Now that watches have officially made a comeback – although depending on who you ask, they never really went away – they once again provide an understated opportunity to make a fashionable statement both about your style your work ethic.
After all, it’s been a while since we started being permanently within arm’s reach of a device connected to all the knowledge on Earth, time zones included. That means that keeping a time-tracker on our wrists is a choice and one that should never stop being convenient, environmentally-friendly, and cool.
In that sense, solar-powered watches can check all those boxes in one small stroke. And gone are the days of having to locate someone to replace your watch’s battery.
Traditionally, solar-powered watches and fashion have had a complicated relationship. Most of the glaring, shiny PV cells are not very aesthetically pleasing, or they didn’t use to be so in the cheaper models. However, a new generation of elegant analog models has cropped up to complement the myriad digital watches already found across outdoors gear shops.
This is a simple watch that keeps its accuracy elegantly. There are no shiny chronographers or calendar windows, but it does have a very precise Japanese quartz movement and water-resistant protection.
Despite looking like a great option for a night out, the Prospex is still sturdy and able to keep up with an active and adventurous wearer. The silicone band doesn’t look like rubber, but it will resist rain and sweat without a problem. The mechanisms are completely submergible and resist up to 20 BARs of pressure (approximately 666 feet under sea level).
The rotating bezel and calendar window keep things useful and versatile. The watch itself is rather thick, but it doesn’t look rough.
The deep-blue mesh and band are a bold choice in an industry that is too prone to seeing black as its failsafe option. Thick, white letters and minor yellow accents surround a legible and precise calendar window. While not submergible, this is not a flimsy watch by any standard. The crystal is made from sapphire, meaning it will resist scratches as well as Gorilla Glass.
The design is inspired by aviator watches without jumping on the trend too obviously. It has kept its fonts large and legible to facilitate quick reads, even in semi-dark conditions. Its analog quartz movement will remain precise even if the watch is not taken into direct sunlight every day. Furthermore, while it’s not diver-friendly, it is water resistant for depths up to 50 meters.
That it has managed to keep its famous simplicity and elegance despite venturing in completely new waters is a feat indeed. This touch-powered device has nothing to envy against old-school wind-up models.
In addition to a standard digital screen, this watch includes two altimeters, an odometer, alarm, a chronometer, and even a weather forecast function. This uses the pressure and altitude sensors to warn you of upcoming rain rather than providing a full 5-day forecast, and it’s remarkably accurate. To round it off, this watch is water resistant for depths of up to 330 feet.
Without providing excessive details that would clutter the overall display, the Silvertone has managed to include a chronographer and a calendar window behinds its sapphire display crystal. Nevertheless, the hands are luminous just in case lights are not always what they should be.
This model can be submerged to a total depth of up to 100 meters or 330 feet.
While this model would never look quite right next to a suit or at a dinner date, it is something that should be kept around if you plan to take your vacation plans to the extreme. A resin case, silicon band, superb waterproofing, and a highly-shock resistant case make the Pathfinder an all-terrain tank.
The watch is equipped with an altimeter, a pedometer, a barometer, and a chronometer, all fully solar-powered. With a diameter of 51 mm, this watch is not even uncomfortably large.
Fanmis may be a relative newcomer to the watch scene, but it clearly believes that the best way to get noticed is to be loud and bold. This seems to have worked for this model, which combines an affordable price with a large number of bells and whistles.
This is why we have had to include the top members of the G-Shock series on this list. No rating list of solar-powered high tech watches would be complete without a few of its iterations. Out of all of them, the Frogman is the diving version.
It has the sturdy case that we expect from any G-shock as well as superb water resistance. It is designed to withstand depths of up to 200 meters or 660 feet. Also, it will measure, record, and timestamp depths and water temperatures.
The G-Shock Urban Trainer was created with those who keep their boldness between city walls, and don’t feel they need to scale it down. Bolder color choices, a more accurate step tracker, and full smartphone connectivity replace some of the functions that you shouldn’t pay extra for if you’ll never use. The Urban Trainer does away with depth sensors and won’t resist diving to quite the same depths, but it has a highly customizable stopwatch function that allows you to set laps, distance, and speed goals once you connect it with its sister app.
This is an amphibious take on the good old G-shock, elevated to 10. A fully-featured adventure partner that actually seeks to redefine what we should expect from a digital watch nowadays – especially thanks to the advent of full smartphone connectivity – and yet has managed to keep a proper gentleman’s analog time display, powered by Casio’s own precise quartz movement.
This watch will resist underwater depths of up to 200 meters or 660 feet as well as being fully mud-resistant and nearly scratch-immune, thanks to its sapphire crystal cover. A digital compass, thermometer, stopwatch, and fully-automated world calendar round out this package.
Its magnified date window and matte-black stainless steel bracelet will add some discreet elegance to any outfit. The watch is not fully shock resistant or diver friendly but will resist depths of up to 100 meters or 333 feet.
With a triple-display layout and a design inspired on old-school aviator watches, the Solar Chronograph doesn’t look like a solar watch – and yet it can keep going for over three months after only one day of charge. Nevertheless, thanks to its Hardlex crystal display, stopwatch, alarm, and seconds’ marker, this is not something that you would ever accidentally forget in a drawer for a long time.
The technical specs of this watch are well-matched to its potential and its price tag: a date display, sapphire window, and Japanese movement provide everything you truly need to take with you to a meeting with the Board of Directors.
This solar-powered watch can receive up to five frequencies of radio wave signals. It is also equipped with an automatic and manual reception and allows for automatic time correction. As for its time-keeping capabilities, they are equally impressive: Japanese movement, a perpetual calendar that will see you until 2059, the ability to set different time zones, and luminous hands to improve its visibility.
This is a great aviator watch, shock resistant and immersion resistant (up to 330 feet). Its stainless steel case and nylon strap were made to be taken for a ride and to survive it.
The genius of this model is not in its fully-digital, large and extra legible display, or its long-lasting battery. It is in the way each detail has been polished to bring us back to its theme of toughness, adaptability, and endurance. The stopwatch function has enough memory to record 30 laps and their achievements. The shock-resistant case has managed to keep its stop/reset buttons easy to access and simple to operate.
The only downside? The watch will only resist up to 100 meters (330 feet) underwater. We’re a picky bunch.
Buying Your First Watch?
Need Help Choosing?
For those of us who are now investing in their first grown-up watch, the initial choice can be confusing. Ideally, we would all have unlimited amounts of money to be able to buy a quality piece for every day of the week and every occasion. Unfortunately, this is unlikely. But that doesn’t mean you need to settle for dollar-store pieces, either.
For a true newcomer on the solar-powered watch arena, the goal should be to have as many situations covered with only one or two versatile pieces. If you can splurge and have both a dress watch for formal affairs and an everyday, casual one, then great!
Otherwise, try thinking of what you wear (and more importantly, of what you should be wearing) most of the time. Do you work in an office? Go outdoors every weekend? Take a good, hard look at your existing wardrobe and try to identify the predominant palette. Then, come back to this list and choose whichever option will look best with most of your wardrobe.