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The Best Outdoor Watches Under $100 Of 2021 Helpful Guide

If you enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors, chances are, sooner or later you need to know what time it is. A sturdy, reliable watch can be a great addition to your outdoor gear. We all enjoy doing different things outdoors. Our outdoor watch needs to have features that help us enjoy our favorite activities. There are many great affordable watches out there to pick from. Here to help are the best outdoor watches under $100 and buying guide.

Best Digital

Best Analog

Best Activity Tracking

Casio Men’s G-Shock

Timex Weekender 38mm

Garmin Forerunner 35

  • Shock resistant with digital readout and scratch resistant lens

  • Stylish analog appearance with indiglo backlighting and scratch resistant lens
  • GPS and activity tracking with mobile device integration

The best outdoor watches under $100

We examined several of the most popular outdoor watches.  Here are our reviews of the 5 best options available now.  We considered durability, functionality, water resistance, price, and customer reviews in our selections of the best watches. We looked at both analog and digital watches to find the best outdoor watches available.

1 – Casio Men’s G-Shock Quartz Watch with Resin Strap

Best Digital Watch

Summary

The Casio Men’s G-Shock Quartz Watch is a shock-resistant, durable digital watch. It is not as bold as other G-Shock watches but just as durable. This watch will be best for someone who wants a durable watch but doesn’t need it to stand out. This is our top digital display pick for best outdoor watches under $100.

Functions

This watch features a digital display, shock resistance, a world clock with 31 time zones. It has a multifunction alarm, stopwatch and countdown timer. The calendar is pre-programmed until the year 2039. This watch uses a standard watch battery that will last approximately 2 years.

Construction

It has resin construction for durability. The lens is mineral glass for scratch resistance. It is water-resistant to a depth of 200 meters. You can go swimming without worrying about damaging your watch.

What we liked

  • Shock resistance
  • Scratch resistant lens
  • Multi-function alarm, stopwatch and countdown functions

What we didn’t like

  • Upper left button is too recessed and difficult to push to adjust the watch
  • Replacement bands are difficult to get if one breaks

Watch Specifications

  • Case Diameter: 45mm x 45mm
  • Shape: Square
  • Analog or Digital: Digital
  • Alarm: Yes
  • Stopwatch: Yes – Count up and count down
  • Water Resistance: 200meter
  • Shock Resistance: Yes
  • Lens Material: Protective mineral dial window
  • GPS: No
  • Battery Life: 2 years
  • Special Functions: Pre-programmed calendar

2 – Timex Unisex Weekender 38mm Watch

Best Analog Watch

Summary

The Timex Unisex Weekender 38mm Watch is a stylish basic analog watch. It has a more traditional look and would be perfect both outdoors and in the office. It is perfect for someone who wishes for a stylish water-resistant and durable watch. This is our top analog display pick for best outdoor watches under $100.

Functions

This watch features a basic analog display. It has no alarms, stopwatch, GPS, calendar or other functions. It has a clear display that shows both 12 and 24 hour military time. It utilizes Timex’s Indiglo backlighting to be easy to read at night.

Construction

It has a brass frame and mineral glass lens for durability and scratch resistance. It is water-resistant to 30 meters. The band is nylon fabric. This watch comes in many band, and watch face color combinations.

What we liked

  • Stylish appearance
  • Indiglo backlighting
  • Scratch-resistant display

What we didn’t like

  • No alarm, stopwatch or other functions
  • The versions with black face and silver arms are difficult to read in the dark

Watch Specifications

  • Case Diameter: 38mm
  • Shape: Round
  • Analog or Digital: Analog
  • Alarm: No
  • Stopwatch: No
  • Water Resistance: 30meter
  • Shock Resistance: No
  • Lens Material: Scratch-resistant mineral glass
  • GPS: No
  • Battery Life: 10 years
  • Special Functions: No

3 – Garmin Forerunner 35

Best Activity Tracking Watch

Summary

The Garmin Forerunner 35 is a stylish GPS watch with many functions. It has GPS and fitness tracking as well as many “Smartwatch” functions. It is perfect to help you with your outdoor fitness training and activity tracking. This is our top activity tracking pick for best outdoor watches under $100.

Functions

This watch features a user-selectable analog or digital display. It has GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring through your wrist as well as step counting. You can upload your activities to Garmin Connect when paired with a smartphone. For the outdoor and biking enthusiast, it can link to Strava. The rechargeable battery will last about 13 hours when using the GPS.

For those who want to stay connected in the outdoors, this watch also has smartwatch features. It can show alerts for messaging and social media updates when paired with a smartphone.

