Hardly a day goes by without some mention of the thrill and excitement of extreme sports. These activities almost exclusively involve great risks due to speed, height, and physical exertion – and most require highly specialized gear, including a watch. This isn’t anything new; there is a long history of watches made to withstand extreme conditions.
Iconic Watches in Extreme Conditions
It all began with classic diving watches designed to perform under extreme conditions. In 1953, the very first professional diving watches were introduced: the iconic Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and the legendary Rolex Submariner.
The 1950s were also the era of mountaineering expeditions. One of the most famous was the conquering of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. It’s still up for debate which timepiece Hillary was actually wearing on the top of Everest. Was it a Rolex Oyster Perpetual or a Smiths A409? Regardless, it’s one of the greatest watch stories ever.
Last but not least is the racing chronograph – a sports watch developed to withstand high-speed conditions. Once again, the 1950s saw the release of the world’s most famous racing chronographs with the Omega Speedmaster and the Rolex Daytona leading the way.
Looking back, these popular classic mechanical watch models have clearly laid the foundation for all the extreme sports watches out there today.
Mechanical vs. Digital
The introduction of quartz and digital watches led to a shift in the options available for extreme sports. These watches are lighter and more accurate than mechanical watches, and they boast more functions to help in the most challenging conditions, making them well suited to the variety of extreme sports around today.
More recently, smartwatches have entered the arena. Though several tech companies tried making smartwatches in the past, it’s only been in the last ten years that they have really caught on. The Apple Watch is easily the most popular watch in the category.
Different Functions for Different Conditions
Mechanical watches boast a series of mechanical complications that are helpful in extreme conditions. These include numerous timekeeping functions, alarms, astronomical complications, thermometers, barometers, compasses, and altimeters – quite an impressive list of purely mechanical functions.
When it comes to digital watches, the possibilities expand greatly. A digital watch can have all the functions of a mechanical watch and more. These watches can feature multiple time zones, multiple alarms, weather forecasts, air pressure indicators, storm alarms, calculators, and fitness functions. And the list doesn’t stop there.
Smartwatches are the next step. They are not limited to the features and functions that require physical components. Smartwatches are all about connectivity. The apps can provide you with practically any information you want to know.
Three Watches for Extreme Sports
We have chosen one watch from each of the three groups that we think is perfectly suited for extreme adventures.
Mechanical: Richard Mille RM 50-03
Richard Mille is known for pushing the limits of mechanical watchmaking. Their watches are defined by their cutting-edge technology, remarkable designs, and ability to survive under extreme conditions.
The brand has had several partnerships with famous Formula 1 teams and drivers, including with McLaren. This cooperation resulted in the RM 50-03. It is the world’s lightest split-seconds tourbillon chronograph and can be seen on the wrists of McLaren Formula 1 drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. The RM 50-03 weighs just 38 grams and is built to withstand the great pressures and speeds of the sport.
Richard Mille used titanium, carbon fiber, and an entirely new case material called Graph TPT® on this watch. Graph TPT® is a mixture of carbon and graphene, making it extremely lightweight and incredibly tough. The manual tourbillon movement features hours, minutes, a 30-minute counter, power reserve, torque and function indicators, and a split-seconds chronograph that allows you to measure lap and race times.
The RM 50-03 will set you back around $1 million and only 75 pieces were ever produced – talk about exclusive!
Digital: Casio G-Shock Mudmaster GWG1000-1A
The name G-Shock has been linked to extreme sports for a long time. The ultimate G-Shocks are found in the Master of G series, which features some of the craziest watches for extreme conditions.
Mudmaster watches are part of the Master of G series. These timepieces are built to withstand the most extreme conditions you can find on land. The current top-of-the-line Mudmaster is the GWG1000-1A. It features an extensive list of functions that can help get you out of any difficult situation.
The watch features a mud-resistant case, meaning nothing will stop it from working. The functions are too plentiful to list here, but it’s solar-powered so it always works and radio-controlled so it always displays the correct local time.
The Mudmaster also comes with a triple sensor mechanism that functions as a digital compass, barometer, altimeter, and thermometer. It also has a world time function, five different daily alarms, stopwatch functions, and an automatic LED light display. If this watch can’t get the job done, you have a problem. The Mudmaster GWG1000-1A is available for upwards of $750.
Smartwatch: TAG Heuer Connected
While TAG Heuer is known for their mechanical watches, they have successfully entered the world of smartwatches with the TAG Heuer Connected. The best Connected for extreme sports is the version with a titanium case and black rubber strap. It is light, has a sleek look, and can provide a ton of information to boost your performance.
The Connected looks like a regular sports watch and has the materials and finishing of a true luxury watch. However, it is also equipped with a touchscreen display and the Wear OS™ operating system.
The pushbuttons and crown on the side of the case give you access to the different menus, apps, and functions. In addition to all the apps, the watch features GPS, a compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, and heart rate monitor.
The list price of the TAG Heuer Connected in all black is $2,350. This will get you a serious luxury smartwatch that proves the traditional watch world and tech world can blend together seamlessly.