When you find yourself in a survival situation, the first items on your mind are typically water, food, and shelter. Having the best survival watch might not seem like a priority.
However, this is an essential piece of survival gear that all outdoor enthusiasts should have in their survival kits. Survival watches can be extremely helpful when you’re stranded in the wilderness—particularly if you’re lost and need to find your way quickly.
Let’s explore the importance of survival watches, the different types of watches that are out there, and the various features they include!
What Is a Survival Watch?
Simply put, a survival watch can be defined as any type of watch that you use as a survival tool.
The reality is that even the most basic watch can be helpful when you’re trying to navigate your environment. By using a watch to tell time and locating the sun’s position, you can pinpoint north, south, east, and west coordinates fairly accurately.
While it’s true that any type of watch can be utilized in a survival scenario, the best survival watch will include advanced features beyond the minimal range of functions that a conventional timepiece provides.
Many high-quality survival watches include built-in altimeters, thermometers, maps, GPS capabilities, and much more!
What Are the Advantages of Owning a Survival Watch?
Why would someone need a survival watch, exactly?
Our lives revolve around time. Consider how many times you look down at your phone, watch, or another time-telling device on any given day. In order to maintain our schedules and be productive, it’s important that we keep an eye on the time.
The need to tell time doesn’t get thrown out the window in a survival scenario. In fact, the need to tell time arguably increases, as your survival might depend on your ability to keep track of time.
You may need to rely on a timer when preparing food. You may need to rely on navigational aids in order to get out of harm’s way. You may need to track hours of daylight in order to make progress during the day and avoid the cool of the night.
A high-quality survival watch will allow you to perform all of these tasks and more.
What Are the Types of Survival Watches?
The majority of survival watches fall into one of three categories—analog, digital, and smart. Of course, each of these styles is priced very differently and will possess a different range of features, so you should become familiar with each type of watch before shopping!
Long before there were digital watches and smart devices, there were analog (or mechanical) watches. The analog watch is perhaps the most recognizable style of watch, known for its sense of class, simplicity, and accessibility.
Not to mention, analog watches tend to be more budget-friendly. The most rudimentary mechanical survival watches start as low as $20 or so, although it’s worth noting that watches at this price point aren’t the most reliable and won’t include many of the essential features you would expect from a top-notch survival watch.
As mechanical watches trend towards the $75–$100 mark, however, you can be more assured of their quality and the palette of features they offer.
One obvious downside to analog watches is that, because they do not rely on digital functionality, they are unlikely to feature cutting-edge technology that other types of watches possess. There are, however, analog and digital hybrid watches that combine the best of both worlds.
Although digital watches aren’t particularly new, they drastically changed the way we use watches today. One of the most significant differences is the use of a digital screen, digital dial, and automatic movement in lieu of a traditional analog display with mechanical hands.
Boasting additional features such as stopwatches, timers, time stamp capabilities, and daily alarms, digital watches allow you to better manage tasks, schedules, and deadlines. What’s more, you’re able to seamlessly toggle from one feature to the next—from a digital compass to a built-in altimeter, for example—with the simple touch of a button.
A minor drawback of digital watches is that most of them require a battery or power source. So long as you have time to prepare for a survival scenario by packing battery replacements, this is largely a non-issue. However, in certain emergency situations, you might not be afforded this luxury.
Of the most common types of watches, smartwatches arguably pack the biggest punch.
In addition to the standard tactical functions that analog and digital watches include, smartwatches come with everything from navigation to health monitoring and more.
Of course, this advanced technology typically comes at a premium. Most high-quality smartwatches cost upwards of $200; and even the more mid-tier, budget-friendly options hover around $100 or more.
Given the sheer power that smart features require, you’ll find that its battery life fades at a much faster rate than that of a conventional analog or digital watch.
Fortunately, smartwatches are equipped with rechargeable batteries—many of which have solar charging capabilities. As long as you have access to ample sunlight during the day, you’ll be able to keep your smartwatch up and running in a survival scenario!
What to Look for When Choosing a Survival Watch
There are a handful of factors to consider when choosing a survival watch. Of course, the watch should meet your budget, but you should also make sure it includes all of the essential features that you would need to have in a survival situation.
If you’re unsure of what your survival watch should include, here are several factors to take into account.
While you should be most concerned about the watch’s key functions, be careful not to overlook its design.
The truth is that your survival watch should double as casual wear because the timepiece’s appearance and feel will determine how often you keep it on your wrist. The last thing you want is to invest in a watch that only ends up being left in a drawer at home when you need it most.
Your watch should fit your personality—whether that means you invest in a stylish design, a rugged fit, or a sporty design. Your watch should also sit comfortably on your wrist without causing irritation or fatigue. As you’re weighing up all of the key features and perks, also be sure to choose a watch that you can commit to for everyday wear!
Accuracy is a non-issue with most watches, especially today’s digital and smartwatches. Nonetheless, you should choose a watch that has a reputation for being accurate and always displaying the actual time.
There are certain mechanical watches—particularly low-quality timepieces—that won’t display accurate times and instead fluctuate from day to day. The unit’s other tactical functions may also be inaccurate to some degree.
