If you believe solar watches occupy a less stylish and more purpose-driven horological segment, then it’s likely you haven’t taken a look at the growing selection of great solar-powered watches out there these days. Some of the best solar watches for men don’t even look like they could possibly be juiced up by the sun’s rays, much less anything unconventional. But there are some distinct advantages to solar watches, the least of which might just be their sheer affordability when compared to mechanical automatics.
How Do Solar Watches Work?
A solar watch is essentially a quartz timepiece powered by light that’s converted to electronic energy which is then stored in a capacitor that continually gets recharged as long as there is a light source. Typically, the solar panel or cell is the watch dial itself or is located somewhere on the face of the timepiece. Although the capacitor looks like a standard button watch battery, it’s actually more of a rechargeable battery that stores energy from the sun. The watch taps into that power, and both sunlight (even on a cloudy day) as well as artificial light continually replenish that stored energy.
How Long Do Solar Watches Last?
While the exact length of time a solar watch will last on one charge depends on the brand and specific model, the technology is impressive all around. You can rightfully expect at least 30 days at a minimum on a single charge, with some lasting six months and beyond. In other words, more than enough time for you to wear it out once and not bring it into rotation again until you’ve worn every other watch you have a couple of times.
Since solar watches are quartz (as opposed to mechanical automatics), their accuracy is actually even better than quartz because the capacitor is continually being charged versus operating on power that’s continually dwindling. They’re also less taxing on the environment because they use long-lasting capacitors that may need to be replaced every 3 to 5 years, versus almost annually for standard quartz watches. There are also no parts that need to be cleaned or repaired like mechanical movements, with the exception of ensuring the gasket is maintained or replaced when capacitors are changed out.
Speaking of servicing, it’s not difficult to change out a solar-powered watch capacitor, and doing it yourself means you can extend the life of your solar watch by years. Most analog solar watches have a feature that signals the need for an additional charge. The second hand will jump two seconds at a time, versus the usual one-second interval. This signifies that the capacitor needs to be charged. If it has received sufficient light but continues to do this, that means the existing capacitor can no longer properly hold a change. All you need to do is purchase your model’s capacitor, which can easily be found on the web. Typically, you’ll only need a screwdriver, a caseback tool, and forceps, as well as a new capacitor and gasket. The work should take no more than ten minutes, and you don’t need to take it to a jeweler. Keep in mind, you’ll only need to do this every few years, which is a huge plus for solar versus traditional quartz.
Is a Solar Watch For You?
If you’re always on the go, and you adhere to a tight schedule, you may want to consider a solar watch. Solar-powered watches are about as low maintenance as a watch can get. And they’re very accurate and generally thinner due to the absence of a mechanical movement. There are also very few moving parts, which minimizes failure. If you’re reluctant because you question the technology, take heart that brands like Casio, Citizen, and Seiko have been making solar watches for decades, and they’ve proven themselves to be reliable, accurate, and quite affordable. These are great brands to start with, and they all provide a wide array of solar watch styles.
The Best Solar Watches for Men
Timex Men’s Expedition Scout Solar
The Expedition Scout Solar doesn’t look like an $85 watch. In fact, it’s one of the best solar watches you can buy for under $100. The solar field watch has a black coated brass case, lumed hands and Arabic numerals, as well as four months of juice on a full charge. The dark grey dial looks great with the darkened case, and the leather strap means it’ll complement most casual outfits with ease. It’s a handsome solar-powered watch that can dress up or down.
Buy Now $85
Citizen Eco-Drive Solar Weekender
The Weekender draws its style inspiration from pilot watches, as evidenced by the dark Flieger dial, sword hands, and crisp Arabic numerals. The case’s stylized lugs and the three-numeral date window add flair. The big 45mm case makes telling the time a cinch, and the large dial drinks in the suns rays to charge the lithium-ion capacitor for months of operation even in total darkness.
Buy Now $152
Vaer D4 Meridian USA Solar Diver
What better watch style to get powered by the sun than a dive watch? Vaer nails the segment with a bona fide 200-meter dive watch that’s 100 percent assembled in America and 100 percent solar. The dark blue dial and bezel capture the ocean depths, and the gold-trimmed hands make it look truly premium. Don’t be afraid the get in the drink with it because it has a tough sapphire crystal and a screw-down crown. It even comes with a dive-ready rubber Tropic strap and your choice of a dressy bracelet, a practical nylon Nato, or a stylish leather strap.
Buy Now $439
The Light-Wave isn’t just solar, it’s also sustainable and stylish. It makes use of recycled ocean plastic in the streamlined case, and an Epson solar-powered quartz movement makes batteries obsolete. It’s capped off by mineral crystal glass, and even the lightweight strap is made from recycled ocean plastic. Keep in mind that its 36mm diameter might be too small for bigger wrists, but it’s just right for the rest of us.
