ZACH’S MAILBAG: The best “adventure” watches under $1,000

ZACH’S MAILBAG: The best “adventure” watches under $1,000

Zach Blass

Editor’s Note: Often we receive questions via email and social media from our readers, and we always strive to respond to each and every one. But we recognise that many of you, even if you have yet to reach out, may be pondering the same questions. In this week’s mailbag, we  consider some of the best adventure watches under $1,000.

Hi team,

Just a question to ponder. I’m heading off to Cape York later in the year and I’m looking to buy a watch that is rugged, doesn’t need winding, is waterproof to a good degree, has a sapphire glass, and doesn’t cost more than $1000 (and is not a smartwatch). You know that conversation starter “if you were stuck on a deserted island which watch would you take with you?”. This is such a conversation. But I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. The watch can be any cost (<$1000 AUD) as long as it meets the criteria.

Love your work!

– Jeff

Well Jeff, we definitely want to make sure you are ready for your trip to Cape York. For those of you who may not know, Cape York is one of Australia’s most remote landscapes – 1,200km of rugged wilderness and untamed rainforests with limited phone reception and even less Wi-Fi. It’s not, in other words, the sort of place where it’s easy to get a watch repaired. That’s why you need a timepiece that can look after itself. So here are four of the best “adventure” watches under $1,000 AUD – from least to most expensive.

G-Shock “CasiOak” GA2100

Where better to start then the watch that was our number one most read review of 2021 – and it just so happens to be one of the most robust yet affordable watches on the market. The GA2100 has gained a bit of notoriety in the watch community, thanks to its octagonal case form and bezel. With the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak the most prominent octagonal watch in the industry, many dubbed the GA2100 the “CasiOak” – a nickname that caught on so much even Casio uses it for SEO purposes. The GA2100 comes in a wide variety of colours and offers 200 metres of water-resistance and the sort of functionality G-Shock is known for such as alarm, stopwatch, and world timer. While I will concede it utilises a mineral crystal – not sapphire like you requested – you would be hard pressed to find a more hassle-free wrist companion for your Cape York adventure. Price: $269 AUD

Smiths Everest PRS-25 – 36mm – Gilt Dial

When you think about adventure, exploration comes to mind – and then, naturally, the Rolex Explorer.  Born in the wake of the Oyster Perpetual summiting Mt Everest, the Explorer is, of course, way over your $1,000 price bracket. But Rolex was not the only watch manufacture with wrist-presence on that monumental day. British watch manufacture Smiths also had timepieces go along for the Everest  journey, and to this day the debate rages as to which explorers were wearing which brand. Ultimately, watches from both brands were worn. Today, you can find Explorer-inspired Smiths Everest watches with reliable automatic Miyota movements. The Smiths Everest has a 100 metre water-resistant case and is 36mm in diameter, 11.3mm thick (including the domed sapphire crystal) and 43.5mm lug-to-lug. So, if you like a versatile and robust watch with classic vintage dimensions and aesthetic, Smiths may be the way to go for you. Price: £325 (approximately $617 AUD)

Seiko Prospex Automatic Watch SRPH15K

adventure watches under $1,000

If anyone ever wanted a mechanical watch from a vertically integrated manufacture under $1,000, the only real avenue is to look into Seiko. Fortunately there’s a fantastic catalogue to explore. Of all their collections, the Prospex line is most suited for your Cape York trip due to its higher degree of robustness. Based on your criteria and destination, I am nominating the Seiko Prospex Automatic “Turtle” SRPH15K. It has everything you requested: a sapphire crystal, a high-degree of water-resistance, an automatic movement you will not need to wind once set, and, of course, it is in your price parameter. This Hulky turtle diver has a rich green sunburst dial with a tone matching calendar complication at the 4:30 position – a neat detail some much more expensive brands can’t seem to nail. It is cased in stainless steel, outfitted on a matching bracelet, with a wrist approachable case of 42mm in diameter, 11.7mm thickness, and 45.2mm lug-to-lug measurement across the wrist. Its screw-down crown facilitates a depth rating of 200 metres that is more than suitable for your journey. As a bit of a functional twist, the typical timing bezel you would find on a dive watch has been replaced by a compass bezel – which may come in handy for your adventures! Price: $875 AUD

Hamilton Khaki Field King Auto

Homage aesthetics such as the Smiths Everest not your bag? Then the Hamilton Khaki Field King Auto may be more your speed. Its 40mm steel case will have a more modern presence on the wrist, but the tradeoff here will be a lesser 50 metre depth rating (which is still suitable for surface swimming). In return, however, you get an automatic caliber with 80 hours of power reserve, the most of the automatics on this list, along with two handy complications for the “stranded on a desert island scenario”. Assuming you were stranded, eventually your electronics, like your iPhone, would die. One of the most disorienting and torturous state of minds is losing a sense of time. But the Hamilton Khaki Field King Auto not only has a date complication at 12′, but also a day complication as well. So assuming the watch remains continuously on your wrist – or off the wrist for no more than 80 hours – you will always know the time, day, and date while you are stranded. Aesthetically speaking, its black dial, resting beneath a sapphire crystal, is highly legible and utilizes a variety of textures for intriguing light play. Price: $625 USD (approximately $877 AUD)