Buying Right

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, July 1996

Buying Right

Withstanding the test of time
By Andrew Tilin

Rugged sport watches range in price from $40 to 85 times that, so perhaps the relevant question as you shop is, "Just how much ruggedness can I afford?" All such timepieces are accurate, water-resistant, and durable. But while the inexpensive models will survive everyday bumps, the high-end watches will better withstand deep dives, hard scrapes on the rock face...Armageddon.

Stainless-steel casings, scratch-resistant crystals, and screw-in crowns to keep out the elements all make watches more durable--and boost the cost. They also add weight. On the other end of the price spectrum, plastic-enveloped watches are lightweight and resilient. Each of the following dozen watches look the rugged part, and--to a variety of needs and budgets--deliver.

You'll pay just $40 for the lightweight Timex Expedition 77641, and it boasts two time zones, a chronograph, an alarm, a timer, and the bright Indiglo backlight, which will stay lit for three seconds--a nice touch. My favorite training watch, the FreeStyle USA Predator ($50), has a 75-lap memory that stores your splits by date, so it's easy to compare workout times.

If you crave features, try the Casio DW-6500 ($140), which feels more like scuba gear than a watch--and is appropriately waterproof. With its altimeter you can track vertical feet traveled on long, hilly excursions, and with its barometer you can predict weather changes and chart barometric trends.

Those who yearn for the simplicity of an analog watch will welcome the Animal Series 001.With a screw-in crown and a stainless-steel case, it does a good imitation of more expensive watches but costs just $90. The Swiss Army Brand Striker ($100) has a plastic case and band, and its hands glow as bright as those on any watch. The face of Rip Curl's Tide Master ($200) is filled with dials showing moon phase, tide height, and tide range--important information to the surfer or fisherman. I'd swap the leather band for a metal version. The stainless-steel Citizen World-Time Navihawk ($295) lives up to its name. A digital inset can recall the time in 30 cities.

Crest the $500 mark and sport watches feel more substantial. The Seiko Kinetic SKH191($550) is the first quartz-movement watch powered by motion, giving it superior accuracy over typical automatic watches while eliminating the maintenance hassles of battery-powered models. The downside: A surprisingly loud internal winding mechanism that shifts with every move. Sector's ADV4500 Chrono ($775) comes with a rare analog-watch feature: an alarm. It also has a chronograph and a stainless-steel band.

In the over-the-top department, TAG Heuer's 1000 Meter ($1,395) has a 3,300-foot depth limit. The watch weighs nearly half a pound, is as thick as a notepad, and for those of the mind that bigger is better, it is a true object of lust. Rolex's GMT-Master II Date ($3,400), slim by comparison, is just as bombproof, with a stainless-steel band, one-piece stainless housing, scratchproof crystal, and screw-down crown. A 24-hour hand and bezel let you track time in three places--say, the world's most important stock markets--simultaneously.

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