There aren’t too many people out there who use compasses anymore, but for those who do, it’s an important navigational tool, and it’s even better when it’s part of a watch. That’s why compass watches have come to exist. Why carry two separate tools when you can have both on your wrist at the same time?
Sure, most people today would rely solely on their phones for navigation directions, but most people never leave the city and are always close to a power outlet. For hikers, trekkers, runners, or those in the military, and generally anybody who spends plenty of time outdoors, a compass watch is much more convenient, practical, and easier to use than a smartphone.
With this in mind, we’ve set out to look for some of the best compass watches we could find, but we also selected them for affordability. But before getting to them, we’ll dive into some details about compass watches.
- What is a Compass Watch?
- Things to Look For in a Compass Watch
- 15. Casio G-Shock Aviation Series
- 14. Casio G-Shock Rangeman
- 13. Casio G-Shock Mudman
- 12. Casio Multifunction Watch
- 11. Casio Pathfinder: Casual Version
- 10. Casio Pro Trek PRG-600YB-3
- 9. Garmin Fenix 6S
- 8. Casio G-Shock Master of G Mudmaster Twin Sensor
- 7. Seiko Adventure-Solar
- 6. Timex Expedition Shock Digital Compass Watch
- 5. Casio Digital Compass Twin Sensor Sports Watch
- 4. Timex Intelligent Quartz Compass
- 3. Garmin Instinct Tactical
- 2. Suunto Core Outdoor Sports Watch
- 1. Casio Pathfinder Compass Watch
What is a Compass Watch?
A compass watch fulfills both the role of a watch and that of a compass. As you’ll see, most compass watches are actually multi-tool watches, often coming with sensors for temperature and pressure, so they’ll give you both the barometric pressure and the altitude, plus the usual functions such as alarms, calendars, or even heart rate monitoring.
So, basically, a compass watch is a watch that has a compass function incorporated in it.
Things to Look For in a Compass Watch
Before buying the first compass watch that looks good enough, it would be a good idea to know what to look for in a compass watch, as not all of them are similar.
Analog vs. Digital
Firstly, you should know that there are both analog and digital compasses and compass watches. So, do you want to have a digital display for the watch, or a traditional one, with rotating hands?
Often, that means your compass will use the same way to indicate direction, with the analog type having an extra hand that stretches on both sides of the center to show the north-south direction.
An important thing to note here is that digital compasses are usually more reliable and precise, and easier to read, so they’re more convenient to use. Also, digital compass watches usually come with more functions as opposed to an analog compass watch, but we’ll talk about them below.
Also, it’s important to make the distinction between a compass function and a simple rotating bezel with cardinal points marked on it. Those usually require orientation skills on your part, and using either the sun’s position or other landmarks. Those won’t actually point out the magnetic north and aren’t actually compasses.
As we mentioned, most compass watches come with other useful functions as well, so it’s good to know what you get, or what you won’t. These functions typically include an altimeter, barometer, and a thermometer, plus the ubiquitous timers, alarms, and stopwatch. This is the complete package for an outdoors watch, and it’s probably what you’ll need most.
Some watches do include a GPS as well, with the downside of draining the battery faster than those without a GPS. Heart rate monitors are also included with some watches, usually those oriented to sports use.
Rarer, but still available in some watches are sunrise and sunset data, and even tide data, useful for water sports or fishing.
This is probably one of the most important aspect, and it’s why you won’t want to use the compass app on your smartphone. Having a battery that can last throughout your entire outdoor adventure at least is important, which is why you should be careful in selecting the type of compass watch to get.
With these concerns out of the way, let’s take a closer look at our roundup of the best affordable compass watches we could find.
15. Casio G-Shock Aviation Series
Of course we couldn’t make a list of compass watches without having at least a few G-Shocks on it.
The first one is the Casio G-Shock Aviation Series, which is one of the most handsome G-Shocks we’ve seen, with its beautiful combination between the black dial, the bright yellow hour markers and text, and that gray band.
But it’s not beauty you’re looking for in a G-Shock, so what you need to know is the reliable compass it comes with, the thermometer, the 200 meter of water resistance, and the calendar with month, day, and date. Being a G-Shock, it’s of course as tough as they come.
