Sailing Watches With GPS: All the Facts Before Buying

To be a good sailing watch, it has to have more than just looks. These need to provide a purpose, especially if you’re spending a lot of money on them. Sailing watches with GPS are a good start to a quality timepiece on your wrist.

After reading, you’ll see how a sailing watch GPS works, what you can expect from it, and how important they can be while at sea. In addition, you’ll be able to determine what works best for you and how it applies to your sailing goals.

Any experienced sailor will tell you that sailing watches that have GPS capabilities are beyond convenient. As long as you’re not afraid of troubleshooting technology, you’ll be thankful that you own one. In fact, some GPS sailing watches can connect to your boat through Bluetooth and provide accurate navigation.

What to Look For in Sailing Watches With GPS

Sailing watches with GPS

Sailing watches with GPS capabilities will need to have certain characteristics in order to consider one for yourself.

These include being durable, having a sleek design, and waterproof. Price will also play an important role, so determine what you can afford first before attempting to splurge.

Other characteristics that might not affect performance, but rather your preference, including whether they are digital or smartwatch, have tide calendars, and have a compass.

These are considered a bonus, but could help your situation. So when trying to find a sailing watch that has GPS mode, you should consider the other additions as well.

Is it Comfortable and Durable

A sleek design will help with being comfortable on your wrist. Anything bulky will get in the way of trying to tie lines or even steering your boat.

Just because it’s not bulky doesn’t mean you won’t bag it into anything. Simply put, you want something that’s going to last a while.

Differences in Waterproof Depths

Any watch for sailing that uses GPS has to be waterproof or otherwise it’s useless at sea. If your budget only allows for so much, consider at a minimum that you have five atmospheres (ATM) or roughly 16 feet worth of water resistant capabilities.

If possible, you should consider ones that have more ATM ratings for long-term use. For the best ATM rating, consider using a sailing watch for up to 10 ATMs or roughly 330 feet.

Digital or Smartwatch

Digital sailing watch

Digital sailing watches use an LCD screen to display all of your important information. A sailing smartwatch is often just considered a digital watch since it has an LCD screen too.

Both will be able to provide the information you need. Sailing smartwatches will have more features, so it should be easy to spot the differences.

Telling the Tide Forecast

Some GPS sailing watches have tide forecasts programmed into them. These allow you to closely predict the rise and fall of tides based on your location.

These typically go hand in hand with GPS sailing watches since they need your exact location to offer you tide information. In some cases, you might have to enter the lunitidal intervals or where you want the tidal information tracked if going overseas.


A good GPS sailing watch needs a compass or the ability to help bring you back where you need to go in case your GPS isn’t working.

Hopefully that day never comes to where your GPS navigation systems aren’t working. This simple tool alone might just save your life if you get lost at sea.

How a Sailing Watch GPS Works

A Global Positioning System (GPS) is a unique asset to anyone navigating. For sailing watches, this system goes through a process known as triangulation.

Depending on your location, your signal could be better or worse in the process to determine that position.

After a series of events, the satellite helps locate your exact location. Your watch sends a GPS signal to the closest satellite. As you move, the next satellite will pick up the signal and show that you’re heading in a given direction.

As your sailing GPS watch sends the signal, a minimum of four satellites have to receive it. The signal will take longer to connect on the first one, but each calculation takes less time once in use.

When using your sailing watch, you’ll likely have to input the latitude and longitude of a specific location to navigate to it. Some watches can link to a smartphone or computer and download a particular route.

Do GPS Watches Need the Internet?

Sailing watch connected to the internet

GPS sailing watches don’t need the use of the internet because they use a satellite to coordinate your position. Through triangulation, it only needs to communicate with satellites.

There are many satellites that move around Earth to receive signals for GPS. Ground stations receive radio signals from those satellites to determine position, thus bypassing any need for the internet.

While your watch doesn’t need the internet initially, you have to use the internet just a bit if you’re wanting a specific location.

For example, if you connect your watch with Bluetooth to your phone or computer and want to download GPS navigation routes, then you’ll need internet on that end.

Can’t You Just Use Your Phone?

Sailing smartwatch and phone

If you feel like draining your phone’s battery, you’re more than welcome to give it a shot. There are apps and other useful features that can help with navigating, so it makes sense to want to try it.

The problem is that your phone isn’t the same piece of equipment as your sailing watch. While phones are basically computers you can use to call people, they don’t need to be used on your sailboat as a GPS.

Risking a Phone’s Life

With all of the requirements that a watch for sailing has to go through, like being water resistant and durable, why risk putting your phone in danger?

Even though some are heavy-duty and water-resistant, they can’t handle tough conditions at sea.

Not only do you risk damaging your phone through water or smashing it, but you risk dropping it overboard. Watches don’t leave your wrist unless you take them off.

Purpose of Phone

Phones are designed with other purposes in mind such as talking, texting, and using the internet. They have way more uses, with some similarities to a sailing watch.

There are some useful apps, but none tested rigorously at sea with a phone. Your phone shouldn’t be a universal remote when it comes to sailing.

Not as Accurate

The GPS software and antennae are nowhere near as strong or consistent as a sailing watch. With so much that goes into making a phone, GPS technology is more of an afterthought.

Watches that use GPS mode capabilities are fine-tuned for athletic performance and can deliver better results every time. This is arguably the best reason why you need a good sailing watch instead of using your phone.

Final Thoughts

Sailing watches with GPS are excellent pieces of equipment to aid you in sailing. They allow you to track your distance and help guide you where you need to go.

The best part is, they don’t require the internet to function properly. So depending on your sailing goals and budget, a sailing watch with GPS could be right for you.