Imbued with high-tech functionality and characterised by a rugged aesthetic, the sports watch is an essential timepiece style – whether you're a fitness fiend looking to track your activity or simply want to upgrade your look with a new accessory. Scroll on for our ultimate guide to sports watches, including our pick of the best sports watches for men.

Table of Contents

What is a sports watch?

The true definition of a sports watch is hazy, but it's widely accepted that a sports watch is highly functional, durable and water-resistant. They are generally made from heavy-duty materials like titanium, carbon or steel, to ensure they can withstand a bit of a battering without malfunctioning.

Shock resistance is also important: quartz movements are typically considered the most shock resistant, though some brands are producing mechanical field watches purpose-built for sports that are able to withstand bumps and blows.

Sports watches should also be highly legible. The last thing you want when climbing a mountain or biking over bumpy terrain is to struggle to see the time – particularly if you're dealing with harsh conditions. This means that luminous hands and markers are essential, as is clean design.

Other features to look out for include a double safety clasp (or a highly durable buckle system on non-metal watches), as well as any specific sport-related functions like an alarm, stopwatch, compass, heart rate monitor, thermometer and tide indicator (for divers).

How to wear a sports watch

The obvious way to wear a sports watch is with whatever activity-specific attire you require. Going diving? Pull on your wetsuit and slap on a dive watch. Hitting the mountain bike trails? Get your kit on – robust smartwatch included.

However, you don't have to be a sporting enthusiast to rock a sports watch. Despite what the name may imply, the wearing of sports watches certainly isn't limited to the pitch (or field, court, ring, track – you get the idea). In fact, men's sports watches have become style statements in their own right. While you may have traditionally opted for a dress watch to pair with your suit, certain sports watch styles are elegant enough to team with tailoring, à la James Bond. Or add one to your daily accessory rotation for a subtle injection of masculine ruggedness. Try teaming a sports watch with an overshirt, cargo trousers and high-top trainers for a sporty everyday look.

Best sports watches for men in 2024

NOMOS Glashütte Tangente Sport watch

Understated in style yet ultra-robust and brimming with functional features, NOMOS Glashütte's Tangente Sport is the ultimate minimalist timepiece for fashion-forward watch lovers. It boasts a super-sturdy 42-millimetre case, within which is a specially-developed neomatik date caliber. Hour indexes are made up of superluminova, for ultimate visibility in the dark and underwater.

BALTIC Watches Classic Aquascaphe Blue Gilt

French watch company BALTIC Watches marries vintage style with contemporary reliability. The label's signature Aquascaphe timepiece pays homage to the rich heritage of watchmaking, while bringing it into the modern day with innovative features. Like any good sports watch, it's scratch-resistant (thanks to a double dome sapphire glass), shockproof and capable of diving to depths of up to 200m.

Garmin Forerunner 245 watch

If you're looking for a specific watch designed especially for running, Garmin's Forerunner 245 is the perfect go-to. This clever GPS smartwatch has everything you need to stay on top of your running goals, including daily run recommendations, built-in sports apps, a heart rate monitor, and even a pulse oxygen sensor that estimates your body’s blood oxygen saturation, which can help gauge how your body is absorbing oxygen. All of this is wrapped up in a sleek and lightweight accessory that will help you look the part as you pound the pavement.

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra "Golf Edition" watch

Made for golf, but perfect for just about any occasion, Omega's Seamaster Aqua Terra "Gold Edition" is a contemporary classic that you'll reach for time and again – whether on or off the fairway. These 41mm stainless steel sports watches for men are presented on sturdy, striped NATO straps with striking horizontal "teak" pattern dials. In classic OMEGA fashion, every detail has been carefully considered – from the Co-Axial escapement for long-lasting precision, to the silicon balance spring for superior anti-magnetism.

Seiko 5 Sports SSK003 watch

Seiko's first ever 5 Sports watch – the Seiko Sportmatic 5 – was launched in 1963. Fast forward almost 60 years later and the Seiko 5 Sports collection endures as an iconic style, but only better, with a fresh new look that will be as at home in the office as in the great outdoors. With durability essential to the core design, you can expect this watch to withstand whatever adventures you have in store.

Breitling Endurance Pro IRONMAN watch

Breitling describes its Endurance Pro IRONMAN watch as "designed for men and women whose active lives blend a professional mindset with a sporty lifestyle", guaranteeing equal parts style and sturdiness. The  ultra-light case is made from a specially-developed robust material that's 3.3 times lighter than titanium and 5.8 times lighter than stainless steel, as well as highly resistant to scratches, traction and corrosion.

Discover our pick of the best men's watches for under £500.