Best Altimeter Watches
Are you searching for a watch that will help you conquer the mountains, keep track of your exercise routine, and make sure you make it home in time for dinner? If you want all that, your best bet is to start looking at the altimeter watches on the market today. Today’s modern altimeter watches, sometimes called ABC watches – or altimeter/barometer/compass watches are a marvel of modern technology and classic style.
Our Top 3 Picks
10 Best Altimeter Watches
Quartz movement and precision Swiss engineering make this one of the most accurate watches on the market today. Whether you are watching the elevation change as you hike up the mountain or keeping track of the number of laps in the pool, this watch is known for keeping things precise.
Designed to fit comfortably on the wrist, the Tissot Unisex Touch Collection Analog watch features a 45 millimeter case size, that is only 13 millimeters thick. In addition, the easy to open and close butterfly clasp makes it easy to put on in the morning and set off for your day. It can easily fit most adult wrists, and is only slightly large for a more slender wrist. Either way, it’s comfortable enough to forget about until you need it.
This watch features a PVD coated titanium case and bracelet, which makes it one of the most durable in the industry. Add to that the fact that it is water resistant up to 330 feet and a scratch resistant sapphire crystal face, you’ll be hard pressed to find a way to damage this beautiful watch.
While this particular watch may look fashionable and elegant, make no mistake – you won’t be having any trouble reading the clock or the information from one of it’s many functions. Whether your making use of the compass, altimeter, barometer, or simply trying to see if you’ll make your lunch time appointment, the easy to see marks for time and the luminescent hands make it an easy read.
It’s true that the Tissot Unisex Analog Swiss Quartz Watch will set you back quite a bit of money. However, considering all the features you get, and the renowned quality, if you can fit it into your budget, you won’t be disappointed.
Whether you're hiking through the back country, or meeting with a client for lunch, this altimeter watch can handle nearly everything you can throw at it. Accurate, elegant, and tough as nails, this is one watch that is hard to beat.
- Water Resistant up to 330 feet
- Swiss engineering and accuracy
- Numerous features
- Easy to read
- A bit higher on the price – a true investment piece.
GARMIN TACTIX BRAVO WATCH
Not only can you tell time with precision, but this watch also features a high sensitivity GPS/GLONASS positioning system with automatic calibration for the altimeter, barometer and a three axis compass. As long as the watch isn’t damaged or misused, it will be able to tell you exactly where you are down to a few feet, and the time as well.
Designed specifically to be used in the outdoor environment, this watch certainly takes the idea of rugged comfort to a whole new level. While it may be a little bulky for some tastes, the comfortable silicone band, and easy to use and read watch face make it very simple to use and wear.
If an altimeter watch is designed to be used in the great outdoors, it better stand up to a bit of abuse. Thankfully, this isn’t a problem for the Garmin Tactix Bravo watch. Featuring a black, non-reflective surface that was inspired by the tactical gear used by personnel who rough it in the great outdoors for a living, a diamond-like carbon coating to help prevent abrasions, and PVD coated stainless steel buttons, this watch nearly defines the words rugged and dependable.
With all the different features and display options for this watch, one might think that its readability would suffer. Thankfully, Garmin has done quite a bit to help alleviate that problem. For starters, the watch has a two-inch high resolution that is designed to be readable in direct sunlight. It also features a domed lens that can easily switch between a day friendly use of a night one that won’t interfere with night vision goggles.
While this watch will set you back a fair amount, the rugged and tactical design will easily meet the needs of most outdoor enthusiasts.
If you’re looking for a rugged watch that can easily handle just about everything that you’d encounter in the outdoors and keep you oriented with state of the art GPS, this is one watch to consider.
- Rugged and tactical design make it perfect for outdoor use
- Accurate GPS and automatic calibration for altimeter, barometer and compass
- Easy to read
- May be a bit bulky for some
- A bit pricey for some budgets
CASIO G-SHOCK MASTER
While some customers have reported so inaccuracy in the barometer and altimeter features, for most people the watch provides fairly good precision when it comes to time-keeping and the built-in thermometer.
