A status symbol, a timekeeping device, a collectable or extension of your mobile phone. Today’s watches come in all shapes and sizes with a wide variety of features and functions. Simply owning a watch – whether it’s a classic, digital, luxury or smart one – is not enough, as you need to be able to understand its features to get the most out of it.
Apart from displaying the time and date, watch features are often referred to as complications and can range from the simple, such as chronographs, to the more complicated tourbillon. Read on to find out more about the most useful watch features.
The best watch features explained
Calorie counters are now regularly included in digital sports watches and smartwatches. This is a great addition to your heart rate monitor, as it tracks how many calories you burn whilst exercising. Some watches with calorie counters calculate the calories burned based on your weight and all the information you input into the watch. For the best functionality, calorie counters normally feature alongside water resistance, GPS, interval times and heart rate monitors, to provide an all-round fitness overview.
A chronometer is an automatic mechanical watch which has passed through rigorous tests at different temperatures and positions over a 15-day period. After passing these tests, the watch receives the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute certificate with the watch’s rating highlighted. The chronometer ultimately states how accurate the watch is and ensures that it meets certain standards.
If your watch or digital watch features a stopwatch or timer, then it has a chronograph. These two independent systems ensure that you can start, stop and reset the stopwatch or timer, without affecting the watch’s time telling.
Global Positioning System (GPS) in watches provides accurate time and location, no matter where you are. In analogue watches, GPS is used to synchronise the time depending on where you are in the world and usually come programmed with the cities and time. On more recent smartwatches, such as the Apple Watch, there are satellite navigation apps pre-installed, helping you to get from one destination to another. Some digital sports watches also have built-in GPS functionalities, allowing you to track how many miles you have run and to track your route.
Heart rate monitor
Whether you’re at the gym or on a hike, a digital or smartwatch with a heart rate monitor can provide you with real-time data on your heart rate whilst performing physical activity. This is particularly useful when combined with the data from calorie counters, interval timers and as an all-round aid to reaching your fitness goals.
A perpetual calendar automatically adjusts the date, day and month according to the number of days in a month and leap years. The mechanism is usually accurate for 100 years so it will only need adjusting once every century.
The perpetual calendar was first invented in 1762, so if you have recently invested in an antique watch with this function, you may need to get the mechanism checked. Some more advanced perpetual calendars even include a moon cycle indicator, which shows the changing visible section of the moon as seen from earth.
Used in conjunction with a stopwatch, the tachymeter measures the speed between two points and the scale can usually be found on the bezel or inside dial of your watch. By starting your tachymeter at zero seconds and stopping it at the end, you’ll find out your travelling speed which you can then use to calculate the distance you’ve travelled.
The resistance of a watch to water is measured in metres. Most standard watches state that they are water resistant up to 30 metres, however, this does not actually mean that they can withstand the pressure of water at a depth of 30 metres. No water resistance or just 30m water resistance means that your watch cannot cope with more than just a splash of water. This means you can wear it whilst washing the dishes or walking in the rain but you shouldn’t fully submerge it.
A watch with a water resistance of 50m can be used for swimming, but you need a watch with a water resistance of 100m+ in order to take it snorkelling or do water sports whilst wearing it. Only a watch with a water resistance of 1000m can be taken scuba diving and professional diving. Interestingly, whether your watch has a water resistance of 10m or 1000m, neither can be taken in a jacuzzi, sauna or hot tub.
What about sports watch features?
If you’re a sports enthusiast, your needs and requirements change slightly. They become more specific. Here’s a quick rundown of some popular sports and the features you will need your watch to have.
Offline music playback via Spotify
This benefits everyone really, but if you’re a runner/jogger then it’s a biggie. There are watches out there that will connect to Bluetooth headphones and allow you to listen to music when you’re out running. All you need to do is connect your watch to Wi-Fi and download your favourite tunes. That way you can listen to them when you’re pounding the pavement.
A no-brainer, but you will need sufficient water resistance and which water resistance rating you go for depends on the nature of your watersport. Take a look at our blog on water resistance and waterproof gear for more information. And, while we have you, here are some of the best waterproof watches you can get in 2020.
Robust and durable materials
If your sport is particularly rough or strenuous (which is most sports, generally speaking), then you need a watch that can withstand everything your sport throws at it. Whether you’re a snowboarder, an avid hiking enthusiast, or a cyclist, your watch should be made with/from the following materials: aluminium, stainless steel, or titanium. Here are some durable watches you should consider.
Built-in cardiac sensor
Most technical watches today have some kind of cardiovascular function, and you should settle for nothing less if you want to monitor heart rate during sport activities. This is popular with runners but can be applied to any sport – do you want to keep an eye on just how strenuous your sport is? Get a watch that has a cardiac sensor.
You need a long battery life
A must-have feature for sports is a good battery life. This is popular for most sports, particularly skiers who are out on the slopes from the crack of dawn onwards. For as technical as your watch may be, you need it to be a workhorse too so battery life is essential.
Demand consistent performance from your watch
Whether you prefer the more traditional features of an analogue watch or love the infinite apps and features of a digital sports watch and smartwatch, it’s important you protect your timepieces. Browse our selection of protective watch collection boxes to ensure your watch continues to perform like the first day you got it.