One of the must-have digital pieces recently is a smartwatch. People have slowly tossed out their old mechanical wristwatch in exchange for the cutting-edge smartwatch. The surf industry has gradually adjusted to this trend, too. Now, surf and tide watches have become an increasingly popular gear item for surfers and wave riders.
These tide watches do more than what a regular smartwatch can. They can indicate the low and high tide times on certain surf breaks and lets you know when to go in such surf breaks.
With such promising usefulness, many tide watches are out in the market today. You’ve come to the right place if you are in search of tide watches. Read on as we review five of the best tide watches and other vital things you need to know.
- What are tide watches
- How do tide watches work
- Analog tide watches vs. digital tide watches
- Buying Guide
Table of Contents
What Are Tide Watches?
Tide watches or more commonly known as surf watches are smartwatches intended explicitly for water activities such as surfing, fishing, diving, swimming, and a lot more. Like any sport, surfing requires performance tracking, and a reliable tide watch can change the game with tracking features.
Clearly, surf watches are not only used for fashion but purpose. These timepieces are actual devices that aid in mastering the art of riding the waves while staying safe in the most hazardous places on earth.
Top 6 Best Tide Watches Reviewed
The decades of oceanographic studies made the planet’s tidal movements somehow straightforward to predict. These researches and data collection got stored in the minuscule arm computer known as the tide watch.
It doesn’t stop there. Technology also introduced features like wave counters, dawn/sunset times, and moon phases. How’s that for smart surf computers? These features and other valuable aspects of a tide watch are what these five best tide watches are built with.
- Nixon Base Tide Pro
- Rip Curl Search GPS 2
- Garmin Instinct Solar Surf
- Apple Watch Series 6
- Casio G-Shock GW-7900-1ER Tide Graph
- Timex Allied 45mm Tide Temp Compass
1. Nixon Base Tide Pro
- Watch Band: 24mm custom injection molded silicone band with dual locking looper and solid stainless steel buckle with stainless steel screw bar connections
- Watch Dial: Negative LCD with printed tide graph
- Watch Case: 42mm, 100m/10ATM custom reinforced recycled ocean plastics case with hardened mineral crystal, custom water-resistant pushers, stainless steel screw-down case back
- Water Rating: 100 meters / 10 ATM
While there’s always an app for anything you need, having something in your watch that is convenient to use is a lot better. That’s what Nixon Base Tide Pro is all about – a watch built for keeping time and telling you about other important stuff.
The Nixon Base Tide Pro is perfect for surfers – from its funky colors that match the surfboard’s cool designs to the clear tide graph on its home screen. This tide watch, with all its digital functions, suit every surfer’s needs.
It is pre-loaded with tidal information you need from over 550 locations worldwide. Tide times display can be customized to display basic tides that show local times and heights. All this brilliance comes enclosed in its rugged silicone strap with a double lock and chunky buttons.
This tide watch is one of the most affordable in the market, but it doesn’t come short of features and usability. Whether you are diving 50m deep or out surfing under the bright sun, you will see what’s on the screen with its backlit display and fantastic color options.
|Durable silicone strap||Limited tide locations in the UK|
|Several bright color options|
|Quick-glance tide graph|
2. Rip Curl Search GPS 2
- Watch Band: Rubber
- Watch Dial: Digital
- Watch Case: ABS Hardened Plastic
- Water Rating: 100 meters / 10 ATM
Rip Curl put together a watch and a surf tracking device designed from the ground up specifically for surfers. A genius little piece of technology right on your arm that gives you all you need to know when surfing – number of waves caught, speed, locations, distance traveled, and many more.
The Search GPS 2 is blown up with all the features smartwatches and fitness trackers have but with additional specific features for surfing and tide watching. Not a lot of watches can adequately track surfing performance as the Search GPS 2 can.
This tide watch is not limited to surfing only. Use it as you paddleboard, and it tracks how far you’ve paddled and where you’ve gone. It is popular among surfers and paddleboarders that even a quick #SearchGPS search on Instagram brings you to many people documenting their sessions in different locations.
