Fun in the Sun

9 Great Solar-Powered Watches for Summer Sun


June 24, 2019 Watches By

Without the constant winding required of mechanical watches or the dead batteries associated with quartz, solar-powered watches represent some of the most practical, useful, and reliable watches made today. The inclusion of solar charging gives the wearer all the benefits of current quartz watch technology without the looming feeling of an expiration date on your watch determined by its battery life.

Solar-powered watches absorb light through solar cells and convert it into energy that is stored in the batteries. You knew that. Perhaps not everyone knows, however, that while the common term is “solar,” any light source will do the job — and not just the sun. One can identify solar cells on the dials of many watches by their purplish tint, but some companies, like Citizen, have developed clever technology whereby the solar cells are hidden but light absorption remains efficient, resulting in more options for traditional dials.

It is important to note one small caveat to the assertion that one “never” needs to change the battery of a solar-powered watch. Parts of any watch, including batteries, will age just like every other item or material does. So while they will not run out of juice if kept sufficiently exposed to light, many batteries have an expected life of about 30 years before they begin to corrode. In comparison, the many moving parts of mechanical watches mean that they will also most likely require multiple services and often even part-replacement during the same period of time.

The solar watch market is today dominated by the major Japanese brands, namely Casio, Citizen, and Seiko — though the first solar watch was invented by an American engineer. Solar-charging technology can be found in some very affordable watches, but is generally a feature that adds to the price of similar models without it. Many high-end quartz watches from Japanese brands combine a range of technologies and features including solar charging. The below list includes inexpensive examples as well as luxury-priced solar watches with many other features and levels of refinement, and even a couple from European brands.

Casio G-Shock GW6900-1

Always look for the Tough Solar technology when shopping Casio G-Shock watches, as many of them offer it. The GW6900-1 is one of the most classic G-Shock forms, and it’s also an example of the quite affordable end of Casio’s solar-powered range. The Tough Solar does, however, command a premium over otherwise very similar models that do not offer solar charging. This is a robust watch that can be beat up and worn for years without worry, hassle, or much financial investment — one reason it is a top choice among soldiers and police.

Case Diameter: 50mm
Water Resistance: 200m

Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver

Notice that Citizen’s vast range of solar-powered watches, designated by their technology which they call Eco-Drive, are mostly analog, and that no solar cells are visible. This solid dive watch is a great example of an affordable and rugged offering from Citizen that will serve you well for years with no winding and no need for battery replacements.

Case Diameter: 42mm
Water Resistance: 200m

Seiko Prospex Solar Diver

Seiko’s Prospex collection distinguishes itself from the brand’s more basic models with premium materials and more robust construction. The Solar Diver offers a practical, tough, and handsome option with all the Prospex quality, and it’s a great solar option from Seiko without going for the full-featured, premium Astron line.

Case Diameter: 43.5mm
Water Resistance: 200m

Casio Protrek PRG-600

Don’t be shocked that Casio has multiple spots on this list: they represent some of the best options at multiple price points for solar watches. Protrek is like a brand of its own within the Casio universe, and like other watches that include the brand’s Tough Solar technology, it incorporates multiple other features like censors, a compass, and more. Protrek watches are made for outdoor activities, so plenty of sun will keep them healthy.

Case Diameter: 51.5mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Junghans Milano Solar

Junghans is an interesting brand from Germany that stands out in several fields. They are one of the very few European companies that has invested in technology like solar charging and radio controlled watches while also being strong in design (Bauhaus-influenced design, specifically, is their biggest claim to fame) and mechanical watches. They offer a different aesthetic and approach from the vast majority of their competitors, and watches like the Milano Solar remain relatively affordable.

Case Diameter: 37mm
Water Resistance: 50m

Casio G-Shock MT-G B1000

While one can dive well into luxury pricing territory with the G-Shock MR-G range, the MT-G offers many of the same premium features and construction — Tough Solar being one of them, of course. G-Shock is known for its toughness, functionality, bold designs, and affordable prices, but the MT-G and other higher range collections feature things like steel cases, more features, and fewer concessions to cost, resulting in a maximal G-Shock experience.

Case Diameter: 51.7mm
Water Resistance: 200m

Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar II

Tissot’s T-Touch collection is interesting and unusual in the wider world of watches, with a touch screen to operate a host of features. It’s also unusual as one of the few Swiss brands focusing on this kind of watch and technology. T-Touch watches are rugged and seem made for actual outdoor use, but the addition of solar charging on more recent models really rounds out a strong package.

Case Diameter: 45mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Seiko Astron 5x

In the race among Japanese watch companies to make the ultimate practical watch with satellite and radio- synching technology (among other practical features), consumers win. The mighty Seiko’s entrant is the Astron, and its latest edition is the Astron 5x with a more compact titanium case than ever at 42.9mm wide and 12.2mm thick, solar charging, Seiko’s zaratsu polishing, sapphire crystal, and essentially every premium detail the brand offers at this price level.

Case Diameter: 42.9mm
Water Resistance: 100m

Citizen Eco Drive One

The world’s thinnest light-powered watch is the Eco-Drive One, and Citizen emphasized the achievement by making it a luxury product, not holding back on refinement or materials. At just 2.98mm thick and 40mm wide with a refined design, this is not only technically interesting, but wears elegantly and comfortably — it even made our list of best men’s dress watches.

Case Diameter: 40mm
Water Resistance: 30m

The Best Watches Combining Digital and Analog Technology

While perhaps an oversimplification to the watch-educated, many lay consumers without special knowledge will broadly divide watches into analog and digital. “Ana-digi” watches, on the other hand, are a stylistic hybrid. Read the Story

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