Construction

It has a chemically strengthened glass lens for durability and scratch resistance. It is water-resistant to 50 meters so you can wear it swimming but not diving. The band is plastic.

What we liked

  • GPS functionality for tracking running and other distance activities
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Messaging, calendar, weather forecasts, and other functions when paired with a phone or other mobile device

What we didn’t like

  • Short battery life when GPS is active
  • Heart rate monitoring through the wrist is not that accurate

Watch Specifications

  • Case Diameter: 41mm x 36mm
  • Shape: Square
  • Analog or Digital: User selectable
  • Alarm: Yes
  • Stopwatch: As part of fitness tracking functions. No regular stopwatch function
  • Water Resistance: 50meter
  • Shock Resistance: No
  • Lens Material: chemically strengthened glass
  • GPS: Yes
  • Battery Life: 9 days watch only. 13 hours GPS use
  • Special Functions: GPS tracking, fitness tracking, heart rate monitoring, smart functions such as messaging when paired with phone

4 – Casio Men’s ‘G Shock’ Quartz Resin Casual Watch

Best Shock Resistant Watch

Summary

The Casio Men’s ‘G Shock’ Quartz Resin Watch is a shock-resistant, durable analog watch. It looks the part of a bold heavy-duty impact resistant watch. This watch will be best for someone who prefers a durable hard-hitting watch.

Functions

This watch features an analog display, shock resistance, a world clock with 31 time zones. With 5 alarms, a stopwatch timer and countdown timer, it has all the timing functions you could want. The calendar is pre-programmed until the year 2099. This watch uses a standard watch battery that will last approximately 3 years.

Construction

It has resin construction for durability. The lens is mineral glass for scratch resistance. It is water-resistant to a depth of 200 meters. You can go swimming without worrying about damaging your watch.

What we liked

  • Shock resistance
  • 5 alarms plus stopwatch and countdown timer 
  • World clock with time zones

What we didn’t like

  • The display is difficult to read in the dark
  • Programming is complex and not that user friendly

Watch Specifications

  • Case Diameter: 52.8mm
  • Shape: Round
  • Analog or Digital: Analog
  • Alarm: Yes – 5
  • Stopwatch: Yes – Count up and count down
  • Water Resistance: 200meters
  • Shock Resistance: Yes
  • Lens Material: Mineral glass
  • GPS: No
  • Battery Life: 3 years
  • Special Functions: World clock with time zones

5 – Timex Ironman Classic 30 Watch

Best Under $50 Watch

Summary

The Timex Ironman Classic 30 Watch is a digital watch meant for the outdoor athletes. Its appearance is big and bold but not gaudy. This watch will be best for someone who wants a solid digital watch for outdoor activities.

Functions

This watch features a digital display. It has 3 alarms, stopwatch, countdown timer and 2 time zones. It has a built-in date and day calendar. The stopwatch can track up to 30 laps with split times for runners and swimmers. It has Timex’s Indiglo backlighting for night usage. This watch uses a standard watch battery that can last up to 10 years.

Construction

It has resin construction for durability. The lens is acrylic so it won’t be as scratch resistant as a mineral glass lens. It is water-resistant to a depth of 100 meters. You can go swimming and snorkeling without worrying about damaging your watch. It is not okay to go diving with it. It comes in several color combinations with a few different band options. It can have a plastic band or nylon fabric band.

What we liked

  • Indiglo backlighting
  • 3 alarms
  • Stopwatch and countdown timers

What we didn’t like

  • The versions with dark faces are difficult to read
  • The plastic clasp on the band is not durable

Watch Specifications

  • Case Diameter: 38mm
  • Shape: Round
  • Analog or Digital: Digital
  • Alarm: Yes – 3
  • Stopwatch: Yes – Count up and count down
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Shock Resistance: No
  • Lens Material: Acrylic Plastic
  • GPS: No
  • Battery Life: 10 years
  • Special Functions: 2 time zones, built-in calender, Indiglo backlight

How To Choose The Best Outdoor Watches Under $50 – Buying Guide

Water Resistance Level

Any watch made for outdoor use needs to be able to get wet without being damaged. Sooner or later we all get caught out in the rain. Water resistance levels of watches are based on the ISO 22810:2010 standard. You would think a watch labeled as water resistant to 30 meters (98 feet) should be fine for all the swimming and diving you might ever do. That would be incorrect. Below are the definitions for water resistance.

