The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Q&A: Keeping Time

Question: What do you use for time keeping at sea? If you use a wristwatch then which one?

Answer: When this question first appeared in our In-box, I wrote it off as too basic to answer in a post; however, upon reflection (actually, John pointed it out!) I realized that there really is more to our choice of time keepers than first meets the eye.

There are a number of features that we won’t do without:

  • A large enough digital readout that we can see the time with our middle-aged eyes, even when we are tired and/or in dim light.
  • Really good back-lighting, so that we don’t have to turn on a light or use a flashlight to see the time during night watches.
  • An alarm that is loud enough for us to hear with our middle-aged ears, especially when we are dressed for cold weather with a watch cap and hood on (actually, this is becoming more of a problem all the time as we both get deafer).
  • A timer that is easy to set, start and stop for use in tracking radar targets (we set the timer for 6 minutes, mark a target’s position at the start and again when the timer goes off, and multiply the distance by 10, giving us our relative speed in knots).
  • Two time settings so that we can keep one on GMT and change the other depending on our location.
  • Easy to manipulate buttons, for when it’s cold and we have gloves on.
  • Water resistance, for reasons that should be obvious!

Looking at that lengthy list of requirements, I wouldn’t blame you for expecting our time keeper of choice to be an extremely expensive watch advertised in glossy magazines by the likes of André Agassiz; however, we (and our banker) are happy to report that it’s a lowly Timex Ironman 30-Lap that retails for a whopping $35.00 (at discount), costing us a total of $105.00 when we buy one for each of us, along with a spare.

I don’t mind being particular as long as it only costs us $105.00, but don’t get me started on how much our pickiness regarding foul weather gear costs!

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I would add to your requirements: Analog hands with glow in the dark feature so it’s easy to read the time at a glance. My IronMan is 4 years old and has hands as well as digital features.