Solar powered watches find themselves at the unique intersection of sustainable design and cutting edge technology.
Powered by the sun, a solar watch doesn’t rely on a battery to operate – making this type of watch an incredibly reliable (and heirloom quality) timekeeping piece. Furthermore, their reliance on solar technology will give you a unique watch that many others will likely envy…
But here’s a dirty little secret:
Not all solar powered watches are created the same.
- Read our guide to the best watch cases
- Here are the perfect watches for men with larger wrists
- Recommended pocket watches for men
Key features such as wearing intent, crystal composition, case design and more can have an major impact on style, performance and ultimately the price you pay.
In order to make sure you don’t fall victim to a poorly made watch, we did the research for you and found some of the best solar powered watches in 2020. Not only do we review each watch below in further detail, we also share with you some key buying points to keep in mind when making your selection.
Let’s take a look:
The Best Solar Powered Watches for Men of 2020 Reviewed
1. Best Overall: Seiko Prospex Padi Solar Watch
Seiko is one of the best watch brands and their Prospex Padi Solar Watch is our pick for the best overall solar watch.
This Japanese quartz movement Prospex watch is an all-around fantastic product for so many reasons. When you first hold it, you can’t help but think how durable and sturdy the construction of this watch feels. That’s because of its stainless steel case and band that comes with a push button release clasp. The Prospex watch also features Seiko’s propriety dial window, the Hardlex Mineral Crystal, that gives it its durable feeling.
The Prospex timepiece is one of the classiest Seiko solar watches because of its sophisticated, stainless steel look. But if you also happen to live an active outdoor lifestyle, this watch is suitable for that too. The Prospex features a water resistance capacity of 200 meters (660 feet), which is ideal if you enjoy scuba diving, as well as a rotating bezel on the watch to help you keep track of reading your lap times.
- Sturdy stainless steel construction
- Strong mineral crystal dial window
- Classy and versatile appearance
- Some reviewers reported charging issues with the Prospex
What You Need To Know
2. Most Affordable (Cheap): Casio Solar Sport Combination Watch
With this watch, Casio combines supreme affordability (under $40) with functional utility with our pick for the best cheap solar watch, the Casio Solar Sport Combination. Casio solar watches in general are solid and affordable, but this one stands out.
This sport watch features Casio’s patented Tough Solar power and comes with a rechargeable battery that holds a charge for up to 10 months without further exposure to light.
This Casio solar watch has a distinct sporty feel with its all black design and round dial shape. The reason it’s a combination watch is because it offers both an analog and digital display. The time is displayed with a three-hand analog movement and the date is displayed digitally.
Speaking of the time, the hands and markers are neo-brite luminous hands which means you’ll be able to read the time at night. You can also program five daily alarms, plus a digital stopwatch and two countdown timers.
- Lengthy 10-month battery life
- Not suitable for formal or professional settings
What You Need To Know
3. Best Under $100: Timex Expedition Solar Watch
Another great budget pick is the Timex Expedition Solar Watch, which we found to be one of the best solar watches under 100.
This Timex timepiece features a sleek and stylish style highlighted by the natural leather strap that is black on the outside and light brown on the inside of the strap.
It offers a full charge after five hours of exposure to light and, on this full charge, it can last you another two months without any further exposure to light. The dial comes in a slick black color that is complemented by silver stick markers and yellow accents.
- Reasonably priced
- Versatile style
- Band may not be high quality leather
What You Need To Know
Add this Citizen watch to your collection with their Eco-Drive Atomic Timekeeping Solar Watch.
Citizen is known for their immense quality and that’s exactly what you get with this Japanese quartz movement timepiece. The strap is a titanium link bracelet that locks with a solid fold-over clasp that is reinforced with a double push-button closure.
The quality is also shown through its impressive 42 millimeter-thick titanium case that comes with an anti-reflective sapphire dial window.
As great as this watch looks, it really is all about the subtle, chronograph displays. As a matter of fact, there are three small chronograph displays on the dial, and includes one featuring a unique, radio-controlled chronograph. This chronograph means that if you are in any one of the abbreviated cities (i.e. LAX is Los Angeles), this watch will automatically be synchronized to a time zone broadcasted by a radio transmitter connected to an atomic clock.
