Being that yesterday was Memorial Day, a day that might mark the beginning of summer hours if you work somewhere that believes in such things, it seems like an appropriate day for a summer watch guide! What’s a summer watch? Well… Any watch is really a summer watch, but the ones included here are easy to wear, on the smaller side, and can easily be put on a nylon NATO for those sweaty days.
For the sake of variety, we broke the list up into “sporty” watches and “casual” watches…the main difference really being toughness and aggressive styling. Naturally, this guide is but a small amount of what’s out there, really just focusing on some fun stuff we’ve seen in the last year… so enjoy and let us know what you’ll be wearing in the comments!
We reviewed the Archimede Outdoor about 2 years now, and it left a lasting impression on us. With a 39mm barrel case, super legible dial, swiss automatic movement, overall handsome and classic aesthetic that doesn’t quite look like anything else, it is simply very compelling. On top of that, it’s German made and comes in at under $1,000… Within the last week or so, Archimede announced a new version of the watch that took this from a cool watch and a good deal, to an awesome watch and an amazing value: hardened steel case.
The newly dubbed Outdoor “Protect” has a steel case with an outer hardness of 1200 vickers (…perhaps this is a partnership with that other really awesome German brand?), which will make it really scratch resistant. At about $775 (plus shipping) this might be the ultimate entry-level German Tool watch… oh, yeah, and given it’s dimensions, toughness, etc… a great summer watch for when you’re parasailing, or what ever it is you do.
Like the Archimede above, this guy features a hardened steel case. The crazy thing is that Damasko makes this special, nickel-free, ice hardened 710 vicker steel themselves! That’s like raising sheep to make your sweaters…. it’s something few brands can do. Their steel is also hardened all the way through, which makes it potentially even tougher. They also way over engineer their crowns, using a patented system with viton gaskets and a self lubricating cell and put their movement in soft-iron Faraday cages for 80k A/m magnetic protection…which is about as good as you’ll find in anything without a lot of silicon inside.
Style-wise, this one is a pretty straightforward modern pilot with big bold numerals, a cross-hair matte black dial and a off-center day-date (another distinctly Damasko detail). The case, which has a cool matte grey finish, comes in at 40mm diameter and 12mm thick, so nice and easy to wear. New, these are $1,200, which is pretty fair… but they can often be picked up second hand for under $1,000.
Sometimes, it’s nice to wear something you’re really not scared to break. Not that I think one should try to break the Marathon Navigator (actually, really don’t as it has tritium gas inside), this is the kind of watch the beckons to be worn on an adventure. First of all, it’s Mil-Spec, so tough by design. The case is resin, the crystal is acrylic and the movement is quartz; this thing can take a blow. It’s also super light-weight and meant to be worn on pass through straps, so it’s great for those gross, humid days when a big diver would be a burden. Lastly, you’ve got tritium tubes, which really come in handy when at a dim bar, drive-in movie, beach keger, etc… $230 will get you the date version of the Navigator. For more info, check out our review from a few weeks ago.
There is many an Orient watch that we could have included in this guide, but the Defender made the cut as it has got cool, military styling, mechanical complications, and the ridiculously great price of $175 after a 30% coupon, (use “wornandwound”). The Defender features an Orient in-house Japanese made automatic movement with a 24 hour sub-dial, day-dial and date. Take that convenient set of functions (though you probably know if it’s day or night, a 24 hand is great when traveling and when setting the watch) add an aggressive, modern military design, and you have a winner.
The one we reviewed had an interesting putty gray dial that wasn’t quite like any grey I had seen on a dial before. It also comes in tan, black or blue. Throw this on a drab olive or a khaki NATO and you have a really cool looking piece. With a 100m WR and a price tag that wont break the bank should you break the watch, this is a solid summer everyday watch.
