Sailing Watches


Sailing Watches - Some Things to Look Out For

I've been through a few sailing watches in my time. I have a habit of dropping them off the side of my boat, leaving them in changing rooms, forgetting where I've left them over the winter, having other people drop them off pontoons, and so on. Thanks to all these reasons, I've a fair amount of experience of different types of sailing watches.

Here's some things to look out for:

countdownA sailing-specific countdown - Most countdowns beep when the countdown has finished, for obvious reasons. The good thing about having a sailing-specific countdown is that the beep as each minute passes, and then give you beeps as you move into the last few seconds before the start. This gives you an audible countdown for those hectic starts, freeing you up to keep your head out of the boat. It's a very useful feature.

SyncA Sync option - This is also a very useful feature. If you miss the five-minute gun you can simply start your timer anyway, and when the four-minute gun goes you hit the Sync button and the countdown will start counting down from 4 minutes. You can also synchronise to the one-minute gun if you mess that up.

batteryBattery life - I don't think I've ever managed to keep a sailing watch long enough to run through the battery, so this isn't really a consideration for me. And anyway, you can generally find somewhere that will change the battery cheaply enough if it does become an issue. But from my research, battery life is an issue for some sailors - if it is for you, then it is worth checking the reviews of a watch before you buy. I've listed it in the "Negatives" section of each watch where I've come across some anecdotal evidence that it is an issue.

large numberLarge number display - This can be very useful, especially if you're long sighted. Definitely worth looking for - and lots of these sailing- specific watches now have this feature - but not necessarily a deal breaker.

Vibration alert - I've never had a watch with a vibration alert as part of the countdown function, but I like the idea. I'd be interested to find out whether it can be felt on a windy day, but if it can then it is an excellent feature.

velcroVelcro strap - Velcro straps are a matter of taste. I wouldn't buy a watch on the strength of the fact that it had a velcro strap - they're easy enough to buy and fit if they are your strap of preference. That said, I find them quite useful - they're easier to do up and undo than a traditional strap.

Scratch resistant glass - This is worth looking out for. I've had a watch or too (especially ones with domed glass) that can get scratched and more difficult to read.

gpsGPS - To get this feature you're going to have to pay bigger bucks. If you think you'll use it, then it is a pretty great feature, but it is hardly an essential.

 



My Top 3 Sailing Watches

Like I say, I've had a few watches in my time. Some I've been bought as presents, some I've panic-bought, and (occasionally) I've even researched them and bought the one I actually wanted. Here's my favourite 3, in no particular order:

The Optimum Time OS Series 2

I liked this watch a lot. It is simple, and very much a sailing watch. If you need a digital watch to do other things for you, then this may not be your best choice. But if, like me, you take your watch off after sailing and leave it in your bag until the next time you race, then you can do a lot worse than this.

The pre-programmed countdown works well, and the Sync button was designed for someone like me - not least because you can make sure at the 4-minute gun that your timing will be perfect.

The Gill Race Watch

If I hadn't left this in a changing room, I think I'd probably still be using this watch now. I like to think that wherever it is now, it is still helping someone get good starts.

It doesn't look that great, but it isn't horribly ugly either. And, much more importantly, it is very reliable. Tough and reliable. And lost.

The Casio G-Shock

This isn't just a sailing watch, which is both good and not so good. The numbers are smaller than on the other two in my Top 3, making it slightly harder to read. But it has loads of good features, is virtually indestructible, and does every thing it says it will.

And a bonus watch:

The Garmin Quatix

I have no idea if this watch is any good. I will probably never buy one. But...

...If I was a different person, someone that didn't always lose their watch, or that could afford to buy a Garmin Quatrix whenever I lost one, then this is probably the watch I'd get.

But I'm not.


List of the Most Commonly Used Sailing Watches

Optimum Time OS Series 2 Sailing Watch With Velcro Strap

Optimum Time Series 2 - Sailing Watches

Optimum Time Series 2

Positives

  • A sailing-specific watch
  • Large number display - easy to read at a glance
  • 5-4-1-Go countdown with sound alerts
  • Countdown has repeat option (good for multiple sequential starts) or countdown and then elapsed time option (good for handicap racing)
  • Countdown has Sync button for those times when you miss the first gun.
  • Velcro strap makes putting the watch on or taking it off easy - even with gloves. the strap will also fit over clothing.
  • Not expensive

Negatives

  • Some people have mentioned having battery issues - i.e. short battery life. I didn't experience this issue myself

Where to Buy


Ronstan Clear Start Race Timer

Ronstan ClearStart - Sailing Watches

Ronstan ClearStart

Positives

  • A sailing-specific watch
  • Large number display - easy to read at a glance
  • 5-4-1-Go countdown with sound alerts
  • Countdown has repeat option (good for multiple sequential starts) or countdown and then elapsed time option (good for handicap racing)
  • Countdown has Sync button for those times when you miss the first gun.
  • Velcro strap makes putting the watch on or taking it off easy - even with gloves. the strap will also fit over clothing.
  • Not expensive

Negatives

  • Very large, which may not suit some people
  • I wouldn't describe it as beautiful - but then I don't really care what my sailing watch looks like.

