What Should I Look For In An EDC Watch?

What Should You Look For In Your Next EDC Watch? Read The Guide Below And Learn The Important Points When Buying A Great Everyday Carry Watch

When it comes to watches, there are a ton of options to choose from. But when it comes to choosing an everyday carry (EDC) watch, the decision can be a little more difficult. What features should you look for in an EDC watch? And what is the best type of watch for everyday carry? In this blog post, we will explore some of the key features to look for in an EDC watch.

Before we jump in, picking an EDC watch is just like picking an EDC knife, you need to know your needs, the environment you will be in, and (of course) your budget. With those three questions in mind, it’s easy to narrow down what to look for in an EDC watch.

Right out of the gate we should acknowledge that of all your EDC kit items, the watch is probably the weakest link. I don’t care if you buy the most durable quartz watch or something that’s advertised a “bomb proof,” the fact that the watch has a strap and some type of glass crystal or poly carbonate lens makes it vulnerable to hard impacts and being ripped off your wrist by getting caught on something. Sound extreme? I had a Timex Shock ripped right off my wrist in the grocery store when I was loading a shopping cart.

Before we get into the main considerations, let me give you the rationale behind how I put these categories together. I did not come at this from a prepper or emergency situation mentality. If I was to strap on a watch for a survival situation or a post-apocalypse-type scenario, my entire thought process would be different. I would choose a fixed spring bar watch on a NATO strap like this Bertucci Titanium I reviewed recently.

For daily EDC rotation, most of us don’t need such an extreme watch strapped on the wrist. You definitely want something durable and a little more rugged than your average dress watch, but if you’re not fighting off zombies or aliens, your options are very broad. I consider a watch to be an important part of my EDC kit and I almost never leave the house without a pocket knife, a small multi-tool, my wallet, and (of course) a watch.

You can read the detailed guide below, but if you’re in a rush here is my quick list of features on what the perfect EDC watch will have:

  1. Rugged NATO Strap
  2. Sapphire Crystal
  3. Good Lume
  4. Screw Down Crown
  5. Dive-Style Bezel and Dial
  6. Under $300

Now if you want all the details on how I came up with that list, you can read my EDC watch buying guide below.

Let’s look at the top things to consider when picking a watch for EDC duty:

Watch Movements: What’s Inside Your EDC Watch

Automatic vs. Quartz

I have talked extensively about the pros and cons of both watch movements. The decision here comes down to two things. First, a quartz watch is always going to be more accurate and trouble free. No winding it or worrying if it will run out of power if you set it down for a long weekend. Second, a quartz watch can handle much harsher shocks and vibrations.

Automatic watch prices vary greatly and, like everything else, you get what you pay for. However, I do think the performance and value peak around the $500 price point. Meaning that after about $500 you’re getting more brand name heritage and only a little in the way of technology. I know some will disagree, but it’s true.

The choice comes down to what kind of environment you will put your watch through everyday. Are you constantly hitting objects or knocking it into equipment? Do you work in a commercial or industrial setting? Then a quartz might be the better choice. However, I wear my Seiko Turtle all the time (from camping and backpacking to hanging drywall and woodworking) and it has been rock solid.

If you choose an automatic, make sure it has a screw down crown. This will help with dust and dirt getting into the movement as well as water resistance. There are plenty of hardcore automatic dive watches from Seiko that can handle extreme diving situations and make great EDC watches. (Any of the Seiko Tuna watches come to mind.)

In the quartz world, there are so many watches purpose built or marketed for military use or as indestructible. Any of the G-Shocks from Casio are an easy choice. I just reviewed the Casio GShock 5600E Here

A note here, I am including any type of solar powered watch under the quartz umbrella. Most solar powered watches will run 6-12 months on a charge, the exception being some of the cheaper Timex watches which only get 3 months or so.

How Is That EDC Watch Attached To Your Wrist?

Strap vs. Bracelet vs. NATO

I should have put this first because I think that this is probably the most important factor in picking an EDC watch. I am still amazed that we put so much trust into tiny, spring-loaded bars to connect our watch band or bracelet to the watch head. Spring bars cost pennies, yet are responsible for holding a hefty chunk of money onto your wrist.

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As for reliability and strength, a watch with fixed spring bars is going to be the best option if you are worried about your watch flying off under force. ‘Fixed spring bars’ can be a misleading term because these watches actually do have spring bars, but the bars are part of the case.

Over the last few years I have begun to prefer a bracelet over a watch band or NATO strap. I like the quick on and off and I really like the brushed metal look of the links. I have tons of NATO straps and rubber bands, but 9 out of 10 times I go for a bracelet.

The exception to this might depend on the day’s activities. If I am working outside or doing a project, I’ll grab a watch on a rubber strap, especially if I think my wrist will swell during the day, then a bracelet can start to feel a little tight.

