On the lookout for the best compass watches? Our team has dug up the dirt on over 30 different watches with compasses of 2023, studying the variations in durability, price, ease of use, battery life and of course, additional features for navigation, hiking or working out.
ARTICLE DISCLAIMER: Since design is a matter of taste we did not value this feature as highly important – you don’t need to read reviews to understand if you like how this watch going to look like on your wrist. All watches in our ranking are water resistant but not suitable for diving, so this information might be omitted in the product review. And there is no “best all-around”, “best overall” choice because a certain watch may have more features for marine or mapping activity.
First of all, the best choice on any compass watch will always depend on how and where you are going to use it.
So now, we’re presenting our readers with a pared-down list of the Best 10 Compass Watches.
Casio Pathfinder PAG240 Triple Sensor – Best Solar Compass Watch
|Battery||CTL1616 lithium/Solar powered|
The Casio Pathfinder PAG240 is a solar charged and fully featured compass watch. It is easy to use, and has a unique feature to operate on low temperatures as low as 14F (-10C) and, at $150, is a nice price.
What we like the most about the Casio Pathfinder series is that they are completely solar powered and can operate for up to six months without any exposure to light. The built-in solar storage battery requires very little light to recharge and maintain functional power, but recharging time will vary according to the source of light.
However, while the manufacturer describes it as a sports watch, it also features triple sensors: abarometer, altimeter, & thermometer, with an additional sunrise-sunset mode and 5-slot alarm clock with 31 times zones and 48 cities pre-programmed. The only drawback for this particular compass watch is that both the watch glass face and case can be easily scratched despite manufacturer’s claim that their watches are scratchproof. They are certainly more durable than Suunto or Lad Weather watches from our list but it doesn’t mean you can’t damage their interior.
Order the Pathfinder PAG240 model in bright or classic metal color, because scratches are very noticeable on black cases
Garmin Instinct GPS Watch – Best GPS Compass Smartwatch for Hiking
The Garmin Instinct is a bare-bones compass watch that is by far the least expensive model in our list. This rugged outdoor sports watch comes with GPS function which makes it a great deal at above $200 price point.
Additionally, to basic time-telling function, dual-sensor in this watch can track barometric pressure and altitude. Designed to withstand the toughest environment, this watch has all the usual skills you might expect to see from one of outdoor-friendly watches by Garmin. There’s also a stopwatch, heart rate monitor, trackback and stress monitor and a promise of long battery life that will go the distance. (Say, from 40 hours in Ultratrack battery saver mode to 14 days in smart watch mode). So we dare to claim this watch versatile and as well durable and rugged as Casio Pathfinder mentioned above.
810G United States Military Standards mean this product works in cold weather, shock resistant and able to operate in water. But one more fact is that Garmin denies all responsibility for water damage in their warranty, which means it was mostly designed for hiking activities rather than marine.
One more downside for this Garmin watch is that it works only with Garmin apps (this actually concerns all Garmin devices, but if you are a Garmin person that might be even more comfortable for you).
These apps need some improvement for sure, since many users complaining about it. Actually this tendency concerns all Garmin devices because people had the same complaint about their software, for example Handheld GPS which we earlier reviewed.
SUUNTO Core Outdoor Sports Watch SS014279010 – Best Compass Watch with Weather Indicator
|Battery||CR2032 lithium battery|
The most noteworthy feature about the Suunto Core Outdoor Sports Compass Watch is that, unlike many other watches on this list, it has a built-in weather indicator that that notifies the user of approaching bad weather conditions. Despite its price tag, our team was surprised to see that it is quite accurate and offered a decent estimate of the altitude when calibrated periodically.
Unlike the Garmin Instinct and the Casio Pathfinder models, the Suunto Core has the altimeter and barometer functions built together. It measures elevation in three-foot or one-meter intervals compared with the Pathfinder 20 feet or 5 meters and the Vector’s 10 feet or 3 meters. This barometer/altimeter feature is actually great. It calculates long-term pressure trends to give you even a more precise reading.
The thing we didn’t manage to find in this watch is as well indestructible case and face glass as the mentioned Instinct and Pathfinder have, but it’s still water resistant and solid. So it can be your top-1 choice in case you don’t need a GPS on a watch or your budget is under $150.