Overall, this tide watch works seamlessly – it is easy to set up with your phone, simple to use, and works flawlessly. It is a perfect gift for any watersport enthusiast or yourself.
|Accurate in surf data collection||Battery life doesn’t last too long|
|Easy sync with the app|
|Waves plotted accurately on the map|
3. Garmin Instinct Solar Surf
- Watch Band: Silicone
- Watch Dial: Monochrome, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel
- Watch Case: Fiber-Reinforced Polymer
- Water Rating: 100 meters / 10 ATM
One of the most trusted names in smartwatches, Garmin also has a line of watches that caters specifically to surfers and the like. The Garmin Instinct Solar Surf is the Instinct Solar’s variant that aims at surfers’ needs.
This tide watch is equipped with special features only for surfers. One exciting feature is the solar panel technology that absorbs solar power and converts it into energy. Now, how’s that for a sustainable tide watch?
Like most Garmin smartwatches, the Solar Surf comes with a rugged design to withstand various extreme conditions. This one looks like an adventurous watch with a MIL-STD-810G military standard design for thermal, shock, and water resistance of up to 100 meters.
What makes this edition different from other Instinct Solar is its availability of data that shows tidal conditions. This feature makes it easy for you or anyone who wants to surf to find the perfect waves on the beaches around you.
|Rugged body by military standards||Large and bulky|
|Battery life is immensely satisfying|
|Practical wave monitoring feature for surfers|
4. Apple Watch Series 6
- Watch Band:
- Stretchable silicone rubber
- Braided silicone threads
- Watch Dial: Monochrome, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel
- Watch Case: Aluminum case
- Water Rating: 50 meters / 5ATM
One of the biggest questions about an Apple Watch is whether or not you can bring it to the beach. Yes, you can. Apple Watch is totally waterproof and tightly sealed that no water or sand can get in. Plus, its case and its band make it tougher than it looks.
Big wave surfer Matt Bromley paddled out to 50 foot Jaws wearing his Apple Watch. This move boosted a lot of surfers’ confidence in this watch. After surviving the massive waves, he went on to try it with another 40-foot wave at the Mavericks.
The Apple Watch has a surf-specific watch face that features swell height, direction, period, tide, and water temperature. Plus, its onboard GPS automatically syncs with your location to update the swell forecast for the closest break.
Apple is well-known for gathering metrics and data, so it’s not surprising just how much it collects and tracks for you. With the app on your Apple Watch, hit “Start Surfing,” and it will follow how many waves you’ll catch, how fast and far you’ll go, the distance you’ll paddle, time riding waves, and how long your session will be.
|Gyroscope for fall detection||More expensive than most tide watches|
|Decent battery life|
|Wide range of features|
5. Casio G-Shock GW-7900-1ER Tide Graph
- Watch Band: Rubber
- Watch Dial: Mineral
- Watch Case: Black Resin Cover Shell
- Water Rating: 200 meters / 20ATM
A discussion about watches related to sport won’t be complete without a G-Shock. This sports watch is not just a military personnel’s favorite but of a surfer, too. The G-Shock GW-7900-1ER is almost the same as the Garmin Instinct with its solar power capability. The difference is, its quality of solar technology and shock-resistant is a notch higher.
This tide watch model from the G-Shock Series has a power reserve that can last up to 10 months when fully charged. In addition, its high-quality shock resistances protect the timepiece from knocks, thermal shocks, and intense water pressure.
G-Shock Series holds its name for being the most rigid watch, making it the ideal wearable for extreme water activities, including surfing. While it isn’t as packed with surf-related features like Garmin, it still covers the essentials like tidal movements, tide graph function, and moon phase indicators.
Overall, the G-Shock GW-7900-1ER is one solid tide watch. On top of its uncountable pros is the Multiband 6 feature. Multiband 6 is a radio-controlled atomic timekeeping technology that guarantees utmost accuracy wherever you are located.
|Rugged design||Quite bulky|
|Long battery life|
|Atomic time calibration|
6. Timex Allied 45mm Tide Temp Compass
- Watch Band: Soft fabric strap
- Watch Dial: Quartz analog
- Watch Case: Brushed gunmetal stainless steel
- Water Rating: 100 meters / 10ATM
Timex brings in this list an analog tide watch that can keep up with the modern and highly digitized tide watches. The Timex Allied 45mm Tide Temp Compass is a worthwhile timepiece for tide tracking both function and cost-wise.