- Reliable Japanese quartz movement
- Features Citizen’s reliable Eco-Drive
- Automatically adjusts to multiple time zones with precise atomic timekeeping
- Somewhat expensive
What You Need To Know
Another home run timepiece in their series of solar watches is Seiko’s Solar Dive Watch. It’s unique as it is one of a few watches that come with a silicone strap design.
With this watch, Seiko has created a product that is suitable for divers or anyone that enjoys life beneath the sea. With a water resistant range up to 200 meters below, you won’t have to worry about this watch dying on you while you’re diving – this timepiece allows you well past snorkeling depths.
Some other key features divers will be especially thrilled with is this watch’s fantastic durability, thanks to its stainless steel case coupled with its scratch-resistant, Hardlex dial window. With an analog display, this Dive Watch has luminous hands and markers, allowing you to see your watch from the deep below the water surface.
- Suitable for use as a solar divers watch
- Durable stainless steel construction
- Not terribly fashionable
What You Need To Know
If you’re looking to add to your watch collection a premium-quality timepiece, may we suggest to you the Tissot Men’s T-Touch Expert Solar Watch?
This watch is what you want to wear when you want to be noticed at a party or to enhance your sophisticated style. This incredible watch from Tissot is the world’s first solar-powered touch screen watch that can stay fully charged for up to an entire year without exposure to sunlight! As for charging it, it needs just one week of ambient light to do so.
Some of the key features include a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with a band that is made of pure titanium. It sports an analog display with a digital display just above the 6 o’clock position. This digital chronograph display can show you your choice of a calendar, two alarms, weather forecast, compass, and altimeter, with the simple touch of the screen.
- Touch screen
- Very long battery life
- Compass and altimeter
- Very expensive
What You Need To Know
A subset of the Casio watch collection, G-Shock watches are known for their durability — as the name suggests, they are shock resistant and not at all prone to damage. This G-Shock Tough Solar option is likely one of the most easy to wear timepieces on the market with its casual appearance and sturdy stainless steel and resin composite band. This G-Shock will hold a charge for anywhere from 5 to 23 months, and has an auto LED light so you’ll be able to tell time even in the dark. It also offers multi-band atomic timekeeping for exceptionally accurate time.
- Strong stainless steel and resin construction
- Atomic timekeeping
- Months of battery life when fully charged
- Not suitable for formal settings
What You Need To Know
Citizen’s Eco-Drive line offers a beautiful and functional selection of solar watches, and this World Time atomic timekeeping watch is no exception. This face is black surrounded by stainless steel with some contrasting orange to make a style statement. Every other marker is numbered in white, alternating with simple dashes, and the hands are luminescent, which enables you to easily read the time, even in the dark. The bracelet is made of stainless steel links. The aesthetic is versatile enough to couple with both casual and upscale attire.
This Citizen Eco-Drive watch also features a strong sapphire window, Japanese quartz movement, and atomic timekeeping for exceptionally accurate world time. It’s also water resistant to depths of up to 200m, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking for something you can wear in the water.
- Features trusted Citizen Eco-Drive mechanism
- Durable stainless steel construction
- Reliable atomic timekeeping
- Some reviewers found it difficult to initially set the time
What You Need To Know
9 Tips on Finding the Best Solar Watch For You
If you have no idea what to look for in an accessory such as the solar powered watch, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Check out 9 of the best tips on what to look out for when finding the best solar watch for you.
1. Watch Face Details / Complications
When it comes to the details on the watch face, you’ll want to pay close attention to a few things, most notably: the numbers, date/calendar, timer, moon phases, and dial shape. If you’re just hearing these terms for the first time, we’ll simplify things for you and explain each term.
How the numbers are displayed on your watch face to display the time is a matter of preference. These are the most common ones.
Those who enjoy a very classic look on their watch face might prefer Roman numerals. These numbers are displayed on the hour and go from 1-12 in Roman numerals.
Having your numbers displayed in Arabic numerals is a nice change from the norm and helps to bridge the gap between classic and modern styles of watch faces. Like Roman numerals, they are also displayed on the hour from 1-12.