Buy Now $150
Momentum Steelix Eclipse Steel Solar Watch
Big, bold numerals and fresh color options separate this solar field watch from the rest of the pack. The Steelix Eclipse has a layered dial that adds depth to the view, and the 44mm stainless steel case has a crown at the 4 o’clock position for added comfort on the wrist. The durable sapphire glass and available nylon Zulu strap mean this is a solar watch that doesn’t need to be handled with kid gloves.
Buy Now $210
Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000GD
If you’re in search of a murdered-out, digital solar-powered watch, then look no further. This Japanese market version is clad in all black stainless steel is made for punishment with its Tough Solar and shock-resistant construction. The super illuminator LED light charges the watch’s solar battery. It also has a two-way Bluetooth time sync that works with the G-SHOCK app, and it even has Multi-Band 6 Atomic Solar Timekeeping tech that syncs up with radio signals from up to six different global transmitters. Considering it’s under $500, this is easily one of the best solar watches you can buy right now.
Buy Now $437
Seiko Solar Chronograph Diver
This bold chronograph diver with the Batman-style black and blue bezel is the real deal with 200 meters of water resistance, tough Hardlex mineral crystal, and screw-down crown and pushers that make it ready for action. White circular markers and bold hands make the dial easy to read, and the subdials fit without overcrowding the look. Finally, the Eco-Drive solar movement provides months of timekeeping on a full charge.
Buy Now $550
Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar
When you combine sporty and active in one solar analog smartwatch, this is what you get. The big 47.5mm titanium case and dark dial make time-telling and data retrieval quick and easy. Information provided on the lower third of the dial can be accessed via touch on the sapphire crystal and includes altimeter, compass, perpetual calendar, time zones, chrono splits/laps, steps, calories, and so much more. The hands and markers provide an analog reading juxtaposed with the modern tracking modes. The T-Touch Connect Solar is also anti-magnetic, and the ceramic bezel is both tough and quite premium.
Buy Now $1,150
Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Professional Diver
The Promaster has been around for years, and it’s a cult favorite. The chunky bezel on the 48mm case makes for easy ratcheting, and the big hands and markers allow quick reading. The destro crown is ideal for right-handed wear, and you can plumb the depths to 300 meters. The Eco-Drive solar power provides months of continuous operation on a single charge, and accuracy is within ±15 seconds per month. It’s a tank of a solar watch that may just outlast you.
Buy Now $595
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar Edition
The second solar smartwatch in this set is as tough and tech-y as they come. First of all, the DLC-coated titanium bezel sits atop a big 47mm fiber-reinforced polymer case. It tracks numerous types of sport activity and actual performance metrics, as well as providing GPS navigation, topographic maps, workouts, hydration tracking, heart rate, solar battery life, and even a PacePro function that provides tips to keep you on track on running course. You can access all of the Fenix 6 Pro Solar’s functionality for up to 14 days on a full charge.
Buy Now $800
Casio Edifice Chronograph
This solar chronograph looks like it belongs on the wrist of a Formula 1 driver. The real carbon fiber dial has rich texture, the fixed bezel sports an eye-catching brushed finish, and the three chrono subdials are crisp and easy to read. It’s also water-resistant to 100 meters and accurate to within ±20 seconds per month. Precision and price make this one of the best solar watches you can find.
Buy Now $170
Bering Slim Solar Watch
The Slim Solar proves a watch can be both minimalist and solar-powered at the same time. The thin IP-plated steel case is only 9mm thick so it’s shirt cuff-ready, and the matching Milanese mesh bracelet looks great and wears comfortably. The attractive dark grey dial sports markers and numerals that sit in angled relief for an artsy touch. The solar cell behind the dial uses either sunlight or low light and can run for six-to-12 months when it’s completely charged. It’s all capped off by sapphire glass, which is truly impressive for a solar watch at this price.
Buy Now $239
Fossil Minimalist Solar Stainless Steel Watch
This green dialed beauty can land on your wrist and no one will be the wiser about how little you spent. The solar-powered watch’s case shows off recycled and polished stainless steel, hardened mineral glass, and a stunning green sunray dial. The slim case and leather strap provide excellent comfort, and it even gets lumed hands and markers plus 50 meters of water resistance. You can also choose between brown, blue, and black dials in case it’s not easy being green.
Buy Now $140
Seiko Prospex SNJ025P1 “Arnie” Solar
So named for its famed wearer in the 1985 movie Commando, the Arnie is an updated version of Schwarzenegger’s original Seiko solar hybrid diver. As brash and as bold as ever, this 2019 reissue watch uses a big 46mm “tuna can” case. Its versatility comes in the form of an analog/digital hybrid dial and chrono pushers. You can dive with it to 200 meters, and it’s built to take more punishment than you can likely dole out. Time to do some bicep curls.
Buy Now $443
Casio Tough Solar Quartz
Casio is one of the brands that dominates the solar watch segment, and this rugged beast will cost you hardly anything. The big white 46.6mm resin case with matching strap is bold and both fashion and active ready. The handsome black dial is both analog and digital with 5 alarms, LED light, stopwatch, countdown timers, perpetual calendar, world time, etc. 100 meters of water resistance and the ability to weather just about anything you throw at it are just bonuses at this price.
Buy Now $65