Where to Buy

Other Information


Gill Regatta Master Watch

Gill Regatta Master - Sailing Watches

Gill Regatta Master

Positives

  • A sailing-specific watch
  • 5-4-1-Go countdown with sound alerts
  • Numbers go to full-screen mode for the final minute - a really nice feature.
  • Countdown has Sync button for those times when you miss the first gun.
  • Has a sleep mode to preserve battery life
  • Very tough watch - hard to break

Negatives

  • Can't change the strap to a velcro strap (hardly a deal breaker)

Where to Buy

Other Information


Gill Race Watch

Gill Race Watch - Sailing Watches

Gill Race Watch

Positives

  • A sailing-specific watch
  • 5-4-1-Go countdown with sound alerts
  • Large number display - easy to read at a glance
  • Countdown has Sync button for those times when you miss the first gun.
  • Has a sleep mode to preserve battery life
  • Very tough watch - hard to break

Negatives

  • Hard to fault for the price

Where to Buy


RONSTAN CLEARSTART - R4052

Ronstan ClearStart 4052 - Sailing Watches

Ronstan ClearStart 4052

Positives

  • A sailing-specific watch
  • Large number display - easy to read at a glance
  • 5-4-1-Go countdown with sound alerts
  • Countdown has repeat option (good for multiple sequential starts) or countdown and then elapsed time option (good for handicap racing)
  • Countdown has Sync button for those times when you miss the first gun.
  • Long lasting

Negatives

  • Apparently, the strap can be uncomfortable on the skin. Probably not true for everyone - be worth trying it on first before you buy.

Where to Buy


Casio Men's G Shock

Casio G Shock M850 - Sailing Watches

Casio G Shock M850

Positives

  • Incredibly tough, durable watch
  • Sailing-specific
  • Solar power
  • Wave-Ceptor technology
  • Easy-read lighting - automatically adjust light to make it easy to read

Negatives

  • Numbers are smaller than on other sailing watches

Where to Buy

Other Information


Freestyle Mariner

Freestyle Mariner - Sailing Watches

Freestyle Mariner

Positives

  • A sailing-specific watch
  • Large number display - easy to read at a glance
  • Countdown has repeat option (good for multiple sequential starts) or countdown and then elapsed time option (good for handicap racing)
  • The Freestyle Mariner has a Sync option (but according to our information, the Freestyle Mariner Tide doesn't, so be careful when purchasing if this feature is important to you)

Negatives

  • Some have reported that the buttons can be pressed by bending the wrist, although the majority of reviews I read of this watch were very good.

Where to Buy

Other Information


Suunto Ambit3

Suunto Ambit3 - Sailing Watches

Suunto Ambit3

Positives

  • GPS watch to track your racing
  • Can get with a Heart Rate Monitor - very useful for any fitness training on land
  • Integrated barometer and digital compass
  • Bluetooth connectivity for easy transfer of data to your phone
  • Suunto have an excellent reputation
  • It looks really good

Negatives

  • Expensive
  • Not sailing -specific

Where to Buy

Other Information


Garmin Quatix

Garmin Quatix - Sailing Watches

Garmin Quatix

Positives

  • Sailing-specific watch
  • High-sensitivity, GPS-enabled marine watch with altimeter, barometer and 3-axis compass
  • Waterproof to 50 meters - with Full-featured GPS navigation
  • Sail racing features - Virtual starting line - Tack assist
  • Countdown timer with large, easy to read digits
  • Tide charts display detailed tide data - Preloaded worldwide base map

Negatives

  • Expensive

Where to Buy

Other Information


Optimum Time Series 3

Optimum Time Series 3 - Sailing Watches

Optimum Time Series 3

Positives

  • A sailing-specific watch
  • Large number display - easy to read at a glance
  • 5-4-1-Go countdown with sound alerts
  • Countdown has repeat option (good for multiple sequential starts) or countdown and then elapsed time option (good for handicap racing)
  • Countdown has Sync button for those times when you miss the first gun.
  • Velcro strap makes putting the watch on or taking it off easy - even with gloves. the strap will also fit over clothing.

