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What Exactly is a Sports Watch?

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By Roberta Naas:

If you Google it, the term “sports watch” has a lot of different definitions. Not all of them are correct. In fact, one definition says that a sports watch must combine water resistance with a stopwatch and an alarm. Another definition says it must be a tactical watch with LED lighting. The list goes on and on – with most definitions being only partially accurate.

The truth is that what defines a sports watch is a host of factors. Among them: its function-ability for the specified use. Sports watches should be water-resistant (to varying degrees based on the end use). They should be made of durable material such as titanium, carbon or steel that can take a bit of a beating without being damaged. Similarly, their crystals should be made of an equally as shock-resistant material.

Sports watches should be highly legible. Let’s face it, if you’re climbing a mountain or flying a plane at night, you want to be able to glance at that watch and see the time instantly. Typically, a sports watch will have luminous hands and markers for easy readability, and often they will be clean in design.

Additionally, a sports watch should have functions built into it that are useful for the activity. A stopwatch – or chronograph – is great for a runner or a racer (as is having a tachymeter scale for measuring speeds or distances), but may be less important for a diver. Divers might want rotating, ratcheted bezels for measuring dive and resurfacing times. If you’re into hiking, camping and climbing, you may prefer a watch that offers altimeters, compass points and other information. Other sport-related functions include alarms, tide indications, regatta functions and more.

For those who are into truly rugged sports, ones that amass G-forces and shocks, having a mechanical movement with added shock resistance is critical. Many fine sports watches are built with an Incabloc (or similar) shock-absorption system that includes a spring-loaded mounting system to support the bearings of the balance wheel, protecting the balance wheel pivots and giving it a little latitude either vertically or horizontally when it is jarred. Some haute horology brands are even turning to implementing their own systems using pulleys and other shock-resistant methods.

Lastly, we have to admit that looks also play a role in defining a sports watch. Rarely will you find an ultra-thin complicated watch doubling as a sports watch. Generally, sports timepieces have a certain look to them—often one that correlates to its use. Many sports watches inspired by the world of automobile racing, for instance, will have bright colored dials or bold-hued accents. Typically, though, the looks are offered as backup to all of the afore-mentioned sports watch defining criteria.

This article was featured in the October 2019 issue of duPont REGISTRY.

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