If you’ve never heard the term “beater watch”, then maybe I should start with a quick definition. A beater watch is one the owner can wear without the fear of scratching it, denting it, wetting it, losing it or otherwise devaluing it. Not all watches can make the cut.
In other words, it is an everyday watch not necessarily meant for special occasions where a more precious watch may be worn. Think of a beater watch as the one you could do yard work in or wash the car. It is the equivalent of a pair of jeans with a hole in them or a baseball cap with sweat stains on it. You are wearing it for its purpose, not to impress anyone else. The word “beater” is not meant to be a derogatory slur on a watch. In fact, it is the opposite, and some of my favorite watches are tough companions that help me do work without acting like prima donnas.
It’s a Personal Choice
Each owner has to define what a beater watch is to himself. In the old days, people often wore just one watch and it could be the beater watch, everyday watch and dress watch all rolled into one. In those cases, the owner may decide, which activities the watch could safely be worn for. I am not talking about these, but I might pick the Swiss Army Chronopro shown below if I was. Eventually, I want to own a Sinn because that brand engineers the epitome of a rugged tool watch with advanced technologies that can handle anything you throw at it (okay, maybe not a brick).
Watch collectors are different though. We tend to have a few timepieces laying around and we see them in different categories. We have the beater watches for just using as a tool. We have show-off watches that we might wear to impress other people. We have work watches that set the professional tone of required business wear, and so forth.
Beater Watches are Relative to What Else is in Your Collection
Beater watches are different things to different people. I once struck up a conversation with a man wearing a well worn Rolex Sea Dweller roughly valued anywhere from $4,000-$7,000. He told me that he wore it every day of his life even though he had even fancier watches. He was not lying either… it was encrusted with salt crystals from his sweat. It was kinda gross, but he was completely dedicated to not worrying a lick about that watch no matter the value.
That expensive watch that might have been the crown jewel of someone else’s collection was his everyday “do-anything” watch. He might have mentioned that his dress watch was a Patek Philippe so everything is relative depending on who you are.
My Beater Watch Choices
I have a few personal criteria for my beater watches. First, they have to be rugged. I don’t want to worry about busting them up or breaking them. I do protect my favorite watches from the abuses of hard labor so when I need to do a rough physical activity, I reach for a select few watches.
Already having scratches may add a watch to my beater list. If a watch is already in poor shape, then subjecting it a little more abuse really won’t make a difference. If a watch is pristine, I will likely not risk ruining it. The flip side is that many of my beaters are easily polished back to shape with little effort. Sapphire crystal glass is my preferred scratch-resistant glass for these watches.
What Type of Movement for a Beater Watch?
I usually go digital or quartz for beater watches. These movements tend to be more forgiving to knocks and jolts compared to automatic or mechanical watches. The other indisputable fact is that they are usually cheaper watches with less money invested in them. If I do happen to break one, then the loss would be easier to handle than losing one of my cherished mechanical or automatic movement watches. The Swiss Army Hunter Mach 3 is an analog/digital watch loaded with functions, and it comes on a heavy all metal barrel tonneau bracelet. Scratches can be buffed out in seconds.
Picking the Right Beater Watch Band
I prefer metal bracelets over leather bands. I live in Georgia and there are times when I get soaking wet outside. That could be from rain, sweat or water from some activity. Add dust, pollen or grit and you could soon have a mess on your wrist. I find that metal bands handle the moisture and grime better than leather bands. Leather bands can be hot and easily stained in these conditions. Buying replacement leather bands from the manufacturer can be expensive. Soap and water is cheap.
The other option for a beater band is a trusty and military field-proven NATO nylon strap. These are affordable, tough and shrug off signs of abuse. Even when they get frayed, they still look cool.
Picking the Functions
A beater watch is a tool and as such, the one I pick must have the minimum requirements for the task at hand. For me, that is usually a chronograph. I’m a goal driven person often with my eye on my watch. Whether I am cooking steaks or making sure my steamy summer walks do not overheat my pooches, I use a chronograph or a watch with a rotating bezel to delineate target times or countdowns. Some of my beater watches can time several things at once, which means I can time events within events. My parents told me that it’s okay to be a watch nerd. I remember timing everything from overly long weddings to car trips since I was a little kid.
Don’t Forget the Lume
I have been known to grab a watch based on its low-light capabilities if my activities will take me to dark places. This could mean picking a watch with backlight capabilities or killer lume applied to the hands and dial indices for movies or concerts.
I have just touched lightly on this subject so maybe I’ll write more about it later. So which watch am I going to grab to mow the yard? Hmmm… let me see. Looks like the Swiss Army Ground Forces chronograph gets yard duty this time.