Some watches may display only a few numbers and use ‘markers’ to display the remaining numbers. A good example of this are watch faces that display the number 12, 3, 6, and 9, while using markers to represent the remaining numbers.
Straight lines and dots are good examples of markers to represent the any non-labeled numbers on the watch face. This style is very modern and can be found in many classy, analog solar watches.
Some, but not all, watches can also display the date – this feature is most common in digital watches. They typically display either a single day (i.e. Monday), months and days (i.e. December 25), or years/month/day (i.e. December 25, 2020).
The addition of a timer/stopwatch function is relatively common. The watches that include this feature are called chronograph watches and feature the timer function in the watch face. This can be displayed through a separate distinct hand within the watch face, and can be controlled using different a stem from the one that controls the actual time.
To help you keep track of your timer, some watches have a bezel on them. This bezel is a top ring layer on top of your watch face, and this bezel can have numbers and markers on it to help you keep track of the time that has elapsed on your timer.
If you’re not familiar with moon phases, that’s okay. Just know that some watches are able to track moon phases as they occur (~29.5 days). If you are a moon phase aficionado, it is smart to pair this function with your solar watch.
The dial shape refers to the shape of the watch face itself and this can be either square or round.
Dials with a square shape are often found in women’s watches or in smart watches (i.e. Apple Watch). While this shape isn’t common in men’s watches, it’s not unheard of. Aside from its appearance as a square, some people say that it’s actually more functional on their wrist
Most watches have a round dial shape and it is generally what we think of when we think of the shape of a watch. The round shape of the dial naturally complements the round stroke of the hands on a watch in a way that ties the entire watch together.
2. Band Material
Perhaps, the most under-appreciated aspect of this accessory is the material of the watch band. It’s an especially important component and should complement the way you dress. Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly used materials.
Vegan / Faux Leather / Canvas / Nylon
Watches that feature bands made of any of these materials are natural and very eco-friendly. The benefits don’t end there as they are also the most affordable as well as the most comfortable bands you can wear on your wrist.
Of this group, the nylon strap is probably the most common one and there are two options to choose from, NATO and Zulu straps. To find out more about each, check out this link.
Silicone / Resin
Bands made of silicone or resin materials are waterproof and are able to retain their look for a longer period of time. They can get slightly irritable to wear, especially in the blistering heat.
Black resin is a common band material found in many affordable solar powered watches.
Watches that sport a leather band are much more traditional and are typically meant for dressy occasions. They can also be used in casual settings but it depends on how the leather has been treated.
Leather is a premium material and as such, its price can vary, so be mindful of that when you’re picking out your next watch.
Link Bracelet / Metal Straps
Bands that have link bracelet or metal straps come in many different varieties, with titanium being among the most rugged and durable. These straps are usually made from titanium or stainless steel and you can easily hop in the pool as both materials are fully waterproof.
Link and metal straps have an informal feel to them and are usually worn in casual settings. They can be worn in fancy occasions as well, however, your watch might look out of place with your formal outfit.
3. Dial Window / Crystal
The dial window is the ‘window of the watch’ and is also called the crystal. This piece can be made of different materials and we’ll review some of the more common ones here.
Dials made of sapphire crystal are the cream of the crop. They are the hardest and most durable type of dial window you could have thanks to its scratch-resistant qualities. Watches with a sapphire crystal dial window are found in some of the most expensive and luxurious watches. In fact, sapphire is one of the hardest natural minerals according to the Mohs scale (ranking an impressive 9 out of 10).
Dial windows can be made of hybrid and or proprietary materials as well. An example of this is Seiko’s proprietary crystal, the Hardlex dial window.
While they may not be as lavish as sapphire, they benefit in its durable functionality. They are more commonly found among many brands and are also much more affordable. With these materials, they help to bridge the gap between sapphire and mineral glass.
Speaking of mineral glass, this type of dial window is another solid choice for a crystal and is good for general clarity. Much like the proprietary dial windows, they are also very affordable and doesn’t scratch easily either.
The last type of dial window is acrylic and this is perhaps, the poorest quality crystal on watches. That’s because they tend to scratch somewhat easily and just won’t age well in the long-run.
