If you are looking for an eco-friendly, low maintenance, and long-lasting timepiece, a solar watch might be exactly what you need. With enough exposure to the light of the sun, or if that’s not available, any other light source to power their internal battery, solar powered watches are the most hassle free watches around.
They are highly reliable, affordable, and durable, so there’s no reason why you should skip them, as they could be one of the best options on the market if these are the qualities you’re after.
But before jumping online and ordering the first solar watch that pops up, there’s a couple of aspects you should consider.
Probably the most overlooked aspect about solar powered watches is charging time. Most folks would probably consider that charging is instant, but they couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The battery of a solar-powered watch doesn’t hit a full charge from the moment you expose it to light. This means you have to allow it to charge for a while, like with every other battery, and that can take from a few minutes to several hours in the sun. Also, you should keep in mind that artificial light doesn’t create the same amount of energy as the sun does on a clear day.
Different watches operate differently, so for the exact details of your particular model, you should consult the owner’s manual, as it will tell you exactly how long your watch takes to charge.
Very important to most watches, especially the mechanical ones, power reserve is something of less importance in a solar powered watch.
That’s because solar powered watches are basically just quartz watches with built-in batteries and solar panels. This means that most solar watches will run from between a few months and up to a year and even more on a full charge, so there’s no need to worry about running out of battery if you’re wearing your watch on a regular basis.
With a wide variety of styles available, you can find a solar watch suitable for every occasion, from luxury and flashy ones to field watches and even sporty chronographs. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
This is not necessarily a functional aspect, but since every person is different, it’s important to find a suitable design to match your style and preferences. With so many models and types around, you might find yourself wanting another one after your first purchase, if you made it in a hurry. So take your time and study the types and styles available.
This feature, even if you are not using the solar watch during adventure sports, should be taken into consideration. While most solar watches are water resistant, they do have differences in the amount of water they are able to handle.
Basic or entry-level models usually offer resistance against water for up to 50 meters, while higher-end models can even have a depth rating of 200 meters.
Ideally, keep an eye out for water resistance ratings of less than 50 meters, as those wouldn’t be able to withstand too much water and can incur damage in most situations.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best affordable solar watches you can enjoy.
20. Seiko Prospex Solar Diver
If a diver timepiece suits you best, Seiko still has an upper hand — even in the solar watch market. Their excellent Solar Diver is a beautiful example of a solar dive watch, containing all the style and functionality of the more commonly seen automatic variants.
This timepiece offers a lot of features worth mentioning. It comes with Seiko’s Lumibrite on the hands and indices, a handy unidirectional bezel, as well as a screw-down case-back and crown and 200 meters of water resistance, making it a legitimate tool for a diver. Power reserve is also good, reaching up to 10 months.
19. Citizen Eco-Drive Chandler
The Chandler Eco-Drive from Citizen is one of the better examples of a solar powered field watch. Its simple, military inspired design, offers everything you need and nothing of what you don’t. The compact, 37mm sized case, makes it easy to wear without feeling bulky on the wrist, perfect for hitting the open trail.
It features a day and date complication, so you won’t forget what day you’re in when wandering off the beaten path. A power reserve of six months will also aid you in your field trips.
On the downside, the dial is protected by a mineral crystal, which isn’t the most scratch resistant, but if you’re one that loves to wander into the wild, you probably don’t care too much about scratches.
18. Seiko Essential Sport Solar
Seiko’s SUR493 Solar sports watch comes with a simple black dial featuring a day-date window at the 3 o’clock position. Despite the chunky 43mm case, the beige nylon band makes the watch very comfortable on the wrist.
The dial window is made of hardlex material, while the case and bezel are made from steel, so durability shouldn’t be a concern. Also, power reserve reaches a good 10 months on a full charge.
All in all, this is another superb option for a solar powered field watch.
17. Timex Expedition Scout Solar
The Timex Expedition Scout Solar is among the cheapest solar powered watches around, making it the perfect option for those who are on a tight budget. It comes in a variety of case sizes, so choosing one to fit your wrist shouldn’t be a problem.
The quartz movement inside ensures an accuracy of +/- 20 seconds per month, which isn’t bad for a budget watch. The military inspired dial design makes reading time easy enough, with lumed hands and indices to make that possible in low light conditions as well.
16. Seiko SNE529 Solar
While some see solar watches as rugged, outdoor adventure tools, and that is most often true, Seiko surprises us with an appealing every day timepiece.
The Seiko SNE529 blends a lovely green sunburst dial and gold-tone hands and indices with a nicely brushed and polished stainless steel case. Even more, it gets that Omega-style twisted lugs. A versatile timepiece that is both a great fit for a dress watch but can also be worn on adventures.
15. Seiko Men’s Solar SNE102
Among their reputable collections, Seiko offers quite a few solar powered dress watching worth taking into consideration.
The Seiko Men’s Solar, reference SNE102, comes with a minimal design in a nice 39mm sized stainless steel case, making it a great choice for more formal occasions.
The dial impresses with its simplicity, with a day and date window at 3 o’clock that fits just right with the rest of the dial. Water resistance is 100 meters, an impressive feat for a dress watch.
14. Casio Tough Solar
For those who love that rugged look of the G-Shock series, but also want a solar powered watch that is super affordable, the Casio Tough Solar is another great option.
The dial is a nice combination between analog and digital, water resistance is 100 meters, and inside there’s an accurate and reliable Japanese quartz movement.
But there’s even more features, among which five alarms, auto calendar, and world time for 31 time zones and up to a total of 48 cities.
13. Casio G-Shock Rangeman
If you want to go full G-Shock power while not worrying about ever changing batteries, the Casio G-Shock Rangeman is your best bet. It might surprise you to find out that this is an atomic watch that does everything you want it to do outdoors.
