What to consider when buying a compass watch

First published: 20-06-2017

What to consider when buying a compass watch


Anyone who regularly spends time camping, hiking, or simply exploring the outdoors would benefit from the convenience of a compass watch. If you ever get lost a reliable compass watch can point you back home.

Accurate compass watches are an investment, so it's important to choose the perfect one for you and your requirements. To help you decide, it's best to get an idea of some of the best compass watches out today and their key features.

Digital vs. analogue compass watches

There are two primary types of compass watches available: digital and analogue.

Digital compass watches use a sensor to gauge direction but the degree of error can be wide - approximately plus or minus 11 degrees. This means that you should only consider a digital compass if you're not solely relying on the watch to navigate you, and it's far more suitable for casual users.

Analogue compass watches use the Earth's magnetic field and have a degree of accuracy plus or minus 1 or 2 degrees, making it far more reliable. They are also more difficult to use, so can be off- putting for those who are only just starting to learn about navigation, but shouldn't cause a problem for anyone familiar with using a traditional compass.

Extra compass watch features

Few compass watches purely feature a compass and the time. But, the more features, the higher the price of the watch, so it's important to consider what you will realistically use the watch for to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.

Compass watches are suitable for those who like to hike, and may track and display steps taken, miles travelled. They could also include GPS connectivity to map your route.

Professional compass watches can include activity tracking that's catered to outdoor endurance training, as well as offering personalised feedback and coaching plans. Helpful for those interested in intensive endurance races that can see participants cycling, running, swimming, hiking and tackling obstacles over a long distance.
Aesthetics and detailing

How a compass watch looks, feels and operates should be an important consideration. Their extra functionality can make them bulky, but some models are slimmer than others. You may want a model that doesn't restrict or hinder movement if you'll be active. This can be a concern for women and men with slim wrists especially.

Some compass watches are available with touch screen functionality, like on a smart watch. Others will feature physical buttons, allowing you to cycle through features on the watch face. Choosing between the two will often come down to personal preference.


Finally, consider the strap or bracelet. Many endurance compass watches will come with a rubber strap (like the Tissot Men's T-TOUCH II watch above), helping to make the device water resistant, which is perfect for activity, but may not be the best choice for continuous daily wear. Leather is a great option for those who hike but don't plan to get wet, while metal bracelets are ideal for anyone who wants a compass watch that looks like a traditional timepiece.

The best compass watches: Our picks

The types and prices of compass watches can vary tremendously. We've compiled a selection of our favourites at all price points, to help you find the perfect compass watch for you.

  • Budget compass watch, around '100: Timex Intelligent Quartz

This beautiful compass watch by Timex - the Intelligent Quartz watch for men - hides an array of features behind a sleek exterior. Featuring a digital compass styled like a traditional compass, the watch also monitors high and low tide, water and air temperature, and Timex's own INDIGLO night mode, making the watch easy to read during day or night.

  • Mid-range compass watch, under '200: Casio Pro Trek

Casio has been leading the multi-function watch market for years, and continues to create watches that are affordable, easy to use, and useful.

The Casio Men's Pro Trek includes a digital compass along with altitude information, thermometer, multi band 6 radio control and tide graph display, among a whole host of other features. Ideal for the keen outdoorsman, whose focus is exploration on land and sea, rather than endurance and physical performance.

  • Premium compass watch, over '500: Suunto Spartan Ultra

Suunto's unisex Spartan Ultra watch is the must-have device for endurance athletes. Created and tested in the harshest conditions in Finland, this is a compass watch up to any challenge. The digital compass is supported by GPS and FusedAlti to provide accurate results, alongside more than 80 activity modes, a colour touchscreen, temperature and water resistance, training insights, and so much more. This is the ideal compass watch for any man or woman undertaking an outdoor fitness challenge.

Choosing a compass watch doesn't have to leave you feeling lost. Simply consider what features and purpose the watch will have, and explore the variety of compass watches on offer to find your perfect piece.


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