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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.


“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.


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.


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.”


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 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.


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.

23 Comments on Wristwatch buying guide

  1. water resistant watches are great because you can swim with it on and not worry about it shorting out or losing track of time

  2. i bought a cheap watch at walmart and it works great

  3. Timex WS4

  4. timex are the BEST i recommend TIMEX some of the watches fog up on
    the inside of the screen though

  5. Percy Jackson // January 17, 2011 at 2:13 am // Reply

    You need to get a spynet watch! It has a camera ,a video camera,a voice recorder,a voice changer, a lie detector,games ,and it tells the time and the date!

    • montana teen // May 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm // Reply

      do you really need all those?

    • Percy that really wouldn’t be a good watch for the outdoors.

      • Totally. It’s a cool play watch but if it’s not water-proof forget it.
        Plus I also agree with Montana teen, since when will you need a lie detector when camping??? Spend the money and get a 120$ Casio G-SHOCK and that watch will last you forever! I’m not kidding! You’ll be able to hand it down to your grand kids!

      • Percy Jackson // September 22, 2011 at 1:39 am //

        Who said anything about camping? Since it can take picures and video, it’s great for museums and things like that.

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // September 27, 2011 at 1:19 pm //

        I said it was a cool watch. but I go into museums like once a year so it would not be a good watch me. plus I am outdoors a ton and the weather can get nasty some times so if it’s not water proof forget it. I do agree it is a very cool watch for some one who lives in the city or someone who is indoors a lot. but just not for me.

  6. timex expeditions with compasses work great and are handy

    • runnerdude11 // May 1, 2011 at 6:48 pm // Reply

      I got mine without a compass. I wanted it because it was cheap, replaceable, and light. I do cross country running, so do not need anything to weigh me down. I have had three of the same watch in three years, so it is by no means durable if you are Extremely athletic.

  7. I have a Forester analog that has a small digital part that has the date,stop watch,time,and dual time. and lights up but not the digital part and its water resistant 100m(300ft) That is All

  8. timex iron man triathlon is a awsome watch. It is water proof 100 meter and it has everything.I got it for $35.00

  9. Swiss army. Nuff said!

  10. I like the Casio G-shock watch

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