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The Best Digital Watches May Not Be Smart, But That Doesn’t Make Them Dumb

With all due respect to the best smartwatches, the smartest watch you can have on your wrist is a digital watch. The best digital watches allow you to check different time zones, set alarms, run a stopwatch and check the day and date, all at the push of a button. They’re informative while also being distraction-free. You can run Twitter on a smartwatch, but do you really need a way to doomscroll from your wrist?

If you’re buying a watch for function first, a digital watch should be high on your list. In terms of style, digital watches can also be a surprising flex. There are options with a retro-kitsch charm like a gold-toned Timex and ruggedly handsome timepieces like those made by G-Shock.


A Brief History of the Digital Watch

Electronic digital watches were made possible by the quartz revolution. Seiko introduced the first quartz watch, the Astron, in 1969. The Astron was analog and more or less looked like a regular watch, but it had a seismic effect on the world of horology. To this day, this period of innovation is known as the “quartz crisis.” To compete, American watchmaker Hamilton rolled out the world’s first watch with an LED time display in 1970. It was dubbed the Pulsar.

The technology powering the Pulsar was pretty rudimentary by today’s standards. You had to push a button to read the time to save energy on its power-draining LED display. Otherwise, the watch was just a black screen. There was also no day-date, stopwatch or any of the other features we take for granted with digital watches.  It was also fantastically expensive. That said, it has an undeniable charm and a design inspired by the aspirational era of the space age.

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Despite its limited functionality and divisive design, The Pulsar was a wild success and was sported by Roger Moore’s James Bond in Live and Let Die. Four years after the Pulsar, Casio rolled out the Casiotron, the first digital watch with an automatic calendar (that meant no more resetting the day at the first of the month). The cost of quartz timekeeping dropped drastically after those first few years. Watchmakers could pack more features into smaller, more affordable watches ranging from the practical (stopwatches, time zones) to the novelty (video games, TVs).

Read More: The 33 Best Men’s Watches of 2022 for Every Style and Budget


Timex vs. Casio

Brands like Hamilton, Seiko and Bulova have all made digital watches over the years. Still, some of these are available in only one style, are limited edition or are no longer in production. These days, the two major players are Casio and Timex. Casio still arguably makes the best digital watches. They’re inexpensive, reliable and available in a wide range of styles. Timex, founded as the Waterbury Clock Company in 1854, makes watches in all styles, including analog and digital timepieces.

Both of these brands have popular sub-brands. Casio manufactures G-Shock watches, which are distinct for having virtually indestructible cases and expansive features. Ironman is Timex’s answer to  G-Shock, providing enhanced water resistance and added timekeeping functions. Both brands make digital watches other than G-Shock and Ironman. Still, it is these two watch brands that have the most devoted fan bases. When choosing the best digital watch for 202, we included eight options from these timeless watch brands.


1. G-Shock GA2100-1A1


This watch is affectionately dubbed the CasiOak for its octagonal shape, which resembles the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Of course, favorable or otherwise, Casio is likely keen to avoid comparisons to other brands, so this watch is officially the GA-2100. It has a rugged design and an analog-digital display. Features include world time, a timer, a stopwatch, up to five alarms, and an auto calendar. All of that is packed into a 100-dollar watch. It comes in a few colors, but it’s hard to beat an all-black watch from G-Shock.

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2. Timex Men’s Classic Digital Watch


This Timex has a classic, retro look inspired by Casio’s F91 and has the features you’d expect from a digital watch at the price you’d expect from Timex. It has Indiglo for easy legibility in the dark, plus a day date display, alarm and stopwatch.

Read More: Our Favorite Retro Digital Watches

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3. Casio F91W-1 Classic Resin Strap Digital Sport Watch


The Casio F91W was introduced in 1989 and is still going strong. Its small size and unassuming design are the perfect antidotes to the popularity of oversized, ostentatious watches. For less than 20 bucks, you get a watch with an alarm, day-date display and a stopwatch. There’s also a backlight.

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4. Timex Ironman Essential 30 Watch


The Timex Ironman is even more economical than the Casio G-Shock is. It has a lap counter with 30 memory storage, a 100-hour chronograph and a customizable alarm. And most importantly, like most Timex watches, this one has an Indiglo backlight for easy reading in any condition. The gray and lime colorway adds an extra sporty touch.

Read More: The Best Sports Watches for Men

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5. G-Shock DW5600SR-1


Casio took this classic G-Shock and threw a unique full-surface gradated crystal finish on it, creating an iridescent look designed to evoke “midsummer sky at dusk.” Slightly distracting to look at? Probably. Beautiful? Definitely.

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Courtesy of Casio

6. Hamilton PSR Digital Watch 


When can a digital watch turn into a luxury item? When it’s made with care and purpose by Hamilton. The PSR is a limited-edition offering with serious style points and refined, retro design. It’s also the exception to the commonly held belief that digital watches aren’t always the most stylish. This sharp timepiece is worth the investment and worth wearing as much as possible — yes, you can even wear this watch with a tailored suit. To Hamilton, we say this: Very well done, indeed.

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Courtesy of Hamilton


7. Bulova Computron


Along with Elvis’s iconic triangular Hamilton Ventura watch, the Computron has to be one of the oddest silhouettes ever made by a major watch brand. It has a raised case with a small digital display at the bottom, while most of the “face” of the watch is occupied by a textured metal plate. This watch was initially produced in the 1970s.

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Swedish independent watch brand Void Watches brings a Scandinavian-inspired design to its timepieces, crafting a distinctly modern square case for the V01MKII. Half of the face is occupied by the metal case, nodding to the classic design of the Bulova Computron. Features include time, date and backlight.

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Courtesy of Void

9. Timex Expedition Digital Chrono Watch


Timex’s Expedition watches are made for getting out there. The fabric strap is durable and comfortable in hot weather. The watch has plenty of features for hiking and adventuring, such as a chronograph, countdown timer, an Indiglo light-up dial and 100 meters of water resistance.

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10. Nixon Ripley


Nixon’s Ripley watch has a unique display. There’s an analog hand over a digital time and day-date display. You can even turn off the digital display if you want to go all analog. The watch has a digital altimeter, dual chronograph, second timezone, and alarm. It comes in a range of colors, too.

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Courtesy of Nixon



With plenty of negative space and a fabric strap, this watch will feel perfectly light on the wrist. If you want to play around with the band, VOID also sells a variety of compatible Velcro straps that you can swap out, while the case comes in silver, copper and gold-tone. VOID’s PXR5 is also the most straightforward display of the watches on this list. It has time, date and backlight.

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Courtesy of Void


12. Timex Ironman 10 Essential Watch


With a name like Ironman, it’s no wonder that Timex delivers the goods with impeccable quality and durable design in mind. This watch is built for grueling pursuits, made to withstand most anything while providing legible timekeeping on a black resin strap. It also features a 100-hour chronograph with 10-lap memory, 24-hour military time mode and a light-up watch dial. It has all the bells and whistles you need and none you don’t. How’s that for one of the best digital watches, right?

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Courtesy of Amazon


13. Casio Classic Digital Bracelet Watch


It’s hard to go wrong with a watch as timeless (not literally, but figuratively) as this Casio digital bracelet watch. It’s one of the more stylish digital watches we’ve found, complete with throwback looks and the type of minimal style to pair with business casual or throwback weekend loungewear looks with ease. It’s an undersized watch with a case diameter of 35mm, driving home its retro looks even further. When you want an affordable, no-nonsense digital watch, you want this one from Casio.

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