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ROLEX BLOG

Luxury Sport Watch Ultimate Buying Guide

March 22, 2021

BY Paul Altieri

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Sports watches have become one of the most popular and diverse categories of timepieces in recent years, and nearly all manufacturers now produce some model or collection that could be grouped into this greater genre of luxury watches. However, not all sports watches were created with a specific sport in mind, and even the “sport watch” definition itself can sometimes be a bit blurry and open to interpretation.

With that in mind, most collectors will agree that a sports watch is typically one built to robust standards and with a decent level of water-resistance. Beyond that, what constitutes a sports watch is rather open-ended, and while some adhere to simple and straightforward time-only designs, others include additional features and complications, designed from the ground up specifically for their intended purpose.

Luxury Sports Watches

Luxury Sports Watches Rolex Dive Models

Popular Types of Sports Watches

– Classic Sports Watches

– Dive Watches

– Racing Chronographs

– Regatta Timers

– Exploration Watches

– Pilots Watches

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Sports Watches

Classic Sports Watches

Classic sports watches are those that were not designed for a specific sport but rather created to be worn during a variety of different athletic and demanding activities. These models don’t typically include any other additional features or complications to help them perform their intended task, and this sub-category of sports watches can take on a lot of different forms depending on the specific manufacturer.

Rolex Explorer

Rolex Explorer 214270

Explorer Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 1953

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds

– Materials: Stainless Steel

– Movement: Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Explorer

Rolex’s very first sports watch was the Explorer, which debuted in 1953 to celebrate mankind’s successful summit of Mount Everest. The Rolex Explorer is about as pure and straightforward as you can get, and unlike many of the brand’s other sports models, the Explorer does not feature any additional features beyond a durable water-resistant case and a reliable self-winding movement. With that in mind, Rolex also produces the Explorer II, which takes things up a notch with a date display and an additional 24-hour hand that can be used to track a secondary timezone.

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra

Omega Aqua Terra Seamaster

Aqua Terra Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 2002

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display (Other Configurations Available)

– Materials: Multiple Options Available

– Movement: Automatic; Manual-Wind; Quartz

– Strap/Bracelet: Multiple Options Available

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra

Another example of a sports watch that is not designed for one specific sport, but rather intended to be worn throughout a wide variety of outdoor activities is the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. Unlike many of the other watches from the Seamaster collection, the Aqua Terra does not feature a rotating dive bezel and it is not a dive watch. However, with 150 meters of water resistance and a screw-down winding crown, the Omega Aqua Terra is more than capable of accompanying you into the water.

Dive Watches

If you plan on spending a lot of time underwater, then you might want to consider getting yourself a dive watch. Divers are easily one of the most popular types of sports watches, despite the fact that very few people actually still use them for scuba diving. High water-resistance ratings are an absolute must-have feature for dive watches, and the majority of them also include legible displays and rotating bezels that can be used for tracking immersion times and decompression stops.

Rolex Submariner

Rolex Submariner Date 116610LN

Submariner Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 1953

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds (Date-Display Available)

– Materials: Stainless Steel

– Movement: Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Rolex Submariner

The Rolex Submariner is the brand’s original dive watch that was first introduced in 1953 and would go on to serve as the blueprint for all future underwater timepieces. However, Rolex actually has two separate collections of dive watches: the Submariner and the Sea-Dweller, with the Sea-Dweller lineup further divided into both standard and Deepsea models, with the Deepsea variants representing Rolex’s most capable professional dive watch with incredible (and borderline excessive) 3,900 meters of water resistance.

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean

Omega Planet Ocean Seamaster

Planet Ocean Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 2005

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display (Other Configurations Available)

– Materials: Multiple Options Available

– Movement: Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Multiple Options Available

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean

Omega also offers two lines of dive watches in its current catalog with the classic Seamaster Diver and Planet Ocean. Unlike Rolex’s dive two watches, both the Seamaster Diver and Planet Ocean feature helium escape values, but the Planet Ocean doubles the depth rating of the classic Seamaster Diver with 600 meters of water resistance. Additionally, both dive watch collections are available as either 3-hand or chronograph models, further adding to the variety of dive watches in the brand’s portfolio.

Tudor Pelagos

Tudor Pelagos Blue Dial

Pelagos Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 2012

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display

– Materials: Titanium and Stainless Steel

– Movement: Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Titanium Bracelet

Tudor Pelagos

As Rolex’s sibling company, Tudor also has two separate lines of dive watches in its catalog. The Black Bay is the brand’s range of vintage-inspired divers, while the Pelagos leans thoroughly in the modern direction with a titanium case and bracelet, a helium escape valve, a luminous ceramic bezel insert, and 500 meters of water resistance, which is more than double the depth rating offered by the standard Black Bay dive watch.

Racing Chronographs

Racing chronographs are another incredibly popular type of sports watch and by their definition, they feature movements with chronograph complications that allow them to measure elapsed time. Racing watches typically feature either a duo or trio of registers on their dials and a pair of pushers on the side of the case for operating the chronograph. Additionally, many models also include tachymeter scales on either their dials or bezels that allow their users to measure either average speed or distance.