  • 30 meters – Splash and rain resistant
  • 50 meters – Showing, bathing and shallow water swimming
  • 100 meters – Swimming and snorkling
  • 200 meters – Skin diving
  • Divers 200 meters – Scuba diving at depths not suitable for saturdation diving
  • Divers 300 meters – Saturation diving

For more information on water resistance please watch the below video.

Lens Material

The watch lens or crystal is what we look see the watch through. Once it gets scuffed and scratched up it makes reading the watch very difficult. For our outdoor activities we would like a watch with a scratch resistant lens so we don’t have to worry about bumping it into things. There are 3 common watch lens materials of varying cost and scratch resistance.

Plastic/Acrylic

Plasitc is the cheapest lens material used on a watch. It is the softest and least durable material available. Small scratches can often be repaired by polishing. Because it is a soft non-brittle material it is unlikely to shatter.

Mineral Glass

Mineral glass or tempered glass is the next most expensive watch lens material. It is made from glass that is usually tempered or heat treated to give the surface more scratch resistance. It is much more scratch resistant than plastic lens. It cannot be polished or repaired if scratched. If the lens is damaged it must be replaced.

Saphire Glass

Saphire glass is more expensive and typically only found on higher end watches. It is not actually glass. It is made from by crystallizing aluminum oxide at very high temperatures. Watch lens made of saphire glass are extremely scratch resistant.

You can learn more about watch lens materials here.

GPS

GPS stands for Global Positioning Satellite and is a technology used to know your precise location on earth. GPS data in watches is mainly used for fitness tracking to record your running or biking activity. Many are not made to be used as a navigation aid. A GPS watch can track and record your location but it may not be able to display your location on the watch display. When buying a GPS watch you should carefully look at it’s functionality and what it can display on the watch face before buying.

Activity Tracking

Many people like to track their activity and exercise. Tracking can help you reach your fitness or performance goals. Many bikers and runners like using an App called Strava to see how their ride time is compared to past rides and the fastest riders out there. Other people like counting steps as part of their daily activity goals. Counting steps can be a good way to ensure your being active enough during the day.

Many watches can count steps and record activities. What they can record depends on what sensors the watch has or if it can use a paired smartphone to get more information.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Along with activity tracking, some watches can monitor your heart rate through sensors built into the watch. Heart rate sensing through your wrist is not as accurate as monitoring heart rate through a chest sensor. It can still work pretty good though for guiding you on your workout. Many people like to use heart rate zones to guide their exercise and outdoor activity. You can learn more about heart rate zone training in the video below.

Stopwatch

Many watches have stopwatch functionality to measure time. More advanced watches can also measure and record multiple lap and split times. If measuring lap times or the time it takes you to reach your destination is important you should look for a watch with a stopwatch.

skier wearing GPS watch

Outdoor Watch FAQ

Q: Is a digital or analog display better for an outdoor watch?

This is entirely personal preference and which display you prefer looking at. You don’t want to spend a lot of time staring at your watch face wondering what time it is. Choose what you prefer.

Q: How much water resistance do I really need?

Do you want to swim with your watch? If so you need at least 100meters of water resistance. 50meters water resistance only means the watch can withstand spray and splashes but not being submerged.

Q: Can a GPS watch tell me where I am anywhere on earth?

GPS watches have a wide variety of functionality. Some can display your position on a map on the watch display. Others only use the GPS data as part of activity tracking and can’t show you your location until you download your tracking to another device later on. In general GPS signals work anywhere on earth so your watch will know where you are but it may or may not be able to tell you.

Q: Will using my watch outside in cold weather shorten it’s battery life?

Yes. Almost all batteries are affected by temperature and hold less energy when cold. If you have a watch with a battery life measured in years this may not be a big concern. If your using a GPS watch which only starts with 12 hours of battery life, cold temperature can have a big effect.

Q: Should I get a watch with activity tracking?

Are you a running or biking enthusiast who wants to know how your performance stacks up every run or ride? Are you trying to lose weight and want to count steps to know your daily activity? If these kinds of activities are appealing to you then by all means get a watch with tracking ability.

Q: Do I need a watch with shock resistance?

What outdoor activities do you do while wearing a watch? If you do something where you bang your wrists into things often then you might want to consider a watch with shock resistance.

Q: Will my outdoor watch need maintenance?

In most cases the only maintenance you’ll be doing with your watch is cleaning it if it gets dirty and changing or recharging batteries.

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About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an outdoors enthusiast always looking forward to my next adventure. I spend as much time skiing, biking, and paddleboarding as I can. I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for all things outdoor adventures and to help other people have as much fun as me.

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