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Purpose-Built Sports Watches Make the Living Easier

I am hard on watches, especially in the summer.

My lifestyle is not suited to delicate watches. As the father of an energetic nine-year-old, I am constantly chucking a football, going for a bike ride or paddle boarding on the lake. If I don’t have a robust sports watch on, any day could see a watch destroyed.

Jake Paddle Boarding
Jake Paddle Boarding

Sports watches today are of excellent quality — they are tested to extremes and are capable of handling all the slings and arrows of an active life, and they do it while looking really good. Gone are the days when sports were either black plastic affairs or behemoths on the wrist.

Today’s sports timepieces make great all-around watches.

Water Watches

It’s not just the water the watch has to handle – though water inside the case will ruin the movement – it’s also the increased pressure when submerged. Wearing a sports watch with good water resistance when you are in the water is important. A minimum of 100 meters of water resistance should do it, but you may feel better having a watch that is tested to at least 200 meters.

Luckily, there are a number of companies that make dive watches, a separate ISO category. The gold standard comes from the company that pioneered water resistance, the Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea, water resistant to an amazing 3,900 meters (12,800 feet). Rolex’s patented Ringlock System case architecture makes it possible to withstand such extreme pressure. The 44mm 904L steel case (with a titanium caseback) incorporates an automatic helium release valve and a unidirectional rotating bezel and is powered by a Rolex chronometer-certified automatic movement.

Other great options for water watches include the Favre-Leuba Raider Bathy 120 MemoDepth, the Hamilton Khaki Navy Frogman, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, the Bremont Supermarine, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay, the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 68, the Luminox Deep Dive series and more.

Favre-Leuba Raider Bathy 120 MemoDepth
Favre-Leuba Raider Bathy 120 MemoDepth
Hamilton Khaki Navy Frogman
Hamilton Khaki Navy Frogman


There are several great watches that include yachting countdown timers, essential if you want to race. Officine Panerai makes a great watch that features this yachting countdown, as well as a flyback chronograph – the Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Titanio (PAM 526). The orange push button at four o’clock sets the orange chronograph minute hand back one minute at a time. When you start the chronograph, it will count down to the start of the race, then it will begin counting up. This 47mm brushed titanium case has the distinctive Luminor crown protector and is water resistant to 100 meters.

Other yachting watches on the market include the Corum Admiral Legend collection, the Rolex Yacht-Master II, the Alpina Sailing Yachttimer Countdown and the Ulysse Nardin Marine Regatta Chronograph.


Extremes of pressure, temperature and shock all come with the territory when you are piloting your private plane, and a pilot’s watch is an essential tool to track every element of your flight — plus, they look great on your wrist.

Bremont is a British watch company that specializes in aviation timepieces — its founders, brothers Nick and Giles English, are avid pilots themselves, inspired by their father’s love of flying and things mechanical. The 43mm ALT1-ZT COSC-certified chronograph was designed for aviators and displays the local time along with the official world time standard, UTC (aka “ZT” for “Zulu Time”). The ALT1-ZT features subdials inspired by aviation gauges and an inner rotating bezel for another way of marking time.

Bremont ALT1 ZT Front WBG
Bremont ALT1 ZT Front WBG

Other great pilot’s watches include the Tutima M2 Pioneer Chronograph, the IWC Big Pilot, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time, the Zenith Type 20, the Oris Big Crown Propilot, the Bell & Ross BR-01 and more.

Bell and Ross BR-01 Flying Skull Bronze
Bell & Ross BR-01 Flying Skull Bronze
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph GMT Original 1513
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph GMT Original 1513


The chronograph is my favorite complication, aside from a minute repeater, because it is affordable and very useful, capable of timing my run in the morning and my steak on the grill at night. There are some fantastic chronographs on the market, led by TAG Heuer’s great-looking Carrera Heuer-01.

Other chronographs worth a look include the Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph, the Zenith Chronomaster El Primero, the Tockr Air-Defender, Baume & Mercier’s Clifton Chronographs and more.

Any of these watches listed above fit an active lifestyle and allow us to live our lives without worrying about damaging them.

Just what you and I need this summer.

About The Author: Keith Strandberg


Keith W. Strandberg ( has written about timepieces in many different publications for the past 25+ years. One of the few international journalists living in Switzerland, he has written for the trade extensively as well as for mainstream publications like Variety, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, United Airlines’ Hemispheres, Men’s Vogue, USA Today, Tennis and many more.

Read more from Keith Strandberg

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