The 12 Best Solar-Powered Watches

Apr 21, 2021

Category: Style

There are a number of ways in which a watch can be powered. Mechanical watches use a centuries-old system of springs, levers, and gears that must be wound with a crown or through the motion of your wrist via an oscillating weight. Quartz watches utilize an electric current powered by a small battery. And smartwatches run on rechargeable batteries that make use of the latest technology. Then there are solar-powered watches, which need only the light of the sun — or, in some cases, any light — to power a battery that keeps their hands moving. But what are the best solar-powered watches on the market today?

Despite the tech being around for nearly 50 years, solar-powered watches remain a niche subset of the watch industry. Enthusiasts prefer mechanical watches, while budget-minded consumers tend to reach for inexpensive quartz. That leaves solar watches on the outside looking in despite their convenience, with less romance and novelty compared to mechanical pieces and higher prices than standard quartz. As things stand, almost all solar watches sold today are produced by the big three Japanese watchmakers: Seiko, Casio (makers of G-SHOCK), and Citizen. Citizen especially is associated with solar power, thanks to their innovative Eco-Drive technology that runs on any light. Eco-Drive movements power the bulk of Citizen’s catalog, and as a result, you’ll spot a number of their offerings among our list of the best solar-powered watches. But despite solar-powered watches’ small market share, there are still plenty of great examples out there that are worth picking up, even outside of Citizen — including a few that may surprise you.

Citizen Chandler

Given how wholly Citizen has committed themselves to Eco-Drive, they are able to produce very high-quality solar-powered watches at unexpectedly low prices. Take this field watch, for instance. A forum favorite, this tough stainless steel watch boasts classic military-inspired styling, an infinitely wearable 37mm case, a screw-down crown with 100m water resistance, a day-date complication, and solid lume. For the price, it’s tough to beat — solar-powered or not.

Case Size: 37mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Power Reserve: 6 Months

Purchase: $130

Seiko SNE529

Solar-powered watches are often pigeonholed as being rough and ready tools for outdoor adventure, and that is often the case. But it isn’t always the case, as this Seiko proves. An attractive everyday watch, the SNE529 combines its green sunburst dial and gold-tone hands and indices with a stainless steel case that features a mix of brushed and polished finishing, including Omega-style twisted lugs. It’s versatile enough to look great dressed up or down, and its 100m water resistance and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal even make it suitable for rougher wear.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Power Reserve: 10 Months

Purchase: $216

Citizen Promaster Diver

The Seiko SKX series of mechanical divers is one of the most iconic dive watch designs ever, but they’re sadly no longer in production. Thankfully, Citizen is still very much making their similarly-styled Promaster Diver, and it’s very much an icon in its own right. The watch boasts everything you’d want in a solid diver: a unidirectional rotating bezel, great lume, 200m water resistance, and a waterproof polyurethane strap. And since the watch never needs a battery, you won’t have to worry about compromising your depth rating by opening up the caseback.

Case Size: 44mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Power Reserve: 6 Months

Purchase: $222

G-SHOCK Rangeman

Many of G-SHOCK’s offerings feature solar power, but if you really want the toughest and most feature-packed sun-absorber on your wrist, you can’t go wrong with the legendary Rangeman. The watch’s tough and beefy case is engineered to resist shocks, mud, and low-temperature, protecting not only the movement but the triple sensor within that’s comprised of an Altimeter, Barometer/Thermometer, and Digital Compass. There’s also a great 200m of water resistance and Multi-Band Atomic Timekeeping, meaning as long as you’ve got access to light, you’ll know what time it is anywhere in the world.

Case Size: 53mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Power Reserve: 7 Months

Purchase: $330

Seiko Prospex “Arnie”

Your Arnold Schwarzenegger impression is guaranteed to improve tenfold while wearing this watch.* Why is that? Because the Austrian Oak wore the ‘80s version of this rugged beast in some of his best action films, like Predator and Commando. Arnold’s version wasn’t solar-powered, but the modern-day reissue is. It also has an ISO-standardized 200m water resistance, two methods of illumination, and the classic hybrid dial that combines an analog watch with a digital readout. It’s a great watch to wear when you’ve been “pushing too many pencils” and need to “let off some steam, Bennett.” OK, we’re done.

*Not an actual guarantee.

Case Size: 47.8mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Power Reserve: 6 Months

Purchase: $525

G-SHOCK Full Metal 5000

As G-SHOCK has branched out from their outdoor origins to more cosmopolitan fare, they have thankfully brought their solar tech along for the journey. The Full Metal 5000 line comprises some of the flashiest and most stylish watches that G-SHOCK makes thanks to their full-metal case and bracelet construction. But just because the watch looks like a million bucks, that doesn’t mean you’re not still getting the classic G-SHOCK experience. The 5000 has 200m water resistance, atomic and Bluetooth timekeeping, and G-SHOCK’s trademark shock protection.