Rolex Daytona

Rolex Daytona 116500LN

Daytona Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 1963

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, 12-Hour Chronograph

– Materials: Multiple Options Available

– Movement: Manual-Wind; Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Multiple Options Available

Rolex Daytona

Probably the most famous racing chronograph in the world is the Rolex Daytona. First launched in 1963 and taking its name from the famous racetrack in Florida, the Rolex Daytona has become one of the most coveted models in the brand’s lineup, and some references have multi-year waiting lists at retailers around the globe. Like most racing chronographs, Rolex Daytona watches feature a trio of registers on their dials, external tachymeter bezels, and two pushers protruding from the case on either side of the winding crown.

Omega Speedmaster

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

Speedmaster Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 1957

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, 12-Hour Chronograph (Other Configurations Available)

– Materials: Multiple Options Available

– Movement: Manual-Wind; Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Multiple Options Available

Omega Speedmaster

Another incredibly famous racing chronograph (but one that frequently gets left out of this category) is the Omega Speedmaster. Due to its famous associations with space exploration, many think of the Speedmaster as just a watch for astronauts, but when it was first launched in 1957, it was actually designed for the world of automobile racing – hence its “Speedmaster” name. Just like any proper racing chronograph, the Omega Speedmaster features a set of registers on its dial, a pair of pushers on its case, and an external bezel with a tachymeter scale.

Regatta Timers

Similar to racing chronographs, regatta timers are another type of sports watch that are aimed at the world of competition. However in the case of regatta timers, they specifically pertain to the world of sailing. Unlike traditional racing chronographs that measure elapsed time and count upwards, the primary function of a regatta timer is to enable sailors to track the official countdown to the start of a race.

Rolex Yacht-Master II

Rolex Yacht-Master II 116688

Yacht-Master II Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 2007

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Countdown Timer

– Materials: Multiple Options Available

– Movement: Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Rolex Yacht-Master II

Probably the most famous regatta timer is the Rolex Yacht-Master II, which was designed from the ground-up specifically for competitive sailing and features a programmable countdown timer with both flyback and fly-forward functionality. Capable of being set anywhere between 1 and 10 minutes and resynchronized to the official race clock with a single push of a button, the Yacht-Master II is easily one of the most advanced mechanical regatta timers available on the market.

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Regatta

Omega Seamaster Diver Regatta Edition

Seamaster Diver Regatta Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 2013

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, 12-Hour Chronograph w/ Regatta Indicator

– Materials: Stainless Steel or Titanium

– Movement: Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Multiple Options Available

Omega Seamaster

Probably the most common type of regatta timer that you are likely to encounter is the style that is used for Omega’s range of Seamaster Diver Regatta chronographs. These models feature traditional chronograph movements that count upwards; however, their dials include special countdown rings on their minute registers that enable them to be used for counting down to the start of a race. Beyond this special regatta feature, these watches are otherwise identical to the standard Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Chronograph models and include rotating timing bezels and helium escape valves.

Pilot’s Watches

Where definitions of a sports watch get a little blurry is when it comes to pilot’s watches. Whether or not a pilot’s watch is more of a “tool watch” than a “sports watch” is up for debate – as is the definition of even what constitutes a pilot’s watch – but it is generally agreed upon that a large and highly legible display is a requirement and a secondary timezone, chronograph, or even a slide-rule bezel can often be included for added utility.

Rolex GMT-Master

Rolex GMT-Master II 126710BLRO Pepsi

GMT-Master Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 1955

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT Functionality

– Materials: Multiple Options Available

– Movement: Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet or Jubilee Bracelet

Rolex GMT-Master

Rolex’s line of pilot’s watches is the GMT-Master series, which first debuted in 1955 and features an additional 24-hour hand on its dial and a rotating 24-hour bezel. These two features enable the Rolex GMT-Master to simultaneously display two different timezones, and when the two different hour hands became independently adjustable in the 1980s with the arrival of the GMT-Master II, this freed up the collection’s signature rotating 24-hour bezel as a way to reference a third.

Breitling Navitimer

Breitling Navitimer GMT

Navitimer Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 1952

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, 12-Hour Chronograph (Other Configurations Available)

– Materials: Multiple Options Available

– Movement: Manual-Wind; Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Multiple Options Available

Breitling Navitimer

Easily one of the most famous pilot’s watches of all time is the Breitling Navitimer, which was first developed in 1952 and created to be the ultimate aviation watch. Pairing a chronograph complication with a rotating slide-rule bezel, the Navitimer is able to function as an analog flight computer, and it can be used by pilots to help compute a number of different in-flight calculations and conversions.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot

Oris Big Crown ProPilot GMT

Big Crown ProPilot Key Features:

– Year of Introduction: 2014

– Functions: Multiple Configurations Available

– Materials: Stainless Steel

– Movement: Automatic

– Strap/Bracelet: Multiple Options Available

Oris Big Crown ProPilot

If you are interested in pilot’s watches at a slightly more affordable price, the Oris Big Crown ProPilot collection is definitely worth examining further. With large, highly-legible displays and available with additional features such as chronographs and GMT complications, the ProPilot series offers all the hallmark traits of traditional pilot’s watches but with a clean and modern design language that is unique to the brand.

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