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Wristwatch buying guide

The wristwatch was invented in the 1600’s when a French mathematician used a piece of string to tie a watch to his wrist.

Timekeeping has come a long way since then. These days, watches are like mini-computers that can forecast the weather, help you find your way in the woods or even get you to class on time.

For professional adventure racer Travis Macy, 23, his watch helps with navigation and keeps his team on track during grueling multi-day races.

“If we’re doing a trekking section and we’re falling asleep on our feet, we’ll stop and sleep for half an hour,” says Macy, a former Cub Scout. “And then the whole race is hanging on my watch to wake us up!”

Dealing with that kind of pressure and the race on the line, Macy knows watches. He can teach you a lot about how to pick the best one for your time-keeping needs.

FEATURES

“Before you go to buy a watch, think about the features you’re looking for,” Macy says.

If hiking and camping is your thing, consider a watch with a compass and perhaps an altimeter and barometer. If you’re into jogging, find a heart-rate-monitor watch. Remember: Just because a watch is packed with features and functions doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to use. Try it before you buy to make sure it’s user-friendly.

ANALOG VS. DIGITAL

Most modern watches use tiny quartz minerals to keep the time. When electrified, the quartz crystal vibrates a reliable 32,768 times per second; those vibrations are translated to seconds, minutes and hours. Analog watches have a standard clock-like face with two or three (or more) hands that point at numbers, which is more classic yet can be tougher to read than digital watches. Digitals continuously highlight the exact time in numerals. Some watches have dual faces with both analog and digital readouts.

DURABILITY

If you spend much time outdoors, durability is a key factor in a watch. “Make sure it’s rugged,” Macy says. “If it has a compass swivel on top, try turning that to see if that feels like it’ll hold up. Play with the buttons. Are they easy to push? Take a look at the band and the buckle to make sure they’re flexible and will hold up to the elements.”

SIZE

You want the face of the watch and the numbers to be big enough so you can see them while you’re riding a bike or running. But in general, the bigger the watch the heavier and bulkier it will be. Try to find a size that’s comfortable.

“If you’ll have only one watch, think about whether you’ll want to wear a big watch to school,” he says. “I wear the same big watch for everything, but I’ve gotten used to it. Some guys will feel more comfortable with something smaller.”

THE WATCHBAND

The way your watch is strapped to your wrist is important. If you’re outdoors a lot, choose a polyurethane band. These bands are waterproof, won’t hold odors and are very durable, but they can also be sticky in hot climates. Another good choice is a canvas and Velcro band, which is more breathable.

“Velcro bands keep your watch snug against your wrist and you can wash it when it’s dirty,” Macy says.

Leather bands don’t perform well in wet environments, but they look cool. Meanwhile, metal bands can sometimes pinch your skin, though they are usually super durable.

WHERE TO SHOP

There’s nothing more helpful than going to a store and trying a watch on to see how it feels on your wrist. Of course, you’ll probably pay more at a store versus buying it on the Internet.

“Take a look online and see if you can find a better price,” Macy says. “There are search engines where you can type in the product name and a whole list of prices will come up so you can find out what’s a good price.”

If you buy online, make sure the store is reputable and beware of counterfeit or fake watches.

229 Comments on Wristwatch buying guide

  1. Good watch: Timex atlantis

  2. You should get a Timex Expedition, there amazing and easy to use.

  3. If you go to bass pro they have a lot of knives

  4. Pebble steel or samsung gear live is the way to go!!

  5. Timex Ironman watches are amazing. Waterproof to 300+ feet, almost indestructible ( I did a series of tourture tests to my old one), and pretty cheap. Can be had for $35 at Wally world.

  6. my Casio illuminator: aw 80 watch is awesome, hold telephone numbers and has world time And is digital / analog much better than any G (Garbage Shock) although the timex adventurer is also very good

  7. Ironsquirrel61 // March 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm // Reply

    I got the timex 1440 sport and I love it. It’s easy to use, has many great features and is water resistant to 164 feet. I can take it pretty much anywhere too. It’s a really great watch!

  8. if you want a really good watch get the timex reefgear

  9. wish this article followed up with where to buy watches for boys that was reputable. Or gave you a few ideas

  10. Scoutmaster931 // December 19, 2013 at 1:33 am // Reply

    I have been wearing the Suunto Core for about three years. THis is the same watch that the US Army issued to Special Forces personnel. It has a lot of great features, known to go through batteries, but I love the weather alert feature once you get the barometric settings straight and correct…
    If you can spend $400 on a watch and want it to last, then try the Core.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // January 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm // Reply

      Sounds like a great watch but way to expensive.

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // February 6, 2014 at 11:14 am // Reply

      I mean yeah, any watch that is good enough for Spec Ops is more that good enough for us but I would rather stick to my more affordable G-Shock. Sounds like an awesome watch though!

    • Off-Trail Monkey // March 11, 2014 at 2:58 pm // Reply

      Looked the watch up, very nice. Now that’s a combat watch!

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