What Makes a Great Sports Watch?

From Odell Beckham Jr.’s Richard Mille to Rory McIlroy’s OMEGA Seamaster

October 2, 2019 9:46 am
Odell Beckham Jr. Wears $2M Richard Mille Watch
Odell Beckham Jr. wore this RM 56-02 Tourbillon Sapphire from Richard Mille during a warmup. It costs over $2M.
ich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Getty

No matter what sport they play, for today’s athlete, the wrist is everything. 

Whether it’s Rory McIlroy sporting an Omega on the course, Serena Williams playing in an Audemars Piguet or Phil Mickelson rocking a Rolex when he tees it up, athletes love showing off their timepieces. And maybe nobody loves to show the world what they’re telling time with quite like Odell Beckham Jr. The star receiver recently made news after he sported two different Richard Mille watches during two different games for the Cleveland Browns.

This all begs the question: what, exactly, makes for the kind of watch the world’s greatest athletes would choose to wear onto the field? 

“Originally, sport watches used to be simple but resistant, these days you can measure pretty much anything which makes a sport watch a sophisticated one, more functional and therefore our preference in choosing one changed over time,” Damian Otwinowski, Vice President of Watches of Switzerland USA, tells InsideHook.

Since the rise of the wrist watch in the early 20th century, there have been sport watches. Jaeger-LeCoultre developed the Reverso in the early 1930s to satisfy a polo-playing corps of British Army officers in India who wanted to protect their crystals and movements during rough-and-tumble matches. So, the Swiss maker created a model that flips the face over and displaying the metal caseback outward to protect it from impact. 

Today, most brands offer a sports line, using materials like steel, titanium and carbon fiber that are highly water resistant, can sustain modest impacts and endure rapid movements.

If you’re in the market for a luxury mechanical sports watch, “You want something tough and durable, so stay away from precious metals and dress watches,” says Hamilton Powell, CEO and Founder of Crown and Caliber. “Look for stainless steel or titanium cases, with a rubber or NATO straps for ease of cleaning, and a sapphire crystal because it’s more scratch-resistant.”

You also want to consider what needs you have when playing your sport. “Things to consider are exposure to magnetic fields, shock, extreme temperatures, vibrations, need for pressure-absorbing elements,” Otwinowski says. “If you are a runner or tennis player, the lighter the watch the better.”

The gridiron, however, isn’t exactly the best place to wear a watch.

“You should never wear a watch while playing a contact sport,” Powell notes. 

“My questions to you is: would you wear a watch to tell time if that’s not a priority in the sport you’re enjoying? Something to think about when playing football,” Otwinowski adds.

Obviously we aren’t all in the same position as OBJ, but Otwinowski says there’s one thing, whether we’re a weekend warrior or an all-pro, that deserves all of the attention. 

“Last thing to consider is style — and that is always personal.” 

Rafael Nadal wearing his $725,000 Richard Mille watch during Wimbledon, 2019 (Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Rafael Nadal’s Richard Mille RM 27-03

This manually-wound tourbillon movement with hours and minutes was built to withstand 10,000 Gs of shock. Made with a carbon TPT base, titanium bridges and a quartz TPT case, this watch can not only take a beating but is also extremely light, weighing in at a scant 31.7 grams.

Rory McIlroy’s OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M ‘Ultra Light’

Omega developed its first titanium movement for this watch to keep the weight down to 55 grams. The company also has customized a telescopic crown that you push into the the case so it wont dig into your wrist as you move during a game or swing a golf club.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren

Created for McLaren owners, this Richard Mille also features a light-weight carbon TPT case. The watch also boasts a countdown counter and a 12-hour chronograph features, which might be useful during a game as well as a date and an annual calendar, though we don’t know why you’d want those on a football field, where it’s usually Sunday.

A “Hublot Big Bang Unico Golf” (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Hublot Big Bang Unico Golf

Not only is this Hublot Big Bang made from lightweight carbon fiber and texalium, but pushers allow you to track your golf game from hole to hole. It also has a 72 hour power reserve for particularly long rounds and it’s water resistant to 100m, in case you need to hop in the pool for a cool down after a hot round

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver

You could play tennis in this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Piguet Royal Oak like Serena does, but it also makes a sharp watch for swimming. It’s easy to read, features an internal unidirectional bezel and is water resistant to 300m. While it’s a little heavier than some other options, at 166 grams, you won’t feel that weight in the pool or the sea.

Rolex Submariner

Perhaps the gold standard for a sport watch, the Rolex Submariner is, like all watches from the brand, impact-tested to 5,000 Gs, so it can dish what you or your opponent serves up. It’s oyster steel case and sapphire crystal are tough to scratch and on a rubber strap it’s ready for game time.

Omega Seamaster 300M

Another classic dive watch that transitions across sports, the Omega Seamaster 300m is resistant to magnetic fields reaching 15,000 gauss, which is strong enough to stave off any field you might encounter. Of course, as the name implies it’s water resistant to 300m and the hands are rhodium-plated and are filled with white Super-LumiNova so you can read the time even during a nocturnal race.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.