This is where a Nato strap comes into its own. Beside the cool factor and the myriad of color options, a Nato strap is very useful and rugged. Still, you are relying on spring bars, but one benefit of a Nato strap is if one spring bar fails, the watch will still be attached to your wrist because of the loop around your wrist.

I should note here that I am assuming you will have more than one watch in your rotation. We need multiple knives and tools, right? Same goes for a watch. Every man needs one dress watch, one field style watch, and one digital watch….but that’s a story for another day.

Case Construction: What Is Your EDC Watch Made From?

Case Material

I don’t think the case material really matters as far as durability. All but the cheapest, dollar store, plastic watch will hold up surprisingly well. Again, the watch crystal and spring bars will fail long before the case. Where case material comes into play is in the weight. Resin or polycarbonate cases will be the lightest.

Think it doesn’t matter? Think again. Some watches are super cool and look awesome, but will start to feel like you have a rock tied to your wrist by the end of the day. This is the number one reason I don’t wear my Victorinox INOX as much as I’d like to; the thing just weighs a ton. I’ve started to gravitate to titanium watches. I still get a rugged metal case but most of them are super lightweight. If you like a dive style watch, you can’t go wrong with the Citizen Promaster Titanium.

You need to make sure the EDC watch that you choose is comfortable to wear. You should be able to put it on and forget it’s there, so pay attention to the weight and where the watch sits on your wrist. Is it top heavy? Does it flop around? Or does it nestle down and stay out of the way? Case height will affect how the watch wears also. A watch in the 13mm to 15mm height range is starting to get a little tall on some wrists and may make the watch seem unbalanced.

Case size is also something to consider. Here you want to buy a watch that looks good on your wrist and not like you are wearing a flying saucer on your arm or a baby toy. Crown & Caliber has a good sizing guide with images of watches on the wrist to show you. A few millimeters in diameter can actually change the look of a watch on the wrist. Be careful when shopping for watches for your EDC, manufacturers tend to make rugged watches on the larger side.

Can I Go Swimming Or Diving With My EDC Watch?

Water Resistance

If you’re not a professional diver then 100 meters should be sufficient for most of us. Here, it’s not just about the depth but how water tight a watch is. My Hamilton Khaki says 100 meters, but it has a push/pull crown and I don’t trust it for more than washing dishes. I’m not the only one, Reddit and watch message boards are full of complaints about the Hamilton Khaki, yet I still wear mine often. Personally, I tend to not even buy a watch anymore that doesn’t have a screw down crown. I am hard on my gear and expect a lot out of it, especially if I throw down a lot of money for it.

What Kind Of Look Do You Want In An EDC Watch?

Dial Layout

When shopping for an EDC watch, you’ll want to pay attention to the dial layout. Generally, there are three types of layouts that are commonly seen: simple time/date watches, chronograph watches, and divers’ watches. (I’m not going to get into all the skeleton dial watches or super artsy stuff out there, we are talking about a tool watch here.)

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Simple time/date watches tend to be smaller and more minimalist in design. If you’re looking for an everyday EDC watch that is low profile and easy to read at a glance, then this might be the best option for you.

Here is a quick overview of the main watch dials:

  • Field Watch: Field watches are designed to be durable and easy to read in all types of lighting conditions. They often feature luminous hands and markers, which allow you to see the time even in low light conditions. Field watches are a great choice if you’re looking for an EDC watch that can stand up to rugged use.
  • Chronograph Watch: Chronograph watches feature multiple sub-dials on the face of the watch, which allow you to track time intervals as well as total elapsed time. Chronographs also feature a stopwatch function in addition to the regular timekeeping functions. These can be useful if you need to time yourself or others frequently throughout the day.
  • Divers’ Watch:Divers’ watches are designed for underwater activities and typically feature a unidirectional bezel (to help track dive time) as well as water resistance up to at least 200 meters. If you are looking for an EDC watch that can stand up to the elements and will also look great with more casual attire, then a divers’ watch might be the right choice for you.

Dial Illumination: Can You See Your EDC Watch In The Dark?

Lume, Lights, and Tritium Tubes

When shopping for an EDC watch, you’ll want to pay attention to the dial layout. Generally, there are three types of layouts that are commonly seen: simple time/date watches, chronograph watches, and divers’ watches. (I’m not going to get into all the skeleton dial watches or super artsy stuff out there, we are talking about a tool watch here.)

After you decide on a style of watch, the next thing you want to think about is the watch’s visibility in low light situations. Many digital watches have a backlight operated by depressing a button on the case. Timex is famous for their Indiglo backlighting and they offer a ton of watches with this option.

After an actual light being built into the watch we come to lume, which is a luminescent paint applied to the dial and markers that will glow in the dark. In the watch world, good lume is a definite fetish. Just take a look on Instagram at all the hashtags that are created around lume.

There are several types of lume but all of them do the same thing. After exposure to light, the dial will glow for 15 minutes to several hours. The better the lume the longer it will last. Some watch dials are fully lumed which means the entire dial will glow. Some watches just have a few of the markers with lume and some go all out with lumed bezels, crowns, and date wheels.