14. Casio G-Shock Rangeman
The Casio G-Shock Rangeman is one of G-Shock’s most impressive collection, featuring some of the better digital compasses available on the market, plus several other top functions, and of course, that instantly recognizable G-Shock aesthetic and extreme ruggedness and durability.
The Rangeman comes with the well known triple sensor that gives you information about altitude, air pressure, and temperature, plus a digital compass, and a premium stainless steel construction, which isn’t found on standard G-Shocks.
It’s powered by a solar movement, so you don’t need to worry about changing batteries, which adds to its capabilities. Overall, the Rangeman is a survivalist’s best friend, which is why it’s so iconic. And at $330, you can’t say it’s expensive for what it offers.
13. Casio G-Shock Mudman
The Casio G-Shock Mudman is another very capable compass watch, and as its name says, it’s resistant to mud. It’s a robust watch that can take a beating, and it can do whatever you can do without a problem.
Despite the fact that it looks similar to most other G-Shocks, its construction is slightly different to make it very to use in very… muddy conditions, not only underwater.
The compass function comes with the possibility to adjust the magnetic declination, which is really handy to serious outdoor enthusiasts. Other than that, expect all the usual functions, plus the twin sensor, world time in 31 timezones, and a solar powered movement.
12. Casio Multifunction Watch
One of the most affordable options on the market is the $60 Casio Multifunction Watch, reference SGW-500H. There’s almost no other watch that can offer more for those money.
This timepiece comes with a built-in compass and combines both the digital and analog displays in its dial. It’s got a twin sensor, which means you get the compass and a thermometer, as opposed to the triple sensor which also gives you the air pressure sensor, so altimeter and barometer functions as well. But you still get a lot of functionality at a very low price.
11. Casio Pathfinder: Casual Version
For those who hate that large and bulky construction of the G-Shock and similar watches, the Casio Pathfinder: Casual Version is their best pick. It’s got everything you’d need into the wild, including a very reliable compass, among other features.
But as we mentioned, the design is much more down to Earth, and despite the large case, it’s not bulky. Sure, the dial is crowded still, but it’s also full of features, so no complaints here.
Possible downsides are the 5 year battery life, and only 100 meters of water resistance, but it’s more than enough for an affordable compass watch.
10. Casio Pro Trek PRG-600YB-3
The Casio Pro Trek is another very successful watch collection from Casio, and the PRG-600YB-3 is one very interesting field timepiece. Its design strays away from the bulkiness of the G-Shock, while sharing very similar functionality and robustness.
The dial is a lot more elegant, despite the same large size, and combines both an analog dial with a digital display on the bottom, at 6 o’clock.
For $350 that this timepiece costs, you get your trusty digital compass, altimeter, barometer, and thermometer, plus the usual timers, alarms, calendars, and even world time in different time zones.
While it’s similar to every other G-Shock in terms of functions, we love the aesthetic of this Pro Trek a lot more.
9. Garmin Fenix 6S
The Garmin Fenix 6S is one of the premium models coming from Garmin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sky-high prices, as it only costs around $525 (at we speak), which is in the range of affordable watches.
But for the money, you’ll get an excellent build quality, high-end features, and a solar powered movement, so you won’t have to worry about battery life, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors.
But it’s the features you’ll be most impressed with. There’s a 3 axis compass, gyroscope, barometer-altimeter, and GPS that uses both the Galileo and the GLONASS satellite systems, plus topographical maps for navigation. The watch can also monitor altitude acclimatization, a wonderful function for those who love to climb higher mountains.
8. Casio G-Shock Master of G Mudmaster Twin Sensor
Part of Casio’s excellent Mudmaster line, the G-Shock Master of G Mudmaster Twin Sensor is another super tough timepiece, sporting that bold bulky 56mm case with in-built protection and more than enough gaskets to keep away water, dirt and mud.
The twin sensor provides temperature readings and direction via the built-in compass. Beyond that, expect the same functions that any other G-Shock brings.
7. Seiko Adventure-Solar
The Seiko Adventure-Solar, reference SSC081, is a wonderful sight among all those G-Shocks. We don’t say G-Shocks are not too attractive, we’re only admitting they aren’t for everyone.
Unfortunately, and despite the outer bezel that looks like a compass, this watch doesn’t feature a true rotating compass, as you might expect. What it does instead, it helps the user find north via the traditional method of orienting the watch according to the position of the sun.
