Phil Sampson and Roger Hughes take a look at 12 of the best sailing watches available right now with added marine functionality.

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It is sometimes said the word BOAT is an acronym for Bring Out Another Thousand. If that’s the case, then what could the word WATCH (which can cost up to $55 million according to luxe.digital) possibly stand for? Happily you won’t need to trade in a superyacht or two, as the products we’ve listed as our pick of the best sailing watches range from just under £1,700 all the way down to £29.99.

In addition to cost, watches have something else in common with boats – the huge variety of types, models and choices on the market today. And as with boating, it’s not always price that governs the best value for money – although that, of course, will depend upon how you define value for money, which in turn hinges upon what you are looking for from a sailing watch.

It’s a tricky question indeed, for some of the least expensive sailing watches like the Casio we showcase below can be packed with features and deliver phenomenal levels of accuracy for years and years. But perhaps watches at this end of the spectrum don’t make ideal adornments for the Commodore of the Yacht Club’s end of season black tie ball. So, as always, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

In making our selection of the best sailing watches, we’ve gone for some of the features we think matter to boaters. So while you will find sailing watches here capable of charting your course, monitoring race progress and reporting the state of the tide, we’ve left out timepieces such as the Graff Diamonds jewel-encrusted fifty-five million dollar baby we found online. Hopefully that will come as a relief, and presuming that to be the case, please read on.

The best sailing watches available right now

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Garmin MARQ Captain

Our top priced pick comes from wearable techno-specialists, Garmin. As you’ve probably guessed by now, its MARQ Captain sailing watch comes packed with marine-relevant features.

Included here are the current weather and tides for your home port, a regatta timer which allows you to pinpoint starting times, tack assist to help keep you on the wind, and man overboard and GPS.

The full extent of its capabilities is governed by the onboard technology to which it is connected, but possibilities include streaming boat data direct to your wrist wherever you are on the boat and controlling products from the Garmin-owned Fusion range of audio systems.

RRP: £1,699.99 / $1,850

Buy it now from Garmin

Buy it now from Westmarine.com

Buy it now from Jura Watches

Shop for Black Friday Garmin watch deals with our essential guide

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Ronstan ClearStart Race Timer

With wrist, hull, mast or boom mount options, the Swiss-made Ronstan ClearStart Race Timer is a maritime timepiece aimed squarely at the racing community.

It’s inventory of features include extra large, easy press silicon buttons, a highlighted start/stop button, oversized 16 mm digits set in a 65mm rotating face and a double line display simultaneously showing the race countdown and time of day.

In addition, the ClearStart Race Timer offers ISAF 5-4-1-0 and Match Racing programming, making it a great choice for competitive sailors. Ruggedly constructed and built to last, this sailing watch weighs in at 92 grammes and is water resistant to 50 metres.

RRP: $119.95 / £85

Buy it now on Amazon

Buy it now from West Marine

best-sailing-watches-optimum-time-series-14

Optimum Time Series 14 Rechargeable sailing watch

Featuring a 36mm diameter liquid crystal display mounted within a bright red and black 68mm ABS case, Optimum Time’s Series 14 watch is a big, bold piece of horological engineering.

In fact it’s another timepiece so large that its maker suggests you can mount it on a mast or a boom rather than your wrist, which is not a bad idea while racing as it means the crew can see the same countdown timer as the skipper.

Waterproof to 5 ATM, (i.e. capable of withstanding a pressure of 5 bar), the sailing watch is packed with useful features and comes complete with a bespoke USB charger clamp for convenient charging.

RRP: £99 / $117

Buy it now on eBay

Buy it now on Amazon

casio-tide

Casio Tide Watch Orange

There’s no question that when it comes to affordable innovation, inspiring designs, versatility and verve, Casio is right up there with the best of them.

While some of the company’s prodigious output runs into the thousands of pounds, our choice here is very much at the thin end of the Casio price spectrum – but don’t be fooled, for this is no cheap bargain basement product.

The Casio Tide Watch Orange is, in fact, a highly sophisticated piece of kit which in addition to all the usual time, day and auto date functions displays the moon phase and a handy tide graph.

As we scrolled through the list of features, we were left wondering how anyone could pack so much into a 43mm diameter case. Then again, if anyone can, Casio can.

RRP: $29.99 / £35

Buy it now from Amazon

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Garmin Quatix 6 sailing watch

Read MBY‘s Garmin Quatix 6 review

Garmin were kind enough to send me this watch to examine (and return afterwards, unfortunately).

This is very comprehensive, and clearly one of the best sailing watches out there, with functions for every type of pastime on the water – including diving. It is beautifully crafted and a quite extraordinary wrist computer.

Garmin is well known for superior boating instruments and they have now managed to squeeze all the data of a ten-inch chartplotter into a 1.3” inch round sailing watch.

Bluetooth functionality means you can connect it to a Garmin chartplotter using the free Garmin Connect app, and to other makes of plotter using the Garmin transceiver (a $150 extra).

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This allows all the features of a chartplotter to be displayed on the watch, including charts and even autopilot control – provided it is also connected through the chartplotter.

Another amazing feature is the hundreds of different faces that can be downloaded to customise the watch, including a rather nice antique face and a copy of Big Ben’s face.

The Quatix 6 can also be switched between analogue and digital. The overall diameter is 51mm (2” in) with a 36mm (1 5/8” in) viewable face,  and it is 17mm (11/16”) thick.

The weight is 83g (3oz) with the plastic strap or 156g (5.5oz) with the stainless band, which is quite a bit heavier than a normal watch.

