Best tool watches for every adventure
Tool watches are Swiss Army knives for your wrist: practical, robust and ready for action. As Ben Winstanley explains, there’s no better timepiece for your next adventure than one of these sturdy companions…
Investing in a watch is a big deal. Not only are you looking at one of the more expensive personal purchases we all make, but you're dealing with a precious object that diminishes with every ding and scratch – that is, unless you get yourself one of these rugged pieces.
As the name suggests, tool watches were originally designed to accomplish specific tasks (like the Grand Seiko Diver for use in the water, the Breitling Navitimer pilot’s watch or the Tudor GMT for globetrotting) but these days the term is more of a shorthand for the kind of watch that is tough enough to handle whatever you can throw at it.
Whether you’re a would-be adventurer or an intrepid commuter tackling the urban jungle, these are the tool watches you need on your wrist right now.
Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional 600m Diver
Grand Seiko may be a brand in its own right these days, but watch fans still recognise the cult Japanese brand as the uber-luxury division of Seiko with some of the best watchmaking you’ll find anywhere. This chunky dive watch features everything you need for land or sea: high accuracy, supreme reliability and a high-intensity titanium construction that makes this watch both lightweight and hard as nails. The Brucey bonus is this is the first time Grand Seiko has created a fully mechanical movement, waterproof to all of 600m, in one of its dive watches.
Breitling Navitimer 1 B01 Chronograph 43
Breitling’s renaissance under new CEO George Kern continues apace – and its flagship timepiece the Navitimer 1, with the excellent in-house B01 calibre, isn’t immune to the slightest of tweaks. The latest rendition sees the return of the old-school ‘B’ logo, a softer bezel design and lovely contrasting subdials. The iconic slide rule (the greatest of tool watch innovations) retains its place on the dial, with the staggering ability to act as currency converter, a calculator, or even work out fuel consumption by simply lining up the numbers on the inner and outer chapter ring. When the apocalypse comes, this is the watch you’ll want on your wrist.
Tudor Black Bay GMT
Rolex and Tudor have made no secret of the fact that 2018 is the year they reclaim the GMT watch – and when two brands of such power and influence make a statement like that, they are not to be denied. The Black Bay GMT is Tudor’s addition to the mixer, with a dual-colour bezel a direct nod to the iconic Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Pepsi’ design. The ability to view two time zones at once is certainly appealing to any frequent flyers, but this hardy timepiece will draw in plenty of others with its vintage dive watch aesthetic, too.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph Ref 5968A
Patek Philippe may not be the first tool watch brand that springs to mind, but the sporty Aquanaut model was designed specifically to see more outdoors action than its more delicate sister pieces. The reference 5968A features a chronograph complication, water resistance up to 120m, and a rubber strap.
By far the most popular tool watch, dive watches are universally loved for their masculine aesthetic and hardy cases. Few are as capable as the 43mm Rolex Sea-Dweller. This timepiece delivers 4,000ft (1,220m) of water resistance – compared to the Submariner’s 1,000ft (300m) – in a tough-as-nails package.
Panerai Luminor Due 38mm
Panerai’s commitment to producing hard-wearing watches dates back to the beginning of the second world war when it created a cushion-shaped beater for the First Submarine Group Command of the Royal Italian Navy. Fast forward some 80 years and we have the 38mm Luminor Due – a vintage-inspired piece that’s not quite war ready, but it’ll cope with whatever you can throw at it.
Longines Heritage Diver Black PVD
Tool watches come in many guises, but the new Longines Legend Diver balances elegant and adventure-ready in one fell swoop. The all-black PVD case is the perfect match for the textured rubber strap, while it also features similar diver functions (water resistance and a rotating bezel) as the 1960s Longines dive watch that served as its inspiration.