The history of watches goes back hundreds of years, but the first solar watches are much more recent. First introduced in the 1970s, solar-powered watches provided a way of keeping time without needing to replace a battery or worry about making sure that it’s kept properly running with the momentum from your wrist. With their ability to stay powered solely by exposure to light, these watches are both more convenient and more ecologically responsible in a variety of ways. But that doesn’t mean each watch model is built equally.
We’ve found 10 of the best solar watches available in 2020, and we’ll break down their advantages below. We’ll also fill you in on some of the specs and features to keep your attention on while shopping for the best solar watch.
Quick Look: 10 Best Solar Watches in 2020
- Casio Men’s GW9400 Rangeman Solar G-Shock
- Seiko Prospex Padi Solar SNE435P1
- Casio Men’s Solar Sport Combination Watch
- Timex Men’s Expedition Ranger Solar Watch
- G-Shock Unisex G-Shock Tough Solar
- Seiko Men’s SNE331 Sport Solar Watch
- Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Promaster Navihawk Satelitte GPS Watch
- Tissot Men’s T-Touch Expert Solar Swiss Watch
- Nautica N83 Men’s Cocoa Beach Solar Watch
- BERING Time 14427-393 Women Solar Collection Watch
1. Casio Men’s GW9400 Rangeman Solar G-Shock
If you're looking for the most rough and tumble watches on the market, you can't do better than the G-Shock. Casio has created some truly rugged watches, and they manage to deliver high-quality results for a much more meager price tag than most of their competitors. The case and buttons are mud resistant, and it can take a serious hit without feeling it.
The Rangeman is a stainless steel solar watch that's designed for those who like to venture into the great outdoors and stay there. It's synced up to the atomic clock, so you can count on it to provide you with the most reliable timekeeping around, and the variety of adventure-oriented features here are some of the best available anywhere. They include an altimeter, barometer, and thermometer in addition to tracking sunrise and sunset. And Casio has done a great job of delineating the information so it's never too overwhelming.
2. Seiko Prospex Padi Solar SNE435P1
The Seiko Prospex line stands for "professional specifications", and it's an indication that Seiko is willing to meet the demands of serious business people with discerning tastes. The Prospex PADI takes those sensibilities and applies them to the standards of a diving watch. The result is a solar watch that employs a largely traditional diving design but justifies its value through the quality of its engineering.
That combination of red, white, and blue - as well as the general sensibilities of the dial and indices - will be familiar to anyone who's shopped for a dive watch before. The luminescent hands and indices are traditional of a dive watch, but the Lumbrite paint used here provides some of the best illumination possible. The Hardlex covering similarly improves on a standard function in watches. It may not be full of surprises, but this solar watch excels with practically everything it does.
3. Casio Men’s Solar Sport Combination Watch
A solar watch doesn't have to come with a high price tag, and that's perfectly demonstrated by this simple but effective watch from Casio. Available for right around $30, this solar watch may not do much new, but it meets the fundamentals with aplomb.
But the smaller touches here are worthy of note as well. The display is clear and easy to read, and the combination of luminous hands and an LED back provides you with easy access to the time even in the black of night.
The day of the week display is available in a variety of different languages, and the power indicator lets you know when you're watch battery is in need of a recharge. There's also a power saver setting you can put into effect when you're starting to get low on juice. You'll also get access to multiple daily alarms as well as a countdown timer and a stopwatch.
4. Timex Men’s Expedition Ranger Solar Watch
The Expedition Ranger from Timex is a cool looking watch through and through. It sports a slimmer design than a lot of solar watches marketed at men, and the combination of a leather band and a clean blue and orange aesthetic inspired by pilot watches lends it a timeless sense of cool that many watches strive for but few achieve.
This solar watch may not be as durable as the G-Shock or as feature rich as the Prospex PADI, but it's still no slouch. It comes with a two month power reserve that makes it great for use at night or in the water, and it's water resistant enough to be used in the shower or while swimming. And this is a Timex, so you can trust on it to "take a licking and keep on ticking" thanks to the quality materials used in every aspect of its construction.
5. G-Shock Unisex G-Shock Tough Solar
It should come as little surprise that the Casio G-Shock line shows up more than once on our list for the top solar watches of 2020, but this model offers the quality features (most notably the high shock resistance) G-Shock is known for at a fraction of the price of the Rangeman. But about $100 gets you one of the toughest and most rugged designs around, along with a decent range of watch features that should be enough to satisfy weekend warriors comfortably.
This solar watch sports a sleek, chrome design with three subdials built in for tracking the day and functioning stopwatches and split timers. Everything is clean and easy to read despite the density of information available, and Casio ties everything together with a multi-band system that can more reliably offer atomic timekeeping no matter where in the world you are. A powerful LED helps you tell the time even in the darkest of night.
