Introduction to solar watches
Be honest, how many watches have you got squirrelled away somewhere because you love them, but the battery ran out and you’ve never replaced it? You need to know about solar watches!
It can be really frustrating to have a watch you love, but can’t use without going out of your way tog et it working again. They end up back in the box and shoved away again until the next time you have a spring clean.
There are ways you can bring a watch back to life even if it has been hiding for a decade. These kinds of watches have been around for a long time, but some people remain sceptical on their reliability. These watches are solar powered and made by pretty much every major watch brand you can name.
Solar-powered watches can be hidden away in a box for years and still work when you get round to finding them. They’re also much more environmentally friendly than their battery-carrying counterparts.
The most popular example of a traditional solar-powered watch is the Citizen Eco-Drive. But there are smartwatch and sports watch options, too, which we’ll go into.
Let’s have a deeper look into what solar watches are about.
Solar watches have better technology than ever
Solar power is incredibly similar to luminous watches. There are actually different ways a watch can harness the energy from sunlight. A solar-powered watch that you bought 10-20 years ago isn’t going to be the same as the one you might buy today. Things change. It would be like comparing one of those clunky MP3 players to your iPhone. Sure, they both play music, but the tech is significantly different now.
Since the earlier days of solar-powered timepieces, there have been some huge steps in their ability to harness and store energy. An Eco-Drive, for example, can last up to 8 years if you get the right model.
Another improvement we see today is that designers have ditched some of the more questionable aesthetics we saw between the 70s and 90s. These designs were down to the need for incorporating the solar panels into the watch. Nowadays, solar watches look just like any other.
So, don’t judge whether or not you want to buy a solar watch in 2020 off the back of that dusty, clunky one you might have in a cupboard somewhere. It’s apples and oranges.
Solar watches don’t just rely on direct sunlight
Despite the name, solar-powered watches can get a charge from more than just direct sunlight. You can charge one with artificial light, too! So today’s solar-powered watches are going to be a lot more reliable than their predecessors, thanks to the evolution of the source of their charge.
It’s almost impossible that you’ll be shielded from the sun long enough for your solar-powered watch to die. Knowing that you can utilise artificial light means you’re probably always going to be near a source of energy for a quick boost.
Constantly on charge
One huge benefit to having a solar-powered watch is that they are constantly charging. This means the power reserve is only relied on in times of absolutely no light source. As mentioned, specific Eco-Drive models can last up to 8 years in no light. Which, unless you’re living in some dystopian post-apocalyptic underground bunker with no electricity, you watch won’t die.
There are two things to remember about a watch that is constantly charging. Small and frequent recharges actually degrade the battery life, eventually. Your watch can only take so many recharges before the battery quality begins to deteriorate.
Seiko, who make some excellent solar watches, recommend a battery replacement once every decade. Not too much to ask, is it?
This means you watch can perform for more than this ten year period. An Eco-Drive comes with a replacement battery. Testing has shown that a Citizen battery can retain over 80% of its capacity over a 20 year lifetime. So this ten year figure is a minimum!
If you switch to smartwatches such as Garmin on the other hand, you will get longer times between charging and up to 30 days in some cases. The Garmin Fenix 6X Solar is one such example with it’s battery lasting up to 21 days in the solar version.
Made by brands you can trust
Buying a big brand means you get quality, accuracy and reliability for many years. You’ll also get peace of mind knowing your timepiece comes with a guarantee.
There’s an abundance of decent options from multiple brands. You can find a make you love in a style that reflects your personality.
The two biggest names in the rugged watch section of the market are G-Shock (Casio) and Garmin. And it’s a somewhat of a given that, as rugged watches are outdoor watches, then they should be solar-powered.
Let’s have a look at 7 awesome solar watches from these two popular brands and others for comparison.
1. Casio G-Shock Solar
Casio’s device is a great option because it’s part of a well-engineered sports line designed to withstand a serious weather conditions.
It features a 50mm resin case, Japanese quartz movement, a digital display, and solid construction.
Strong water pressure, as well as centrifugal and impact forces, are no match for this tough G-Shock solar-powered smartwatch. It tends to be suitable for both mountainous adventure sports and more casual morning walks.
The fact that this smartwatch is mostly used in specialised marine and military operations is another sign of its advanced technology.
