We’ve talked about ABC watches extensively in previous articles and also recommended them as some of our top watch picks in our buyer’s guides for best watches for skiing and best hiking watches but this article is dedicated exclusively to ABC watches.
This class of watch is an ideal choice for anyone into adventure sports, camping, or high-altitude outdoor use where having a watch with an altimeter, barometer, and compass is most useful. Many of these watches also include other weather-related data and tools that come in handy if you are in remote areas.
For example, the solar-powered Garmin Fenix 6X features a pulse Ox sensor that estimates your blood oxygen saturation levels, color topographic maps and GPS. All these tools on your wrist, in addition to the ABC features, make it one of the most impressive outdoor watches on the market.
We’ve included a more detailed review below, along with several other watches we consider the best ABC watches of 2021. We’ve included a wide array of choices below from diverse price points, functions, brands, and technologies. If you’re shopping for your next ABC watch, read on.
- 1 What is an ABC watch?
- 2 Best Altimeter (ABC) Watches
- 2.1 Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar – Top Pick
- 2.2 Casio Men’s Pro-Trek PRG-270
- 2.3 Casio Men’s Pro-Trek PRG-650Y-1CR
- 2.4 Suunto Core Outdoor Watch
- 2.5 Suunto Ambit3
- 2.6 Casio G-Shock Mudmaster
- 2.7 Garmin Fenix 5x Plus
- 2.8 Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar
- 2.9 Suunto 9 Baro
- 2.10 LAD-WEATHER Swiss Sensor Watch – Budget Pick
- 2.11 Polar Grit X GPS Watch
What is an ABC watch?
Before proceeding to this year’s best ABC watches, let’s first discuss what these watches are about, focusing on their functions and price points.
All of the watches we’re featuring below have the ABC feature. To better understand these functions, here is a breakdown of all three factors: an altimeter is a feature that measures altitude, the barometer measures air pressure and helps alert you of changing weather, and a compass used for navigation. ABC watches are made for adventure and are designed to endure extreme temperatures. We also looked for watches with large display screens that are easy to read and dials with excellent luminosity for low-light or nighttime.
The big question is: is an ABC watch for you? If you’re into adventure gear and do a lot of outdoor sports and activities like hiking, mountain climbing, ultra-running, or even hunting, an ABC watch would be a joy to use. You do not have to use separate devices for measuring the essentials—they are all in one device. The smartwatches that have these features will also allow you to connect the data using your smartphone.
Best Altimeter (ABC) Watches
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar – Top Pick
Garmin is a market leader when it comes to multi-functional smartwatches, and the most recent generation Fenix 6X Pro Solar exceeds our expectation of previous reiterations of the Fenix series.
One of the biggest announcements in 2020 was Garmin’s new line of solar-powered watches including this Fenix model. As for battery life, the Fenix 6X Pro Solar gives up to 21 days of battery life in smartwatch mode and up to 80 days in battery saver mode.
Apart from build quality and solar, the features are where the Fenix excels. Apart from standard ABC functions that include an altimeter for elevation data, a barometer to monitor the weather, and a three-axis electronic compass you get Garmin’s “altitude acclimation”, which adjusts your pulse oximeter reading, respiration rate, and resting heart rate correctly based on your current altitude.
Apart from that, the Fenix 6X comes with “PacePro” training program and health tracking that includes Pulse OX monitoring and sleep tracking. It also has TOPO maps and 2,000+ ski maps, backcountry ski, and trail routing for hikers and trail runners.
The Fenix 6X Pro is the latest and greatest from Garmin and it is priced accordingly. If you don’t see spending this much on a watch, check out the previous model, the Fenix 5X Plus that we recommended below. The Fenix 5X comes with tons of features at a more affordable price although you’ll get less memory and it lacks solar power.
Casio Men’s Pro-Trek PRG-270
Moving on to a well-known sports watch brand that continues to produce excellent products at relatively affordable prices. This Casio Pro-Trek watch is a solar-powered (battery-powered, and is recharged by a solar panel) ABC watch that has the Triple Sensor Version 3 engine. According to Casio, this model has a 95% smaller direction sensor, as well as a “90% reduction in sensor power consumption compared to previous models.” This is also more accurate and energy-efficient.
There are three big buttons on the right side of the watch where users can easily access the ABC features. The barometer of this model has what Casio calls the Barometric Pressure Tendency Alarm, which gives alert to the user when there are changes in pressure.