Case Size: 49.3mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Power Reserve: 10 Months

Purchase: $550

Citizen Promaster Skyhawk A-T Blue Angels

A lot of watches call themselves pilot’s watches, but pilots aren’t really wearing most of them. Do you think the guy manning your JetBlue flight to La Guardia is rocking a Flieger? Maybe, but probably not. The legendary Skyhawk, on the other hand, has long been a favorite of actual pilots thanks to the fact that it’s as much of a feature-packed aviation tool as it is a watch, with a slide rule bezel, UTC display, atomic world time tracking for 43 cities, a countdown timer, and a 1/100th of a second chronograph. This version celebrating the Blue Angels of the U.S. Navy is especially popular.

Case Size: 46mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Power Reserve: 6 Months

Purchase: $556+

Garmin fēnix 6 – Pro Solar Edition

Unlike the other entrants on this list, Garmin is not a watch company. They make watches, sure, but their main focus is on GPS software and hardware. As such, their watches are built for outdoor adventuring, and the fēnix 6 is their most tech-loaded offering, with specific apps and features for various outdoor sports, tons of maps with access to a triumvirate of satellite tracking networks, and various ways to keep track of your vitals and environment. With so many outdoor features at your fingertips, it makes perfect sense for Garmin to offer a solar-powered version of the fēnix 6 — allowing you to stay in the great outdoors for as long as you wish.

Case Size: 42mm, 47mm, or 51mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Power Reserve: Varies By Use

Purchase: $800+

Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar

As the only Swiss-made watch on this list, you know the T-Touch Connect Solar is bringing the heat. Tissot, a historic Swiss Maison that’s been making watches since 1853, went to great lengths to ensure the quality of the watch’s construction, manufacturing its solar cell, ceramic bezel, sapphire glass, and titanium case themselves. They even developed the Sw-ALPS low-energy operating system in-house. The result is a proudly (and thoroughly) Swiss-made smartwatch that features navigation, meteorological, and fitness tracking functions, along with connectivity to iOS, Android, and Harmony smartphones.

Case Size: 47mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Power Reserve: 6 Months

Purchase: $1,050+

Junghans Max Bill Mega Solar

With the exception of the previously mentioned Japanese brands, most other significant watch companies do not bother with outfitting their traditional watches with solar technology. But Junghans is the exception. The German brand known for their minimalist Bauhaus designs already offers their iconic Max Bill dress watch with hand-wound, automatic, and quartz movements, so they figured they might as well cover all their bases by offering up a solar version, too. The solar-powered Max Bill ups the ante with titanium construction and a radio-controlled movement featuring a perpetual calendar, all while still looking like a classic Max Bill.

Case Size: 38mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Power Reserve: 6 Months

Purchase: $1,095

Seiko Astron 5X Titanium

Seiko’s top-of-the-line solar offering borders on luxury territory, proving that solar-powered watches aren’t just for campers and people who have an aversion to changing batteries. This model was created in honor of the original Seiko Astron, which debuted as the world’s first quartz watch in 1969. To show how far quartz has come, Seiko crafted this watch from their 5X titanium with a super scratch-resistant coating while outfitting it with a GPS-controlled movement that will automatically adjust your time in 39 different timezones around the world — even accounting for Daylight Saving Time.

Case Size: 42.7mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Power Reserve: 6 Months

Purchase: $2,500+

Citizen Eco-Drive Caliber 0100

By now, you’ve seen that the bulk of solar-powered watches available are pretty affordable, with even the more expensive offerings from Junghans and Seiko paling in comparison to most mechanical watches produced by the big Swiss luxury brands. But leave it to Citizen, the world’s greatest cheerleader for solar-powered watches, to take the tech to the stratosphere. This limited edition three-watch series, released in 2019, was a revelation. Not only were the watches finished to luxury specs and crafted from high-end materials like titanium, mother of pearl, and white gold, but they also housed the most accurate movement to ever appear in a wristwatch. The Citizen Caliber 0100 is an absolute engineering marvel, keeping time to within +/- 1 second per year without the use of radio control, Bluetooth, or any other syncing. It’s not only the most impressive solar-powered watch ever made, it’s one of the most impressive watches ever made, period.

Case Size: 37.5mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Power Reserve: 6 Months

Purchase: $7,400+

The 20 Best Outdoor Watches For Men

As you no doubt noticed, a fair number of these solar-powered watches are engineered for outdoor activity. Which makes sense: Sun’s out, guns solar-powered watches out. But if you prefer a mechanical or standard quartz watch for your outdoor escapades, then you should have a look at our guide to the best outdoor watches, where you’ll find a wide variety of wristwear to suit whatever adventure you have in mind.

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