While the watch itself is somewhat on the larger size, the carbon fiber watch band is one of the most comfortable on the market today. While some with smaller wrists or larger wrists may find the one size fits all a bit uncomfortable, the average person won’t be bothered much at all.
When it comes to durability, this watch is one of the best on the market today. Designed for extreme outdoor use in nearly any environment that a person can encounter.
This watch has a standard LCD display that is fairly easy to read, although it does become slightly unreadable in direct sunlight.
Of the watches reviewed here, the Casio G-Shock Master is perhaps one of the more affordable available on the market today. While not exactly budget friendly, it is certainly more affordable than most.
The Casio brand is well known as a quality watch maker, and this rugged durable altimeter watch is certainly well suited for their brand. If you’re looking for a watch that is a great choice for the weekend warrior, this is it.
- Solar powered
- Extremely durable
- Fairly comfortable
- Somewhat inaccurate for the altimeter and barometer
- Can be somewhat ill-fitting for people with smaller or larger wrists
CITIZEN MEN’S ECO-DRIVE
This watch features Japanese quartz movement accuracy, which is quickly becoming known for its precision. The altimeter is able to measure elevation between 1000 and 32,000 feet to an accuracy of one meter in some cases. Add to that a very accurate electronic compass, and finding your way in the world won’t be difficult at all.
The light weight titanium construction, and the comfortable polyurenthane strap combine easily to make this watch one of the most comfortable watches to wear for the average person. Not only is it easily to adjust, but it also easily stays in place, making it a great choice for every day use or the weekend hike up the mountain.
Not only does this watch constructed with a titanium watch body, but it also features a screw-back case and a screw-down crown making it fairly easy to clean and maintain, adding to it’s durability. Add to that the fact that it is water resistant up to 660 feet, there are few places that you and this watch couldn’t conquer.
While the face of this altimeter watch may look a bit busy for some tastes, the orange accents contrast the black dial beautifully, making it fairly easy to read. In addition, the hands for the altimeter and compass operate independently, which makes confusing the different features nearly impossible.
This watch is moderate to expensive in price depending on your financial means, but it is well worth the investment.
This altimeter watch is a great choice if your life is full of adventures, both everyday and exotic. While it can be a bit pricey, its accuracy and comfort are hard to match.
- Water resistant up to 660 feet
- Easily measures altitude changes up to 32,000 feet
- Light powered, so there is no need for a battery
- A bit expensive for some budgets
- Watch face may be a bit “busy” for some tastes
- Not as rugged as it could be.
TISSOT MEN’S TOUCH EXPERT
As expected, accuracy is where this altimeter watch truly shines. It features Swiss quartz movement, it manages to measure elevations in both feet and meters with nearly pinpoint accuracy. Add to that a superb compass, calendar, barometer, and thermometer, you’ll be hard pressed to get lost or out of sorts with this watch nearby.
While not as comfortable in an outdoor setting as some watches on this list, the Tissot altimeter watch does serve very well in most everyday places. The black rubber bracelet helps to minimize slippage, and the relatively thin case of 14.8 millimeters keeps it from being uncomfortably big.
If there is one thing that the Tissot name is known for in addition to extreme accuracy it’s the durability and dependability of their watches. Thankfully this watch is a great example of that tradition. Featuring a titanium case, titanium bezel, and a scratch resistant sapphire crystal, this watch also features a fold over clasp, and also has an adequate battery life. It is also water-resistant up to 100 feet, so there are no worries about taking it into the nearby pool for a swim or two.
With its classic style, easy to ready Arabic numbers and dial tick marks, you’ll be able to tell the time, temperature, your elevation and the air pressure at a quick glance. It also features both an analog and digital display, so reading this watch is fairly easy, no matter what your preference is.
Like many of the watches on this list, this one is a sizable investment. However, if you take into account the dependability and accuracy of the Tissot brand, it’s probably one that is worth making.
The Tissot Men’s T-Touch Expert Watch is a great example of what happens when precision Swiss engineering is used to create a great altimeter watch. While not as rugged or water resistant as some on this list, it’s still a great contender for your outdoor adventures.
