The Best Watches of The Year
Sleek timepieces for every kind of adventure
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Watches, like cameras, have largely had their functionality absorbed by smartphones. And yet many of us still want one on our wrist day and night, maybe for the simple comfort we find in the turn of the wrist and glance downward that brings us back to the here and now. And besides, every year watchmakers keep coming up with beautiful new designs, at more accessible prices, and even—as you’ll see from this year’s picks—some completely original ideas. Looking for a fitness tracker instead? We’ve got you covered.
Nixon Light-Wave ($150)
The Light-Wave is a stripped-down watch made with recovered ocean plastic. Transparent hour and minute hands allow the sun’s rays to reach an embedded solar panel that keeps the quartz movement ticking inside its injection-molded case. The second hand stretches to the edge in both directions—for no reason other than that it looks cool. This lightweight device is a modest 36 millimeters in size, plus it’s water-resistant down to 100 meters.
Momentum M20 DSS Diver ($265)
The M20 Diver has luxury looks and quality, but at a bargain price. It’s water-resistant to 200 meters, with a Swiss quartz movement, a bright-after-dark dial, and a heavy-duty stainless-steel case. The scratch-resistant sapphire crystal is double-domed for better readability. And we love the Bahama yellow version, which borrows a color from classic Porsche 911s.
MeisterSinger Unomat ($2,395)
Two heads are better than one, but are two hands? MeisterSinger says no. Its designers reached back in time to before the Industrial Revolution, when the minute hand was introduced, to settle on something more timeless (think sundials and old clock towers). The single hour hand tells you roughly where you are within the hour by way of five-minute markers. We found that relying on the solitary hand alleviates the psychic pressure from all those rotating arms, making it feel like life has slowed down. This model was conceived as a more rugged addition to the line, with 300-meter water resistance and an antimagnetic iron cage around the movement.
Tutima M2 Seven Seas ($1,900 and up)
From its extra-hard sapphire crystal down to its titanium case, the M2 Seven Seas exudes toughness. With 500-meter water resistance and clear markings, it’s a capable diver’s watch, but its at home on land, too, due in part to its stylish rubber-and-Kevlar strap. Super-LumiNova hands are readable in the sea’s twilight zone.
Citizen Satellite Wave GPS Diver ($1,350)
This is the first light-powered watch with GPS and 200-meter water resistance. Its capabilities are immediately obvious from one look at the complex (some might say busy) dial. Hold one button to activate satellite mode, and the arms automatically set themselves. Dive mode shows only the time so you know how long you’ve been under. Around the outer ring are major cities and dive destinations, so you’ll always know what time it is on the Great Barrier Reef.
Tissot Seastar 2000 Professional Powermatic 80 ($1,025)
The number in this watch’s name is its depth rating—a whopping 2,000 feet—backed by a helium escape valve and ISO 6425 certification (which tests shock resistance, underwater visibility, and durability in saltwater). The self-winding automatic movement runs for 80 hours, and the sizable steel case is topped with a sapphire crystal. Peer closely at the dial and you’ll see a subtle engraved wave pattern that, coupled with the mesmerizing aqua blue, might lull you to sleep like a lazy day drifting on the high seas.