Best Altimeter Watches
Today hikers, campers, and outdoors enthusiasts have the unique privilege of having the most technologically up to date and comfortable experience ever when it comes to braving their adventures. Why is this? Well, whether it’s an 850 premium goose down sleeping bag, super fast hydration pack, or a pair of hiking socks that are 100 % waterproof, the market has become the consumer’s market. Meaning, nowadays, there are a ton of amazing companies out there who make just as amazing products for us to choose from. And not only are they making the products, but because of the competition out there, they need to redesign, research, and update the products every year.
One major market in the hiking world that continues to show improvement year after year is altimeter watches. These watches are also popularly referred to as an ABC watch (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass), and they offer outdoor aficionados the most essential information. So if you find that you, too, are in the market for a quality altimeter watch, you will want to capitalize on the most up to date and quality one available to suit your needs.
We know that it can be overwhelming and time-consuming to research your next new watch, so instead, we did the work for you. Check out our list of the Top 10 Best Altimeter watches below.
- TISSOT UNISEX
- Swiss accuracy
- Garmin Tactix Bravo
- Easy to read
- Accurate GPS
- CASIO G-SHOCK MASTER
- Solar powered
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
Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit
Well, it has a built in altimeter, barometer, compass, and GPS. And did we mention that this watch also has a 100 meter water resistance? Not to bad for such a sleek looking watch.
As far as battery life goes, this watch offers 200 hours with 1 minute accuracy, which is quite a competitive number as far as the market of altimeter watches goes.
For full usage value, you can sync this watch up with your smartphone for activities.
All together, this watch offers a pretty powerful little package for a reasonable price.
- Water resistant up to 100 meters
- GPS addition
- Some people find it to be a bit big or heavy, but others enjoy this
Garmin Fenix 5X
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 Fenix 5X altimeter watch does serve very well in most everyday places. With a metal band or silicone option.
Thankfully this watch is a great example of that tradition. Featuring a titanium case, stainless steel 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.
The one downside is readability. As I've noted before, the screen does not perform well in bright light which can be a real drawback with little cloud cover.
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.
Everything is nearly perfect on the Fenix 5X, but it's definitely worth noting the display's contrast is below-average in bright light. This can make it difficult to see in sunlight. But that might be one small price to pay for an otherwise great watch.
- It has a high-resolution Chroma Display with LED backlighting
- Features a stainless stell bezel
- Is water-resistant up to 100 meters
- The Display contrast in bright light isn't great
- The watch band is a little short
CASIO G-SHOCK GULFMASTER
Know not only the hour, but also the weather with this watch that has been equipped with triple sensors that measure the atmospheric pressure and altitude, as well as temperatures and even, directions.
On this particular watch, the hands indicate the compass bearing and pressure.
Along with this, this watch is also water resistant, which is always a bonus, and it comes with a bevy of other features you are sure to find useful.
- Great design
- Comes in black and blue
- Some find the set-up confusing
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.
TISSOT T-TOUCH EXPERT SOLAR NBA SPECIAL EDITION
This watch is a unique piece, as it is a touch screen that is powered by solar energy. The T-Touch Expert Solar NBA Edition watch also offers a bevy of functions, such as being an atimeter watch, of course, but it also forecasts time, has a second time zone, and has a compass.
It is also water resistant for up to 100 meters, and once you get to know the watch in great detail, you will see that the list of features it boasts are many.
- Very well designed
- Water resistant
- Multitude of features
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 waterproof?
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 “waterproof” 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 in, 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.