Thankfully, this type of material is not commonly found on many watches as they are usually found on novelty watches that are generally cheap in quality.
We recommend avoiding watches that have an acrylic dial window.
You might be familiar with the mechanical watches that require you to self-wind them in order to essentially power them. Today, watches can also be powered by natural and or artificial light. This type of watch converts light into electrical energy that is then stored in a rechargeable power cell in the watch. It is often called “Eco-Drive” or a similar name depending on the watch company that makes it.
Having your watch powered by sunlight is friendly for the environment as it reduces wastage from going through so many batteries for your watch.
5. Brand / Country of Origin
There are a few countries that are known for their expertise in watch-making. In particular, Switzerland and Japan are two countries revered for their expert craftsmanship when it comes to making high-quality watches.
Watches made in Switzerland are the most desired country of origin for watches among watch experts. The quality, details, and overall precision when it comes to making these watches is the reason why they are regarded as higher end luxury items.
Watch-making in Switzerland has an incredibly rich history that dates back hundreds of years. Some of the most famous watch brands are from Switzerland and there is a good chance you’ve heard of at least of few of them including, Rolex, Tag Heuer, and Tissot.
The Japanese are another expert, watch-making country and their craftsmanship is well-regarded by watch lovers around the world. Some of the top Japanese watch brands include Seiko, Citizen, and Casio.
There are a bevy of other watch brands that are made in other countries that also are top notch. These watches can come from more unknown or independent brands and this is not necessarily a bad thing. It may not hold its value like a Swiss watch might, but they are still of good quality and good for everyday wear.
When it comes to purchasing a watch based on the country it is made in, we want to highlight two key points.
- Don’t get hung up on brand lust – it’s easy to be persuaded by the brand name of more flashy and expensive brands, but we’re here to tell you that you shouldn’t be. You should find a watch that works for your style and the intention for which you want to wear it.
- There are plenty of great options out there – you need to realize that there are lots of fantastic brands out there that can offer you plenty of value. So make sure you explore your options before getting hung up on a particular watch.
6. Case Diameter & Thickness
Another good consideration you need to think about is the diameter and thickness of the watch.
Before deciding on which watch to buy, you should measure your wrists first to ensure it will fit you. You can do this by simply wrapping your wrist with a piece of fabric tape or string to give yourself an idea of your wrist size. A good tip is that the lugs of the watch shouldn’t extend past your wrist.
Smaller wrists will have a wrist measurement of below 40mm while larger wrists will be greater than 40mm.
The thickness of a watch can vary between brands but generally, solar powered watches are a bit thicker since they feature similar movement mechanisms as automatic watches. They also tend to be slightly more raised from your wrist and because of this, we advise that you should look into upgrading to a sapphire glass since a raised watch may be more susceptible to surface scratches and scuffs.
The prices of watches can vary and vary greatly. You can easily score one for well under $100 but you shouldn’t expect it to last forever.
On the other hand, there are watches that are meticulously hand crafted and includes many features that a much cheaper watch wouldn’t have. These watches can cost over $20,000 and even go as high as $40,000!
We wouldn’t advocate buying a watch this expensive if you don’t have the financial means to do so. However, if you do happen to buy one at this price range, you’re most likely making a fashion statement with this timepiece and it will last you for years to come.
8. Features & Functions
At this point, you may be asking yourself, what kind of features and functions should I look for in a solar powered watch?
Let’s take a look at some of the key features.
Having a watch that has a strong water resistance is a great feature, particularly if you are a scuba diver or enjoy swimming (just don’t forget the swim trunks). Fortunately for you, many solar watches are water-resistant because they are more sporty in style.
This makes solar watches an ideal sport watch choice for a scuba diver and those who enjoy water sports.
The clasp is the piece on the watch that is used to tighten or secure it on your wrist. They can vary in type from tang to fold overs and more, but the main thing to note is that some may wear down more easily than others. Tang clasps fit more comfortably than fold overs however, if you wear your watch everyday, the tang clasp may wear down leather or naturally sourced bands faster.
There are heaps of dial colors you can choose from and this includes black, charcoal, white, navy blue, and plenty more. The dial color doesn’t serve any functionality but it can help to demonstrate your personal style and even complement your outfit.