Finally we have Tritium Tubes. These are tiny tubes with a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. There are very detailed articles around about these, but, in a nutshell, as the electrons of the tritium decay they release light through phosphorescence. Tritium will last for many years and the tubes will emit light for up to 20+ years. The real benefit here is the tritium tubes use no electric energy so the application is common on automatic watches.

Why Are Watch Prices All Over The Place?

Price & Cost

No conversation about any EDC gear is complete without discussing price. It’s cliché, and sounds like a broken record, but you get what you pay for. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to spend a ton to get an outstanding watch. We could talk about prices vs. value with respect to watches all day long. I mentioned above that after the $500 mark, there are very diminishing returns on the features of a watch. At this point and higher, you are paying for better watch movements, more precious metals, and the heritage of the brand.

Price is a definite consideration when choosing an EDC watch. You are about to spend anywhere from $50 to as much as $1,000 for a decent watch, so you want to make sure it’s worth the money, will hold up well to daily use, and looks good.

I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to review a lot of different watches over the last few years. Here is the takeaway from handling over 300 watches….if you’re buying a watch on sheer specifications and not a brand name, then $100-$300 will get you an absolutely amazing watch from a number of different companies and micro-brands. Jump to the $500 mark, and you get a few extras like quick adjust bracelets, longer power reserve on automatics, and a little higher build quality.

Read My Guide On The Best Watches For Hiking & Backpacking Here

I talk about this in my most durable watch article, there are only a handful of automatic watch movement manufacturers in the world, and almost all of them sell their movements to smaller brands. So you have hundreds of watch companies that all have the same movement inside. What’s even crazier is that you can buy a watch for $400 that has the same movement as a watch that costs $3,000.

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Quartz is a little more wide open and there are a ton of terrible dollar store brands out there. So, for a quartz watch, buying a name brand or one with a known quartz movement inside is important. Here too, there are still only a few major brands that build quality quartz movements.

The value of a watch is definitely a subjective matter. If you’ve read any of my watch reviews you know I am easily disappointed when I unbox a new watch. Often, I actually think a lot of brands have some nerve charging what they do for watches. On the other hand, good for them! If they can get the money, then kudos. If you are obsessive on your purchases, just take some notes of watches you like and compare the features. At the end of the day, you’re buying based on what movement is inside a watch and if it will fit your needs.

How Much Should I Spend On An EDC Watch?

So how much should you spend on an EDC watch? Under $300 is my typical answer. At this price point, there are some pretty amazing quartz watches out there and you can grab some very well done automatic watches on a decent bracelet. A watch in this range will give you several good years of service (or more) and be trouble free.

You can find watches in this price range from makers such as Seiko, Citizen, Orient, Casio, and many more. You can also find Swiss made watches at this price point, but they will likely be powered by a quartz movement. Both Hamilton and Tissot offer Swiss Quartz just under the $300 mark.

I have seen people spend much more than $300 on an EDC watch, but for the majority of people looking for a good all-around watch to wear daily, I think $300 is a great target. An EDC watch should not break the bank and you should feel comfortable wearing it out without having to worry about damaging or losing an expensive timepiece.

The value of a watch is subjective, and it’s all relative to your budget. I have a few expensive watches that I love, but deep down I know that, other than the brand name, these are no more reliable or accurate than watches that cost much less.

Read The Review On The citizen Nighthawk, The Quintessential EDC Watch

What EDC Watch Should I Buy?

What Do I Recommend for an EDC Watch?

If you want an automatic EDC watch, spend $250 and go and buy yourself an Orient Mako USA II and a few different straps and call it a day.

This is always my first recommendation to people just getting into watches who want something decent or are looking to upgrade to that first “nicer” watch. It also makes a great first automatic watch. I have personally worn mine in all types of situations for several years and it’s my grab-and-go piece. I wear it for date night, I wear it to work, and I’ve even gone hiking and camping with it. It’s a do-it-all watch and comes on a halfway decent bracelet.

If you want a quartz EDC watch, the obvious choice is the Bertucci A-11T. This guy is the real deal! Fixed bars, screw down crown, titanium case, and a 5 year battery. If only it had a little better lume it would be untouchable. It comes on a heavy duty NATO strap along with the deep history of the company. Buy this model if you can only have one watch.

When it comes to looking for an EDC watch, keep a few things in mind. First and foremost, you want a watch that is durable and can withstand a bit of wear and tear. After all, you’re going to be wearing it every day, so it needs to be able to handle being bumped around a bit. Second, you want a watch with a clean, simple design. You don’t want anything too flashy or ostentatious, just something that looks good and is easy to read. Finally, you want a watch with a reasonable price tag. There’s no need to spend a fortune on an EDC watch. Just find something that fits your budget and meets your needs. With these things in mind, you should be able to find the perfect EDC watch for you.

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