Operates on Replaceable CR2032 battery, that has a 12-month life span. Activity tracking features and smartphone notifications reduce the battery life to 7-8 months, which is somewhere in the middle of our top-10 ABC watch list.
Beware of low-quality replica product which looks alike this Suunto Core – PALADA Sports Watch. We haven’t tested and researched this model, but certainly sure that a 20-dollar item cannot be called an ABC watch with workout and navigation features listed in its product description.
LAD Weather Swiss Sensor Watch – Best Compass Watch with Workout Features
|Battery||CR2 lithium battery|
In addition to the timing, the Lad Weather Swiss Sensor Watch can track almost any move or sports activity you need. With basic workout features like heart rate monitoring and stress monitoring, you will also be able to count your steps and measure both lap and elapsed time. Whether that’s strength training, your post-workout stretching, or just a trail run you know you should be doing more of, it helps you keep track of every aspect of your training. In fact, this watch wasn’t designed only for sports, it is similar to Suunto watches in setup (a bit more complicated) but that’s to be expected from a weather watch.
All of the features work great and are accurate. The problem is that you can’t the display well enough to make out the digits. The downside of this watch is that it’s almost impossible to see at night or in low light. The backlight is here but requires lots of improvements to compete with more expensive high-end models.
Of course you can find a watch with more useful monitoring measures for fitness like sleep or recovery patterns like in Garmin Forerunner 935, but it will cost you about $250 more.
Casio G-Shock Mudmaster GG1000-1A5 – Best Compass Watch for Watersports
|Battery||SR927W lithium battery|
On the surface, this watch comes larger than most other G-Shock models available today – which means a lot. Fully measured the timepiece clocks in at 56 x 55 x 17 mm so there’s no shying away from the size of the watch. Equipped with LED backlight and a Twin Sensor, the Mudmaster is a maintenance-free digital watch with handy navigation features for everyone. Which includes thermometer, compass, barometer, altimeter, stopwatch and alarm. The construction is a rugged one as well to say the least, featuring that classic Mudmaster shape and complemented with a fitting resin 9,2 inches’ length wristband to round out the good-looking resin case. From the other side, buttons are harder to press due to mud-resistant design on this model and all G-Shock Mudmaster series.
The unique feature of this particular watch is improved water resistance, while all other models in the list have 330ft (100m) G-Shock Mudmaster upgraded with doubled 660ft (200m) measure which makes this watch perfect for watersports and, perhaps, justifies its premium price. Some experts of WildProofGear Team believe for this price, they could have made it solar powered.
Despite Casio claim on focusing on solar-powered devices and removing batteries this particular ABC watch by Casio is non-solar powered, but still has a price of a premium watch. Which , of course, can be justified by other Mudmaster’s features.
All-in-all, the G-Shock GG-1000-1A5 seems a great option, stood up to any wet challenge you may present it and looked mighty fine when compared with some other compass watches in the same price range. Sure, the case size might be a bit intimidating at first, but once you fully understand the reasoning behind the watch design – utilizing most necessary outdoor-friendly features in the process – do you truly begin to appreciate what G-Shock has to offer here.
Timex Intelligent T2N720 – Best Analog Compass Watch
|Battery||CR2016 lithium battery|
The T2N720 has a number of great features. It is the only smaller “mid-size” watch (45 millimeters stainless steel case) with a fully analog display. It is also one of the mid-size analog watches with Indiglo – an electroluminescent backlight technology created and marketed by Timex
The T2N720 also has a tide tracker button that will show you time remaining to next high or low tide and a digital thermometer with analog display that measures air and water temperatures.
These features make this analog watch a recommended choice for marine activities, though its intelligent case design and black silicone strap makes it suitable for anyone who needs an everyday watch.
The major failure for this particular model is that it just isn’t as practical as some customers had hoped. There are some negative feedbacks about the accuracy of the thermometer, with many users saying that body temperature is too influential on the readings. There is one more the problem that the compass only works when the watch is flat – i.e. not on a wrist. These 2 cons can be added with price which is close to some high-end Casio and Garmin models.
