If you are anything like me, you have seriously considered what you would do in a survival situation on a deserted island. Do I ever anticipate being in this situation? Well no, but as a dedicated lover of the survivalist genre (from Robinson Crusoe to Castaway), I do take the time to ponder such issues. Likely or not, it makes for good conversation, and an interesting tactical decision, thinking about what watch would be perfect. Let’s see what some of the considerations you need to take when choosing your island adventure watch. You’ll need a rugged, long lasting watch, with functions that will be helpful during everyday endeavors.
Under the most dire of scenarios, you are going to be stuck on this island for a long time, perhaps even forever. You can never anticipate what is going to happen to your watch, but you want something that can take just about anything, keep running, and provide you with as much flexibility as possible. This is not a job for a fashion watch, or even your base level diving watch. You’ll need something to survive; sand, water, heat, cold, moisture, shock, and years of constant use. Further, you need something easy to use and reliable. If it is losing too many minutes, or if it stops working, it is just another island trinket, or fishing weight.
Because watches these days tell you so much more than the time, you should probably focus on a watch with other features. The watches I will list each do more than just tell the time and date. Some of the most desirable functions are; a chronograph, temperature gauge, tide graph, equation of time, moon phase, GMT indicator, perpetual calendar, and a rotating bezel. Next, there is the distinction between an automatic and quartz movement. If the watch needs a battery, it is a bad option. Batteries run out, and then the watch is useless to you, unless the right type of batteries seem to wash shore often enough. The only type of quartz movements which are even feasible are those which are solar powered (such as the Citizen Eco-Drive, or certain Casio watches), or movement powered (Seiko Kinetic or Spring Drive). There are a few such quartz watches, but perhaps they cannot stand up to the powerful mechanical automatic watches. On the other hand, a completely digital watch has no moving parts. If the case is study enough, it can take almost any amount of beating. This is a plus compared to mechanical watches with delicate insides.
In terms of the automatic mechanical movement, you have an mechanical movement that winds automatically when you wear the watch. This means that you need to be wearing the watch most all the time to ensure that it is accurate, otherwise the watch will stop. There will be deviations however, and it is impossible for almost any watch to remain fully accurate. Even the best mechanical movements lose or gain a couple of seconds each month. Unless you have some very accurate sundials, it will be difficult to maintain the right time over a period of years. Which brings up two good points. One, that you should have a sundial. They are easy to make as long as you can accurately mark the circle around the stick which draws the shadow. Using this in conjunction with a wrist watch will help you ensure your time keeping is accurate. The second point this brings up is that you most likely do not need a watch that is so accurate. While it would be nice to know when 10am is each day, what is more important is being able to measure time intervals, not the time itself. Life on an island is contingent on many things which have cycles, from tides, to weather, and wind cycles. It is important to able and measure long measurements in time to allow you to anticipate what your actions ought to be; when to fish, when to set sail, when it will rain. This does not mean that your watch needs to have a full calendar, but you need to have the ability to measure out the days and months in preparation for daily or seasonal changes. This can most likely be done by combining some system of marking a makeshift calendar with your watch in indicating the passage of the days and months.
You are going to be in the water, a lot. Whether it is swimming, bathing, rain, or just sweating. You watch needs to withstand all of this. Watches with diving in mind are a good idea because they anticipate this and will be the best job of keeping the elements out of your watch. Further, diving watches are known for being rugged. More so than most pilot watches, which can provide lots of information, but don’t always take that much abuse.
So, let’s get on to some watches I think would do a good job in helping the island lifestyle. This is by no means a complete list, and you are encouraged to bring up your own suggestions and thoughts. Remember, for this exercise, price is no consideration, but the choices below range for several hundred dollars to many thousands.
Kobold Polar Surveyor
Kobold watches are getting very popular for their ability to take a beating and look good in the process. An American company, Kobold seeks to outfit adventurers and enthusiasts alike with top quality watches. The Kobold Polar Surveyor is an excellent example of the best type of mechanical watch to have on an island. The modified Valjoux 7750 movement provides you with a calendar, chronograph, GMT (for second timezone), as well as AM/PM indicator. With this watch you can go anywhere and beat the thing up while still being able to rely on accurate time keeping. For over $5000 (for most models), it is pricey, but a wonderful watch that ought to see you through the years. Down side is that it doesn’t have the functions of the digital models, but you still have a lot to work with. Kobold watches are getting very popular for their ability to take a beating and look good in the process. An American company, Kobold, seeks to outfit adventurers and enthusiasts alike with top quality watches. The Kobold Polar Surveyor is an excellent example of the best type of mechanical watch to have on an island. The modified Valjoux 7750 movement provides you with a calendar, chronograph, GMT (for second timezone), as well as AM/PM indicator. With this watch you can go anywhere and beat the thing up while still being able to rely on accurate time keeping. For over $5000 (for most models), it is pricey, but a wonderful watch that ought to see you through the years. Down-side is that it doesn’t have the functions of the digital models, but you still have a lot to work with. koboldwatch.com
When you want a do-it-all digital watch, the Casio Pathfinder series is where to go. Early models suffered from being battery drainers and not rugged enough. Then Casio decided to make them solar powered and built of titanium. The result are very useful watches that are meant to be taken out into the wilderness, or beyond. Included in this watch are full calendars for over 100 years, multiple alarms, digital compass, thermometer, barometer, and altimeter. This watch might be a top pick due to all the features, solar power generation and the titanium case. Only time will tell whether it can stand up to the elements, as parts of it are still made of plastic. Newer Pathfinders continue to push the limits of what Casio can pack in a watch case. Watch for newer Casio Pathfinder watches to have more features, be more autonomous, and of course more rugged. Still, they are a very reasonably priced watch, which implies that enough of the watch can be beat up, if put to the test.
