Mechanical calibers are fascinating things to behold. However, athletes and those with active lifestyles often wonder whether the delicate gears and components can withstand a workout. Well, the answer is not so straightforward: it depends.
Theoretically, any semi-modern watch should be able to handle the strain of most popular sports. However, there are a few risks you should be aware of.
Risk 1: Shocks
Shocks and jolts can cause watch mechanics to fall out of sync, which eventually leads to inaccuracy. Sports that involve extreme jolts and centrifugal force, such as tennis or golf, are particularly challenging for mechanical movements. The same goes for cycling on uneven surfaces or taking a tumble on the slopes.
An accidental knock against a dumbbell or coming into contact with a ball can likewise have negative impacts on your watch. For example, if you happen to hit the crown against a weight, the winding stem and/or seal can be damaged. If your dial is covered in sapphire glass, you run the additional risk of splintering the watch glass upon serious impact. While sapphire glass is more scratch-resistant, softer Plexiglass or laminated glass faces are a safer bet in terms of cracking. Back in the 1930s, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced a revolutionary solution to deal with this very problem: the Reverso. The main body of its case was reversible and could simply be flipped over when needed.
Moreover, you should be sure that your watch case is well secured to the band. If a spring bar were to break on impact, your case would be left to its own devices. NATO bands are some of the best options in terms of a secure hold.
Risk 2: Moisture
Everyone knows that your watch needs a higher level of water resistance for water sports such as sailing, swimming, or diving. However, it’s also a good idea to make sure your watch is well protected against moisture during endurance sports, e.g., jogging, interval training, or weight lifting, where sweat can become an issue. In most cases, 30 m (98 ft, 3 bar) of water resistance is sufficient, but if you want to play it safe, you’d be better off with a watch with at least 100 m (328 ft, 10 bar) of water resistance. With that level of protection, you could even go for a worry-free swim.
Which models are suitable for the gym?
There are a number of mechanical watches that are suitable for use at the gym. The German watch manufacturer Sinn is a specialist in durable watches. They developed their extra-tough EZM mission timer watches with firefighters, rescue teams, and marine divers in mind.
The EZM 13 makes a great sports watch thanks to its practical chronograph function. The unidirectional rotating bezel features minute indices, making it easy to keep track of time intervals both underwater or at the gym. The EZM 13 can also withstand temperatures ranging from -48ºF to 176ºF (-45°C to 80°C) and is water resistant to 500 m (1640 ft, 50 bar). Moreover, this timepiece is shock-resistant according to the DIN ISO 1413 standard. The crown and chronograph push-pieces are located on the left side of the case, meaning you can move your wrist freely without the crown pressing into the back of your hand if you wear the watch on your left.
Timepieces from Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Richard Mille have also proven themselves as worthy sports watches. The Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal swears by the brand and regularly wears their watches on the court. Richard Mille uses a special alloy of carbon and quartz for the case material, making the watches both lightweight and durable. This material underscores the futuristic appearance of many models. The movements used in the RM-27 series feature a tourbillon and, according to the manufacturer, can handle blows with over 5,000 g of force. Not even Nadal’s fierce forehand can harm this watch.
Rolex models like the Submariner, Explorer, and Daytona are the epitome of luxury sports watches and have truly shaped the genre. The watches have been updated and improved over the decades but have always been revered for their robustness and reliability. Newer models feature proprietary developments such as the Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorber, which protect the watch from jolts to a large degree. The tried and trusted Oyster case has a screw-down case back, screw-down crown, and sophisticated sealing system that shields the watch from moisture. Technology aside, these watches are true design classics and will certainly make a statement when worn at the gym.
The Omega Seamaster and Speedmaster enjoy similar cult status. Speedmaster watches, in particular, are considered classic sports watches. The Speedmaster Professional model has been part of NASA’s official equipment for decades and is known as the first watch to land on the Moon. The Seamaster models, such as the Diver 300M or Planet Ocean 600M, are also beloved for their durability and precision – by water sports fans and beyond.
In short, if you want to wear a mechanical watch while playing sports, make sure whatever watch you choose is well protected against shocks, sufficiently water resistant, and housed in a durable case. If you’d prefer to avoid the risks, there is an alternative: Simply purchase a robust quartz timepiece or one of the many fitness watches now on the market. Compact smartwatches have the advantage of displaying your pulse rate, the number of calories burned, and distance covered in addition to the time.