The best tide watches in the world are the ones that are reliable and will get with you through any swell.
From Rip Curl to Casio to Vestal and beyond, there is a wide array of brand names in the game of manufacturing tide watches.
The reason being is that tide watches are such a crucial new piece of surf technology that can help surfers get the most of their sessions.
How cool is it that we can retrieve the metrics for thousands of surf spots all over the world at the literal flick of a wrist?
We think it’s pretty awesome. The thing is, tide watches are fairly new to surf in terms of tech, and have only truly been around for the past 10 years at most.
Not only that, but they are constantly being updated with new features like GPS and Wi-Fi.
As an avid surfer, it can be hard to keep up with these sorts of things, so that is why we did it for you. May we present to you our favorite tide watches on the market today!
The 8 Best Bets
3 Best Men’s Tide Watches
Our #1 Pick - Rip Curl Rifles
Not only is this watch super useful in terms of staying up to date with the tides, it also looks great! The menu system on this tide watch is very easy to navigate unlike some other tide watches, making the initial setup an absolute breeze. The tide graph on here is pretty standard, with a waveform-style graph.
We actually dig it and find it easier to read than Rip Curl’s higher end models. Those graphs can be read across 500 separately pre-programmed beaches, so make sure you read the list of beaches before you purchase to make sure they have yours! Besides the tide readings, the Rip Curl Rifles comes with some other features like an alarm, countdown timer, stopwatch, and light.
If you want to dig a little deeper, you can also check the detailed tide display. Don’t fear breaking this watch either, as it is constructed with a marine grade stainless steel buckle and an incredibly durable molded polycarbonate case, a true standard for hardcore sea watches. Because it is 41mm, we would recommend it more for the guys with larger wrists.
#2 - Vestal “The Brig”
Any Jordy Smith fans out there? You’ll be happy to know he helped design Vestal’s “The Brig” tide watch. Though this watch has less than half the locations as the Rip Curl Rifles at only 200, we find the graph display much more intricate and far easier to read. Also, 200 beaches? Unless you’re trying to do a world tour of surfing, that’s a pretty solid number.
The facial features on the watch are pretty standard with time, date, and day in a digital format, as well as a feature that lets you look into future tides. The thing that really sets this watch apart from the others is the training modes that are built in. For those into interval training like Jordy Smith, their “suffer and recover” feature helps you to train by setting different alarms for quick intervals.
Like the Rifles, it is also made from polycarbonate, as well as polyurethane, though comes equipped with the unique OKTOLOK strapping system and OKTOGRIP pattern on the back of the watch to stop it from suffocating the skin on your wrist. If you’re looking for a tide watch with a few extra dressings, “The Brig” might be your tide timepiece.
#2 - Freestyle USA Killer Tide
Strapped for cash but still want to read the tides? The Freestyle USA Killer Tide is a great alternative to the expensive tide watches out there on the market, and still has a surprising amount to offer in terms of functionality. It’s also a great watch if you’re into that retro style that the 90s used to offer with fun and funky colors.
Weirdly enough, the Freestyle USA Killer Tide has a great reputation for being long lasting. We guess there is something about this little polycarbonate underdog that holds strong. Also probably has to do with the fact that the strap is made from an ultra-strong silicone, a favorite when it comes to tide watches. But yea, enough about the build, lets get down to the features. There are no bells and whistles with this watch, and the simplicity is what we truly love about it.
When you look at the face, you’ll see a grey background with black number and graphs along the front. It looks as if you’re reading the tides on an old Gameboy, though the quirk actually works. With 150 built-in beaches, we definitely believe it is worth the small price that you’ll pay!
3 Best Women’s Tide Watches
Our #1 Pick - Casio Baby-G G-Lide
Casio always seems to pop up in the most random of places. We always knew that they were big in the watch game, but it wasn’t until a little while ago that we stumbled up some shredding sheilas sporting them in the water. These watches are actually pretty awesome, and really help to read the tides like any other tide watch does.
There are an array of Baby-G G-Lide models that come with different tide metric reading from graphs to dials. The dial is very unique to Casio and essentially keeps track of the tide with your typical analog hands by telling you if the tide is high or low. While it may not be an exact reading, we love the simplicity of it. As for the design, this watch is made in typical Casio fashion with the multi-dimensional and multi-colored mountains and edges across the watch that gives it that strong, retro look.
The Baby-G G-Lide also comes with a fine resin lug protector that not only looks great, but also helps add a bit of high-impact protection, perfect for surfing or any active watersports. The mixture of analog and digital is a quirky element of Casio that separates from the rest, and the Baby-G G-Lide has stayed true to that, all while adding some fresh tech features.