Before pulling the trigger on a new watch, skim over a few reviews to make sure that it is going to display the actual time at all hours, minutes, and seconds of the day!
In the wilderness, you’ll want access to as many tools as possible. This means that your survival watch should be multifunctional—loaded with all kinds of essential and tactical features.
Some of the key features of a high-quality survival watch may include the following:
- Accurate timekeeping functions
- Analog or digital display
- LCD screen
- Date indicator
- Battery lifespan indicator
- Built-in altimeter and barometer
- Built-in temperature gauge
- Built-in compass navigation
- Built-in GPS navigation
- Health monitoring
While you may not end up using every last one of these features in a survival scenario, having them available will ensure that you are prepared for all types of situations!
In an emergency situation, anything can happen. You might be caught up in a torrential downpour or thrown into a wet environment. You might even need to dive into a body of water!
As you will need your survival watch to come along for the ride without risking damage, it will need to be water-resistant.
A survival watch should boast a minimum water-resistance depth rating of 50–100 meters. This will allow you to swim, shower, participate in water sports, and stand out in the rain without compromising your watch.
For diving and other water-related activities, you will need a watch that can withstand higher amounts of pressure. Look for a water-resistant survival watch that boasts a water resistance depth rating north of 200 meters.
One quality that separates a rugged survival watch from the average dress watch is shock resistance—a non-negotiable attribute for survival situations.
In extreme conditions, your watch can easily be knocked by loose debris or pinned against a rock. It may even bear the brunt of a fall. This kind of force would likely shatter a dress watch’s crystal or damage its case.
A high-quality survival watch, however, should be able to absorb the impact of a shock or blow without any of its components and systems becoming damaged. Make sure your survival watch is shock-resistant before adding it to your cart!
The elements aren’t always kind to cheap or poorly made products. When you’re thrown into survival environments, your survival watch should be able to withstand any harsh conditions.
When shopping for a new watch, be sure to review the product specifications and ensure that the watch consists of high-quality materials—such as stainless steel, tempered glass, and others. User reviews can also be very telling. Steer clear of survival watches that are known to malfunction or break down.
If you’re unsure as to whether a particular watch boasts a durable design, consider the unit’s weight. As a general rule of thumb, a heavier watch is typically a more durable survival watch.
What’s more, a hard and heavy outer shell will help safeguard the watch’s more delicate systems and components—often preventing damage and malfunctions in the process.
Most survival watches are mechanical, battery-powered, or solar-powered, and each of these power sources has its own set of pros and cons.
While a mechanical watch might not boast the tactical features that your top-end digital and smartwatches possess, it’s one of the easiest watches to power. This type of watch draws its power from a wound-up spring mechanism, allowing it to generate and store energy very easily.
A battery-powered watch might offer advanced features that draw more power, yet it will still provide a reasonable battery life. However, its batteries will need replacement batteries or the means to recharge your watch once the battery lifespan has been depleted.
A solar-powered watch offers a combination of essential and extra features, and it relies on the sun’s energy for its battery life. You will need to ensure that you have exposure to light (and not artificial light) in order to keep it running, however. This won’t always be feasible in situations when you are trapped or located underground.
Your watch’s runtime is another important factor to consider, as you might not have instant access to extra batteries or charging stations in a survival environment.
It’s worth noting that features often come at the expense of runtime. Generally speaking, the more features a watch has, the more power it needs to draw in order to run properly. The more power it draws, the shorter its runtime tends to be.
If your personal preference is efficiency rather than a wide range of features, opt for a more minimalistic survival watch that boasts a longer runtime.
How Much Does a Survival Watch Cost?
There is a survival watch for every budget. Although they may not boast all of the features that a top-of-the-line survival watch includes, an analog survival watch will include all basic features at a very cost-effective price point of $100 or less.
If you’re able to stretch your budget a little further, there are mid-tier survival watches—such as digital and smartwatches—that cost anywhere between $100 and $300. Typically, these watches come with more features and are built with more durable materials.
Finally, if you’re able to invest in a premium survival watch to the tune of $300 or more, you’ll enjoy unrivaled quality and all types of cutting-edge features. These devices are built with the survivalist in mind, equipping you with everything you need to hold your own in dangerous territory.
Who Should Own a Survival Watch?
Survival watches aren’t only for extreme survivalists and military personnel. A survival watch is a must-have item for any outdoor enthusiast—whether your preferred pastime is fishing, hiking, camping, rock climbing, or one of many outdoor sports.
Even for people who don’t typically enjoy these activities, survival watches should be featured in all survival kits. These devices and all of their key features will come in handy should a natural disaster—such as a tornado or earthquake—strike unexpectedly. Having instant access to these survival and navigational tools could very well save your life!
Navigate Any Emergency Situation With a Top-Notch Survival Watch
Whether you’re hiking through the woods, camping with friends, enjoying outdoor sports, or navigating an emergency situation, a high-quality survival watch can provide immeasurable value.
Find a high-quality survival watch that you feel comfortable wearing on your wrist. With the right design and essential features, you’ll be well prepared to tackle any survival situation head-on!