This tide watch makes you unique among surfers who wear tide watches as it features an analog face rather than a digital one. Aside from being a tide watch, it can well complement your tie and suit at a formal gathering.
Since this tide watch is analog, it won’t give you the tide graphs that digital tide watches can. But, you won’t miss the high-low tide circle that sits in the center of the dial. This may be a dealbreaker for some tide watch users, but the non-digital appearance is what makes it popular and sought-after.
In addition, it has a compass and thermometer that most Timex patrons appreciate. These features come in handy in outdoor and survival activities. You’ll be surprised at how precise and accurate the features are.
|Classy and stylish||Tide reading can be confusing|
|It comes with a thermometer and compass|
|Indigo illumination for easy reading in the dark|
How Do Tide Watches Work?
The mechanics behind every watch is sophisticated. But, with their purpose to accurately convey the ebb and flow of the ocean’s surface, tide watches can be considered more sophisticated.
Digital tide watches depend on data coming from software and apps with which they are synced with. GPS plays a significant role in detecting which tides to monitor and what essential data needs to be thrown to the tide watch.
Analog tide watches use a tide indicator which is a single hand that finishes a complete, 360-degree rotation in 12 hours and 24 minutes – the average time it takes for half of a tide cycle to complete. High tide happens when the tide indicator is at a 12 o’clock position.
The tide then recedes and fades as the hand makes its way to the 6 o’clock position and flows as the hand goes back up and around to the same cycle.
Analog Tide Watches vs. Digital Tide Watches
Deciding what type of tide watch is right for you boils down to a personal preference. The misconception that analog tide watches are inferior to digital should be debunked. After all, they serve the same purpose.
Analog tide watches you may consider are Hook and Gaff, Casio G-Shock GST-S110D-1A, Timex Allied Tide Temp Compass, and Tissot T-Sport. Rip Curl Eclipse Tidemaster and Nixon Channel T also have digital tide watches with dials instead of computerized display.
Buying Guide: Factors to Consider In Getting The Best Tide Watch
With the options listed above, you are now better positioned to choose the best tide watch according to your requirements. To help you decide better, here are some factors you may consider before handing over that hard-earned money.
This is the first condition you must check when deciding on a tide watch. A surf watch must have adequate water resistance. Water-resistance levels range from 5 ATM or 50 feet to 20 ATM or 200 feet.
If you are leaning towards the traditional wristwatch, then the least water resistance you should look for is 10ATM. This rating is decent enough to go through intense water activities, including swimming, snorkeling, showering, or even shallow diving.
Smart and GPS watch like Apple Watch and Garmin usually come with 50-meter water resistance. While they are not as protected from water impact as most conventional watches, they can do equally fine in surface water sports. Immersing them deeper is another story and might cause some problems.
Having said that, it would be best if you pick a tide watch that comes with more significant water and water pressure resistance if your activities should include diving. Otherwise, you can go for smartwatches or traditional watches.
Tide Graph vs. High/Low Tide
One of the most common features that tide watches typically come with is tide graphs. There are two types of tide graphs in tide watches – the advanced graph and the high and low tide indicator.
The advanced graph presents tides graphically, describing past, current, and future tides. The other tide graph, which comes available in analog watches, only indicates high and low tide.
The graphic tide indicator presents better insight than a simple high/low tide dial without any uncertainty. So, if you consider yourself a hardcore surfer, your best option is the advanced tide graph. Otherwise, you can pick the simpler version.
Check out how the moon and tide graph is set up in Casio GShock GPRB1000 tide watch.
Pre-Programmed Surf Spots
Going out without knowing the local conditions may result in an unfulfilling experience. This is the reason that the pre-programmed beaches feature is an invaluable function in a tide watch. A non-GPS tide watch usually comes with roughly 500 beaches, while a GPS tide watch comes with at least a thousand.