Not all watches have a backlight feature as this varies by watch brand. But for those that do, this light can be an LED light, digital display of time, or an Indiglo (Timex). Either way, this lighting will ensure that your watch face is visible at sunrise, sunset, and anytime in between.
More watches today have a stopwatch function as there are many practical uses for it, especially in outdoor sports activities. The stopwatch is beneficial in that it allows you to check your lap time, hiking time, and much more.
A good alternative to your traditional daily alarms clock is the countdown timer feature on your solar watch. This function is great for timing, or counting down, the approach of a particular event, like waking up! Often the cessation of a countdown is accompanied by a signal.
If you enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, you might benefit from having a digital compass in your solar watch. This is an ideal feature to have, as a compass will be able to steer you in the right direction on those long hikes in the woods.
Solar watches include an alarm clock feature and this is helpful for you if you have to wake up at a certain time for in the morning, or if you prefer to maintain ideal sleeping habits/schedule.
Technology is advancing the functionalities of solar powered watches and these improvements are consistently getting better with time. Some of the latest technological advancements to solar watches include faster charging times and a better rechargeable battery life, so you’re less likely to have to contend with a dead watch.
Analog / Digital
Analog watches are those that display the time using hands (big hand for the minute and smaller hand for the hour), whereas digital watches display the time using numbers.
Solar watches are typically designed for analog time display however, solar watches can also feature a digital display as well. Ones with the digital display are more rugged in design and tend to be used for outdoor activities, such as hiking, running, and even water sports.
The altimeter measures the altitude on your watch. Any sort of elevation gain will be reflected with this feature on your watch.
For those that travel frequently, your internal clock may be out of whack but your watch doesn’t have to be. Some solar watches allow you to display different time zones so that you’ll know exactly what time it is where you’re traveling to. Many watches with this feature boast access to times in 48 cities.
We could go on listing additional features forever — solar watches seem to have an endless number of options compared to more traditional models. Some more options you may come across are weather-related extras to track temperatures and barometric pressure (and some may even track marine-related data points like the tide), power-saving features to help your watch operate with maximum efficiency, auto-calendar functions, and shock resistance that protects your accessory from impact and rough activity.
When finding the right solar powered watch for you, you need to keep in mind what purpose you’re going to be wearing your watch for.
If you’re more of a casual person and are going to be wearing it in more informal settings, finding a solar watch with a nylon strap is perfect. This gives off a more casual vibe and this material is generally comfortable to wear.
On the other hand, if you work in a corporate office where you’re dressed up for work everyday, you might want to pick a solar watch that is more professional and formal. Solar watches made of stainless steel material is an excellent choice and you won’t have to worry about your watch looking out of place with your outfit.
For a night out in the city with your spouse, you might be more inclined to pick a watch that has a black leather band. A watch strap made of leather is comfortable and offers an aesthetic that goes well with dressier outfits.
If you’re an outdoorsman, a durable watch packed with convenient features is likely to provide you with the most benefit. Look for things like a compass for direction and a barometer to track pressure and weather conditions – they’ll make it much easier to discover new territory out in the fresh air.
Common Questions Men Had About Solar Powered Watches
Solar powered watches may be a bit of a revelation to some men. The fact that watches can run on a light source as opposed to batteries is a concept that can be hard to wrap your head around.
Here are just a few of the most common questions men have about solar powered watches in general.
Q: How to charge a solar-powered watch?
Solar-powered watches can be charged by simply resting the watch in direct sunlight, perhaps on a window sill. You can choose to charge it daily but that is not necessary since most solar powered watches can go weeks and and even months on a single full charge.
If you’re an active person that spends a lot of time doing outdoor activities, your solar watch will charge up on its own and that should be more than enough power to last you.
Q: How does a solar powered watch work?
A solar powered watch operates without the use of a disposable battery and, instead, relies on solar energy to power it. As the solar watch is exposed to the sun or light, it stores solar energy (light energy) into its solar cell which then converts this light energy into electronic energy. The energy is then stored in the eco-friendly, rechargeable battery which then results in a quartz mechanism to work.