- Dependable swiss quartz movement
- Dual analog and digital display
- Battery life could be better
- Water resistant only to 100 feet
- A little on the pricey side
LAD WEATHER MULTIFUNCTION
While it doesn’t quite measure up to some of the superstars on this list, the Lad Weather watch still functions quite well when it comes to accuracy in the measurement of time, elevation, and barometric data. In addition, it helps you keep track of your accomplishments easily by allowing you to graph your descent or ascent in both meters and feet to within a few feet either way. For the casual hiker or backpacker, it is more than adequate.
With a watch case size of 45 millimeters in diameter and a thickness of 13 millimeters, this watch is a bit bulkier than some of the others, but the 22-millimeter wide band offers a great deal of support.
One of the areas that the LAD Multifunction Outdoor Sports Watch does surprisingly well for the price is in the durability of the product. The German produced sensors and quality workmanship mean that this watch can really go toe to toe with some of the heavyweights at a fraction of the cost.
When it comes to being able to read the watch face, there is little doubt that the people over at LAD Weather heard the voices of the outdoor enthusiast loud and clear. Not only does it have the Electro Luminescence backlight, but it is also easily switchable between 12 hour and 24-hour settings, meters and feet, and month-day or day month formats. So not only can you keep track of the world around you at a glance, you can easily change how you view it with the press of a few buttons.
When it comes to finding quality on a budget when it comes to altimeter watches this one is a great choice. Priced with the budget conscious in mind, this manufacturer found a way to combine both a great price and good quality.
While it’s accuracy could be better, for the price you pay this is a great altimeter watch for everyday use, or a day hike into the forest or nearby city park.
- Display is easy to read and easy to adjust to your preferences
- Able to graph elevations changes easily for a quick snap shot of your progress
- A bit bulkier than some others on this list
- Accuracy could be improved somewhat.
CASIO MEN’S PRO TREK
Boasting a smaller overall size than most, this watch still delivers on accuracy, claiming to be able to measure elevation to within three feet, and provide compass readings for a continuous 60 seconds versus some that only measure for twenty. Temperature readings of your body temperature or the ambient temperature are accurate to within a few degrees.
This watch is clearly designed for a male wrist, and many females might find it a little too bulky to wear comfortably. It is also designed for outdoor use, and the larger buttons clean lines, and tough as nails exterior makes this watch a great choice when you’re roughing it in the outdoors.
The case, band, and technology of the Casio Pro Trek watch are specifically designed to be used in the great outdoors. It features a water resistance to around 330 feet, a fairly comfortable, but strong as nails black resin band keeps everything together as you and your watch go out to search or the next adventure.
While there is a lot of great things going on with this watch, one of the areas that it falters a bit in the readability of the watch face. The digital readout isn’t always nice and crisp in direct sunlight, and there have been reports of the backlight being too bright for the user.
This altimeter watch, even with all the different features often sells for a fraction of the cost of some of its competitors, making it a great buy for those wanting a quality watch to add to their outdoor gear collection.
This watch is a great choice for those who want all the bells and whistles of a great altimeter watch without spending an arm and a leg. While the display leaves a bit to be desired, it’s still more than enough to gain the respect of outdoor enthusiasts.
- Lots of great features
- Display can be a bit overwhelming, and the back light can be too bright.
- Wouldn’t be very comfortable on smaller wrists
SUUNTO VECTOR WATCH
Designed with the serious adventurer in mind, this altimeter watch boasts an impressive three feet resolution on elevations up to 29,500 feet, and a powerful memory function stores readings on the hour, every hour if desired so that you can truly track your progress.
Unlike some of the other watches on this list, the Suunto Vector watch case is made of a lightweight plastic material, making it virtually weightless against the wrist. While the case diameter is a bit hefty at 5.1 centimeters, it matches easily with the thickness of 16 millimeters to make a surprisingly comfortable watch.
While the plastic watch case may seem a little less dependable to some, the watch is actually quite durable with a strong buckle clasp and a mineral dial window that can easily stand up to outdoor activity.
