What is a Tool Watch?

Breitling avvenger Blackbird
Breitling Avvenger Blackbird

People have all kinds of reasons for buying luxury watches, and for buying watches in general.  That’s especially true of collectors, who buy things for all manner of reasons that may or may not make sense to non-collectors.

Most people who buy watches, however, buy one, at least initially, in order to have a device that will provide them with the time when they need it.  There are other considerations, of course, such as fashion, and that’s how people end up owning entire display cases of timepieces so they can use watches to accessorize their wardrobe.

That’s fine, and there are lots of people for whom that’s a motivator when buying a luxury watch.  But then there’s something known as  a “tool watch.”

The term isn’t that well known, and likely isn’t well known among the general public, but the term “tool watch” doesn’t refer to a Swiss Army-style device that has knife blades, screwdrivers or corkscrews built in. (Interestingly enough, Swiss Army does make watches, but they don’t have those features, either.)

No, a tool watch is a watch that has likely been purchased by the owner in order to perform some function or specific task related to their job or perhaps a sideline.  If you’re an airplane pilot, for instance, you will likely want to own a watch that can offer some features above and beyond simply offering you the time.  You might want a rotating bezel so you can keep track of elapsed time or you might want a timepiece that displays the time in multiple time zones so that you’ll always be able to determine the time where you’re coming from as well as the time where you’re going.

Other popular tool watches would be certain chronographs that are useful for people who race cars (or anything else) for a living.  There are far too many such watches on the market to describe a specific one here as an ideal example of the niche, but most people are aware of a chronograph.

Perhaps the ultimate example of a a tool watch would be watches designed specifically for divers.   While dive watches have become a bit of a fashion item and are often worn by people who rarely, if ever, put a toe in the water, there are some pretty rugged diving watches on the market.  First and foremost among features, of course, would be water resistance that is far above and beyond that which is normally required from a wristwatch.  The Rolex Submariner, for instance, has a rated water resistance of some 300 meters or so, making it a watch that will be useful for nearly anyone who regularly gets in the water.

Rolex Submariner
Rolex Submariner

These watches will also have a rotating bezel and usually one that rotates only in one direction, so that the diver can keep track of elapsed time.  This allows them to keep track of how long they’ve been in the water and how much air they may have left remaining in their tank.  When you’re underwater, knowing the time of day may or may not be useful, but knowing the amount of air you have remaining is critical.

There are other examples of tool watches on the market, but it’s worth noting that there are many timepieces available that serve purposes other than the obvious one of showing the time of day to the wearer.