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I've just started cycling longer distances as a hobby (I cycle for my commute daily).

My watch isn't waterproof at all so I don't take it with me but on my last ride I found myself getting annoyed at regularly having to rummage in my bag for my phone to check what time it was.

I don't want a fancy GPS or sports watch that measures anything except time.

Obviously it would need to be waterproof enough for heavy rain (100m+? 30m?).

Would a simple digital (no moving parts to dislodge on a rough road) waterproof watch do the job or does it need to be shock proof (ie. G-Shock or similar) as well?

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    While there is some level of cycling relevancy here, this is veering towards Programming on a Boat. meta.stackexchange.com/a/19487/303287 – Criggie Jun 18 at 11:18
  • @Criggie ♦ - If I was just buying a watch then I wouldn't worry about it getting wet. If it was for diving I would worry about more than heavy rain. If I was running I wouldn't worry about vibration and jolts from running on a rougher surface. – CCarter Jun 18 at 12:12
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    @Criggie I edited the title to match the question. I think this is on-topic: there's a clearly expressed concern that certain aspects of cycling will affect the decision, whereas boat programming is the combination of two completely irrelevant aspects (e.g., what features would make a bike good for computer programmers to ride?). – David Richerby Jun 18 at 16:07
  • A basic Casio (eg F91) would probably be fine for this. I have the A158 "chrome" version as it came with a stainless strap rather than the plastic ones. I changed the strap to a cheap NATO strap anyway so that's a way to avoid the plastic straps (I lost my watch while riding during my childhood, didn't notice until I got home!) – Gaston Jun 18 at 19:52
  • You don't need a water proof watch, you need a water resistant watch. The depth rating of dive watches are for how much external pressure the waterproofing measures can handle. I sincerely hope your bike rides don't involve you travelling 30m underwater. – MikeTheLiar Jun 19 at 15:03
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There are no special requirements for a watch for cycling. A cheap watch from the supermarkt will do as well as a decent quality watch or a sports watch (besides sport-specific functions).

Rain or road buzz might damage rather sensitive watches. Fixing a defect, loading the bike, or a crash also gives opportunities to damage a watch. Common sense will suffice to know when to take your horological masterpiece or leave it at home. In other words, there's a difference between riding to an opera and doing sports.

Most mechanical watches, for example a Seiko or something with an ETA movement, shouldn't be troubled by road buzz or the occasional cobble stretch. Please check reasonable voices in a watch forum.

Much sports riding is on a different level of impact, vibration, and risk of damage. In other words, mechanical watches are perhaps not the best choice for downhill MTB. A decent quartz watch or a G-Shock (analogue or digital doesn't matter) are preferable. Still, a dollar store digital will perform as well as the G.

  • Perfect - that's exactly what I was looking for! – CCarter Jun 18 at 10:23
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    Just as a comment: a "normal" supermarket-grade digital watch will probably resist more biking-related vibrations than your wrist bones. Fortunately, your wrists/arms/hands tell you in time when they are too much shaken, and you'll adjust bike and/or biking style to avoid that anyways. Which also meas less vibrations to your wrist watch. – cbeleites supports Monica Jun 18 at 16:38
  • I've had my cheap watch literally vibrate off my wrist due to cobblestone (but the watch was fine). – gerrit Jun 19 at 16:10
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Why not go for a cheap and simple bicycle speedometer? Apart from the time it can also show you speed and distance which is always nice to know.

As gschenk said, there are no special requirements for a watch while bicycling, but I do think that it can get uncomfortable.