2. Casio Pro Trek Smart Trek
This next Casio smartwatch has a powerful display, a Tide Graph feature that shows exact dates and times and more. Namely, a compass, altimeter, and barometer, which will come in handy if you love mountain hiking.
The thermometer’s display scale ranges from -10 to 60 degrees Celsius (14 to 140 F). The device’s tolerance to low temperatures is another feature worth noting.
The full auto EL backlight with afterglow is a must-have feature that helps you to read the time even in low-light conditions. The solar rechargeable battery has a five-month life expectancy.
If you’d like to learn more about the G-Shock range you should read our list of the 7 best G-Shock watches for the military. If those aren’t tough enough, nothing will be!
3. Casio G-Shock Rangeman
The Casio G-Shock Rangeman was the first solar-powered smartwatch back in 2018 and it would be wrong to not include it in this list of solar-powered timepieces. However, Casio now offers a wide range of solar-powered watches and so if you decide that this model isn’t the one for you there are others to choose from – such as the Casio G-Shock Tough Solar.
Aesthetically it looks good and it feels great on your wrist but the buttons are hard to use and the screen isn’t particularly advanced compared with competitors.
It’s very expensive, especially for a watch that has been around for a while. That being said, I’m pretty sure that if we were stuck in the wilderness then this watch would get you home with ease. It’s mud, dust and waterproof so that you can take it on the wettest expedition without damaging it – and that’s what makes it a great choice for anyone who wants to get a solar charging watch.
5. Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar
The Garmin Fenix 6 is among the best multi-sport wearables money can buy, with success and adventure monitoring and also GPS-based navigation for just about any outdoor activity.
Train with a tough yet stylish watch with a 1.3-inch touchscreen and titanium, stainless steel, or DLC lined bezel.
You can log a heck of a lot with this device with it’s upgraded exercise profiles, such as advanced grit and flow measures while mountain biking. Even surfing!
Improved performance statistics, like the acclimation 2.0 widget, to review additional data to see if the body is holding up to the new elevation, will help you overcome difficult obstacles.
Preloaded TOPO charts, ski maps for 2,000 worldwide ski resorts, support for various global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo), and built-in sensors for 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter help you navigate the outdoors.
5. Garmin Instinct Solar
This Garmin smartwatch has a body battery energy tracking feature that monitors your heart rate, stress and sleep. It gives you all the information you need to live a safe active lifestyle.
With the Pulse Ox tracking tool on the solar-powered smartwatch from Garmin, you can have a healthy and effective workout that is customised to your physical needs.
The wrist heart rate feature, which provides useful data even when you’re underwater, allows you to keep track of your heartbeat.
6. Citizen Eco-Drive Range
If you are looking for a quality solar-powered smartwatch that looks like a traditional watch then the Citizen Eco-Drive range is the one for you. The River model allows you to set the side buttons to function the way you want. It can be used to make calls, track steps, get directions and much more.
While the watch may look traditional, the screen is far from it. You’ll get your notifications displayed directly on the face of the watch like a typical smartwatch. You can download functions from the Riiiver store to personalise your experience. Furthermore, it tracks activity really well, giving you a complete overview in the app.
There is a choice between four different designs.
7. Matrix PowerWatch 2
If you can get past the high list price then the souped-up Matrix PowerWatch 2 may be a perfect choice. While not brand new to the market it does still come with many enviable features that make it worth a look. The great thing about it is that it has pretty much everything you’d expect in a smartwatch. However, it’s constantly charging via its in-built solar panels so that you never need to worry about taking it off.
The watch doesn’t come with any software for apps. However, it does measure your heart rate, GPS and offers other features. Meaning, you can track your every move and analyse your progress over time.
It’s 42mm in width with a black metal case with red accents that make it pop. It’s simple-to-use dials give access to all its functions and it feels great on your wrist. All in all, this is a fantastic watch for anyone who wants solar panels, style and no pressure to conform to the well-known platforms. This watch really will last a lifetime of activity and so the initial outlay may make it worthwhile in the long one.
The first solar watch came out in the 1970s and since then the tech has gone through some impressive changes. The earlier styles were big and heavy because they needed to accommodate large solar panels. Thankfully, we’ve refined this and you can now own a watch you love that will stay with you for 20 years or more.
Your solar-powered watch will be equally reliable as their quarts counterparts. If you’re into environmentally-friendly products that look great, get yourself a solar watch.
Last Updated on July 9, 2021