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If you have only just started to get acquainted with watches, then you will regularly come across terms that are used casually, but are unknown to you – such as the term tool watch. The meaning seems obvious, but the answer to the question about the specific meaning of the term is not that simple. Let's try to shed some light onto this term and take a moment to feature some tool watches for women and men.

What is a tool watch?

There is no clear definition for the term "tool watch", although there is a general understanding of what it means. The specific boundaries are too vague and the utilization of particular materials quickly make a tool watch qualify as what some might call a dress watch.

So what is a tool watch according to the general consensus? A tool watch, also often described as a specialized watch or watch for functional applications, is primarily used to read the time while eliminating superfluous extra features and decorative elements. These types of watches stand out for their clear designs and robust materials that ensure ease of use and legibility in any situation. While dress watches like the Rolex Datejust or the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 tend to be out of place on adventurous expeditions, sturdy tool watches like the Breitling Avenger Blackbird or the Sinn U1 flourish in hostile environments and demonstrate their rugged nature.

Black Breitling Avenger Blackbird V1731010.BD12.100W.M20BASA.1 tool watch with luminous indices and date window

An instrument for any situation in life

Does this mean that a tool watch is more of a tool than a wristwatch? Well, yes and no. This statement is in part true, because just like a good hammer it depends on the simplicity and strength of its materials. However, perhaps a more appropriate term would be instrument as opposed to tool. Similar to the numerous instruments in the cockpit of an aeroplane, the dial of a tool watch indicates what is most important to know in a single glance without tons of bells and whistles. Many people classify a watch as a tool watch if it has at least one other function besides displaying the time. However, this needn't always be the case. While most tool watches have other useful features, this is also true for many dress watches, for example. If only the additional features were important, then the Malte Perpetual Calendar Chronograph by Vacheron Constantin, which features a perpetual calendar, moon phase display and chronograph, would be considered a true tool watch. However, it is unlikely to find such a watch in extreme situations and unfavourable weather conditions, although that is not to say that a tool watch is only used for dangerous expeditions.

The addition of an extra feature in itself does not necessarily constitute a tool watch. It is rather the combination of robust materials, ease of use, clearly-arranged dial design and, if necessary, one or more additional features. Examples of application-specific features that would distinguish a watch as a tool watch include a second time zone, 24-hour display, date window, chronograph function or diver's bezel. Complications such as a moon phase display, analogue date, perpetual calendar or a regulator dial, on the other hand, are usually reserved for dress watches, although it is certainly possible to call some watches with these features tool watches, as well. So it is plain to see that the classification of a timepiece isn't that simple.

The best luxury tool watches for men and women

That said, we would nevertheless like to share a few, classic tool watches for men and women. Even though these tool watches are all fundamentally quite different, they do have certain similarities.

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600 M

To begin, Omega makes a classic tool watch, which has found its way to the wrist of film spy James Bond for good reason. The Seamaster Planet Ocean 600 M looks like the big brother of the equally popular Seamaster 300 M and provides double its water resistance for up to 600 metres. Both models feature a helium valve at the 10 o'clock position of the case, wide hands, and a combination of Arabic numerals and stick indices. What's the result? A solid series of watches with more than impressive functionality. With a case diameter of 42 mm, the sporty Planet Ocean is also suitable for people with broader wrists. Powered by a chronometer-certified automatic movement, the standard version of the Planet Ocean 600 with the reference features a practical date window at 3 o'clock. For those who expect a little more from their watch, the collection offers sporty chronographs and variations with a GMT function, as well.

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600 M steel watch with black dial on wrist of man in black jacket

For anyone who is looking for something a little more unusual and a particularly special model can also look at the remarkable Seamaster Ploprof 1200 M. Boasting a water resistance of an impressive 1,200 metres and a diameter of 55 mm, this Omega tool watch makes most conventional diving watches look old-fashioned.

Omega Seamaster 300 M Ladies

As an alternative to the large Planet Ocean and Ploprof models, Omega also offers a quartz tool watch for women in the Seamaster 300 M Ladies. With a water resistance of up to 30 bar, a unidirectional rotating diving bezel in blue and a high-precision quartz movement, this 28 mm stainless steel watch is in no way inferior to its larger counterparts and will serve its wearer in any conceivable situation.

Bell & Ross BR 03-92

If you reduce everything you know about tool watches to the essentials, Bell & Ross offers exactly what seems to be the essence of this type of watch: high-functionality timepieces designed for pilots and appreciated by soldiers all over the world that are straightforward and extremely reliable instruments. The BR03-92 exemplifies an adventurous spirit and its appearance is strongly based on the onboard instruments found in an aeroplane cockpit. The models feature a square, 42 mm case made of steel, titanium or ceramic as well as a matching strap made of nylon, leather or rubber. The typically black dial displays easy-to-read Arabic numeral hour markers at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock along with a date window between 4 and 5 o'clock. Thanks to wide sword hands and luminescent highlights, it is even possible to read this chronometer in the dark.

Bell & Ross BR03-94 Steel Chronograph with black dial and black textile strap

Breitling Chronomat 44

Breitling delivers an equally solid tool watch in the form of the legendary Chronomat 44. This wristwatch is part of the Chronomat Collection and epitomizes the archetype of the modern pilot's watch. The Chronomat 44 offers a tidier dial than the Navitimer and places the focus on its chronograph feature, but this is far from all that this series has to offer. The models boast a water resistance of up to 500 metres and therefore are not only suitable for use on land and in the air, but also for activities underwater.

Rolex Explorer II

If you are looking for a tool watch by Rolex, be sure to take a look at the Explorer II. This all-rounder embodies the spirit of adventure and exploration and won't let you down even under the most adverse conditions. The 24-hour display, date window and luminescent hour markers make it a practical companion for spelunkers and anyone who wants to be able to take their watch wherever they go. With its rugged stainless steel case, tough Oyster bracelet, clearly laid out dial and reliable automatic calibre, the Explorer has proven itself on countless expeditions and reached one or two mountain peaks on the wrist of Reinhold Messner. Offered in case diameters of 40 to 42 mm, it is suitable as a tool watch for both men and women.

Stainless steel case of a Rolex Explorer II 216570 watch with black dial and orange GMT hand

Watches by Sinn

Known above all for its tool watches, the Frankfurt-based manufacturer Sinn has more than earned its place on this list. Sinn watches are appreciated by special forces worldwide due to their precision and robustness, so much so that, for example, a limited edition of the Sinn 857 was issued solely for the special task force of the Frankfurt am Main police, and each member of this unit has been equipped with a Sinn tool watch. On the other hand, the Sinn Duochronograph is recommended for the civilian population. With a 40 mm case and bracelet made of dark steel, a robust automatic movement, and a dial that is extremely clear despite the additional chronograph complication, this model combines everything that makes a good tool watch – a rugged exterior and high-precision inner workings.

IWC Big Pilots

Auch die IWC Big Pilots is another fine example of a tool watch. Until the second half of the 19th century, these chronometers were indispensable instruments for navigators on board aircraft to determine their position and heading. There is also the distinctive crown, which is easy to operate even with gloves on due to its size. With its simplistic dial, the wearer can immediately read all the important information with one quick glance. This military-style tool watch is particularly suited for men with its rather large 46 mm steel case.

When looking at these fundamentally very different tool watches, it is noticeable that they all resemble each other in a certain way. Although they differ in their core feature set, design, and price, they still have the same basic features in common: durable materials and sleek dials that enable them to be read quickly.