Q: Are solar powered watches reliable?
Despite it being a watch with a completely different power source, the experience of using a solar power watch is the same as any other watch. You could say that the experience will be even better because you don’t have to rely on changing the battery inside of the watch for it to work. As long as you regularly have easy access to sun or light, any model of a solar powered watch will work.
What’s even better is if you spend lots of time outdoors. Spending time outdoors means that your solar watch will charge because of its direct exposure to light. Many solar watches, such as the Casio G-Shock Rangeman’s Watch, are built for outdoor activities including the water, which is great if you are a scuba diver.
Q: How long does it take to charge a solar powered watch?
It really depends as it can vary on how advanced the technology is in the rechargeable battery used in solar watches. Generally speaking, when it comes to charging for a day’s worth of power, roughly 3-5 minutes should be enough. If you charge it for a few hours, there’s a good chance you’ll be set for a few weeks and even months.
A helpful tip is that to charge your solar watch, you don’t need sun or sunlight to do so as artificial light sources will also work in charging your watch as well.
Q: If I am away from a light source, will my solar watch still work?
Yes, if you have enough power in your rechargeable battery and you’re currently away from a light source, your solar watch will work, even in the dark. That’s because it is tapping into power, or energy, that is stored in the rechargeable battery..
Q: What’s better, a stainless steel or titanium solar watch?
Stainless steel is a bit more common as steel is a bit cheaper than titanium, allowing both the manufacturer and the user to save some money. Stainless steel can also resemble platinum, a plus for those trying to give off the image of a watch that did cost a lot of money. Titanium has a recognizable, darker appearance. It also scratches more easily than steel, which is more scratch resistant. With that said, titanium is becoming more popular since it’s both lighter and stronger than steel. It’s also rust resistant, which steel is not, so you’re unlikely to have to replace it even if you use it in the water often. Many brands we review in this article, such as Casio and Citizen, carry both titanium and stainless steel solar watch options, so shop around for what’s right for your intent and your image.
Solar Powered Watches vs. All The Rest
So, how does the solar powered watch stack up with other non-mechanical watches?
Let’s set the record straight and see what each has to offer and what makes each a rechargeable watch.
Solar Powered Watches
We won’t spend too much time on this one as we’ve covered this in-depth but some solar watch features it being powered through light exposure, whether that’s the sun or even artificial light sources. It takes light energy and converts it to electronic energy in a rechargeable battery that is then used to make the watch work. Solar-powered watches are great because they help to reduce landfill waste by not using disposable batteries.
Kinetic Watches / Automatic Quartz
Kinetic watches combines the best of automatic and quartz watches to bring a watch that is powered by the movement of the body. It is similar in design to the solar-powered watch because there is no disposable battery in kinetic watches.
You generate electric energy simply by wearing a kinetic watch on your wrist and it is stored as kinetic electricity. Thus, the more you move, the higher the battery life will be. It also relies on a quartz crystal to help provide accurate timekeeping. This movement is also referred to as automatic quartz (autoquartz).
Automatic watches are perhaps the oldest types of watches as it was invented in 1770 (source). It generates its power based on movement of the body but they are not as accurate as quartz watches because environmental changes can negatively affect these watches’ movement.
Despite this, they are known to have a long life span. Like the previous two types of watches, automatic watches does not require or need a battery to operate.
Our Criteria for Choosing the Best Solar Powered Watch
In our search for the best solar watches for men, we took a long, hard look at all the products on the market with a keen focus on trying to find a variety of watch products from different brands. In doing so, we also tried to find watches that would work for a number of different situations (i.e. dress, casual, outdoors) and budgets. We trust you’ll love at least one of our favorite picks.
This deep dive into solar-powered watches is the most comprehensive guide out there today. Through our research, we’ve come to the conclusion that these 12 solar-powered watches are the best of the best out there right now.
Solar watches are a very unique and distinct offering. It gives off a bit more of an interesting story than your plain old standard wrist watch and is the perfect accessory to wear that complements your personal style. It’s a great conversation starter with your friends and now, with your newfound solar watch knowledge, you can turn them to this guide and get them on their way to buying their own solar-powered watch!