Guide: Six Solar Powered Watches Built on Technology and Convenience

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As watch heads, many of us have a deep appreciation for interacting with the mechanical nature of a watch. There’s something about the satisfying click of winding a hand-wound watch and seeing it come to life that is just really enjoyable. And even just having the knowledge that your movement throughout the day is keeping the automatic watch on your wrist ticking can bring a deep satisfaction that’s only magnified by observing the caliber itself, doing its thing, behind a display caseback. 

But sometimes, we just don’t have time for all that. We all have those days when you’re running late and don’t have those extra few minutes to wind and set your watch, and no matter how robust a mechanical movement might be, we might take part in activities where it’s not worth the risk of damaging a valuable mechanical watch. Quartz watches, of course, are a great option as a grab and go timepiece, and solar-powered quartz watches often offer even greater functionality, rarely if ever needing a battery change.

In this guide, we’ll take you through a handful of watches powered by the big yellow orb in the sky, and explain why it makes sense to have a solar-powered watch at the ready.

G-Shock GMWB5000D-1

If you need something indestructible, you reach for a G-Shock. Perhaps the ultimate in grab and go convenience, there’s a place in any collection for a tough, unbreakable, quartz watch. The GMWB5000D-1 is part of G-Shock’s Tough Solar line, and features the iconic square design with a full metal case and bracelet. It’s rugged and will definitely hold up in the harshest conditions imaginable, but it’s also versatile enough to be worn day to day. That said, it can also be stuffed in a drawer and pulled out only when needed – the solar charge lasts for up to 22 months once full (10 months in a totally dark environment). The GMWB5000D-1 also features G-Shock’s Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping technology, so as long as it’s getting a time signal, there’s never a need to set the watch. Between automatic timekeeping updates and a power supply that essentially requires no intervention, the GMWB5000D-1 could well be the last watch standing. 

$550 – Check it out here

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Seiko Prospex Street Series SNE533

For fans of divers who are after a stylish watch with a solar powered movement that doesn’t compromise on critical dive watch specs, Seiko has a variety of options. The Street Series is a standout, however, for it’s Prospex badge (which has become a signal of quality among dive enthusiasts) and unique case, modeled after classic “Tuna” divers of the past like the 6159-7010. The prominent design feature here is the shrouded bezel and cylindrical case shape, and the Street Series adds vibrant color and subtle texture to the dials. On a full charge, these solar movements will run for around 10 months. Besides the blue version seen here, the Street Series is available in green, gray, and black variants.

$450 – Check it out here

Citizen Eco-Drive Corso

Eco-Drive has been around since the early 90s, and is one of the original solar-powered watch platforms. These solar-powered movements have found their way into a huge variety of watches over the years – everything from serious purpose-built sports watches to refined dress pieces. The Corso seen here is a modern sports watch with a sharp angular case and a black dial with a tasteful sunburst pattern. The real benefit of an Eco-Drive movement in a watch like this is in its ability to keep slim – the Corso comes in at just 10mm thick, making it easily wearable for a wide variety of wrists. It also keeps costs down. At just $350, the Corso gives you a little taste of the style of some integrated bracelet watches costing exponentially more, in a package that you don’t have to labor over and can pull out of the watch box whenever you’d like, knowing it’s always ready to go. 

$350 – Check it out here

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Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar II 

Up to this point, we’ve been talking about Japanese watches exclusively. Quartz timekeeping was invented in Japan, so it’s no wonder that to this today Japanese watchmaking offers the widest variety in variation on quartz technology, whether it’s in an ultra-high accuracy movement, or the solar-powered calibers currently under discussion. But the Swiss do in fact make a handful of solar watches as well, including this one from Tissot. 

The T-Touch Expert Solar II is a solar take on Tissot’s popular T-Touch format, which offers touchscreen functionality. This particular example, with a ceramic compass bezel, is something of an explorer’s watch, and features not just an altimeter, but countdown and regatta timers as well. At 45mm, the T-Touch Expert Solar II is an imposing, modern sports watch, with plenty of unique features that add a ton of functionality beyond the incredibly useful solar movement. 

$1,275 – Check it out here

One Eleven Field Watch 

One of the major benefits of a solar-powered watch is reduced waste. Solar-powered batteries last through so many charge cycles that it’s likely some other part of the watch will fail before you’ll need to consider swapping out the power source. One Eleven is a brand that uses solar-powered movements with sustainability in mind. Cases are made from 85% recycled stainless steel, the bezel is made from plant-based castor oil, and the straps are made from recycled water bottles. At a little over $100, One Eleven offers an ethically made, classically styled field watch that can run without light for up to 6 months on a full charge. 

$125 – Check it out here

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Centric Instruments Lightwell Field Watch

Centric Instruments is another small brand making inexpensive, solar-powered watches. The Lightwell Field Watch seen here is a modern spin on the field watch, with a dark black dial and a modern, minimalist aesthetic. The Lightwell uses a Seiko solar-powered movement, so reliability will never be an issue. With a retail price of $260 and a 316L stainless steel case and a sapphire crystal, Centric is offering a value that’s tough to match if you were to look for the same type of watch with a mechanical movement. 

$260 – Check it out here

Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
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