Adrenaline, adventure and a great workout: rock climbing is the ideal sport if you like to challenge yourself and gain a whole new perspective. It´s not just you that gets challenged though, and we decided to check out which watches were up to the challenge. We also realized that we´ve focused on some seriously aspirational models recently, and that climbing is not always a safe place for heirloom watches. So, this time we´re focusing on finding the best you can get on a minimal budget, plus one example of what you can get if you really want to invest in your climbing. All contain reliable movements, so you can focus on the features not the mechanics.
To help you figure out which one is best for you, we´ve also made a list of features to look out for:
- Case Size
- Chronometer (Timer)
- Dial-display material
- Band material
- Heart rate monitor
- Altimeter and or GPS
Unfortunately, only one women´s watch made our list this time, so we have a special message for any ladies out there: if you have a better option or if you´d like us to do some more investigating then let us know in the comments!
|Climbing Watch||Size||Band||Special Features||Price Point|
|Casio Men's “Forester” FT500WVB-5BV|
|41 mm||Leather & Cloth||Backlight|
|Armitron Sport Women's 45/7012 Watch|
|Timex Men's Ironman 30 Series Watch|
|PALADA Men's T7005G Watch|
|Garmin Fenix 3 HR Watch|
|Extra large||Silicone||Chroma display|
Keep reading for a mini review on each model!
Casio Men’s “Forester” FT500WVB-5BV
Retailing at some stockists for a very reasonable price, the Casio “Forester” FT500WVB-5BV is worth considering if budget is your biggest concern.
As the price suggests, this watch is the epitome of no-frills: there are no additional features except for a date window. It has one main benefit though: the nylon and Velcro band can be custom-adjusted to your wrist size, and can also be easily removed in an emergency if the watch gets trapped. Admittedly the material is not as durable as metal or leather, but the ability to rip it off instantly may be valuable for those climbers operating in riskier situations.
You´re probably wondering how this watch can retail for much less than its competitors. As you probably guessed, the answer is the quality of the materials. The case is attached to the band with plastic (not metal) pins, which means that it´s less durable than some of its pricier competitors. Meanwhile, whilst dial is protected by a mineral-glass coating, the coating is not scratch resistant. The watch should come packaged with an adhesive protective screen, which helps, but ultimately it´s not as good as a properly-enforced glass. Likewise, the 100-meter water resistance sounds good, but ultimately we´re not sure that the materials will cope with more than a year or so of repeated submersion.
If you´re buying for a teenager, or if you want a disposable watch that can be abandoned in an emergency, then the “Forester” FT500WVB-5BV is a decent bet. Although the inner workings are reliable, the outer materials are not that durable and this is a watch that will likely need replacing after a year or two. At this price, though, it´s a reasonable buy if you plan on putting your watch in regular danger.
Armitron Sport Women’s 45/7012 Digital Chronograph
Moving on, we come to the only ladies´ watch on the list. Like the previous offering, the Armitron Sport 45/7012 Digital Chronograph is great if price is a concern, or if you´re looking for something comfortable but disposable.
Unlike our previous watch, the Armitron 45/7012 comes with a resin band and buckle. This leaves it less likely to rip off, but also harder to remove. However, the design has no edges for anything to catch on, so it´s less likely to interfere with ropes or equipment in the first place.
This model is a chronograph and it comes with a timer, or more accurately, with a stopwatch. If you´re training for competitions or measuring your own improvement then this may be useful, otherwise it´s not that essential but maybe fun. The watch can also be set to display an additional time zone, and to save and display the full date (day, month, year.) Admittedly it is quite hard to set, but most of you will only need to do this once. Finally, the screen has back—lighting but it isn´t that well-protected and can get scratched.
If you´re buying for a teenager, or if you want a cheap watch that can get damaged, then this is a fair choice. The lack of sharp edges make it less likely to catch on your equipment than many watches, and the resin band is comfortable. We´ve avoided discussing the water resistance, because whilst this watch is reportedly resistance for up to 100 meters, the flimsy materials suggest that it is not going to cope well with regular, extended submersion.