As a result, it all depends upon the importance of the tide tracker and thermometer.
Casio Women’s Pro Trek PRG-330-4CR – Best Compass Watch for Women
|Battery||CTL1616 lithium/Solar powered|
Most of the Casio Pro Treks are big, chunky and designed for men. Finally, they made a version for women.
This is the compass watch of all watches, stuffed with impressive list of functionalities and pink both band and case color. Complete with ABC’s (altimeter, barometer, compass), this watch also includes features that you can find in the Casio Pathfinder as well: sunrise-sunset mode, daily alarms, self-powered solar battery, stop watch, water resistance and 31-time zone.
You can think the PRG-330-4CR is actually the same Casio Pathfinder that was designed for women’s wrists? No.
Unfortunately, it lacks the Pathfinder’s feature to operate in low temperatures (with an operating max of 14F). So it’s up to you to choose between the gentle pink watch color and some extra durability for cold weather. However, they stay in the same price range with about 10-15-dollar difference.
When compared to other women’s compass watches in terms of price, the PRG-330-4CR is really an intriguing choice since you get a solar-powered watch full of outdoor-friendly features. The digital display with big easy-to-see numbers leaves nothing to be desired. Suits, casualwear or Patagonia Storm Racer Jacket – you are spotting mark of a true outdoor lady.
Casio SGW-100-2BCF Twin Sensor Watch – Budget Pick
|Battery||CR2025 lithium battery|
This digital watch is for those who always wanted to own a Casio, but never realized how inexpensive (or stacked with useful features) they could be. In this case it’s not just a brand that helps to sell these watches; it’s a long list of functions you never expect to find in a 40-dollar watch.
The SGW-100-2BCF comes with digital compass, 5 daily alarms, thermometer, backlight, stopwatch, countdown timer and world time – all the features really there and they are really working.
One more drawback for this watch is backlight that it isn’t bright enough to see in pitch black darkness.
Despite the backlight, the compass and thermometer work great. Some users complained on inaccurate temperature measuring in this watch, but you have to adjust the thermometer before use.
Thermometer must be calibrated according the manual that comes with the watch.
As well as for other Casio products, the manufacturer claimed their mineral glass covering is scratchproof, however, the SGW-100-2BCF can be scratched the same as the Pathfinder. Perhaps, it takes more effort when compared to other branded watches but many images we found on the web prove the opposite.
Timex Expedition T49612 Digital Compass Watch – Best Bang for the Buck
|Battery||CR1620 lithium battery|
An interesting offering from Timex, the Expedition T49612 is an excellent digital watch companion for the average outdoor enthusiast. It comes with a shock and water resistant feature that can become helpful during outdoor travels and treks while providing time-telling and orientation. It also offers Indiglo backlight created by Timex at a very inexpensive price.
The design of the case is casual and suits most styles in its neutral gray color. The look perfectly fits people with an active lifestyle and looks great as a travel watch. In other words, it’s not meant for formal occasions.
The T49612 is bigger and heavier than most Casio G-shock models (and all G-shock watches we mentioned in this review), it fits well on wrists that are bigger than 6 inches in diameter. The size of a watch is not a benefit or a drawback it’s just something you should consider before buying it. It may also be too big for some people. For its dial, the numbers may be a bit complicated to read against the exposure to direct light and in low light.
The affordable price of this watch is truly reasonable, since it has no ABC features, except for the compass. This means it has no altimeter and barometer, in case you don’t want to pay for the features you don’t need, a 50-dollar Timex Expedition can be a “bang for the buck” to you.
EZON H001 Men’s ABC Watch – Best of the Rest
|Battery||CR2032 lithium battery|
Let’s go back to purchasing products where we don’t pay for features we don’t need.
This time our team reviews the closest option to the Garmin Instinct we mentioned above but without GPS functionality and, of course, $100 cheaper than Garmin.
EZON Smart Sports Front Runner H001 is a multifunctional hiking watch that combines a calendar, alarm, stopwatch, altimeter, barometer, thermometer and, of course, a compass. This model displays different information depending on what you need to know about your surroundings. It is durable (non-scratchproof), efficient, has multiple features all packed in one simple watch at a budget friendly price.
