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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, 2019 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, 2019 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?). Jun 18, 2019 at 16:07
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    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.
    – Mike G
    Jun 19, 2019 at 15:03
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    I think the explanation for "30m" and "100m" is that there are two very different standards for designating water proof watches. For dive watches the numbers can be taken at face value, but it is often claimed that for non sport watches "30m" means the watch survives some contact with water (IPX3-5) and "100m" is used for watches that can be actually submerged (IPX7+).
    – ojs
    Sep 8 at 7:58

9 Answers 9

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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.

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  • Perfect - that's exactly what I was looking for!
    – CCarter
    Jun 18, 2019 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. Jun 18, 2019 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, 2019 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.

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  • Thanks for the answer - I'll certainly consider it as a possibility.
    – CCarter
    Jun 18, 2019 at 10:24
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    This is excellent - a $5 speedo is adequate but tend to burn expensive watch CR2032 batteries. Go for a low-end cateye or similar. Plus you see how fast you're riding.
    – Criggie
    Jun 18, 2019 at 11:19
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    @Criggie: The 'expensive' 2032 battery in a speedo lasts from 2 up to 5 years in daily use. Most of these devices have motion detectors and go into sleep mode when the bicycle is not moving.
    – Carel
    Jun 19, 2019 at 7:20
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    @Carel yes - the excessively-cheap chinese speedo I have would eat a battery in 3 days. Cheap is not a saving here. Hence the suggestion of a known brand.
    – Criggie
    Jun 19, 2019 at 9:07
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    If the point is to buy a watch that will be mostly when riding, the simple bike computer seems to be the best approach to me, for a simple reason: legibility. A screen that is on the handlebar will always be more legible than a watch, especially under one layer of fabric or more.
    – Renaud
    Sep 7 at 15:23
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I've got a digital G-shock that's lasted >12 years cycling, kayaking, etc. It's massive overkill, and rather massive which is occasionally uncomfortable (some combinations of winter gear and hand positions). A rather slim water resistant digital Casio with a backlight would be plenty (<£/$/€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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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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Due to the kind of work I do (hands near moving machine parts, no watch on the wrist) I have bought a cheap pin on 'nurses' watch.

The ones I use now come in a silicon holder which will keep most water off the watch and rain does not damage them. (They are so cheap that I usually have several at the same time, one on each layer I wear.)

As they are not on the wrist but pinned to the front of the body they do not suffer from the damage poor roads do. But do remember to take them off your shirt before you wash it, they are not waterproof when doing cycles in a machine.

It will only tell you the time, for all other functions you better use a bike computer but it will tell you time whether you are on your bike or off it.

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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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Geez. I rode for years before the concept of a "shock-proof" watch had even been invented. Mine were barely water resistant, yet I never had any issues with my watch. I'm not sure my bike computer was even much more than water resistant, yet it lasted for years and usually only had to be replaced because I snagged a wire on something and pulled it out of the case or the sensor. (Yes, bike computers used to have wires to attach the various sensors to the computer itself. Yes, I grew up in the dark ages.)

Get a cheap digital watch (they were much more expensive when I was young) and you'll be just fine. If something does happen to it, well, was (probably) cheaper than any other bike part/accessory you own, so who cares.

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  • You had wires on your computer? Youngster! When I started riding, we were lucky to have wind-up bike computers. You had to stop every 10 miles and turn the key to wind up the mainspring. Then Emilio Campagnolo invented the chain-drive winder, where you could lean down and press your computer into the chain while pedalling, to wind it faster. The pro's could do this on a descent, effectively one of the first-ever uses of regenerative braking. (note, humour)
    – Criggie
    Sep 8 at 19:49
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    ROFL @Criggie!!
    – FreeMan
    Sep 9 at 1:25
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    Guess what, I still prefer cables. Unless you have a physical defect, a wired connection cannot fail. Wireless connections can fail sporadically. Sep 9 at 6:56
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    @Criggie You know, my first bike tachometer was purely mechanical. Used a flexible axis that was attached to the front wheel hub to turn the display gears. No need for winding up the thing ;-) Got replaced with an electronic one rather quickly... Sep 9 at 7:00
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Any watch should be shock proof enough for the purpose. However, there are two things that are important:

  1. Use a water proof watch. No matter how much you try to avoid rain, it's always a possibility that you misread the weather (report) and are hit by some rain. You don't want to worry about your watch when that happens.

  2. Use a light weight watch. The watch's shock absorber is your own flesh. And the heavier the watch, the more shock energy needs to be absorbed by your flesh. The watch's weight moving rather independently from your arm's bones is a total nuisance that can only be reduced by reducing the weight itself. So, no flashy, thick, ornamented chronograph that shows how much money you have to spare. The thinnest, simplest quartz clock is what you want.

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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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