Another great feature of this watch is the display. Not only it is larger than most, but the backlight and convenient control buttons are both easy to understand and use.
The price of the Suunto Vector watch is solidly middle of the road, and considering the quality of the watch, it is a fairly good deal.
While it doesn’t have as many features as some of the other altimeters watches on this list, what the Suunto Vector watch does, it does very well. If you’re looking for a great mid-priced choice for your next hike, this is one to definitely consider.
- Lightweight ergonomic construction for comfortable wear
- Impressive altimeter accuracy
- Priced for the average consumer
- Plastic housing may put off some wearers
- Not as many features as other examples on this list.
- Only water resistant to around 100 feet.
PYLE DIGITAL MULTIFUNCTION
While there have been reports of the frequent need for recalibration, very few altimeter watches can boast the type of accuracy and precision that this watch can, especially at the normal price. Not only are elevation readings accurate to a few feet all the way up to 30,000 feet, but the temperatures can be easily measured up to a blistering 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
While it does have quite a few features that most outdoor enthusiasts will love, such as a powerful backlight, count-down timer, and barometric pressure reading, it is fairly big and clunky, making it somewhat uncomfortable to wear for the average person.
Given the low price, one would expect this altimeter watch to be poorly made. Thankfully this simply isn’t the case. While the materials used might not be of the quality of some of the higher priced brands, the workmanship is excellent.
Because of its larger size and prominent display, this watch provides one of the easiest watches to read on the market. Add to that the ease of switching between the different modes make this a fast and simple watch to use.
This is perhaps one of the best-priced altimeter watches on this list.
Given the number of practical features found in this watch, and the great price, the Pyle brand will most likely become well known in the outdoor community.
- Very affordable
- Easy to read
- Lots of practical features
- A bit big and clunky
- Brand not known as well as others on the list
- Often needs recalibration.
TOM TOM MULTI-SPORT GPS WATCH
Designed with the serious athlete in mind, this watch easily measures changes in elevation, time and heart rate with great accuracy.
This watch is somewhat bulky and oversized, so some users may find it a bit overwhelming. However, for the average person, it’s size isn’t too much of a hindrance.
While it does have a number of great features, and it is very easy to use, we wouldn’t suggest taking this altimeter watch into the tundra or hot desert with you. However, if you want something that helps you monitor your workout with ease on a daily basis, this is a great choice.
Thankfully the Tom Tom Multi-Sport GPS Watch is a breeze to read, whether you are in a direct sunlight, or shade. In addition, the one-button control makes it a simple task to cycle through the menus to find exactly what you want.
Reasonably priced for an altimeter watch featuring a GPS unit, this entry on the list is a great choice for those wanting to upgrade to take advantage of some wonderful technology.
The Tom Tom Multi-Sport GPS watch is a wonderful entry into this for athletes that want to spend some time exploring the great outdoors.
- Extra large, easy to read display
- Easy to use
- Great accuracy for time, altimeter and heart rate
- Doesn’t have as many features
- Not designed for rugged outdoor use
- A little on the expensive side
Criteria for Evaluation
Accuracy is Critical
Let’s face it, when it comes to a watch, especially one that is designed to make the outdoor more accessible accuracy is one of the most important factors to consider. Nearly every one of these watches not only measures time with fantastic precision, but the ones at the top of the list, including the Tissot Unisex Touch Analog and the Garmin Tactix Bravo watch extent that accuracy to other features easily.
Comfort is also Important
Another factor that most people overlook is how the watch feels against the wrist. After all, the last thing you need is for the watch to keep your attention, not because of functionality, but because of annoyance. While some watches on this list may be a bit larger or more cumbersome than others, they have been designed with the user in mind, and their comfort as well.
Having great features and accuracy is wonderful, but when it comes right down to it, you’ll want your altimeter watch to last, right? That’s the reason why we looked at each watch carefully to ascertain how tough it would be in the real world. While some, like the Casio G-Shock Master clearly impressed us with its sheer toughness, others seemed more suited for the casual athlete. Either way, these watches with proper care should be functioning quite well for years to come.