#2 - Winki Oceanresearch Watch
The Winki Oceanresearch Tide Watch from Rip Curl not only has all the great Rip Curl features that puts them at the top of the game for tide watches, but it also is the perfect size for women’s wrists at only 35mm. Many of the tide watches that are made for men are bulky and fat, and that is why we love what they did with this one.
Like the Vestal tide watch, this has 200 pre-programmed beaches on it that will work for the next ten years, as well as a graph that shows moon phases for a bit of extra information. It’s all placed neatly in the top right corner of the face, something unique to other surf watches that actually seems to make the most sense.
We also dig the fact that the Winki Oceanresearch has built-in performance tracking for ladies who like to time their sessions and train hard. In terms of the build, this watch is perfect for sand and sea with its high-impact ABS casing and polyurethane strap. Wrap that all up with an array of features like dual-time display, a stopwatch, and an alarm, and you have a solid all-in-one tide watch to take on the ride with you.
#3 - Rip Curl Maui Mini Tide
If the ladies dig all of the features that the Rip Curl Rifles Tide has to offer, then they will surely dig the Maui Mini Tide. The reason being is that Rip Curl has essentially downsized everything about the Rip Curl Rifles to 35mm so that it fits snugly on the wrist of all the female surf riders out there.
Like the Rifles Tide, the Maui Mini Tide comes pre-programmed with 500 different beaches across the world. The graphical waveforms are similar to the Winki Oceanreasearch Watch and are very easy to read. They also don’t take up much real estate on the screen so you don’t have to sacrifice the size of the numbers.
As with most of the other watches, the Maui Mini Tide comes equipped with an alarm, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, and a light. Don’t underestimate these little light pink and blue tide watches though, as they are just as tough as the Rifles. The cases are made with a durable, high-impact ABS material that is marine grade, and then straps are made from durable and comfortable polyurethane. For the Rip Curl loving ladies out there, this is the ultimate tide watch.
2 Best Unisex Tide Watches
Our #1 Pick - Freestyle Unisex
So unlike the retro watches that Freestyle offers, this one is a bit different in that it has a modern tide watch look. This black watch is made with an ultra-durable polycarbonate casing, stainless steel pushers, and a comfortable, yet breathable silicone band.
Not only is the casing and band durable, but the crystal window is also made to be scratch-resistant and high-impact rated. With the Freestyle Unisex watch, you have to switch through the different modes to see certain metrics on the watch, unlike some of the watches that cram everything onto one screen. This can be annoying for some, but a bit cleaner for others.
That being said, it does come with an array of features that make it unique to some of these watches. The big features include 150 sunrise and sunset times for worldwide beaches, tide readings, pre-set heat timer for training, night vision backlight system, dual-time, day and date function, and 3-hour offset beach capability. The list goes on and on, but you can check it out for yourself!
#2 - NIXON The Base Tide
You didn’t think we would end this list without talking about NIXON right? NIXON always seems to have a simple, sleek, and modern design to their watches, and the Base Tide model is no different. This watch has truly made tide reading simple.
The tide display is an easy-to-read digital graph that looks just as retro as the design of the watch itself. Built-in to the NIXON Base Tide, you have a couple features such as time, day, date, chronograph, and a nice little countdown timer. Some tide watches can be difficult to read in certain lighting. NIXON took a different approach and made a black background with light grey metrics that make it super easy to read, even while underwater.
NIXON didn’t sacrifice durability for the slim, retro, and colorful designs on these watches either. The casing is made from a custom molded polycarbonate material, a true NIXON special, and the band is made from a soft and comfortable silicone. This tide watch is truly the perfect mix between modern and retro, and at 38mm, is great for men and women alike!
What To Consider When Buying A Tide Watch
This one should be pretty obvious, though all tide watches aren’t made equal, and some are packed with a ton more info than others. For starters, we want the display to be simple. When you check the tides from your desktop or laptop, the information can be very detailed and accurate because there is tons of real estate on the screen.
For a tide watch, we want the opposite. We want simplicity so that you can easily look down at your watch and see all the info you need without trying to decipher anything.
You want to be able to read when the tides are changing so you know when to get in or get out of the water. A solid tide watch will not only provide you with information on the tides, but also the wave height and possibly water temperature if you want to get fancy. Lastly, decide what your need are in terms of quantity.
Some tidal watches provide information for 500 beaches while some only provide enough for 100. Are you someone who is only surfing San Diego or Hawaiian beaches?
A simple 100-beach tide watch should suit you. If you’re taking your surfboard on a tour of the world, you’ll definitely want to pack the most info into your tide watch.