The H001 also misses some workout features like heart rate, trackback and stress monitor – not quite for hiking, but some users may need that too. It also wasn’t designed by 810G US military standards which means it’s less durable and shock resistant, and what’s more important weather resistant, in case you are going to hike in cold temperatures.
After all, if you are a light to moderate traveler who needs smaller and lightweight watch then this is for you. It is quite durable for the price and provides several features that inform of your surroundings. Short treks or outdoor camping may be more suitable for this watch.
Choosing the Right Compass Watch
Compass watches provide a range of useful measures and data-gathering technology that give you information about the landscape and environmental conditions around you. Whether you’re a veteran weekend hiker or a professional athlete, if you spend time in the outdoors, a compass watch can be your most useful and irreplaceable EDC tool.
Most compass watches have three primary functions: altimeter, barometer, and compass (sometimes referred to as an ABC watch). With these three functions combined, you can keep track of weather trends and determine your location. We researched over 50 different types of compass watches out there, ranging from those with the lowest price to those premium models that stacked with important features.
It might go without saying, but always carry extra batteries when you are traveling in the outdoors. Whether it’s hiking or boating, having a few extra AAs onboard or in your backpack can be the difference between life and death if things turn south.
The watches scoring the highest in this metric are Casio’s Pathfinder and Pro Trek. They are solar-powered devices that take about six minutes per day in full sunlight to maintain their charge. This is a huge benefit for any long-term outdoor enthusiast that needs a practically everlasting watch. All other products feature a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lives from 12 to 24 month.
When evaluating durability, we looked at which watches were built to withstand the worst. We looked at the band material, the durability of the band, its weight, whether or not the glass and case scratches easily, and whether or not the band has an ergonomic fit. We also took into account shock resistance and the ability to operate in low temperature.
In this case, the Casio Pathfinder, Timex Expedition, Casio Mudmaster and designed according to 810G Us Military Standards Garmin Instinct proved to be the most durable and weather resistant of all the ABC watches.
This ranking was built simply by the number of features that a watch can have. First of all, these include an ABC (altimeter, barometer, compass) and some useful additional or unique features like GPS or smartphone compatibility. We also checked how these features work and if there is any use of them, for example if Casio SGW-100-2BCF has a backlight but it was designed poorly, that wouldn’t count towards the score.
To determine which device scored the highest, we tallied up the features of each model. We also compared the quality of the features, whether or not graphs are generated for specific functions (like barometric pressure and altitude), and how helpful this data is on the trail.
In the end, we learned that the Garmin Instinct was undoubtedly the best in this ranking, featuring all the basic ABC and workout functions,being smartphone connectable, and having a GPS at the same time. The EZON H001 is close behind and comes as a cheaper alternative for Garmin.
Summing it all Up: The Best Compass Watch of 2023
The compass watches that we tested in this article feature important functions that hikers, swimmers, runners, and mariners want most. In addition to time telling, almost all of these 10 products are true ABC watches, featuring barometers, altimeters, and lots of other helpful features.
We tested the accuracy of each of these functions all while rating the ability to withstand rough conditions and the products’ ease of use to help you narrow down your selection and find the best product to purchase. We know that choosing just one watch from the list can be difficult, but we hope that this review is a helpful resource.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are 2 types of compasses on watches: electronic compasses that display your direction digitally and analog compass with a compass bezel where you determine your direction using the position of the hour hand and the position of the sun. Here’s how to use a compass bezel:
- Hold the watch horizontally
- Align the hour hand of the watch with the suns direction. The central point between the 12 o’clock position the hour hand approximately indicates South.
- Rotate the compass bezel so that its south indicator matches this will allow you to read other compass directions.
Solar-powered watches are designed to convert natural and artificial light into energy. (Artificial means that a solar watch can be charged by a lightbulb for example). Solar panel of a solar watch absorbs light and converts it into electrical energy then store it into a rechargeable cell that powers the watch. All you have to do is expose the watch to any source of light, and it will start charging. You can say that a solar watch is always charging (unless you keep it in total darkness).
No, there is no way to overcharge a solar watch. However, it’s possible to damage some parts of the watch if you keep it under direct sunlight for a long time.