We like the Autodromo Prototipos so much, we’ve already written about them twice… so why not go for a third? These are perfect cool, sporty summer watches. While there are a handful of colors to choose from, the Nero, which is PVD with a black dial and yellow accents, is so dark and dense, that it’s the perfect summer watch! No really…while everyone else is parading around in their Nantucket reds, breakout the Nero, a black t-shirt and jeans, borrow your uncle’s Camaro, put on Zeppelin III and ride!… j/k
But in all seriousness, any of the colors will work. There is something about chronographs that feel summery to me, doubly so vintage ones. So the spot-on barrel case, contrast bi-compax dials, raised tachymeters and rally straps, will bring classic chronos to mind, that if you’re lucky enough to own, chances are would be too precious to wear all the fun places you can go with this. Great finishing and a mecha-quartz movement seal the deal. $625
The Miró watches have a calm, clean design that reminds me of kicking your feet up on deck; a perfect summer activity. It’s simple, elegant, calming and friendly. It’s like a little vacation on your wrist. When we took a look at the grey quartz dial version a little while ago, we were impressed by its restrained aesthetic that seemed to look good with anything. Keep this on their minimalist leather strap in the evening, or put it on a preppy NATO during the day, the design lends itself to versatility and effortless style. The quartz model runs $195, which isn’t bad, but the new Miyota 9015 version runs $331, which is a great deal.
The Tropik SS is actually a legit dive watch with such a 300m WR, so I don’t mean to discredit it by calling it “casual”. I merely want to emphasize one of the cooler aspects of this watch, and that’s that for a modern diver, it’s quite elegant. Hints of vintage-inspired details and a smaller-than-average diameter at 41mm grant the Tropik SS the status of a gentleman’s sport watch. As such, for a summer casual timepiece, the Tropik is one of the best choices. Pair it with an unconstructed sportcoat and a striped NATO for doing business, then jump right in the pool after.
The Tropik SS is also well built and finished, and features great components like a ceramic bezel, domed sapphire crystal and Miyota 9015 movement. Coming in at $650, it’s a great value too. Once they come out with their long awaited bracelet (supposedly this month…) the package will be complete.
There’s little more to say about the Max Bill Watches by Junghans other than they are nearly perfect examples of clean design. A student of the Bauhaus, Max Bill’s work is the definition of balance and simplicity. While, once again, there is nothing specifically “summery” about them, their thin cases and restrained dials speak to taking things easy during the hot weather.
At Basel World 2014, they also announced a new color/style. For the first time, the original Max Bill design will be available as a 38mm automatic, and with a new, gorgeous palette. Mixing a granite dial with a silver index and taupe numerals, their is something aged and earthy about it, like a “tropical” dial. Put this on a canvas strap, or some cordovan, for a dressier option in the heat.
Marine-style watches speak to nautical themes, which always bring summer to mind. The Gavox Legacy Navy Watches are their take on the Marine Chronometer, a series of watches we were very impressed with. Featuring beautiful, bright white dials with lots of texture and large, thin roman numerals that are proud and masculine, they are intriguing to look at and handsome. The case measures a comfortable 41mm, making it larger than most of what’s on this list, but to good effect. Watches of this style are always a bit larger, relating to their deck-clock origins.
For a more conservative style, one that will look good with your Sperrys when you’re invited to a BBQ at your boss’s country house, the Legacy Navy is a great choice. Ranging from $400 – $450, these are once again a solid deal.
Last on the list is a watch that was only just announced, the C Ward C5 Malvern Slimline. This is a follow up to a watch we adored, the C5 Mavern Automatic MK II, which to this day is one of the most compelling affordable dress watches out there. The new Slimline version swaps the SW200 auto for an ETA 2801 manual, cutting the thickness down by a few millimeters, though they increased the diameter to 40mm, for a bit more presence.
Aesthetically, it’s much the same as the auto, but with broader Dauphine hands. Given its slight stature, it’s definitely going to be a comfortable watch to wear, throw in the gorgeous dark steel-blue dial, and you have something that speaks to the season. Dress it down with a patterned strap, and you have a fun day-to-day watch. This one comes in at $550, which isn’t bad, though I’d expect it to be the same or less than the auto as the ETA 2801 isn’t a very pretty movement.
And that’s that for now! Stay cool, drink some pilsners and enjoy the summer!
by Zach Weiss