Durability means the casing and the band quality of the tide watch. Surfing is a high-impact sport, and if you don’t have a tide watch that can remain working through all the dives and pitfalls, then what is the point of having one?
You’re going to eventually take some serious wipeouts, so you’ll want to look for watches that sport strong casing like polycarbonate or ABS casing.
The material of the strap should be something along the lines of silicone or polyurethane, meaning it will be able to hold up in salt water and sun without weakening or soaking anything up like a sponge.
Don’t shoot for leather or nylon straps that can get smelly or break after a few sessions. Even for fashion, they aren’t worth it. Look at the face as well. Is the screen made from a strong, scratch-resistant crystal or something of the liker?
If not, you may want to rethink your purchase. Lastly, make sure it is comfortable and breathable. Many people don’t realize the importance of comfort and breathability until they take off their watch after a day of surfing and find that their skin is chafed and red.
While this is somewhat of a special feature for surf watches that is not totally necessary, it is definitely something to consider. Being able to look at your watch and get a good idea of the imminent forecast while you’re out in the water can be super helpful.
If it was overcast one day, but you weren’t sure if it was going to start raining or not, so you got out to find that an hour later everything had cleared up, wouldn’t you be a little peeved? That’s where having easy-to-read weather information on your wrist would come in handy. Not only that, but some higher end watches can even track the direction of the wind, an awesome feature if you’re also into parasailing or windsurfing.
There aren’t very many tide watches that we can think of that are powered with quartz. Most of these high-end tide watches are digital these days, meaning you have to power them up with some sort of powering apparatus. Different tiers of tide watches have different apparatuses for powering up. Some use your typical watch batteries that can be placed into the molded, waterproof casing by unscrewing the back.
Some higher end models utilize unique waterproof USB charging ports so that you don’t have to continue to purchase batteries every time it dies. If you really want to get fancy, some tide watch manufacturers are making solar powered watches that don’t require anything but you being out in the salt and sun. Cool, huh?
GPS tracking is another feature that is only unique to higher-end surf watches, but can be one that is very useful if you’re constantly moving along the coast surfing at different spots.
These GPS tracking tide watches will keep up with your location so that they can feed you the latest tidal information, among other things. Even manual GPS watches will let you access the time zone and location so that you can change it once you get down to the water.
You already carry a GPS tracker in your pocket to post your model insta pics, so why not give a little more information to big brother for the sake of shredding?
Performance tracking is a pretty large umbrella of features.
Tide watches at the top of the game can help you track the number of waves you caught on a certain day, the size of the waves that you caught (so you can brag to your buddies), the length of your surfing session, where you surfed at (back to big brother), and an array of other things.
Most of these tide watches are equipped with Wi-Fi or some other way to communicate that information with your computer or phone so that you can store your performance data and look through it.
We highly recommend this for surfers who are trying to set goals for improvement, or surfers who are trying to hit thresholds in their training each day.
Some surfers may not care too much about how their watch looks. After all, we’re not talking Rolexes here.
That being said, there are surfers who live and breathe aesthetic.
Most major surf watches only come in black, though there are others who offer quite a bit of flare in terms of design.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you dive with tide watches?
Most of the tide watches on our list have a 10 ATM rating. This means that they are solid up to about 330ft under the water. So the simple answer is no. If you were to take these diving, the pressure would eventually be too intense for them to survive in. The good thing is, some of these companies, like NIXON, have a line of dive watches that are built to withstand that sort of pressure.
Should I get an analog or digital tide watch?
Like we mentioned in the article, most tide watches that you’ll find out on the market right now are digital. This is because it make more sense to display tidal metrics in digital format. That being said, if you can find an analog tide watch that you like, go for it! People love to say that they are inferior to digital tide watches, which is totally not true. NIXON makes some awesome analog tide watches that are just as functional as their digital watches.
How do tide watches work?
This is a question that really needs a lengthy answer that would require us getting into lunar phases and tidal physics, though, for the sake of this article, we’ll break it down to the differences between how certain watches look at tides vs. others. Many watches come with pre-programmed tide charts that have limited storage and can forecast their preset locations for a number of years. Some watches allow you to customize your tidal metrics, as not every surf spot in the world has surf charts readily available to view. These are typically higher-end watches that let you dig in a little deeper to make them your own.
Conclusion – Should You Get A Tide Watch?
Absolutely! Look for a tide watch that is comfortable and can be an extension of your being rather than one that is there for pure utility.
Make sure it is comfortable, functional, and strong. If you want one that looks good that you can also wear to a fancy dinner, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
Tide watches are an awesome technology that will only continue to get better as manufacturers experiment!
We highly recommend picking one up if you are serious about surfing!