So no, this is not a compass watch per se, but it looks so good and comes with plenty of convenient features for the outdoors that we decided to include it. There’s 100 meters of water resistance, and a chronograph that can measure up to 60 minutes, and also offers split time measurement.
6. Timex Expedition Shock Digital Compass Watch
The Timex Expedition Shock Digital Compass Watch is a more elegant alternative to the big bulky G-Shocks. It’s affordable and built with the outdoors in mind.
Therefore, it’s got an ISO standard certified shock-resistant construction, a 200 meter depth rating, a trusty and accurate digital compass, the usual digital watch functions like alarms, stopwatch, and timers, backlight, and the most important of them all, it’s super affordable. It only costs around $100, which is more than 3 times less than a G-Shock.
Sure, it doesn’t have barometer-altimeter, and temperature sensors, but if you only need a compass, it’s the best option out there.
5. Casio Digital Compass Twin Sensor Sports Watch
For even less than $100, you can have the Casio Digital Compass Twin Sensor Sports Watch, a well known and trusty watch with the reference SGW100.
The twin sensor gives you temperature and direction readings, via the temperature sensor and the digital compass respectively. Besides that, basic digital watch functions, backlight, world time in 29 time zones, and a very sturdy construction.
Though not big as in G-Shock big, it’s still large with its 47mm case diameter. The dial is protected under a scratch resistant window, which is also treated with an anti glare finish to make it easier to read under intense light.
4. Timex Intelligent Quartz Compass
The Timex Intelligent Quartz Compass is the most classic looking compass watch you could find in the affordable category. It does come with a compass, but it’s the analog version, the one that uses hands for everything instead of digital screens.
Besides the compass, it comes with a tide tracker as well, also analog, a thermometer, and a handy date window at 6 o’clock. The watch’s water resistance is 100 meters only, so good enough for a swim, but don’t go deeper underwater.
Very impressive is the vintage inspired look of this watch, that takes design cues from the classic compasses of the past. And since we’re mentioning the looks, the watch does look intimidating at first, but once you understand how to use it, it’s very easy. Also important to know is the under the $100 mark price.
3. Garmin Instinct Tactical
Moving into the more serious outdoor/adventure watches, we’ve got the Garmin Instinct Tactical, which is built with military and law enforcement personnel in mind, adhering to the US Military 810G standard for thermal, shock, and water resistance.
Therefore, the watch is made to handle extreme conditions, so any outdoorsman will find this a very good option. Among all its functions, the most important one is the compass, but it also has a GPS for even better navigation cues.
Apart from that, there’s a heart rate monitor as well, and activity tracker. You can connect it to your phone, so it can also receive notifications. This one is a true smartwatch, but a well built one. It’s large, but without being over the top, and the display is nicely done, and doesn’t look crowded.
The other important point, the price, is around $300, so you can call it affordable.
2. Suunto Core Outdoor Sports Watch
A direct competitor of the Garmin Instinct Tactical is the Suunto Core Outdoor Sports Watch, which is the watch of choice for many military men. And if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for the outdoor enthusiast of any kind.
This timepiece is a classic option in the digital compass watch category, being extremely reliable and accurate. It features your usual thermometer, barometer-altimeter trio, plus weather indications and storm alarm, based on the modifications in air pressure.
It also presents sunrise and sunset times for more than 400 locations around the world, a depth meter for snorkeling, and can keep track of measurements for up to seven days.
The downside is the 30 meter water resistance, which might be too low for some, and the fact that its battery lasts up to 12 months in usual time mode.
1. Casio Pathfinder Compass Watch
One of the best deals you could get on the market right now is the Casio Pathfinder Compass Watch, reference PAG240-1 to be more precise, which feels like the best overall outdoor watch.
It’s solar powered, it comes with a high precision digital compass, plus the temperature and pressure sensors to give you altitude and pressure readings, and a decent 100 meter depth rating.
It’s rugged, but subtle, looks great without being too much, so it can easily be an everyday wear.
When it comes to compass watches, there are plenty of options, but when you try to restrict the range to more affordable options, you’ll get mostly Casio G-Shock options. That’s ok, but not everybody likes a G-Shock. For these people, we looked at more subtle compass watches with more or less the same functions.
We hope we’ve provided enough options for both the G-Shock kind of outdoors people and those who’d rather have something closer to regular watches.