The finest thing out of Casio is the MR-G series of watches, which use an amazing process which applies a DLC (diamond-like compound) to the surfaces of the watch. DLC is supposed to be one of the strongest materials you can put on something not only to make it tough, but also amazingly scratch resistant. This process makes this Casio more expensive that most at almost $1000, but it is worth it if you need total durability. The MR-G also features a solar powered quartz movement with tons of useful functions such as a calendar, chronograph, alarms, and more. The MR-G does not have as many features as a the Pathfinder, but it is certainly more solidly built. A great choice as long as you can be sure the quartz movement and internal computer will last.
Citizen Attesa Eco-Drive
For the marooned pilot or mathematician, this is a great choice. The Citizen Attesa is a highly function quartz watch with Citizen’s Eco-Drive movement, so the sun will power the battery for a long time. Although solar powered watches are a good bet, you still need to worry about the lifetime of the battery, and the ability on the watch to collect solar rays. If the face of the watch gets too obscured, then it might not be able to collect enough light. In addition to offering world time, multiple clocks, alarms, calendars, and more, this watch has a rotating slide rule bezel for making a variety of calculations, that is if you know how to use it. A nice feature here is also the inclusion of a battery meter. Only question is if it is strong enough for a lifetime of foraging and diving on an Island, even though most models are titanium or DLC (diamond like carbon) coated like the Casio MR-G. Frankly the Citizen Attesa is an awesome watch with an underwhelming name. Chances are, if you have one of these, it will serve you well for years.
Sinn 757 UTC
WatchTime magazine recently referred to this watch as having super strength. Sinn is known for making the ultimate in rugged mechanical time instruments. Almost no one can match the strength and sophistication that Sinn puts in a completely mechanical watch. The case and bracelet are made out of Tegimented steel which is much stronger than normal stainless steel, by many many vickers. The Sinn 757 UTC watch features the time (without seconds though), a 12 hour chronograph, and a GMT hand for a second time zone. That with the rotating bezel makes it a nicely featured watch. Even though the watch lacks a seconds hand for the normal clock, it does have one for the chronograph if needed. Still that is something to consider when you are sitting on lone sandy beach counting the seconds away. Check for the Sinn 757 UTC on a Tegimented steel bracelet or a variety of leather straps. Sinn is also an innovator in terms of movement longevity. Utilizing special oils or oil free mechanisms, you can be sure your Sinn watch will last. In fact, one goal of the company is to create a virtually maintenance free mechanical watch. Good news for years of isolation.
IWC Top Gun Pilot Double Chronograph
A perennial favorite among celebrities is the IWC Pilot watch series. Why do they prefer this IWC? The latest uses the Top Gun name, and features a logo from the movie on the rear of the case. Don’t be fooled by the gimmicky movie tie-in, this is a serious watch and at over $10,000, it certainly is only for the serious watch lover or adventurer. But you do get a lot for your money. IWC has a strong reputation for making very durable and attractive watches, especially their military and pilot watches, that exude wonderful simplicity and precision for its purpose. Here you have a double chronograph, meaning you can measure two time intervals at once, this is also called a ratrappante. You also have a day of the week and date indicator, along with the basic time telling functions. The IWC Top Gun Double Chronograph is on this list for being one of the most aggressively durable mechanical watches on the market that has a reputation for reliability. Most will agree that this watch will run perfectly for 50 year or more, lifetimes with proper maintenance. Throw it around, dive with it, admire its good looks, and rely on for live saving temporal functions.
Rolex GMT Master II (Rolex Submariner)
The Rolex is the most expensive watch on this list ($8,000-$20,000 depending on metals used) and does the least, but you get to know you’ve got a Rolex when you are living the spartan life eating coconuts and roots. Instantly recognizable for what it is, the Rolex GMT Master II takes the classic Rolex Submariner watch and adds a GMT hand for a second time zone, and gold if you are lucky (even the hands are made of white gold, if you can tell). You can use the rotating bezel to measure times of up to an hour, and it can take you deep underwater with is admirable depth rating (Rolex did invent the water resistant Oyster case). The bezel is now made of ultra-hard ceramic to ensure no scratches, this watch is sure to take a beating an still look good if you manage to build a bar or lounge out of washed up debris. This watch is for the confidant castaway. When you don’t think you need the functions the other watches provide, and wish to tell stories upon your (hoped) rescue of how it was just you and “the Rolex” out there battling the elements. You can always trade it for safe passage back to civilization on a passing ship. Keep one in your luggage at all times.
There is so much to think about when it comes to planning your island getaway (forever). Good thing you get to choose your trusted timepiece (at least in this article you do). The biggest unknown is what time will bring as you lounge or suffer your days away. Your watch could break, or stop working, or worse yet, start and stop working without you noticing, so you just get confused. Your watch can be your best friend, and you’ll use it often given all your daily chores. Getting creative with using your watch is the key, and hopefully you can figure out how to use the slide-rule bezel. Don’t forget to read the manual before you get shipwrecked. So what would you do? What watch sounds best to bring, what other options would you add to the list? Comment now and let the world know.