  • Thanks for the answer - I'll certainly consider it as a possibility. – CCarter Jun 18 at 10:24
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    This is excellent - a $5 speedo is adequate but tend to burn expensive watch CR2032 batteries. Go for a low-end cateye or similar. Plus you see how fast you're riding. – Criggie Jun 18 at 11:19
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    @Criggie: The 'expensive' 2032 battery in a speedo lasts from 2 up to 5 years in daily use. Most of these devices have motion detectors and go into sleep mode when the bicycle is not moving. – Carel Jun 19 at 7:20
  • This. Those bike speedometers are built for exactly the purpose, and provide so much more info that no pure clock will give. – cmaster Jun 19 at 8:16
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    @Carel yes - the excessively-cheap chinese speedo I have would eat a battery in 3 days. Cheap is not a saving here. Hence the suggestion of a known brand. – Criggie Jun 19 at 9:07
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I've got a digital G-shock that's lasted >12 years cycling, kayaking, etc. It's massive overkill, and rather massive which is occasionally uncomfortable (some combinations of winter gear and hand positions). A rather slim water resistant digital Casio with a backlight would be plenty (<£/$/€20). They're pretty tough, surviving most things except impacts dircetly on the face.

I suggest digital after killing a G-shock by dropping it from head height onto tiles and breaking off the second hand; analog watches have extra failure modes.

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    When it comes to wearer-survivable damage the good old F-91 is as tough and rugged as a G. Namely, it might not survive a 2000 m dive or being driven on by a tank, but neither do we. – gschenk Jun 19 at 7:55
  • @gschenk the one thing a G-shock has over the F-91 is a glass that's both tougher and better protected. I've smashed the screen on one before (not cycling). But the cheap option is a good one – Chris H Jun 19 at 8:32
  • Smashed the F or the G? I'm from the land of happy over-engineering: I like my G. And I've learned from Douglas Adams who wrote H2G2 a five books series to tell us we all need digital watches. – gschenk Jun 19 at 9:43
  • @gschenk actually both. An analog G as in my answer but I smacked an F against a rock scrambling and cracked the screen. It carried on sort working but partially illegible until the next time it got wet, when it died. So with a bit of bad luck it could be taken out by a crash that you could ride away from, but it's still a good option. My current G is on its 3rd strap and 2nd (solar-chargeable) battery, and looks a little battered, but it does tend to snag on things being so big – Chris H Jun 19 at 10:33
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Durability is only an advantage if you don't overpay for it.

Identify the situations that will happen regularly: rain, having to carry your bike, etc. Then find out how much a watch which is able to withstand these situations cost. Such a watch will last several years on average, before a rare accident (hard crash, falling into water, etc.) will kill it.

Now check out the price of that fancy shock-proof watch you wanted to buy. Do you think it will last twice as long? In that case, only buy it if it costs at most twice as much.

I know this sounds very approximate, but with many fancy sport watches you'll find out that it will take more than a lifetime to justify the price.

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In my opionion, if there is only need to know hour/speed/distance - basic information , then there is no need of expensive watch, just buy normal bicycle counter which usually are waterproof enough for heavy rain.

If you want to check your current pulse then there will be need for watch with chest band there are cheap and simple watches which check your pulse only. But this sollution won't give you information about speed/distance/GPS

If you want to have all data - GPS/time/speed/hour/distance/pulse(wrist) etc... Watch will be more expensive - on my own I use Garmin Forerunner 35 which isn't expensive.

Have a great day :)

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Any watch with moving parts will suffer more than a digital watch. Many will site the toughness of diving watches but those watches are tough in a very specific environment i.e. in the ocean. On a bike or many other sports, you want to be able to see the time or other information quickly, really quickly, if you are travelling at speed. A digital watch has a big digits to read, watches with hands don't. Plus many watches with hands if they have extra features are accessed through the crown. A digital watch you just hit one button to get the function you want. Another advantage of a digital g-shock is you can set it to auto illuminate. Get a g-shock they range from cheap to bling. I particulary like the solar versions.

In my experience people buy a fancy watch tiso t-touch, garmin, suunto, but when they get smashed, break you see old hands in outdoor profession revert to a solid affordable digital watch G-shock dw5600 or similar. Look at what the professions use, outdoor instructors, military, police, basic digital. My previous g-shock solar lasted 20years, still works, I gave it to my dad, then bought another G-shock. A watch which you never have to consider, used it climbing, downhill biking, kayaking, roofing, demolition, building work, just does not care. Yet friends around me, "oh i just need to take my expensive watch off" before doing x, y or z.

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