Negatives

  • Well, it's not exactly beautiful, is it?
  • Possible short-lived battery

Where to Buy

Other Information


Optimum Time Series 14 Rechargable Sailing Watch DARK BLUE 1454

Optimum Time Series 14 - Sailing Watches

Optimum Time Series 14

Positives

  • A sailing-specific watch
  • Rechargeable - so should avoid any battery issues
  • Large number display - easy to read at a glance
  • 5-4-1-Go countdown with sound alerts
  • Also has vibration alert - this is a nice idea - on windy days sound alerts can be hard to hear over crackling sails
  • Countdown has repeat option (good for multiple sequential starts) or countdown and then elapsed time option (good for handicap racing)
  • Countdown has Sync button for those times when you miss the first gun.
  • Velcro strap makes putting the watch on or taking it off easy - even with gloves. the strap will also fit over clothing.

Negatives

  • Not the most attractive watch on the list
  • May be bulky for some sailors

Where to Buy


Optimum Time Series 11 Sailing Watch

Optimum Time Series 11 - Sailing Watches

Optimum Time Series 11

Positives

  • A sailing-specific watch
  • Large number display - easy to read at a glance
  • 5-4-1-Go countdown with sound alerts
  • Countdown has repeat option (good for multiple sequential starts) or countdown and then elapsed time option (good for handicap racing)
  • Countdown has Sync button for those times when you miss the first gun.

Negatives

  • Quite basic (not necessarily a bad thing...)
  • Some have experienced battery difficulties with Optimum Time watches, although this has not been my experience.

Where to Buy


Timex Ironman Triathlon

Timex Ironman Triathalon - Sailing Watches

Timex Ironman Triathalon

Positives

  • A good, cheap, rugged watch.
  • Comes with good timing options, and from a reliable manufacturer.
  • According to those that have used it, the buttons don't get pushed when moving your wrist - a very important thing for a sailing watch. I've lost count of the times I've looked at my watch only to find it stopped counting down because a button was inadvertently knocked. The Ladies version is apparently particularly good for this because it is small.

Negatives

  • Not a sailing-specific watch.

Where to Buy

Other Information


Casio Pro Trek

Casio Pro Trek - Sailing Watches

Casio Pro Trek

Positives

  • Tough, hard-wearing watch from reliable brand - these watches last.
  • Timer and stopwatch - timer does beep every minute and for last ten seconds - good for sailing
  • Solar power (nice feature for lengthening the watches life)
  • Barometer
  • Tide and moon data
  • Digital Compass
  • Loads more features: altimeter, thermometer, world time, EL backlight, five daily alarms, and power-saving function

Negatives

  • Not a sailing-specific watch
  • Display is smaller than other sailing-specific watches
  • Possibly over-complicated for a sailing watch
  • Unlike sailing-specific watches, the timer isn't set up for the ISAF starting sequence
  • No Sync function

Where to Buy
United States
Great Britain and Ireland

Other Information


Casio Pathfinder

Casio Pathfinder - Sailing Watches

Casio Pathfinder

Positives

  • Tough, hard-wearing watch from reliable brand - these watches last
  • Timer and stopwatch
  • Solar power (nice feature for lengthening the watches life)
  • Barometer
  • Digital Compass
  • Loads more features: altimeter, thermometer, world time, EL backlight
  • Very tough crystal - very scratch resistant

Negatives

  • Not a sailing-specific watch
  • Display is smaller than other sailing-specific watches
  • Possibly over-complicated for a sailing watch
  • Unlike sailing-specific watches, the timer isn't set up for the ISAF starting sequence

Where to Buy

Other Information


3 thoughts on “Sailing Watches

  1. Hey, you state that the Freestyle Mariner has sailing race start “sync.” I have a Freestyle Tide, and the instruction manuals are basically identical and neither one seems to have instructions for sync (missed the 5 minute gun etc). Do you know a trick to getting a sync feature to work ?

    Thanks and good sailing.

  2. Hi Oliver,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve been in touch with the manufacturers and you are absolutely right – I’ve amended the entry to correct the error. I actually got this little bit of information from here, but I should have checked my sources more carefully.

    Really appreciate you highlighting the error for me.

    • Update – it looks like the Freestyle Mariner does have a Sync option, but the Freestyle Mariner Tide doesn’t have it. Something to be careful about when buying if this feature is important to you.

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