Whether you prefer an analog display or a digital one, there are some great examples on this list. Being able to quickly glance at the watch and determine the information you need is so important, especially if your mind and attention need to be elsewhere while you are exploring the great outdoors. While some watches, like the Citizen Eco Drive watch, focused more on aesthetics than actual practicality, most kept the user clearly in mind.
Is it Affordable?
Ah, yes, the price. All things considered, this is perhaps the first criteria that most people consider when it comes to purchasing a quality altimeter watch. While the majority of examples on this list are clearly an investment, there are some that will fit nearly any budget and quality desired.
More to think about when buying an altimeter watch
There are a few things that you need to consider when thinking about purchasing an altimeter watch. The first is to consider what type of altimeter watch best fits your needs.
In essence, the altimeter watches fall into two basic categories – those that use GPS and those that don’t. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, and their uses.
For example, if you’re considering going on some serious treks, where knowing where you are is important, an altimeter watch that has GPS might be your best bet. However, it’s important to make sure you get one like the Garmin Tactix Bravo that can withstand the abuse of a serious outdoor adventure.
However, if you plan on using your altimeter watch is help keep track of your progress during a normal exercise routine or during a day hike, the use of a GPS might be a bit of an overkill. An altimeter watch with a good compass, such as the LAD Weather watch could be everything you need.
Q: Why are some altimeter watches so much expensive than others?
A: There is certainly a wide array of prices when it comes to altimeter watches, and with good reason. The truth is, most of these watches aren’t just for measuring elevation or telling time. In a way, they can be considered true survival tools when it comes to the wilderness. Most contain a compass, thermometer, a barometer, a stopwatch and an altimeter, and a clock at a bare minimum. In the outdoors, all these features can play a part in making sure that you not only enjoy your hike or camping trip but also make sure you get back to your friends and family in good condition.
So it stands to reason that if an altimeter watch has more features, it would also be more expensive. Also, it’s important to remember that part of the price of the watch is dependent on the reputation of the manufacturer. Because of their history of quality craftsmanship and use of good materials, manufacturers such as Tissot and Casio can often demand a higher price.
Keep in mind, though, a lower, more budget-friendly price doesn’t mean that the altimeter watch is cheaply made. There are quite a few examples on this list that the average person could easily afford, and they have the quality to stand up to even the worst critic.
Q: Most of these are water resistant – why not water proof?
A: When it comes to making claims such as being waterproof versus water resistant, there are very stringent criteria that must be met by the manufacturer in order to make the claim. This is done to protect the consumer from at best false advertising, and at worst putting their life in danger.
Essentially to be able to claim that an altimeter watch is “water proof” the manufacturer must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt through testing that no water can enter into the watch – including humidity- under any circumstances. That’s an impossibly tall order to meet. Therefore, most watches are tested to be water resistant to a certain depth. What water resistant means is that the watch is protected from humidity. It can withstand the occasional splash or dunk in the pool, but not a full-fledged drowning.
Q: How exactly does an altimeter measure the elevation of an area?
A: While it may be tempting to think that the altimeter in your watch is taking elevation measurements with every swing of the arm, the truth is actually much more interesting. It turns out that the higher you climb up into the mountains, the pressure of the air becomes less and less. By measuring this difference in the air pressure, and performing a non-linear calibration internally, the altimeter can provide information for the change in elevation. So, if you have a reference elevation- such as the elevation of the city you live, or mean sea level elevation, your altimeter watch can figure out the elevation rather easily.
Q: How do you calibrate an altimeter watch?
A: Each altimeter watch is different, of course, and it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the calibration. However, in principle, you need a few basic things. First, you need a reference elevation as a starting point. This can be such things as elevation benchmark, the elevation of a building, or even the elevation of your home. The important thing is that it is a known quantity that you can relate, or calibrate your altimeter watch to. The next step is to change the elevation by a set amount- say 20 feet and see if the amount of change matches what actually occurred.
Whether your considering buying an altimeter watch for everyday use or your next trek into the mountains, finding the right one to meet your needs is very possible. These ten examples are a great place to start.