Sports watches once were associated only with sweaty workouts, deep-sea dives, and timed competitions. Now they epitomize fashion, style, and innovation. Indeed, many are worn less for sports than for their stylish looks—but they’re still made with durable materials and designed to function high in the air or deep under the sea.
Recent sports timepieces make effective use of color (orange, yellow, and black), even for “serious” professional sports watches, such as those for divers, pilots, and yachtsmen. Rubber straps and more lightweight materials, like titanium, are also much in evidence.
One of the most striking designs of this year’s sports watches is Zenith’s 46.5 mm Defy Xtreme Open chronograph. Combining black titanium, Kevlar inserts, and Zenithium (a new alloy), it’s virtually unbreakable. It’s also water resistant to 1,000 meters, with a movement designed for extreme conditions.
Paul Picot’s 42 mm automatic steel square C-Type Carré chrono, a variation of its round professional diving watch, makes bold use of yellow rubber. Nautica’s Oblò—in 40 mm and 48 mm, with two-tone carbon fiber dial—is based on a ship’s porthole (oblò in Italian) and features three prominent screw-downs. Its bracelet integrates black resin with stainless steel.
Many of this year’s sports and sporty watches are designed with women in mind, such as Guess Collection’s Diver Chic Chrono; Swiss Army’s 28 mm Vivante, its first line strictly for women; and Zodiac’s women’s versions of its SeaWolf series. But smart and sporty design isn’t limited to women’s watches. Guess Collection’s Byblos-S1 sport chonro for men combines black IP (ion plating) with rose-gold trim. German brand Scalfaro’s 42 mm automatic steel Porto Cervo Sport features a matte-finish black bezel of high-tech material used in race-car engines. Alfex’s Aquatec “31” chrono offers a tachymeter, big date, and sapphire crystal back. Raymond Weil’s urbane Tango Sport comes in chrono and nonchrono, round and rectangular versions. German brand Tutima’s elegant 38.5 mm Valeo Reserve is available in rose gold or steel.
Divers’ watches, prevalent this year, combine serious diving features with high style. Omega’s rugged 45.5 mm steel Seamaster Planet Ocean Chronograph, for example, is an automatic chronometer with coaxial escapement movement, helium escape valve, fluted unidirectional bezel with luminous dot, and water resistance to 600 meters. It’s available on a black rubber strap with white or orange stitching, orange rubber or alligator strap or stainless steel bracelet. Hamilton’s titanium automatic Khaki Frogman Auto Chrono was inspired by the design and functions of a diving mask. It comes with bubble-dome crystal, two round magnifiers for date display and minute counter, and crown and chrono push-button protectors. It’s water resistant to 200 meters.
Pilots’ watches remain an active category, as exemplified by Breitling’s multifunctional electronic Airwolf chronograph, designed with and for aviation professionals. Others include Wenger’s Air Force XL, with traditional large dial and luminescent hands and numerals on a leather strap with decorative steel buttons; and Longines’s self-winding Montre Lindbergh, a 50 mm version of its famous Charles Lindbergh Hour Angle watch, with indication of longitude (degrees and minutes of arc), seconds synchronized with a radio-transmitted time signal, and a rotating bezel used to correct the equation of time.
Another active niche is sailing and yacht racing. Corum’s 48 mm titanium Admiral’s Cup Competition 48 (a robust version of its Admiral’s Cup yachting watch) has a large, legible dial under a 12-facet sapphire crystal. It’s water resistant to 300 meters and designed for extreme competition conditions.
Many sports-related timepieces are associated with cars (such as Porsche Design) or car racing (including Chopard, Oris, Seiko, and TAG Heuer). Other sports influence design too. Charriol’s new Iron Watch (with patterned dial) features a slightly curved, stainless-steel case in the shape of a golf iron.
Among newcomers to the sports-watch arena is Fendi’s first-ever diver’s watch, a men’s 42 mm automatic, water resistant to 300 meters. Sport shoe Adidas, under a licensing agreement with Fossil, has its first sports watch line, featuring classically styled timepieces. Louis Erard’s La Sportive collection of contemporary 42 mm steel mechanical watches is aimed at young adults.
Makers of sports watches continue to innovate. Oris’s limited-edition 47 mm automatic titanium Carlos Coste diver’s watch (named for the free-diving world record holder) is water resistant to an amazing 2,000 meters. Audemars Piguet’s limited-edition Royal Oak Offshore Rubens Barrichello chrono (in its Prestige Sports series) is the brand’s first with antishock ceramic bezel, push buttons, and crown. Cyma’s Navy Star luxury watches (in steel or 18k gold plate and steel) feature straps of water-resistant sailcloth in red, orange, and blue. Cuervo y Sobrinos’s unisex 43 mm automatic Robusto Buceador diver’s watch has an ergonomic case design; dial in white, black, or indigo blue accented with orange markers; and is water resistant to 200 meters. It rides a white rubber strap with orange stitching, which won’t fade, stain, or scratch. Tissot’s titanium T-Touch Trekking analog/digital watch (in orange or khaki) for men features the brand’s exclusive touch-the-crystal technology for time, date, chronograph, alarm, altimeter compass, thermometer, and barometer.