Opinion: Why Every Parent Needs a Tool Watch

Last week my son was pretending to be a wolf in the kitchen (as four-year-olds do). Inevitably, he face-planted on the tile floor and suffered a bloody snout. As I scooped up my wounded canine, blood poured down my arm, shoulder to hand. 

I wear a dive watch most days, and this day was no exception. After Googling “How to stop a bloody nose,” I rotated the count-up bezel and prepared to pinch both nostrils shut for 10 minutes. The usually crisp bezel action felt… sticky. I looked down to realize bodily fluids had covered my watch, collecting on every textured surface: the depressed markers on the modified bezel, the crown ridges, and between bracelet links.  With only one free arm, I did not dare risk opening the nasal floodgates to remove my watch.


After the minute hand safely crossed the stained 10-minute marker, I gave my watch a quick bath in the sink. It thanked me for the brief excitement and continued its primary function of keeping time until the next time it would be called to action, likely in the near future. After all, kids are gross. My watches are accustomed to poorly aimed sneezes and spilled glasses of milk. PSA: never buy a used watch from me.

Prior to 2020, I wore dress watches to a shared office. Usually a time-only Citizen or something similar readily available at the local mall. As a bearded guy with mop of unruly hair, a shiny 38mm dress watch was my lazy attempt to look the part. This self-imposed pressure dissipated with the sudden shift to remote work. Reduced to just a small image on my coworker’s computer screens, increasingly disheveled with each video call, a dress watch wasn’t fooling anyone.

The idea of needing a tool watch for my office lifestyle never crossed my mind. I purchased an SKX as my first dive watch for the history, not functionality. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading about the 1953 Basel Fair, where the Rolex 6202 Turn-O-Graph (predating the Submariner by a year), Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and Zodiac Sea Wolf were ALL debuted. That sort of nail-biting horological history can only be rivaled by the race for the first automatic chronograph.

But as my SKX got more wrist time, I was continuously impressed by its non-time-telling functionality.  Suddenly I was timing everything. And, accustomed to dress watches, I was comforted by its durability. I washed dishes, rough housed with the kids, and did yard work without worrying about the hardy tool on my wrist. Sure, I wasn’t avoiding the bends in a wetsuit…but let’s be real. I’m a dad in my 30s. I’m lucky if I have time to squeeze in a labored 5k on a lunch break. Learning to scuba dive is at the bottom of my to do list. Getting a full night’s sleep is at the top.

As a certified parent, I have the authority to proclaim the following: kids are terrible sleepers. They wake up throughout the night for various reasons requiring parental intervention. From my conversations with other certified parents, we’ve all given up on getting a full night’s sleep in our own beds. At a certain point (usually around 10pm) we abandon reading about the 1953 Basel Fair and resort to squeezing into a twin bed, leaving behind our glowing, legible digital bedside clocks. 

Now, this becomes a precarious situation for unprepared parents who made the mistake of wearing a dress watch with un-lumed hands to bed. Or, even worse, those that didn’t wear any watch to bed (I recently learned that some people don’t sleep with their watches). Thankfully, I arrive prepared for my nightly game of musical beds. I keep a small black light in the dresser drawer. It was a gift at a watch meetup, and quickly became part of our family’s bedtime routine. Story time is followed by lume time. The kids charge those glowing stars that all children seem to love, and I charge my watch.

43 years after the 1953 Basel Fair, ISO came along to provide safety standards for the highly capable, bend-eliminating tools like the one on my wrist. Does my budget, NH35 powered diver really require adequate readability/visibility at 25 cm (9.8 in) in total darkness? No, not really. But as I check the time during various points of the night with only a 4-watt night light in the room, I appreciate having my friendly Lumibrite lighting the way with its blue-green glow.

At the end of the day, we all just want something functional on our wrists that brings us some measure of joy. Here are a few other reasons parents would do well to consider a dive watch for those unpredictable (and, sometimes, all too predictable) moments when raising kids overlaps with a horological education.

1. Kids Think They Look Cool

Many of us have childhood memories of “dad’s watch”. I know I do. I don’t want my kids to look back on an insincere dress watch their dad wore to complete an office worker cosplay outfit. If they must listen to me blab about horological history, the least I can do is surround them with tool watches they can play with.

2. They’re Affordable

Unlike the cost of daycare, tool watches can feel downright cheap. Look no further than these dive watches under $1000 to see how far your dollar can go in this category.

3. They’re Pure Fun

My son loves playing with the bezels on my watches. He gravitates towards those with smooth action and no back play (proud dad moment), but mostly, he just loves that they are interactive and make a satisfying sound. And he’s right. A rotating bezel is my favorite toy.


4. Tons of Domestic Practicality

They can time anything, not just dives. Need to time a lunch break or dinner in the oven? A rotating bezel is your best friend. As a novice runner, I dislike using my Garmin during everyday runs. The data can be overwhelming. I don’t always want to know my mile times or heart rate. Sometimes I just want to run my usual route and know how much time has elapsed. A dive watch is perfect for that.

5. They’re a (Simple) Teaching Tool

They offer accessible and durable alternatives to more complicated watches. I have no shortage of admiration for chronographs, but sub dials and pushers are not the best way to teach kids about measuring elapsed time. An easily operated bezel at the playground is a must-have for any parenting tool kit. Let them align the pip. Then it’s as easy as “when this hand is pointing at the 15, we are getting in the car.” It is simple and effective.

Am I here to introduce the idea of a dive watch to you? Certainly not. I didn’t discover the secret of their overly engineered (yet highly practical) durability and functionality.

I’m here for two reasons: First, to humbly brag about my son’s knowledge of lume, bezels and the 1953 Basel Fair. And, to encourage parents on the fence about incorporating a tool watch into their daily life to take the plunge. Parenting is messy and exhausting. It’s nice to have a capable watch along for the ride. 

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Nathan Schultz is a New Hampshire based writer, equally obsessed with watches and outdoor gear. He specializes in dad jokes, breaking NH35s while modifying watches, and testing the limits of recreational equipment. Micro brands hold a special place in his heart, and he aspires to stop buying and selling so many darn watches.