When it comes to categorizing watches, we tend to organize them by the strict purposes their styles were originally meant for. That translates into a world of dive watches, pilot watches, racing watches, formal watches, business watches, etc... A category that only loosely exists in the traditional sense but that is nevertheless extremely important is "travel watches." What is a travel watch? Well, traditionally, a pocket watch was the original travel watch because it was designed to be portable. More recently, the travel watch has been a more ambiguous category of watches that serve travelers with a range of needs both functional and fashionable. The question we seek to answer in this article is "what are the elements of a good watch to wear while traveling?" Of course, the answer depends on where you are going, but you'll see a lot of commonalities between these watches despite there being many different types of timepieces that would nevertheless be good to travel with. You'll also find a lot of watches that advertise themselves as being "ideal for traveling" that we don't include here. Why not include every potential type of travel watch in this list? When it comes down to it, we are rather demanding of what our travel watches should do and how various things like the fragility (or complexity) of a movement balances out a watch's overall design and utility. That means some timepieces meant for travel might simply be too delicate and/or difficult to use to be truly relied on. I'd also like to debunk the myth that all traveler's watches need to have complications in addition to the time. With today's technology at our fingertips, there is little reason to absolutely rely on your wrist watch to know the time in many different time zones. If you are a modern traveler, you are going to have a phone and other electronic devices which are going to be a lot better at tracking various time zones with ease. That doesn't mean all "traveler-centric" watch complications aren't useful, but rather that the totality of a watch's design and functional value should be taken into consideration, and it also means that a lot of watches which only tell the time can make for excellent travel watches if they do other things well. Are you the type of person who travels with just one watch, or do you bring a small collection with you? This latter approach can help enhance your wrist wearing options but can also be a safety liability when it comes to loss or theft. Some people love to travel with a few watches (sometimes more), but many others like to rely on just one timepiece to get them through a trip. The most important thing we can say about the top travel watch choices is that they need to be versatile in both functionality and style. Think about it, the watch you are traveling with potentially needs to work well on your wrist while on a plane, while wearing a suit at a meeting, casually out to dinner, and potentially for sports activities or being outdoors. It isn't impossible, but it sure is tough to find a watch that satisfies each of these needs. Few can, but it is important to consider everything you might require of a timepiece while you are away from home base. In reality, there is no absolute top 10 list of travel watches, but rather, we are including a cross-section of timepieces that will serve a lot of important needs while you are traveling and that you'll find handy in a range of situations. Watches similar in style or design to these "archetype choices" will also likely serve you well. Before we get to the watches, I want to talk a bit about useful features and complications that should appeal to travelers. No single watch has everything, but many watches combine a lot of important elements that you (within the subjective reality of your needs) should be looking for. The most important thing to ask yourself is what the most demanding situation will be that you'd like to wear your watch during. Maybe the flight and airport journey is the most demanding activity your travel watch will be subjected to, or perhaps, you plan on going hiking, diving, or just want to exercise with your watch. Most people who do more simple things like working out at a gym or running can get away with simply taking their watch off, but if you are planning a trip out into the wilderness, you might decide that wearing your timepiece is enjoyable, useful, and perhaps, safe. Thus, you'll need at least one watch suitable for wear during these activities. Of course, not all trips involve leisure time like this, but then again, people travel for different reasons. If you are a serious outdoors person, then you probably aren't going to assume that your sporty beater watch will be the same timepiece to rely on when in a meeting with business colleagues. So the hikers, divers, and all-around adventurers are better off with a dedicated activity watch, and one to wear when you get "cleaned up." Also, a few thoughts on safety. Depending on where you travel, having an expensive watch might be a liability (or an asset). Perhaps, the number one biggest concern most travelers with nice watches have is "I don't want to be a target for crime." That's true; in certain parts of the world you don't really want to be traveling with an item that makes you any more susceptible to being discreetly robbed or even violently mugged. If you are traveling to a more dangerous part of the world, please consider how showy your timepiece is and how your overall look may communicate your likelihood to be wearing expensive things. At the same time, having an expensive watch in certain parts of the world can be an asset in emergency situations. A great brand to mention now is Rolex. People have said in the past that if you have a half-way decent Rolex watch pretty much anywhere in the world, you should be able to relatively readily "exchange it" for a trip home in the event you are in an emergency situation. This, of course, isn't a universal rule, and doesn't work with all watches in all places. Nevertheless, if you have a quality watch from a popular brand such as Rolex (and especially Rolex), there is a high likelihood that people even in remote places will recognize its value and either give you cash or services in exchange for it if you find yourself in a pickle. Whether those same people just steal the watch from you without offering fair value is really going to depend on how well the individual person gauges the situation. In order to sum up a list of the top 10 watches for traveling, I've decided to list and explain a watch style archetype and then mention a specific brand and model that fits in really well to that archetype. These examples are by no means the only good travel watches out there, but it was important for me to at least generally explain the types of watches that we feel make for the best travel timepieces. The Cool Sporty GMT: Timex Kids' GMT-Master II While many timepieces (including other watches in this list) fall into this category, the Rolex GMT-Master II (review here) is probably the gold standard in luxury GMT sport watches. Good looking, durable, and with a great history, few watches really capture the sheer versatility and functionality of this classic sports watch, as well as the depth of its appeal. On a basic level, the GMT second time zone hand offers the time elsewhere in a 24-hour format. That means you have the local time and a "reference time" to know (for example) what time it is back home. GMT sport watches like the Rolex GMT-Master II are also fashionably versatile. Sure, it looks like a slightly different version of the Submariner dive watch, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. From a fashion perspective, there is little you can't wear this watch with, and it should stand up to activity and abuse, as well as cleaning up nicely for dressier occasions. While it can't do everything, you will be surprised at how much use you can get out of just one watch while traveling with a Rolex GMT-Master II or something similar to it. Modern Analog Satellite Watch: Seiko Astron Chronograph How modern satellite-controlled electronic watches like the Seiko Astron will fare during the age of the smartwatch is unclear – but right now, there is nothing in the smartwatch camp that even comes close to the universal appeal (and application) for the Seiko Astron Chronograph (hands-on here). Perhaps the most important things to point out are, first, that the battery inside the Astron is charged by light, so you don't really need to worry about a battery dying; and second, that the watch itself connects to satellites to update the current time and time zone on your watch automatically. Thus, you don't need to worry about a dead battery in most instances, and you also don't need to rely on a host device. Seiko's Astron Chronograph adds a chronograph complication which makes it very handy to time travel legs such as flights to predict travel times. Chronographs are actually really useful when traveling, so it isn't a bad idea to look for travel watches that do have chronograph complications. Designed to have some dressy appeal, the Astron Chronograph doesn't look like your typical nerdy gadget watch – which makes it even more attractive as a sole travel watch. Better yet, its real value of knowing the time anywhere via direct connection to GPS signals means it will shine the most when you are the furthest from civilization. While "world time" watches are designed for traveling, there aren't too many of those types of watches on this list. That is because I am going to lump them all in this category since, in essence, they operate the same way using a disc such as this or various windows that allow you to see the time in multiple time zones. Let me first say that this complication is in fact very useful and DROPPED IN TOILET AND NOT WATERPROOF NOW ITS SCREWED; FALSE ADVERTISING SAYS ITS ANALOG BUT ITS ACTUALLY DIGITAL.
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