Top Sports Watches for Athletes

“Sports watches” is a sprawling term that covers lots of real estate in the watch world. Do you include dive watches in the genre? We do. Do you say every smartwatch with a fitness app is a sports watch? Not necessarily.

Sports watches take into account context and how they’re worn matters, best on active pursuits that steer clear of formal affairs. Let’s look at what the athletic among us wear and how they wear them.

Sports Watches for the Pro Set

This is where you find the rare air with athletic-world greats and the fashion they sport across the globe. We’re talking David Beckham in his Breitling days and Michael Phelps with the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean. But the exclusive world of high-end dive watches is a thing unto its own.

Omega Seamaster watch
Omega Seamaster watch

Also in the pro mix, you find the dedicated GPS offerings. While most smartwatches incorporate apps and data on the watch itself, the dedicated models that are constantly grabbing location signals offer connectivity no serious athlete can turn down.

One of our favorite sports watches is the Garmin’s Forerunner 245 Music, touted as one of the best runner’s watches on the market, stylistically what you get when you cross a dress watch with a stopwatch. At once sporty and elegant (looking so fresh on a sea-foam strap), this gem has a heap of features like Spotify, maps and fitness trackers galore.

Sports Watches for the Workout Crew

This route is more for serious gym regulars than the lazier of us. We’re talking about dedicated workout folks who want to monitor what’s going on with their bodies and track their physical progress.

Fitbit became a household name (in part) because they say what they are, a device to help you keep fit. Their recent entry into the smartwatch field has caused a stir, with detractors complaining of over design to the point of sports watch parody. Enter the Fitbit Ionic. Beam me to the gym on the holodeck, please. With limited music capability and loaded up on fitness apps, this was built for the gym and not much beyond.

And while we’re talking about tough training, we can always go to G-Shock. Casio’s signature element-battling brand caters to athletes with its Power Trainer Collection. Enjoy features like a step tracker that analyzes progress from five different angles and G-Shock’s legendary resistance to getting bounced around.

Casio G-shock watch
Casio G-shock watch

The Casual Yet On-the-Go Sports Watches

Equally home at the weekend farmers’ market as in a steamy hot-yoga studio, these watches are made to give off a relaxed vibe. Fashion versatile, well-designed sports watches can get along with just about any clothing ensemble.

A great example in this range is the Tissot T-Race aluminum. The orange-and-black theme just pops with retro fun that you can take just about anywhere. And with the tech inside, we mean anywhere, complete with a thermometer, altimeter, compass, and tide indicator. But it’s only water-resistant, so no deep dives with this Tissot and best to keep this color-splashed charm just jostling along with you through your busy day.

Sports Watches for Divers and Ocean Adventurers

Let’s do a near-century zip forward on the history and heritage of dive watches and look at the sporty side of the recent field. Beyond divers, we’re talking about timepieces that can take on swimming, kayaking, and seaside outdoors life. They need to be durable and (hopefully) have a marine aesthetic.

Invicta Pro Diver watch
Diver watch

Invicta takes us right there with its Pro Diver. A stainless steel dive watch that’s wonderfully worn on a sturdy black polyurethane strap. It’s also pretty awesome on an oyster bracelet. It’s comfortable being oversized and a bit bold with prominent bezel numbers and an easy-to-read face. It dresses up with a stainless steel finish. But never wavers in telling the world it’s always just a moment’s notice away from setting off on the high seas.

Sports Watches for Taking on the Great Outdoors

Bring the tools needed to scale the mountains of Nepal to your Sunday wine-trail stroll. It could be that you’re an avid camper who roughs it up a bit out there. Call it fashionable survival, Rambo-chic, or hiker’s delight.

We’re looking at you Suunto. The Suunto 9 collection was created with extreme outdoors in mind, designed for the needs of serious hikers, backpackers and mountain adventurers of all sorts. Warning, it wears big but packs in an electronic wonderland that gives up to 120 hours of continuous tracking with motion-sensitive GPS gear.

Sports Watches on a Small Budget

It’s always good to keep in mind a cheap and effective way to sportify your wrist. Affordable options abound in the market.

Garmin is probably the best known and a reliable place to go for a good affordable sports watch. You name a sport and they’ve tailored a watch to accompany the rigor. Along with that comes a rather wide price span. From just over a hundred bucks for the basic smartwatch to up to six or seven times that for upper-end models.

You can also look to known entities like Timex, which has a super affordable Ironman Collection, honoring the now-retro style of the Timex Ironman that was introduced in 1986. Today’s incarnations have GPS, lap timers and INDIGLO displays.

Maybe your athletic days are in the past and you’re shopping for someone whose top-form time has yet to come. As layered and varied as the wearer, a sports watch is a great way to capture this complexity.

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