It’s rugged and shock resistant, and besides accurate time telling, it’ll also give you altitude, pressure, temperature, and navigation indications. It’s water resistant to 200 meters, so you could also go diving with it without problems.
Just expect to pay upwards of $300 for it.
12. Casio Pro Trek Solar
The Casio Pro Trek Solar is another watch that falls in the same category with the G-Shock we presented above.
Though it’s rugged and ready for adventures, the 54.6mm case will feel huge for most wrists, so keep that in mind. Features include everything you might want from an outdoor oriented watch, such as altimeter, barometer, thermometer, or alarm.
And it comes at half the price of the G-Shock.
11. Seiko Recraft
If you want to elude that rugged, military field watch aesthetic, there’s not better option than the colorful Seiko Recraft.
But colorful doesn’t mean bad at all, since it features a three sub-dial layout, with chronograph, a tachymeter scale on the outside, pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock, a six month power reserve, and 100 meters of water resistance.
Plus, the playfully colored NATO strap makes for a nice combination with the blue dial.
10. Citizen Promaster Diver
The affordable and solar powered Citizen Promaster Diver is an incredibly impressive timepiece.
It’s got a beauty to it that you rarely see among affordable watches, and everything about it speaks quality. It’s got a six month power reserve, an intriguing date window at 4 o’clock, unidirectional bezel, and 200 meters of water resistance.
Maybe only the mineral crystal glass will make some think twice before buying one.
9. Casio Women’s Solar
Don’t think that women have no option in the solar powered watch market. They do, and the Casio Women’s Solar is a simple, yet very attractive timepiece.
It’s an all stainless steel watch, including the bracelet, with a simple and functional dial, reliable quartz movement, 50 meter water resistance rating, and a date window at 3 o’clock. The dial is easily readable, and just beautiful to look at.
8. Bering Solar Watch
The Bering Solar watch is a fresh sight in an ocean of similar minimalist designs. High quality and built with premium materials only, there’s no way we could have skipped this option.
It’s solar powered and it’s rugged without showing it. The perfect combination for someone who loves to take the same watch both at a wedding and outdoors.
While it only comes with a water resistance rating of 50 meters, it’s Bering’s beautiful simplicity that you’ll probably want this for, so we assume swimming and diving aren’t a priority anyway.
7. Orient Solar Panda
For a more elevated look, the Orient Solar Panda is a solid choice. With a design inspired from luxury racing watches of the past but staying on the affordable side of things, it’s definitely a piece worth considering.
It comes in a 42mm case, so it might feel big for some wrists. But if it’s a good fit, the three sub-dial design will impress everyone. Pair it with a nice leather strap, and you’re set.
6. Garmin Instinct Solar Watch
For those interested in outdoor digital watches that are able to do it all, including measuring fitness performance, with GPS tracking, smartphone connectivity, health monitor, barometer, altimeter, and temperature, the Garmin Instinct Solar Watch is one of the best choices.
It’s often the case with feature rich digital watches like these that the battery won’t last too long due to the many power hungry functions, but a solar powered one like this will put that issue away.
What’s not to love about it?
5. Seiko Men’s SNE325 Solar Watch
Probably one of the greatest looking affordable solar powered watches on the market, the Seiko SNE325 is a premium timepiece, one that will feel right at home during formal events.
It’s hard to believe that there is someone out there who won’t be impressed by this piece’s superb aesthetic.
Compact and minimal, yet imposing in a good way, the full steel SNE325 from Seiko features a nice date window at 3 o’clock, and comes in a case size of 41mm, with a water resistance rating of 100 meters.
4. Citizen Eco-Drive Corso
The Citizen Eco-Drive Corso is another simple and beautiful solar powered timepiece that proves to be elegant enough for that daily office setting but also affordable.
It comes in a 40mm case, which is the middle ground for most wrists, and features a white dial on which the gold colored hands and indices strike a nice contrast, creating very good legibility.
One thing that might disappoint some is the water resistance rating of only 30 meters. So it’s probably a good idea to leave it out of the shower.
3. Seiko SUP896
For an even more classic look, go for the Seiko SUP896, a nice combination of dress watch aesthetic with that 28mm rectangular shaped case, mellow golden tones, all paired superbly with a crocodile textured leather strap.
While it borrows some styling cues from the iconic Cartier Tank, it stands out on its own, impressing with simplicity and with a power reserve of 12 months, which is a must for a watch that you’ll probably wear on specific occasions only.
2. Casio G-Shock G5600E-1
Coming with that standard original G-Shock design, similar to the Casio World Timer, the G5600E-1 is another excellent timepiece, with a tough and durable all resin case, 200 meter depth rating, and an incredible 27 month power reserve.
And being solar powered as well, it makes it one of those watches that you’ll find laying around in a post apocalyptic world, keeping track of passed time like nothing ever happened.
So grab one for yourself if you still find it.
1. Citizen Eco-Drive Avion
The Avion from Citizen, powered by the well known Eco-Drive movement which takes its energy from the sun, is a very good looking piece, a nice mix of pilot and chronograph watches.
It’s a large one at 45mm in size, but it’s not unusual at all for a pilot watch, and the brown leather strap makes everything look even better.
A six months power reserve, 100 meter water resistance rating, good legibility in spite of the crowded dial, luminescent hands and indices, and that subtle date window in between the 4 and 5 o’clock positions make this watch a superb option.
If you’re not prepared to pay a huge amount on a watch, but love the idea of never having to change the battery, there are plenty of options. And if you ever decide to go a little bit higher and pay a more premium price, there are also wonderful options as well.
Seeing the overall picture, it mainly comes down to your personal style to choose an affordable solar powered timepiece.