterproof watches go. It has a good ISO rated depth capacity, and it uses a high-grade rubber and carbon reinforced polymer in its construction, which isn't detectable by electromagnetic sensors or prone to loud noises like metal.
It uses a cheap and reliable quartz movement, packed into a less than pretty package. The Blackout is about a nice on the eyes as the Frogman, which may or may not bother some people depending on what you think is important in a 200+ dollar watch.
This watch is a little more expensive than what the average consumer would probably really need to spend, and it a lot more durable than the average consumer would ever really need. Despite this, if you want a watch that is going to last you this is it for sure.
One thing to be cautious of is buying watches like these from unauthorized distributors. The markets that these types of military-style products are geared towards tend to be easier prey for cheap knockoff brands because it can be difficult to distinguish fakes from reals over the internet and there is often precious little information about the products.
Some will be bothered by the all black colouration, hence the name 'Blackout', and the simple, somewhat bulky exterior. If style is what you're looking for this watch isn't for you.
Finally, we have the Stuhrling Original Aquadiver. Stuhrling Original was founded after the name of the master Swiss watchmaker Max Stuhrling, and they strive to achieve the best of Swiss craftsmanship.
The Aquadiver is in league with the Timex as far as price goes. The difference in aesthetic between the two couldn't be more stark, though, as the Aquadiver goes for a must sleeker and more modern look.
Finally, we have reached the last watch, the Stuhrling Aquadiver. The Aquadiver is a sleek diver's style aesthetic mixed with legitimate practicality. It is almost twice the price of the Timex, not amounting to much more but certainly putting it a class above the Timex.
The Aquadiver is fairly typical in its construction. Silicon rubber band because it's cheap and durable, quartz movement for the same reason plus its also reliable, stainless steel exterior so it won't lose its lustre after longterm use, and a special theme (in this case, divers watch theme) in order to help it stand out.
Customers have complimented it for not fogging up during underwater use, and that the wristband is comfortable. Customers have also been pleased with the fact that the Aquadiver keeps good time.
The Aquadiver is made from cheap materials that some customers have complained about. This, in turn, throws into question the claims of durability. While there are hardly any comments related to long-term durability issues, there is always the question of if and worse, when.
Some customers complained about the polymer smell, like the kind you get from rubber dumbbells. Some customers have complained of lazy design, citing poorly aligned hands and a poorly aligned bezel.
Finding the right watch can be a major challenge. The market is huge, with thousands upon thousands of products to chose from and finding everything you want within your budget may take hours of research.
That's why we compiled this convenient list so that you can cover all the basics in one fell swoop and have access to ten top items from across the market. Hopefully, we've made it just a little bit easier for you in your quest to find the perfect watch.