It receives e-mail and texts, can be used to control music on board, it is waterproof to 100 meters, sunlight readable and comes with night light. The Quatix 6 also monitors the user’s heart-rate.

The watch has a soft synthetic band, available in various colours. The battery version lasts 14 days with normal use, but there is also a solar-powered version, available at twice the price. But whatever you do, do not drop this sailing watch overboard, as it does not float!

RRP: £629 / $699

Buy it now on Amazon

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Buy it now from Garmin

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Garmin-Instinct-sailing-watch

Garmin Instinct outdoors watch

Read our Garmin Instinct review

Garmin also sent me this watch to examine. The Instinct is Garmin’s all-round watch, which they call their outdoors watch. Features which yachtsmen could use would be: GPS positioning on charts; barometric pressure and a compass.

It also has smartphone connectivity, receives e-mails and texts, and can control smartphone music. It has a thermometer and a heart-rate monitor.

The Garmin Instinct is available in an astonishing 20 different styles and colours. The actual diameter is 47mm (1 13/16” in) but the viewable face is 32mm (1 1/4”). The Instinct is 16mm (5/8” in) thick and weighs 53g (2 oz).

For the racing fraternity it has a multiple start sequence options. This outdoors watch is a good alternative for people who do not want to stump up the cost of a Quatix 6.

RRP: £269.99

Buy it now on Amazon

Buy it now on eBay

Buy it now from Garmin

Timex-Intelligent-sailing-watch

Timex Intelligent Quartz Yacht Racer watch

This is a very striking larger than normal analogue watch, built specifically for racing sailors. It has all the necessary features, including race time from start to finish. It is 46 mm (1.81” in) diameter and 14mm (0.55” in) thick.

You would need to carry the instruction manual until you become familiar with this complicated watch. It has functions that require three buttons to be pressed in sequence. There are no cruising yachtsmen’s features though, not even GPS.

RRP: £132.99

Buy it now on the Watch Shop

Timex-Optimum-3

Optimum Time Series 3 sailing watch

A lower priced, yet functional race watch, this is the biggest watch I have ever seen, and far too large for my wrist. It’s gigantic – 65mm (2.56” in) diameter and 16mm (0.62” in) thick – and bound to be heavy.

An advantage for racing is that this watch is easy to read at a distance, and a bracket is even supplied to fix it to a mast. It has a three-row display for easy viewing of the time and the timer at the same time. It also has a sync button if you miss the start gun.

This is a multi-function watch with tidal information, atmospheric temperature, and a compass. The Optimum Time Series 3 has a silicone strap that can be personalised, while the USB charging is unique.

RRP: £69

Buy it now on Amazon

Buy it now on eBay

Ronstan-ClearStart

Ronstan Clearstart RF4055 sailing watch

Another watch that comes from a reputable marine equipment manufacturer. This watch is essentially a specialist race watch. Race-mode features include multiple start sequence options, World Sailing 5-4-1-0 match racing timer and re-synchronization for an early or late start.

The Clearstart RF4055 is unusual in that it has a fiberglass case, which is available in three striking colours. It has a 50mm (2″) diameter face, which is larger than most watches, with a 13mm (0.5″ in) digital display, and the weight is 74gm (2.61oz). One function that makes it less appealing as a watch for yachtsmen is the absence of GPS.

RRP: £79.95

Buy it now on Amazon

Buy it now on eBay

Optimum-series-12

Optimum Time Series 12 sailing watch

Another race-timer with countdown time and pre-programmed start and audible warnings. There is no GPS or interconnectivity, but you do get a countdown repeat option, World Sailing 5-4-1-0 start sequence pre-programmed with audible warning signals, and a sync button if the start gun is missed.

The Optimum Time Series 12 is available in many colours, but has a small 26mm (1.02” in) display, with 10mm (0.34” in) figures, which will make it hard to read in the middle of a hectic race start.

RRP: £95

Buy it now on eBay

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Gill Race Watch Timer

This striking red and black Race Watch Timer is a sailing-specific watch developed exclusively for Gill. Water resistant to 30 metres, the timepiece unit is encased in a reinforced carbon ABS plastic housing with a stainless steel back.

As well as telling the time, the sailing watch’s functions include countdown with synchro, day, date and alarm. There’s a keyboard lock feature to ensure settings are not unwittingly altered and an electro-luminescent backlight allows the wearer to check the data day or night.

A neat sleep feature preserves and prolongs battery life in a ruggedly constructed unit designed for durability and years of trouble-free service.

RRP: $110 / £75

Buy it now from Amazon

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Limit ProXR Countdown sailing watch

Limit has been producing watches for more than 110 years and specialises in offering a wide variety of styles at great value prices.

Our pick of the bunch is the Limit ProXR Countdown sailing watch which comes with a large, clear and easily readable display and is backed by a two year guarantee.

It also has a dual time display and stopwatch, countdown and pacer functionality. No fewer than five alarms can be set and there’s a night time illumination facility too.

Available in a choice of orange/black or blue/black, the looks of this chunky 50 mm case diameter sailing watch certainly belie its low price tag.

RRP: £29.99

Buy it now on Nauticalia.com

What makes a good sailing watch?

A watch used on the water is sometimes used in adverse conditions, especially when racing, or in heavy weather. Therefore it helps to have a digital readout with large numbers, instead of an analog face with many internal small dials. Some sailing watches have the ability to switch from digital to analogue readouts.

The wristband, (strap), is also important for a watch used on the water – if it fails an expensive sailing watch might fall overboard. Most watches have soft, rubber, synthetic wristbands, which are considered more sustainable than either leather or stainless steel in the sailing environment. Rubber straps are also lighter than stainless, easier to adjust and come in many different bright colours.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.