8 of the best survival watches made to get through a sticky situation

8 of the best survival watches made to get through a sticky situation

Buffy Acacia

With the growing popularity of shows like Alone and an increasing desire to escape the normalities of life, the art of survival is more popular than ever. Whether you crave the personal challenge of subjecting yourself to nature’s toughest conditions, or you just want to live a more sustainable, closed-loop life, owning the right watch could be a significant tool. Let’s take a look at some of the best survival watches across the cost spectrum.

Timex Expedition North

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Despite being founded 169 years ago, Timex isn’t the kind of company to leverage its history into extravagant price tags. The Timex Expedition North Tide-Temp-Compass watch is absolutely packed with helpful features without the need for complicated digital displays or battery-draining complications. A bi-directional hand can be used in three ways. Tracking the tide, temperature, or serving as a compass – all invaluable functions for basic survival situations. The 43mm steel case is rugged and submersible with 100 metres of water resistance. The eco-friendly strap is made for longevity, but manufactured in a way that saves water and eliminates solid waste. Price: US$249

Casio G-Shock Rangeman

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The Rangeman is part of G-Shock’s Master of G series that represents the pinnacle of hardiness. Not only could it survive pretty much any natural disaster other than perhaps a volcanic eruption, but it has sensors for measuring altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, and directions anywhere in the world. Even the cylindrical pushers are engineered to the nth degree for ultimate shock resistance and water resistance of at least 200 metres. Price: US$330

Garmin Instinct Crossover Solar

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Including smartwatches in these kinds of lists can be controversial, but Garmin has an excellent reputation for outdoor technology, and the Instinct Crossover Solar does include an analogue display. There is a cheaper model without solar charging, however needing to replace batteries or put something on charge will never contribute to an immersive survival experience. A 70-day power reserve, GPS sensors, and a heart rate monitor are just a few of the dizzying amount of features. If you’re prioritising survival over being an analogue purist, then this is probably your best option. Price: US$450

Luminox Bear Grylls Survival Rule of 3

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Few names inspire adventure the same way Bear Grylls’ does, and the sheer amount of survival gear bearing his name is staggering. Luminox itself has at least 13 collaborations with him, but my personal favourite is the Limited Edition Rule of 3. Often quoted in many of his survival programmes, the Rule of 3 states that a human can live without air for three minutes, shelter for three hours, water for three days, and food for three weeks. This is printed on a patch towards the top of the rubber strap, reminding you to never give up whenever you check the time. Even though the watch doesn’t have any specific complications to help you improvise, adapt and overcome, the “Never Give Up” printed on the strap provides moral support that’s incredibly important. Price: US$495

Seiko GPS Astron SSJ013

Seiko Astron GPS Solar SSJ013

At the end of the day, no mechanical watch is truly capable of keeping reliable time. If you’re in the wilderness and your movement starts losing several minutes per day, then you could accidentally find yourself wandering away from camp when the sun is just about to set. When the time is a survival factor, you need something that takes all questions of accuracy and reliability away. The Seiko GPS Astron isn’t just highly accurate, but it uses GPS signals to determine the correct time and date for your location without any adjustment needed ever. The solar-powered movement will maintain that accuracy in perpetuity as long as it’s not kept in the dark forever. You can even check whether or not the watch is able to get an accurate GPS signal, via a pusher which moves the seconds hand to the ‘Y’ or the ’N’ on the chapter ring. Assuming you needed to, you could use this feature to find your way out of isolated areas. Price: US$2,000

Breitling Emergency

Breitling Emergency II 51

When discussing watches that could save your life, it’s rare that the watch actually plays an active role. The Breitling Emergency, however, can serve as a legitimate rescue tool should a disaster arise, sending out an analogue signal at 121.5MHz and a digital signal at 406MHz, replacing a personal locator beacon. Unfortunately it’s also a watch which could land you in financial danger, because a false alarm will make you liable for the search and rescue costs as well as the reconditioning of the watch, which could be a huge bill. In its own right, the 51mm diameter and the DLC-coated titanium case makes for a rough-and-ready adventure watch that would more likely dent a tree than pick up scratches. Price: US$19,300

Panerai Submersible Elux LAB-ID

Panerai Submersible Elux LAB ID underwater

Panerai isn’t really known for its technical innovations, however occasionally it will release something a little high-tech like this Submersible Elux LAB-ID. Instead of luminous markers which need to be charged in UV or sunlight (well, it has those too) it’s equipped with bright LEDs that are powered without any batteries. This isn’t the first time an LED has been powered by a mechanical watch movement, but it is the first time it’s been done without old-school dynamos. The calibre P9010/EL uses 6 mainspring barrels which are wound by the automatic rotor, four of which are devoted to the glowing display. At the touch of the pusher, those barrels transfer their power to a microgenerator that can power the LEDs for up to 30 minutes on a full charge, all while the 72-hour power reserve of the watch itself is untouched. No matter how dire your situation, you could be sure that you’d be able to read your watch. Price: US$97,400

Richard Mille RM25-01

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Including a watch that approaches a million dollars doesn’t exactly seem fair, but a conversation about survival watches wouldn’t be complete without the RM25-01. Inspired by Rambo and designed collaboratively with Sylvester Stallone, this watch is one of few that could actually save your life, if only for the inclusion of water purification tablets which only cost $10 a packet. It’s powered by a hand-wound tourbillon movement, but that doesn’t prevent the carbon and titanium case from taking a beating. Other accessories include a removable compass module, spirit level, and a chronograph. Only 20 pieces were made, but if you have the funds you may be able to track one down for your next hike. Price: US$983,000