In this age of the smartphone, everyone has a timepiece in their pocket at all times. As a result, like so much else in the past 20 years, the watch is now teetering on the brink of technology’s endangered species list. Out on the water, though, watches are anything but obsolete. Having the right watch for the job can be a huge asset to your sailing, especially since a marinized watch won’t drown if it gets wet, be difficult to read in bright sun or run out of charge in a matter of hours like a phone will. It also (hopefully!) won’t ever go overboard, being securely strapped to your body.
Whether you’re living up nostalgia for the pre-GPS era and need the exact time to use your sextant or racing at the cutting edge and need a precise, intuitive tracker for the starting sequence, you’ve got many options to choose from. Here’s a look at a few of the marine watches available and some features you should consider when investing in your own.
When sailing, there’s a lot of data to process—speed, depth, temperature, wind. You could park yourself behind the helm and keep your eyes glued to the controls, but let’s be honest, you miss out on the beauty of the sea when you’re too focused on your tech. The Quatix 6X Solar Smartwatch from Garmin solves this problem by bringing all that data, plus autopilot control, charts and more, right to your wrist ($700-1,150, garmin.com).
It pairs with Garmin chartplotters and comes preloaded with apps for boating, tides, Fusion-Link, anchoring and fishing. BlueChart g3 coastal charts and LakeVü g3 inland maps are optional add ons. For racers, the distance to the start line, a race countdown timer and tack assist features are other essentials. Topping up its power between charges with an integrated solar panel, the watch can last up to a month in smartwatch mode. The screen measures 35mm across, and the watch is water-resistant to 100 meters. It’s available with either a navy silicone or titanium band that will fit right in in any professional setting. Absolutely packed with yachting-specific details, the Quatix 6X Solar Smartwatch does not come cheap. However, it will allow you to step up your onboard connectivity to a whole new level.
By contrast, for dinghy racing, you won’t need all those features, and monitoring starting sequences is probably the most important function of your watch. Moreover, fussing with a complicated piece of tech isn’t an option in the chaos of the starting line or while keeping your boat upright in heavy weather. With this in mind, Ronstan’s ClearStart collection takes the stress level down a notch with pre-programmed start sequence modes and a resynchronization feature that allows you to catch up if you miss a signal ($80-100, ronstan.us). Oversized digits make the watches easy to read. Large buttons ensure ease of use, even with full-finger gloves on. The watches come in three colors: red, blue and black.
Another excellent option for small-boat sailors is Gill’s Regatta Race Timer ($110, gillmarine.com). In addition to such racing must-haves as a stopwatch and countdown timer, the watch is rugged and water-resistant up to 50 meters with shock and impact resistance built into the design, making it an especially great pick for young sailors. The display also has an electro luminescent backlight and large, easy-to-see digits.
Finally, consider giving back to the ocean as part of your watch purchase with the latest generation of the Time for Oceans collection from Triwa ($149, triwa.com). This Swedish company’s Time for Change program has an impressive record of finding ways to make watches out of recycled materials for a cause—its Time for Peace project, for example, turns illegal weapons into watches—and now the company has turned its sights on plastic debris in the oceans. The first production run of this watch turned the equivalent of 20,000 plastic bottles into 10,000 watches in a year, and the company is now launching a dive watch made completely out of ocean plastic. The watch comes in three different colors: deep blue, octopus black and Nemo orange.