N.B. Be careful with the color choice. Although the white/rose-gold model looks good, the white band will become beige with regular exposure to the elements. If you´re into indoor bouldering then this may be okay, but we would be inclined to opt for the royal-blue, magenta or black color options.
Timex Men’s Ironman Classic 30 Series Watch
Remaining affordable, it´s time to introduce our next watch, the Timex Men’s Ironman Classic 30 Series.
With a 24-hour countdown timer, 15 special-occasion reminders and a 30-lap-memory stopwatch, this watch is great if you´re training competitively or want to measure progress. Its three alarms also come with different tones, so you can easily tell which alarm is going off if you have multiple deadlines. The only problem here is that it takes 40 seconds to reset between each lap, but this is okay for climbing.
In all honesty, the insane quantity of timers is the main reason to favor this watch. The end of the band can be slotted back into the band, so it is less likely to catch on equipment. However, it isn´t as thick as in previous Ironman models: good if you want the ability to cut the watch off if it gets caught, not so good if you want it to endure rough conditions. Similarly, the “indiglo” feature, which lets the watch remain illuminated for a few seconds after you´re touched it, is useful but it is not designed to be used daily or the back light will break. It´s fine if you want to go climbing at sunrise or sunset though.
If you´re looking to train competitively or track progress, and want a disposable watch that can keep track of lots of timings, then this watch may be for you. It´s also good if you want to climb in lower-light conditions. As before, we wouldn´t trust the water resistance: buttons are notoriously hard to water proof, and this watch has plenty.
PALADA Men’s T7005G Outdoor Waterproof Sports Watch
Compared with the other watches, the PALADA T7005G seems quite bulky. On the plus side, the large case gives it an easy-to-read dial: perfect when you´re climbing and can´t bring your hand to your face easily.
It also has a countdown timer and alarm, although there is no memory feature so it´s not so good if you want to track regular progress. There is also a date function. Meanwhile, the 50-meter water resistance leaves it splash proof, but not much else, though this is fine unless you want to go coasteering.
If you´re looking for an easy-to-read watch, then the PALADA T7005G fits the bill, and is durable too. However, do be aware that the size also means it is more likely to catch on equipment. Also, the compass on the bezel is decorative. You could manually use it to estimate your direction using the sun, but it´s a somewhat bizarre decoration more than anything else.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Watch
Finally, if you´re looking for something more luxurious then the Garmin Fenix 3 HR is a perfect way to raise your game.
With an altimeter, barometer and compass, this watch is suited for expeditions, and the heart-rate monitor takes care of your regular workouts and training. (It even has special features for other sports such as skiing and snowboarding, so you can combine your hobbies too.) There´s also a stopwatch, timer and alarm too, if you were wondering, and you can even team it with your phone´s Bluetooth and headset, to take calls on the go. The screen is easy-to-read due to the 30.4 mm display, and the sapphire-crystal casing keeps it scratch free. There are no sharp edges, so it shouldn´t catch in equipment either, and the silicone band is comfortable and durable.
Due to the heart-rate monitor, it will need regular charging every 8-10 days, so be warned if you´re going on holiday (though this feature can be turned off to save battery.) It strangely only has 100-meter water resistance too, sorry coasteerers.
In short, then if you have the money and don´t dive, this watch has no real faults. It´s on our wish list. Maybe one day…
At the end of the day, it depends on your priorities and on how and where you climb. Some readers might be put off by the bulky, easy-to-catch case of the PALADA T7005G but others might prefer a bigger dial which is easier to read without glasses. Likewise, the choice of a more durable or easier-to-remove band depends on your climbing conditions. If you have more money, then there are more luxurious options like the Garmin Fenix 3 HR out there (we wish), but we hope to have shown that finding a rock climbing watch is possible on a low budget too!