Best Solar-Powered Watches

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

13 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
278 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best solar-powered watches

Last Updated September 2019

If you dislike winding your watch or dealing with fiddly watch batteries, have you considered a solar-powered watch? Thanks to their discreet solar panels, these watches are powered by nothing but the sun.

From rugged options perfect for wearing hiking or while exercising to fancy models that wouldn't appear out of place at a black tie event, you can find all kinds of solar-powered watches on the market, but which is right for you?

We at BestReviews have picked our favorite solar-powered watches and created a detailed guide to aid you in finding your perfect timepiece. Read on to discover all you need to know about the world of solar-powered watches.

With a solar-powered watch, there's no need to change batteries, and they don't lose time the way mechanical watches can.

Types of solar-powered watches

Analog solar-powered watches

Analog watches are those that feature an hour hand and a minute hand (and sometimes a second hand, too). The majority of solar-powered watches are analog, but you can find digital options as well. Analog watches are generally considered to be more aesthetically versatile, so they're better all-rounders, suitable for both formal and informal wear.

Digital solar-powered watches

Although digital solar-powered watches aren't quite as common as their analog counterparts, you can still find a decent selection to choose from. Some people prefer the fun retro appearance of digital watches; others simply find them more convenient. Digital solar watches may also offer a wider array of features, such as built-in alarms and stopwatch functions.

DID YOU KNOW?

You can find solar-powered watches with a date window — a feature some users find useful.

Considerations for selecting a solar-powered watch

Charging capabilities

What makes a solar-powered watch different from a standard watch is its solar charging capabilities. These watches contain a number of tiny solar panels, usually hidden discreetly around the watch face, which constantly charge the watch when exposed to light. Since the battery level is always being topped up, under normal conditions, a solar-powered watch should never run out of charge.

Of course, you know that solar-powered watches are charged by sunlight. However, almost all models can also charge themselves using artificial light, albeit at a slower rate. Although battery life varies between makes and models, the majority of solar-powered watches can store enough power to run for months or even years.

Band material

You can find solar-powered watches with various band materials. Common choices include leather, faux leather, metal link, and plastic. The majority of digital solar watches have plastic buckle-style straps, but you'll find more variety among analog models. Metal bands are stylish and durable, but some people don't find them comfortable for all-day wear. Leather watch straps are softer and have simple buckle fastenings, but some people choose to avoid leather for religious or ethical reasons. An animal-friendly and equally comfortable alternative is faux leather, which is usually found on all but high-end watches.

Men's, women's, and unisex styles

Some solar-watches are designed for men, some for women, and some for everyone. Men's watches tend to be chunkier, with large faces and wide straps. Women's watches are more delicate, with small faces and thin bands. Unisex watches are somewhere in between. Of course, you don't need to stick to these gender boundaries. If you're a woman who prefers a chunky watch, for instance, you can buy yourself a men's watch.

Design

Watches are available in a wide range of designs to suit different tastes and uses. Some watches are highly embellished with crystals (or even diamonds and other precious stones in high-end models) and are meant for wear at formal occasions — although you can wear them for everyday use, too. Others are smart but simple, for people who don't necessarily want anything too flashy.

Then you have watches that are designed to be rugged and functional rather than beautiful. These are best for casual use. Everyone has their own personal preferences about design, so you'll need to shop around to find something you like.

Subdials

Subdials are smaller dials set into the face of a watch, used to measure something other than the time where you are. You can find subdials on solar-watches with some regularity. Watches can have subdials for a range of purposes. Some subdials are for use as a stopwatch to measure seconds, minutes, or hours (these are known as chronograph dials). Some tell the time in a different time zone or indicate the date or day of the week. Some tell you the phase of the moon. Chronograph subdials are generally operated by a button or buttons near the dial used to set the time on the watch.

Waterproofing

A large number of modern solar-powered watches feature some degree of waterproofing, which is great if you prefer to keep your watch on at all times — even in the shower or when going for a swim. You can find watches that are water-resistant at great depths under the water (in some cases, more than 650 feet). These types of watches are wonderful for divers. However, the vast majority of wearers will never need their watch to be waterproof at this kind of depth.

EXPERT TIP

If you often need to tell the time in the dark or in poor lighting, choose a digital watch with a light-up face or an analog watch with luminous hands.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Check the weight of your chosen solar-powered watch before buying. Some chunky watches can be quite heavy and may not be comfortable to wear.


Staff  | BestReviews

Solar-powered watch prices

How much should you expect to pay for a solar watch? You'll be pleased to know that solar-powered watches cost a similar amount to standard watches of comparable quality. You can find budget solar-powered watches for as little as $10 to $15, but these aren't the most attractive or of the best quality.

Expect to pay $40 to $80 for a decent yet basic solar watch. Mid-range solar-powered watches cost around $100 to $200, whereas high-end and designer models can cost as much as $500 or even $1,000.

Tips

  • Check the adjustability of your solar-powered watch. Those with standard buckles are the easiest to adjust, but you can have links removed from or added to metal bands for a better fit.

  • Consider how durable your chosen solar-powered watch is. If you'll be wearing the same watch seven days a week, it will need to be tough enough to stand up to general wear and tear. You may also want to consider a shock-resistant model if you need something rugged.

  • Think about how comfortable any solar watch you're considering would be. Metal link watches can catch in arm hair and aren't always the comfiest for extended use.

  • Decide whether you'd like a solar-powered watch with an alarm function. The majority of solar watches don't feature any kind of alarm, but you can find models that do — you’d just just need to shop around a bit more.

Others products we considered

There are several more solar-powered watches we found during our research that we like almost as much as our top picks. The Citizen Eco-Drive Men's AT4008-51E Perpetual Chrono A-T Watch is a stylish timepiece with three subdials for different time zones, days of the week, and a 24-hour timer. Its stainless steel construction is durable, and it's water-resistant to 660 feet.

We also love the Casio Women's LTP-S100D-7BVCF Solar Powered Watch, a more delicate stainless steel option for smaller wrists. The simple analog face features hour markers and a date window.

If you're looking for an affordable option, consider the Fanmis Men's Solar Powered Casual Quartz Watch. The unusual design features both digital and analog displays, which is useful for keeping track of the time in two time zones.

There are a few solar-power watches on today’s market with a satellite GPS function. This is an excellent feature for hikers and adventurers.

FAQ

Q. How accurate and effective are solar-powered watches?

A. While solar-powered watches back in the '80s and '90s were clunky and often inaccurate, modern solar technology is such that contemporary solar-powered watches are no less accurate or effective than battery-powered or mechanical watches.

Q. Will my watch charge if I wear long sleeves over it?

A. Unless you're wearing a sheer material, hardly any light will penetrate through long sleeves, so your watch won't charge effectively. At times of year where you're almost constantly wearing long sleeves, you'd need to make an effort to set your watch somewhere light to charge every now and then.

Q. Do solar-powered watches charge equally quickly in all seasons?

A. Since solar-powered watches charge most effectively in bright sunlight, they generally charge more quickly in spring and summer than in fall and winter when it's overcast. That said, plenty of solar-powered watches charge in artificial light, so they generally get adequate charging time indoors; they just don't reach full charge quite as quickly.

The team that worked on this review
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    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
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    Branson
    Videographer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Production Assistant
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    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
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    Enid
    Editor
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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