Solar powered watches have come a long way since they first appeared. This used to be a little trick for cheap watches that were meant to be a kiddie prize that would fade out. Solar tech has come a long way since then.
Solar watches are among the most consistently reliable watches currently out there on the market right now. Batteries can last as long a a decade and since they are always charging when there’s any proper light source available the high end brands are incredibly reliable watches.
There are many truly exceptional solar watches out there. These come in outdoor watch form, in luxury watch form, and everything in between.
How Reliable Are Solar Watches?
We all remember the little cheap watches that came at the bottom of a box of cereal. They were goofy, incredibly cheap, but were powered by the sun which made them seem cool to curious kids in a world where solar power was still very much in its infancy.
They were also cheap toy watches that just stopped charging up at a certain point and never worked again.
That was then. This is now.
Solar power has come a long way in all its forms, and that includes with outdoor watches.
Solar watches are some of the most reliable out there. They are well built, function in many challenging situations, and there are designs that work under the roughest of outdoor conditions as well as really great looking options that go with your favorite suit (or dress) for a fancy night out.
How Long Do Solar Watches Last?
One of the major benefits that comes with solar watches is that they are designed to last a very long time. A conventional quartz battery watch can last up to two years before needing a replacement.
Solar watches, on the other hand, are now designed to last much, much longer. Some solar watch batteries can last up to a decade before needing to be replaced, making them some of the longest running watches out there.
In fact, there are some solar watches out there which have watches that theoretically will be able to keep 80% of their charge for up to 20 years. That will leave them more than functional over two decades from now and that is impressive!
The old days of solar watches being trinkets that faded fast and died forever are long gone. If you want watches that can last the test of time, you want to take a look at some of the top solar watches out there.
Solar Watch Pros
There’s a lot to love about what good solar watches bring to the table. There are many good options out there. If in doubt take a look at brands like Eco-Drive, Seiko Solar, and Casio as all three of these are really quality watch brands that produce a great solar watch.
You can also look at our recommendations further down the page.
If you’re not sold on solar watches in general yet, here are some of the positives of going solar with your timepiece:
Very easy to keep charged / Reliable
Solar timepieces are among the most reliable out there. Batteries are made to last at least a decade with some that should last two. Contrary to popular belief, solar watches don’t only charge from direct sunlight.
They charge from many different types of light. The batteries on these watches not only keep plenty of charge, but they are constantly charging, keeping the watch going.
You have to go to ridiculous lengths to try to drain the charge completely out of a solar watch. These are among the most reliable and long-lasting watches currently on the market.
You have to go to heavy duty high end watches to get anything non-solar that competes…and many of those are much less resilient to everyday use or wear and tear than the solar watch option.
Longest lasting batteries
This is a huge plus. At a minimum, your battery should be good for 10 years before it needs replacing. Maybe even twice that.
As much as I love my quartz watch (gift from a dear friend) the placing its battery every 2-3 years is definitely a pain by comparison.
Great variety of watch styles
Need a luxury watch that goes with your best “special occasion” going out wear? There are outstanding luxury solar watches or dress watches that look good.
Need something that can put up with a Spartan Race level of beating or long-term thru hike? Outdoor solar watches are as good as it gets and can meet all of your needs.
Quick List Solar Watch Pros
- Very easy to keep charged
- Battery is one of the longest lasting out there
- Good variety of watches
- Extremely reliable
Solar Watch Cons
There aren’t many negatives to solar watches in 2020 and beyond. As I’ve said a few times, these watches are an entirely different level of thing today than 30 or 40 years ago.
In fact, I really had to stretch to find a third con and even that one is, admittedly, a bit iffy.
Price point is higher
Solar watches are going to cost a little bit more than conventional watches. This is because the batteries to these watches are more advanced. I would argue also thoroughly superior, but that doesn’t change the fact that to enjoy this uptick in quality you need to pay a little bit more upfront.
It’s very much worth it, though.
Don’t look for any cheap solar watches. The budget options are still pretty much junk across the board. There might be exceptions in the future but as of now you need to focus on the quality options.
Because good budget solar watches just aren’t a widespread thing right now.