See a comprehensive review of the watch below.
This watch has a Super Illuminator LCD with backlight and afterglow, a stopwatch and countdown timer, world time in 48 cities, an auto-calendar until the year 2099. The battery life is exceptional as well: it can last for nine months on a full charge without further exposure to light. Those who will use this watch at low temperatures will also be able to enjoy its resistance up to -10C (14F).
Not sure which one to get? You can check out other Pro Trek models here. We’ll also be featuring another excellent model below.
Casio Men’s Pro-Trek PRG-650Y-1CR
This Casio Pro-Trek model is more expensive but is worth the price considering all the special features that are packed into it. Like the previous model, the PRG-650Y-1CR is also temperature-resistant (-10 degrees C), has all the ABC functions, and world time.
What’s unique about this, however, is the design. This one has a night safari concept–black faces, ion-plated bezels, and DuraSoft band that promote durability. This watch is rugged and handsome, making it a perfect watch for both adventures and daily use.
According to Casio, the design and colors of this Triple Sensor Version 3 Pro Trek models were selected for nighttime outdoors. Aside from its predominantly black color, the watch has the Neon Illuminator, allowing the user to read the time and other functions even in dark environments. The inside part of the band also has a faint glow for night activities.
Suunto Core Outdoor Watch
Another big name in outdoor and ABC watches is Suunto, a Finnish company that has been making watches since 1936. The word “Suunto” means “direction,” which is what the company has always been known for: accurate compasses.
The Suunto Core line was first released in 2007. These sports watches boast of ABC features that have weather information—the best watch for outdoor sports and activities.
Some of the key features include a weather graph with preset sunrise and sunset times (for more than 400 locations), a storm alarm, and multiple dates and time functions. Those who will use this watch for snorkeling would also be able to use the depth meter for dives.
One of the features that have received mixed reviews is the battery life. Some say that it lasted them a year before replacement, while others claim that their batteries only lasted two weeks. Take note that when it comes to watches like these, the battery life will really differ—it will always depend on the features being used. If you want a more powerful battery life, however, you can also check out other Suunto models, which brings us to our next item.
The Suunto Ambit3 boasts of an impressive battery: 200 hours with 1-minute accuracy. This is more expensive than the previous Core outdoor watch, but it has more features too: more than a dozen languages, a heart rate monitor, a bike power support, route navigation, and trackback.
Suunto has an app called Movescount that will allow users to easily integrate their Suunto watch to their smartphone. This connectivity will allow you to customize your watch using the phone, use the phone as a second watch display, discover new routes, and upload your progress and share your activity instantly.
Check out a video review of the Ambit3 below:
The things that you can do with this app are simply impressive. Aside from taking pictures, you can also create a movie of your activity; and you can get push notifications, calls, and messages on your Suunto watch.
This is an ABC watch for those serious about the outdoors. It’s not cheap, but the functions will definitely be worth it.
Casio G-Shock Mudmaster
Here’s another Casio, but this time it’s the G-Shock, which is one of the most trusted outdoor watches today. There are so many models to choose from, so for this article, we’re featuring one of the brand’s best ABC watches: The G-Shock Mudmaster.
The Mudmaster is an excellent watch for those who are doing adventure sports. As the name suggests, this watch was built for those “whose work takes it into areas where piles of rubble, dirt, and debris are present.”
This watch is equipped with mud-resistant features, such as pipes that guide the buttons, keeping the mud out and protecting buttons from impact. In terms of luminosity, this one has a double LED light for high visibility and a sapphire crystal for scratch resistance.
This model has the Triple Sensor Version 3 feature, which provides the user with the ABC essentials, as well as improved accuracy. To learn more about this feature, check out this Casio page.
Other excellent features include a stainless steel case, shock resistance, vibration resistance, a screw-lock crown, and a 200m water resistance. If your job or sport requires a mud-resistant watch, this is one of your best bets.
Garmin Fenix 5x Plus
The Fenix 5x Plus is the previous generation of the Fenix line that has since been outdone by its new sibling, the Fenix 6 mentioned above. However, even though it’s not the latest, it’s still a very solid watch and great value now that the pricing has come down since it originally launched.
One of the best features of the Fenix 5X Plus is the Pulse Ox Acclimation sensor, which estimates your blood oxygen saturation levels. This would come in handy for those who are on high altitudes. You will also be able to estimate your heart rate.
