The Best Luxury Watches for Off-the-Grid Adventure

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After I graduated from college, I took my hard-earned finance degree and put it to good use as an elk hunting guide in Pinedale, Wyoming. My last day as a guide was in 2006.

Fast forward nearly ten years. A few friends told me they were planning a trip to Wyoming and I jumped at the chance to return to the Wind River Range. 

A lot has changed over the past decade since my days as a guide. I’m a little older and a little wiser, I have three daughters, and I’m now the CEO of Crown & Caliber. So naturally, I couldn’t resist taking a few watches with me into the Wyoming wilderness for a test run.  

There are many watches on the market today specifically designed to be used outdoors. But I wondered how often they’re actually put to the test. What would happen when these so-called “outdoor” watches were taken off-the-grid, into one of the toughest environments in the lower 48? We were about to find out. Below are the watches we took, the map of our five-day trip, and our impressions. 

The Watches: 

1. Rolex GMT-Master II 16710

An iconic watch designed specifically to endure the elements. 

2. Breitling Chronospace M78366

An efficient and functional watch built to provide its wearer with the proper tools to guide them through extreme conditions. 

3. Bremont Boeing 100

A watch that pays homage to the famous aircraft manufacturer and was designed for adventure.

4. Panerai PAM 024

Originally made for the Italian military, a Panerai watch is known to be tough and have the ability to withstand the conditions of the great outdoors. 

5. IWC Double Chronograph Top Gun IW3799-01

Full disclosure: this watch made the cut simply because it’s so cool looking and I wanted to test the split-seconds function in an outdoor environment. 

The Trip:

Day 1: From Elkhart Trailhead to Cook Lakes

With each of the five of us equipped with a watch, we set out from the trailhead and hiked roughly fifteen miles. As we got closer to the Cook Lakes, the temperature dropped nearly twenty degrees and hail started coming down. That night, we caught some Brook trout and got about two inches of snowfall.  

Day 2: From Cook Lakes to Island Lake (through Lester Pass)

The second day was much more challenging than the first. Lester Pass is tough, and to make matters worse, we did it in the snow. The upside was that the snow excited the elk and we heard quite a few rounds of bulls calling from all different directions. 

Day 3: From Island Lake to Titcomb Basin

Day three was absolutely incredible. The Titcomb Basin is basically an amphitheater. It’s well above tree-line and at the end of the trail, you’re completely surrounded by peaks. Words can’t do it justice.

Day 4: Summiting Fremont Peak

On the fourth day, we reached the top of Fremont Peak. It’s just 50 feet lower than the highest point in Wyoming, Gannet Peak, and we could feel it. The air was thin and the drop-off was pretty intimidating. 

Day 5: Back to Elkhart Trailhead

It was our last day but possibly the most beautiful. After hiking roughly fifteen miles non-stop, we made it back to the trailhead. 

The Impressions:

Rolex

The first two words that came to mind were lightweight and easy. I didn’t have to worry about it—wet, cold, dirt—it really didn’t matter. Yet, it was there when I needed it, and the GMT function came in handy. All in all, I treated it like a mule because that’s what it was built to be.

Breitling

I should preface this with the fact I used to absolutely loathe anything with an analog function. But, as much as I hate to admit it, I actually found it useful. This watch was also weightless and easy, plus the strap was great. At the end of the day, a pretty perfect watch for an off-the-grid adventure. 

Bremont

This one isn’t technically an outdoor watch, but it proved to be an awesome chronograph for the outdoors. The lume was perfect at night by the campfire and the factory strap was surprisingly comfortable. Bottom line: I love Bremont and this watch will definitely be accompanying me on my next trip. 

Panerai

Here comes the hard truth: although this watch has a rich outdoor history, it was without question my least favorite one in the group. It’s incredibly heavy, which made it tough to wear through the elements. I found myself babying it the entire trip. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t wear it on an excursion like this again. 

IWC

This one is probably the best-looking watch of the group. I was torn about the split-seconds pusher. On one hand, it was a bit uncomfortable because it kept digging into my wrist. On the other, it actually came in handy on several occasions, like cooking cornbread and pancakes at the same time when both needed separate timers. Overall, it’s a very cool watch and the strap is great.