Simpler and cheaper tide watches don’t have this feature, although they come with settings that you can adjust to receive a tide graph for the following days. It isn’t so much a dealbreaker since the modification method is pretty much straightforward.
The only issue lies in the accuracy of the waves since every spot is not the same, mainly when several factors contribute to data for actual tide times and wave heights. This makes surf watches with preset beaches much preciser than those that require manual settings.
Aside from the tide graph operation, you may want to check other features that can come in handy during your ride. The most valuable features are wave counters, sunrise and sunset times, moon phase indicator, backlight, stopwatch, countdown timer, and dual time.
Some of the most advanced tide watches include cutting-edge functions like wave height, altimeter, barometer, compass, and thermometer. Take note that such timepieces may cost significantly more, but they are not just limited to surfing but other outdoor activities as well.
Understand the usefulness of the features and see if it fits your lifestyle. It would be best to stick to the tide watch with only the features you need so you won’t overspend.
Tide Watch Construction
Aside from features, it would help if you also considered evaluating the overall construction quality of your tide watch. The most reliable for surfing are G-Shock watches since they come with multiple shock resistances, including a 200m water resistance.
Garmin comes next with its wristwear standards that have been proven and tested to withstand severe conditions.
Another aspect to pay attention to are the crystals that cover the face of the tide watch. Since surf watches aren’t equipped with sapphire glass, the next best option is hardened mineral glass. While they are not as promising as sapphire glass, they are long-lasting and scratch-resistant.
If the choices laid out are between mineral glass and acrylic glass, it would be wise to pick the tide watch with mineral glass.
Since tide watches offer a lot in terms of features and functionalities, running out of battery is inevitable and can only take hours of use to drain the power out completely. If you don’t mind having to charge it now and then, then it’s all good.
But if you find it tedious to plug it in every day and you don’t care about other functions than surfing, a quartz tide watch is what you should go for. These watches can last up to 3 years or until it needs a battery replacement.
If you opt for the most detailed surf watch with all of its functionalities, the best choice is solar-powered tide watches. A mere splash of light is enough to charge themselves. That means, when you are surfing under the sun, you are charging your tide watch too. They may cost heftier than the other tide watches, but the outcome is worth every cent.
All things considered, tide watches arrive at different price points. Those with greater depth ratings are more expensive. The more features it has, the costlier it can get. Always consider the budget you have and research the best options for you for that price range.
With the variety of surf watches in the market today, you are guaranteed to find one that can work with what you need and the budget you have.
Indeed, the tech trend in tide watches will continue to develop in the future years, but looking at what we have now, the features and functionalities are already too promising to ignore. The valuable information it provides and the tracking functionality that can be easily accessed even on the waters make every surfer want to include tide watches in their surfing gear.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: Can Apple Watch show tides?
A: Yes. The Apple Watch has an app called Tide Table Chart that lets you in quick and easy access to high tide and low tide forecasts. With this app, you’ll be able to see the tide chart of the next day or play an animation of the moon phase and tide changes, too.
Q: What is the use of a tide graph?
A: Tide graphs show the movement of the tides according to the course of the moon over a meridian and the lunitidal interval. These graphs show the low and high tide phases for any beach at any date. They are helpful in terms of understanding the patterns of the tides at your destination in advance.
Q: Are tide charts ever wrong?
A: There is a possibility of the tide charts giving inaccurate information. The most precise tidal predictions happen in places located on the coast as they are less affected by winds and meteorological events.
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G’day, my name is Rach Taylor and I’m the proud Founder of Surf Hungry. I am a former Australian Olympic athlete and Australian representative surf sports athlete. I’ve worked in the surf industry and lived at many of Australia’s best surf spots, sparking a life-long love of the ocean and a passion for surf sports which also rubbed off on my two young sons! I am also lucky to spend a lot of ocean-time in my favorite second home, Indonesia. In addition to SurfHungry I have founded several other websites in my areas of passion, namely coffee and rock climbing, and am also a regular rowing content contributor.