The navigation features are exceptional as well. This watch has a mapping system that allows the user to track their location, and find the best routes and paths. If you’re a runner or cyclist, these are some of the things that will maximize your workout.
Another Garmin watch of the same price range that you can check out is the Garmin Tactix Charlie.
Both this and the Fenix 5x are excellent for fitness, having features like tracking (steps, distance, and calories burned), but the Charlie is being marketed as a watch for field ops and tactical operations, as the name suggests.
One unique feature of the Tactix Charlie is the night vision mode, a feature that can change the backlight that will allow the user to use night vision goggles.
The only key feature difference between the Garmin Tactix Charlie and the Fenix 5x is the Charlie has a night vision mode. This is a feature that alters the backlight to make it easier to use with Night vision goggles.
Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar
An analog ABC watch, the Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar is a simple watch packed with features for the outdoors: a countdown timer, regatta function, Chrono split and lap (logbook).
One of the most unique things about this watch is that it’s a touch screen powered by solar energy, which means that you can keep using it for extended periods of time and not worry about the battery running out quickly.
This may not be for you if you are particularly looking for fitness features that can track your activities such as the smartwatches featured above, or smartphone integration. However, if you’re looking for an excellent analog ABC luxury watch that’s legible and durable (it has a titanium case and a silicone strap), this is something that you should check out.
Tissot has a number of T-Touch Expert watches, so you will have different designs to choose from.
Visit this page to see a wide array of choices.
Suunto 9 Baro
The 9 Baro is a premium model in the Suunto smartwatch line that the brand itself markets as an “Ultra-endurance GPS watch”.
The barometer (thus the name) is where the Baro excels. The watch merges GPS data with barometric altitude information to provide advanced features including outdoor insights including sea level air pressure and has a storm tracker and air pressure alert – an alarm that will notify you of dramatic drops in barometric pressure (4 hPa+ within 3 hours).
The digital compass is tilt-compensated, meaning you don’t have to hold your wrist totally level to get an accurate reading.
For athletes, the Baro 9 offers tracking for an impressive 80 different sports modes. Apart from standard fitness tracking you’d expect no a premium smartwatch, it has advanced features for pace, heart rate graphs, and useful recovery metrics for serious athletes that include peak training effect (PTE) and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
The Baro is specifically designed to be extra tough for the most arduous training, it would be a good pick for a triathlon or trail runner to get full use out of the performance metrics.
The Baro’s GPS is accurate and performs well. It also has three battery modes (Performance, Endurance, and Ultra) to track GPS from 25 hours to up to 170 hours of recording time.
LAD-WEATHER Swiss Sensor Watch – Budget Pick
We’re starting off with the more affordable brands. Aside from having the ABC features, the LAD Swiss Sensor watch also has important outdoor features such as a step and calorie counter, world time, and an alarm. It boasts of the weather monitor function, which can predict the weather by analyzing air pressure.
If you’re using this watch for fitness, this one has got you covered as well. You will be able to calculate your steps, distance covered, and calories burned.
The 46mm case is made of plastic and stainless steel, and the band is polyurethane. It’s also water-resistant up to 100m, so you can take it to the shower, do some light swimming (but not scuba diving).
There have been a number of complaints, however, on the dimness of the backlight. Some customers have also questioned the accuracy of the altimeter. Other than these, however, many have expressed satisfaction, especially on features such as the step counter/pedometer.
This model (the LAD024) has more than a dozen bezel colors to choose from such as black, gray, orange, yellow, red, green, and brown. For other similar LAD models, or if you’d like to explore the brand further, check out their website here.
Polar Grit X GPS Watch
The Polar Grit X is definitely rugged, it’s built to military specs U.S. military standard 810G proving it can take a real beating from shock, temperature changes, wear and tear and water resistance to 100m.
When it comes to features, the Polar Grit delivers an altimeter, barometer, and compass along with built-in GPS with impressive 100-hour battery life!
Apart from standard elevation, the Polar Grit X also automatically detects elevations so you can track speed, distance, and altitude during your hikes. The Grit also provides weather forecasting. Trail runners and backcountry hikers will appreciate Polar’s new “Hill Splitter” feature that automatically tracks hill repeats and gives route instructions turn by turn when paired with Polar’s own Komoot technology.
Another cool feature is Polar’s FuelWise fueling assistant, which calculates how many carbs you need for your session based on your energy expenditure. It can adjust to your training metrics and send fueling reminders to pace your carb consumption.
Brass ABC Watch | Photo Credit: Joie Nguyễn