Looking for the best digital watches? The reality is, what’s right for you might not be ideal for someone else, particularly when it comes to quality timepieces. While you might value style, another might need a wristwatch with specific abilities or a rugged case that can withstand harsh environments. Rather than attempting to nail down best-in-class, we’ve found five amazing digital watches, each with some form of uncommon feature which makes it stand out from others.
1. Breitling Exospace B55 Connected
Like many Swiss watchmakers who have historically focused on mechanical timepieces, Breitling took note when smartwatches hit the market a few years ago. The brand, known for its “instruments for professionals,” happens to have a VP who is also a helicopter pilot as well, so a great many of their pieces are authentic pilot’s watches. When Jean-Paul Girardin first began thinking about the Exospace design, he knew it would need to be distraction-free and help pilots tackle specific challenges.
“So while flying helicopters, we have something called a ‘block time’ and ‘flight time,’” Mr. Paul explained in an interview. “As a pilot, you have to log the time as soon as the rotor starts moving and that is called block time. When you land and when the rotor is stopped you have your second block time. It’s always a little bit painful to remember ‘block off, takeoff, landing, block on time!” The Exospace B55 solves this by providing a “chrono flight” function with a single-push to log blocks. The app also keeps a digital logbook, so it’s easy to keep track of flight data.
Of course, you don’t have to be a pilot to use or appreciate the B55. It is loaded with smart features, such as the option to get notifications on the watch without having that “smartwatch look.” In fact, it’s actually quite sporty, with a bright blue band and matte black titanium case. If new, Exospace timepieces start at about $7,500.
2. Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar II
Tissot released their T-Touch series almost 20 years ago and, while critics claim it is “outdated,” the collection is still one of the strongest sellers for the brand. The Expert Solar II, as the same implies, is not only solar-powered, but can also run on artificial light. Ideal for the adventurer-types, the wristwatch is incredibly rugged. It also features an Altimeter, so you can gauge differences in altitude and tell how far above sea level you are as well as a compass and super-luminova inscriptions, enabling you to navigate with ease, even in the dead of night. Fashioned like a military-grade timepiece in olive green and black, it may not be suited to the office. However, it is lightweight and water-resistant, so it’s great for extreme sportsman, hikers, and avid outdoorsmen. If purchased new, the Expert Solar II goes for a little over $1,100.
3. Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
If you’re looking for sophistication, style, and tech, this Swiss-made creation has it. Tag Heuer released the Connected Modular collection of digital watches in collaboration with Intel. They run on Google’s Wear OS 2.0, plus have a companion app, so the tech behind them is solid. It has virtually every smart feature you could expect and certainly gives Apple a run for its money, but the few features it lacks, it beyond makes up for it in style. For starters, it is modular, meaning there are more than 500 ways to make the timepiece unique for you, but Tag did something more with the 45 than it did with others in this lineup; they look more like mechanical timepiece than digital watches. All electronics are discreetly tucked away beneath the flat screen and the traditional bezel gives it a classic appearance. That said, wearing this particular model is akin to having a smartphone on your wrist, and it is also considered a luxury timepiece, so prices start at about $1,500, but most are in the $6,000-7,000 range due to customizations.
4. MR-G “Arashi-Tuchime”
The G-Shock series of digital watches from Casio is typically known for being a rugged all-purpose offering. Most are not particularly pricy, with some models sitting at only $100 or so. That said, the Mr-G model brings a bit more to the table. Designed to honor the brand’s samurai heritage, the timepieces were handcrafted to resemble the hilt guard of traditional Japanese swords. Each one was individually hammered by a single artesian, resulting in a unique finish across the bezel. The metal is an alloy of murasaki-gane, a deep violet hue, paired with suaka copper, making it match materials used in traditional Japanese craftwork while increasing the rarity and value. Naturally, the brand kept quantities quite low, with just 350 pieces made. To add to the level of exclusivity, only 25 were released in the US. They’re seriously rugged and come with all the traditional features of a G-Shock, but at a price point of $7,400 to start, they are quite a bit more of an investment than the rest of the line.
5. Sparc MGS
It’s a bit difficult to describe the looks of the Sparc MGS. It could be called geek-chic, futuristic, or perhaps a piece of gorgeous engineering. Simply looking at the timepiece, you know it’s totally unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, so it’s no surprise it won awards for its unique design. “MGS” refers to Micro-Generating-System, or the fact that the wristwatch is totally powered by your movements as you wear it. Ventura Sparc is proud of this element and highlights the generator through a window on the uppermost portion of the case, which brings to light the other unique quality the timepiece has. The case is actually boomerang-shaped, or angled with the face directed at the wearer and the generator on the upper half. Adding to this, it features a negative LCD screen, making the display incredibly crisp, and all features are accessed using a scroll wheel sandwiched at the bend of the case. Pricing starts at about $2,200.
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