I wear very little jewelry and, what I do wear, I wear for function, while respecting form. I have worn a watch since I was a kid. Lately, I have struggled to find the right travel watch to meet my needs, so this article is more my personal take on the below watches.
In the past, I have worn either dive watches or field watches. I like the look of an analog face. I typically buy watches with a glow-in-the-dark face. In terms of complications (the term for the little added bits of info on a watch face), I mainly just want the date.
Back in 2013, I got tired of my Luminox dive watch. While it looked great and functioned very well, it was a pain to have any work done on it. You had to send the watch to a particular service center, the only one in the country, to have it worked on, even to just replace the battery. While I loved the rotating bezel and the tritium gas illumination, it was just too much hassle.
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So, I bought a Citizen Eco-Drive field watch. I liked the look and I really liked the solar cell which recharges the watch’s battery. All in all, it is very good watch for the money and would be a low hassle device going forward.
Pros: Simple, lightweight, easy to ready, battery will last 10 years or longer, cost, waterproof
Cons: No fitness or heart rate tracking, no notifications
Fast forward to early 2015 and I was getting concerned about my health. I was spending a long time at work on a regular basis and I could feel my health was suffering. So, I decided to be proactive about getting in shape and bought a Fitbit Surge.
I bought the Fitbit, knowing Apple was coming out with a watch, but what I really wanted was a good fitness tracker with a heartbeat sensor and GPS. I wanted to be able to leave my phone at the condo and go for a walk and track my progress.
As a fitness tracker and basic watch, it was very good. While it was not as comfortable as my Citizen watch, it was reasonable for what it did. The charge would last me several days, depending on how much I used the GPS.
The watch face is somewhat customizable and is on (but not backlit) all the time.
The band, however, was not that durable. Three months after buying the Surge, the band had started to tear. I contacted Fitbit customer service and they sent me a new one fairly quickly, without any hassle on my end.
Fast forward to July and I had my heart attack. It was a relatively minor, but it certainly changed my outlook on life and, suddenly, that heart rate sensor became a lot more important. Unfortunately, it also became a lot more inaccurate. One of the things which affects the heart rate sensor is blood thinners, which I am on. I could typically count on the sensor to be about 90-95% accurate. Now, it was down to 75% and often would either display very funky readings (way too high or way too low) or, after a while, stop displaying heart rate at all.
One of the things I figured out about the heart rate sensor was 1) it had to be cleaned fairly often due to sweat and grime building up on it and 2) the plastic cover for the sensor starting becoming more and more cloudy with age.
Another thing I was interested in from the Fitbit was sleep tracking. The Fitbit did a good job of automatically tracking my sleep, but, due to its bulk, was uncomfortable to wear to bed. The other flaw of the Surge was its band. The rubber watch band does not breath and, eventually, I started to get a bit of a rash.
After a while, I just started taking it off before I went to bed, thus negating one of the important features of the watch.
One other minor gripe about the Fitbit: Bonnie bought a Charge HR, a smaller tracker. The charging cables for the Surge and the Charge HR are different, meaning we have to travel with two chargers. Annoying.
The watch band again started to tear and I decided that I would replace it when the band finally gave out. Between the band and the heart rate sensor, it seems the Fitbit Surge is only designed to last about a year before it needs replacing.
When it finally did wear out, I switched back to my Citizen watch until the Apple Watch arrived. I immediately missed the text and call notifications from the Surge. It was very nice to not feel like I had to carry my phone every where in the house.
Fitbit Surge Pros: Good fitness tracking vs. the price, price, call and text notifications
Fitbit Surge Cons: No way to replace the band, band does not breathe, band wears out too quickly, device seems to be made to only last a year or so, not waterproof
In the mean time, Apple had released the Apple Watch, released nylon bands for the watch and, finally, released a waterproof Apple Watch with GPS. I was sold.
First, the band is great. I thought I would replace it with a leather band, but the nylon is very comfortable and durable. But more importantly, I can replace the band at any time. I couldn’t on the Fitbit Surge. The new Fitbit Blaze, yes.
As a fitness tracker, the Apple Watch is a bit different than Fitbit. Yes, it tracks steps, but active calorie burn interests it more. I set my active calorie burn at 750 calories, which is about double the default. When I take a five-mile walk, which would typically satisfy Fibit for the day, I still need to burn more calories according to the Apple Watch.
It also has reminders to stand up for at least a minute every hour of the day and to just breathe, which I like. I also like you can customize what information is displayed during exercise mode by exercise.
In terms of the heart rate sensor, I have found it sometimes cuts out, like the Fitbit did, when the the sensor gets coated in sweat, but on the Apple Watch, the exterior is glass, not plastic, so it should not have a problem with getting cloudy.
In terms of the watch itself: it is great. There are several different faces you can choose from and you can create several variations of a particular face using different complications. I have one set up for work, which has my next calendar appointment easily viewable. I have one set up for home, which eliminates the calendar in favor of more detail on the weather and sunrise and sunset. There are so many possibilities. I have a couple set for travel… We will see which I end up liking better.
The biggest bonus to the Apple Watch is apps. There are all kinds of apps available for the watch. Most display simple information or notifications. Some allow you to really keep up with your life better.
The two I am most impressed with, thus far, are WaterMinder and Medisafe. WaterMinder simply allows a quick interface for me to record my water consumption and provides reminders to drink more water from time to time. In particular, I don’t drink as much water as I should on the weekends, so it is handy.
Medisafe is just a simple medication reminder, but it being on the Apple Watch is a lot better than just on my phone. I tend to ignore the phone’s vibrations at home, thinking all of my important notifications will come to my watch.
For travel, there are several good apps you can install. The Delta app will give you updates on your flight. The Hilton app will let you use your watch as a digital key. I am planning on taking a look at TripCase’s Apple Watch app to see how well it works. I also have iTranslate and Currency downloaded for my next international trip.
Admittedly, the navigation of bubbles of apps is unwieldy. The watch does allow you to put your 10 most used apps in the dock for quick access. The watch does have a bit of a learning curve. One of the first things you will want to do is turn off notifications for most of your apps and uninstall unnecessary apps.
Probably the app I am most looking forward to using is Apple Maps. The watch will vibrate to let you know when you should turn and which direction. I am very much looking forward to using that with walking directions. I hate having to look down on my phone to make sure I am following the right path.
The two biggest drawbacks of the Apple Watch are its price and the fact you should charge it every night. I have found my watch still has around 50% of its battery at night if I don’t use GPS, so I am pretty sure I could get away with not charging it every day if I weren’t exercising. With GPS, I typically have 35-40% after 18 hours.
Apple Watch Pros: Very customizable, plenty of apps, replaceable bands along with a great woven nylon band, different (and dare I say better?) fitness metrics, swim proof
Apple Watch Cons: Cost, must have an iPhone, generally have to recharge the device once a day, learning curve.
Buying a watch is very much a personal decision, much like shoes. Everyone has different needs. My main conclusion from my multi-year watch saga: My needs have changed, therefore my choice in watch has changed. At first, a heart rate tracker was a luxury. Now, a necessity. As the only thing I wear, jewelry-wise, other than my wedding ring, I want it to work for me.