What Makes a Good Sailing Watch

Good sailing watches (aka yachting watches) should be considered a vital tool while sailing, rather than style. While it does make a difference to have an attractive sailing watch, a lot of factors come into play for what makes a good sailing watch.

After learning these factors, you should be able to spot a nice sailing watch from a bad one and begin your journey on how to use a sailing watch. No matter what your experience is in sailing, you’ll see why sailing watches are more than fashion statements.

They need to be more than just water-resistant timepieces that offer the time of the day. While everyone’s situation is unique, there’s a sailing watch designed just for you.

What Makes a Good Sailing Watch? These 5 Features

Sailing watches have important features that separate them from other watches. There are five features that a good, high-quality sailing watch must have in order to provide the best experience while out on the water.

1. Water Resistance

Sailing watches must be water-resistant to some degree since you’re on the water at all times.

While some are more water-resistant than others, a minimum should be five atmospheres (ATM) or a depth of about 160 feet.

This is ideal for coastal cruising with a light spray of water, so look for more coverage if you plan on using your sailing watch for racing or diving.

2. Durable

In addition to being water-resistant, a sailing watch has to be durable. Reinforced glass, stainless steel, or something shockproof is necessary.

With everything it’s likely to go through, you don’t want to replace a broken watch after the first day.

3. Countdown Timer

Even if you don’t engage in regatta races, a sailing watch (aka a yachting watch) has to have a countdown timer. This feature is one of the main reasons sailors look for sailing watches. For those that do race, it’s imperative to be on time.

4. Chronometer

Not only do you need to have precise timing, but a chronometer assists in calculating longitude. This allows sailors a reasonably accurate fixed position while sailing.

5. Compass

Sailing watch with compass

In the event your GPS or electronic systems aren’t functioning properly, you can always rely on a compass. This reliable navigation tool is essential for any sailboat, so having one on your wrist is priceless.

Sailing Racing Watch vs Day Sailing Watch

Sailing racing watches and day sailing watches are very similar. In fact, both are difficult to tell apart at first since they’re marketed a certain way.

The key is to determine what the limits are to the watches. Both styles of watches will have their pros and cons, so see what works best for you.

Racing Watches

Three sailboats racing

Racing watches are geared toward sailors that want to race. They’ll have common features that sailing watches are supposed to have, but they go a bit further.

A good racing watch will have a regatta countdown with various timer settings, excellent durability, and above-average water resistance of 10 ATMs or more.

These watches are likely to be universal, meaning you can use them for other purposes in sailing besides racing. The prices on these vary depending on brand and the desire for extra features related to racing.

Day Sailing Watches

Couple day sailing

Day sailing watches are meant for sailors wanting to have a timepiece while sailing, but might not want the extra features associated with it. These watches provide the same basic features, but don’t offer a surplus of extras.

A good day sailing watch will have a timer, a respectable water resistance of at least five ATMs, and a compass. These generally are cheaper, but you could go up in price depending on the brand.

Is It Better to Have a Digital or Analog Watch for Sailing

A good debate can be had between digital and analog sailing watches. Both are unique and have features that clearly separate the two.

Digital sailing watches are more convenient, while analog (aka mechanical) have a classic look and are easy to use. Depending on your desires, one could be better than the other.

Digital Sailing Watches

Digital sailing watch

Sailing watches that have digital capabilities are often paired with smartwatches. This is because both use an LCD screen to display all of your information.

However, some digital watches are made to look like analog watches. Those still need a battery to power the watch, therefore it’s not a mechanical one. Sometimes they’re even made with stainless steel.

They have batteries that you either need to charge, replace, or use the sun to help power the watch, therefore battery life is important. Most sailing watches that are digital have quite a bit of life before having to charge or replace again.

These watches are tough, both inside and out. Since there are no moving parts, there’s less to go wrong in tough conditions.

Most digital sailing watches are accurate in keeping time. Since there aren’t any complex movements that could alter the time, these are better in that scenario.

Analog Sailing Watches

Analog sailing watch

Analog sailing watches use a mechanism to help determine the time by using a dial and hands. These are often the traditional or classical-looking watches usually made of stainless steel that sailors want on their wrists.

They don’t have batteries and must rely on wind-up or automatic movements, so battery life isn’t an issue. A spring inside the watch deploys power slowly once it’s been wound up in order for it to work.

Mechanical sailing watches can be very tough on the outside, but fragile on the inside. They have a ton of tiny moving parts that make them vulnerable in tough conditions.

Most mechanical watches are accurate for keeping time within one to 10 seconds. After about a week, they can be off by as much as 70 seconds.

While not a big deal over the long term, it’s one thing you have to keep an eye on when it comes to racing. Simply resetting the watch every once and a while is all it takes.

Get More With a Sailing Smartwatch

Sailing smartwatch

A sailing smartwatch is just as advanced as having a computer strapped to your wrist. These are generally a jack of all trades tool that can cover all the bases making them some of the best sailing watches out there.

The beautiful thing about sailing smartwatches is that you can take this high-tech timepiece with you in tough conditions.

These watches are a step up in quality from entry-level digital watches. They feature a ton of extras like Bluetooth, connecting to chartplotter apps, and even messaging systems.

Some can hold thousands of songs, be used as a form of payment, turn your boat into autopilot along a GPS route, and even check your heart rate.

In addition, they have good water resistance of up to 10 ATMs or about a depth of 328 feet and sometimes even are made from stainless steel (at least the strap).

The only drawback to these types of sailing watches is if you’re not keen on having that much technology on your wrist. For those that want something bare bones and simple, a sailing smartwatch isn’t for you.

Surprisingly, you can buy a sailing smartwatch cheaper than some digital or analog watches. This of course depends on the brand, but it’s arguably a better bang for your buck.

Final Thoughts

Good sailing watches are going to have the necessary features for sailors to enjoy their adventure. While not all sailing watches are made equal, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Budget is likely going to help determine what sailing watch is best for you. A sailing smartwatch could be everything you need without breaking the bank. Both digital and analog sailing watches offer budget-friendly options to accommodate your sailing goals.