6. Seiko Men’s SNE331 Sport Solar Watch
This solar watch from Seiko is a great watch for $200, but it turns into one of the best deals around when you take into account the fact that it's currently half on at Amazon. The stenciled numbers look great while also providing a clean way to read the time. That combination of black and off white on the display looks positively great, and when complemented with the beige nylon strap, it lends a look that nicely straddles the line between casual and professional.
And despite the fact that this is more of a dress watch than a survival watch, it's no shrinking violet. This solar-powered watch has a 10 month power reserve when fully charged, and it features a Hardlex surface for the dial that will keep your watch protected far better than what you'd get from a more traditional mineral crystal dial.
7. Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Promaster Navihawk Satelitte GPS Watch
In the same way that G-Shock technology set a new standard for how durable a watch can be, the Citizen Eco-Drive technology set new standards for what an ecologically friendly solar watch can look like. But there's a lot more going on with the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster than just a powerful solar battery. In fact, it can be pretty overwhelming at a glance. Deep layers of numbers and dials cover practically every square millimeter of the watch, but if you learn its ins and outs, it's one of the best and most comprehensive tools you can wear on your wrist.
Tying together most of the important features on the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster are its GPS capabilities. That makes it one of the best choice for travelers, but it also lends a lot of utility to the rotating bezel which shows you the time in various time zones and the trio of different chronographs built right in.
8. Tissot Men’s T-Touch Expert Solar Swiss Watch
When the Tissot T-Touch was first released, it was a revelation. The idea of a computer packed into a watch may seem quaint today, but the current T-Touch does the best job of blending together the aesthetics and sensibilities of a traditional watch with the expectations of a modern smartwatch. The inclusion of an altimeter, barometer, and compass makes it a great choice for the outdoors, but its blending of modern and traditional aesthetics means that it will work just as well around the office.
The simplicity here is a great bonus. If all you want is to tell the time, the inclusion of easy to read analog hands can help with that, and the main functions are reserved for a visible but unobtrusive digital display. By rotating the bezel, you can access all of the core features. It's also covered by sapphire crystal, so you don't have to worry about the face taking damage. In a world where outdoor watches tend to be cluttered, this wristwatch is a refreshing exception.
9. Nautica N83 Men’s Cocoa Beach Solar Watch
Nautica understands that sometimes simpler is better. If you don't want to spend hours learning how to juggle the timekeeping in 48 cities or figure out how complicated chronograph dials work, the Cocoa Beach solar wristwatch offers a clean and streamlined alternative to some of the more complicated models available. Its sleek and minimalist design is available in a range of different colors, and any one of them can be picked up for less than a hundred bucks.
But if you want a more streamlined diving watch, all the core functionality is here. The rotating bezel has a satisfying heft to it that won't slip, and the luminescent surface of both the window and the hands make reading the time underwater a very painless process. And the adjustable nylon band is designed to feel comfortable on just about every wrist.
10. BERING Time 14427-393 Women Solar Collection Watch
Men's watches tend to dominate the market, so it's always refreshing to see a women's watch that blends together great style with a level of reliable functionality. Bering's watch makes the grade in both regards. Despite utilizing a blue color scheme throughout, it finds a nice sense of variety thanks to the different textures used across the band, case, and face, and the decision to place crystals at the key indices creates a more minimalist design that's sure to stand out.
The build quality here is solid all across the board. It's protected fully by sapphire crystal glass, so it affords you a level of protection that goes well beyond more traditional mineral glass, and those aforementioned crystal accents are sourced from Swarovski. It's also slim and lightweight - perfectly designed for female wrists - and offers a power reserve of anywhere from 6 to 12 months on a single solar charge.
Solar Watch Buyer’s Guide
We’ve already covered the specifics you should look for in different watches exhaustively, and we highly recommend that you read our guides to the best dive watches and sports watches if you want some more information on the best specs and features to pay attention to when looking for watches in general. In this guide, we’ll break down some of the most common misconceptions customers face when first shopping for solar powered watches and highlight which of the 10 solar watches in our list are best suited to different types of lifestyles.
The Advantages of a Solar Powered Watch
So why should you look at solar powered watches rather than the variety of other models on the market? There are two primary reasons to invest in this type of watch: their convenience and their positive impact on the environment. Despite being powered by solar energy, a solar powered watch can work day and night, and they usually offer a pretty substantial power reserve so you don’t have to dedicate a few hours every day to charging your solar watch. On a single charging cycle, a decent solar watch will provide you with months of use, and they can be powered by either a natural or artificial light source. That makes this technology the perfect choice for highly active consumers.