No easy fix
This is really stretching in order to find a third con since it’s plenty easy to break quartz battery watches, but in the even that you do go out of your way to break a solar watch and somehow succeed, it can be expensive or take time for a proper repair to take place.
Quick List Solar Watch Cons
- Tend to run more expensive than equivalent quartz watches
- You need to go for quality – avoid “budget” options
- No easy fix
Can Solar Watches Be Repaired?
This depends on what you mean by “repaired.” If the issue is an old battery then these can often be replaced to get the solar watch working again. If you’ve taken the watch apart and messed with the solar section then repairing it almost certainly is not an option.
You will have to replace the battery completely. Other parts of the watch – as long as it is fixable then that can be fixed, as well.
So repairing your solar watch should not be an issue.
What Solar Watch Should You Buy?
There are actually a couple dozen really great solar watches. In other words, if you’re looking for a great solar watch you have options aplenty.
The Best Dress Solar Watch: Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Chronograph Stainless Steel Watch
This is a beautiful watch that is personally one of my favorite things period. The watch is well designed, it looks great as a dress watch, and it’s reliability is absolutely off the charts.
While there’s plenty of competition for top spot among dressy solar watches, the Citizen Eco-Drive Chronograph stainless steel watch from Casio is just beyond amazing. This is my pick for the top premium dress watch among all the great solar watch picks.
With a stunning number of 5 star reviews, very few complaints, and a beautiful aesthetic that matches the durability and reliability of this outstanding design.
If you’re looking for a truly top of the line solar watch that looks great, functions great, and accessories for that special night out then this is the one that you want.
The Best Outdoor Solar Watch: Casio Tough Solar Men’s Solar Combination Watch
Sometimes you not only want great looking watch but you need one that is extremely reliable even through the roughest of long-term outdoor experiences.
The Casio “Tough Solar” Men’s Solar Combination Watch lives up to those high standards as well to its name.
Simple, good looking, and fully functional, this is a watch that has plenty of really good features that you will appreciate. The watch face lights up at night, the quality battery means you have full illumination at night without worrying about the beating, and water resistant (although not waterproof).
This is an outstanding watch, and the battery storage is good for a crazy 10 months…meaning if the watch never saw any light or sunlight it would still work for 10 months. So it’s even good through winter in far north Alaska.
That’s a quality outdoor solar watch!
Solar Watch FAQ
Q: Can solar watches work without direct sunlight?
A: Absolutely! Good solar watches have amazing batteries. Not only do they not need direct (or even indirect) sunlight to charge (many charge indoors from artificial lights – though not at the same level as direct sunlight), and some top solar watch batteries can go 10 months without a single charge.
If you ever go outside with your watch or have it in a light room, then you’re fine.
Q: Are solar powered watches any good?
A: These watches are fantastic. Unlike quartz watches you don’t need to replace the battery every two years with solar watches. They are reliable, recharge all the time, and can hold up whether you’re looking for a dress watch or something that will take an outdoor beating.
Q: How long do solar watches last?
A: Most have batteries that can last 10-20 years or theoretically even more. If you change out a battery possibly even longer.
Q: What is the best solar watch?
A: We have already given our choices for best outdoor solar watch and best luxury solar watch. There are plenty of other good options and eventually we will do a more in-depth post of the top solar watches.
Q: Do solar powered watches work at night?
A: Absolutely. Many of these batteries last 10 months without a single second of charging. These watches are incredibly reliable and night doesn’t affect them at all.
Q: Can you fix a solar watch?
A: Visible parts should be gently cleaned with a cloth. You don’t want to touch anything having to do with the inner battery or workings. There are watch specialists who can fix most problems. Or in extreme circumstances replace the solar battery.
But otherwise you don’t want to mess with the inner mechanics of this one.
Q: Can a solar watch battery be replaced?
A: Generally speaking, yes. Though unless something is wrong chances are you will be ready for a new watch before needing a replacement after a decade or two…or maybe even three?
Solar watches have come a long way since the days of the cheap novelty toys. The best solar charged watches are dependable, reliable, and consistent through a wide array of different environments.