But a solar power watch can also reduce the negative impact that you have on the environment. This technology is self sustaining, and that means that you don’t have to replace batteries that will only end up being sent to the landfill. If you’re worried about the technology you use facilitating the destruction of the environment, choosing to wear this type of watch can provide you with an easy solution that doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality or features.
The Best Option for Globetrotters
Jumping from time zone to time zone can be a disorienting process for even the most experienced travelers, but that’s a problem that can be remedied through the inclusion of GPS technology. With proper GPS, you can trust that your watch will always be synced up to where you are, but you should also look to wristwatches that can track the time all around the world.
In terms of travel features, there’s no wristwatch quite as exhaustive as the Citizen Promaster Navihawk. The full range of features packed into the display here can be frankly dizzying, but once you learn its ins and outs, the display will serve as a powerful source for a whole range of important information.
The Best Options for Outdoor Adventurers
If you want a watch that’s built for use with outdoor activities (particularly if you find yourself wanting to hit the trail for weeks or months at a time), the most practical choice is a watch that features an “ABC” triple sensor design. This is short hand for watches that include an altimeter, barometer, and compass. These features are perfect for hitting the trail and not getting lost, and they can be used to plan your day each and every day.
With that in mind, it’s hard to pass up the G-Shock Rangeman. The G-Shock series products are some of the most durable around, and this model comes with the ideal features you’d hope to find when you’re out and about while still being affordable. That makes it the ideal pick if you want a watch you can take with you into the wild.
The Best Options for the Gym
Solar wristwatches can be a great choice for the gym or any typical activities, but what you’re looking for will vary a bit depending on how serious your demands are. Some level of water resistance is good so you can exercise without worrying about rain or sweat (though you don’t need to worry about high levels of water resistance unless you’re planning on doing water sports), but daily alarms and a stopwatch are far more important, because they allow you to better track your activities. We also generally suggest a watch with a smaller diameter so it can fit more comfortably on your wrist during high exertion activities.
For this type of watch, Seiko serves up the SNE331. It has a battery life of 10 months, a day and date window, and a relatively high water-resistant rating that makes it a top choice regardless of what activities you’re planning on getting into.
The Best Options for Divers
We’ve already put together a guide for the top diving watches of 2020, but if you want a solar watch that can also work for scuba diving, there are just a few things to keep in mind. You want a wristwatch that can work at up to 660 feet (or 200 meters), that offers a bright display and luminous hands for reading the display in darker water, and a unidirectional bezel in lieu of a traditional stopwatch.
With that in mind, we recommend the Seiko Prospex PADI, which has been certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Its Japanese quartz movement is reliable, and it manages to take the traditional aesthetics of a diving watch and tweak them in some interesting ways to create a wristwatch model that’s as visually appealing as it is functional for diving.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do Solar Watches Last?
A solar watch doesn’t rely on just the sun to keep powered. It can run on practically any light source, and the power reserve allows you to wear it for months at a time even if (for some reason) you don’t find yourself out during the day. In terms of more long term usage, any solar watch worth your time can last you a good decade, but most models will retain as much as 80% of its power charging features after two decades. In other words, you may see a drop off in efficiency after a number of years, but a decent solar watch will provide you with reliable light source charging for a lifetime.
Are Solar Powered Watches Any Good?
Some of the top watches on the market use a solar power source. The Citizen Eco-Drive system is one of the most well respected features used in the wristwatch market, and Citizen isn’t the only major manufacturer to throw their hat in the ring. Seiko, Tissot, and Casio also offer a rich selection of watches with solar features that can stand the test of time.
Does Rolex Make Solar Watches?
Luxury manufacturer Rolex currently doesn’t offer a watch that features solar technology, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of great models available. If you want a solar watch that blends together key features with a luxury design, you may want to turn your attention to the Tissot T-Touch. It’s an elegant choice with a whole wealth of features, and it offers significantly more functionality than what you’d find in a Rolex while still looking great.
Which is Better: Seiko Solar or Citizen Eco-Drive?
We like both models, and the quality can vary from model to model, but we’d generally recommend the Citizen Eco-Drive. They tend to be a little cheaper, and Citizen was the company that revolutionized the solar watch market. But today’s catalogs offer pretty comparable results between a Citizen Eco-Drive and Seiko solar watch. From the features available to the crystal used and water resistance in their models, they tend to be pretty well matched across the board.
If you’re looking for a solar watch, we’re certain that our guide can provide you with all the information yo need. Whether you want something you can wear around the office, a sport watch with a stopwatch for documenting your exercise, or a timepiece you can take with you out on the trail, there’s something here that’s going to be best suited to your needs. The Citizen Eco-Drive isn’t the only name in town anymore, and we’ve worked hard to provide you with the best variety of options available as 2020 rolls to a close.