We recommend people bring a watch when they attend field school programs. It’s a necessary piece of kit for a working guide and ensures you know what time it is so you can be on time.
Get a watch with a barometer, which is a common feature among modern outdoor watches. This will help you with your weather studies as well as with predicting the weather accurately in the field. Also, a good watch should have an alarm, a countdown timer (invaluable for cooking soft-boiled eggs and other kitchen tasks, can also be accomplished with a stopwatch), and be water resistant so you can wear it in a canoe or while swimming. I’m partial to the watches that have built-in solar charging, as it stops you from having to replace a battery a few years down the line. In my experience when you replace a battery on a watch is when the waterproof gaskets fail. Having a watch that stays charged by the sun eliminates this possibility.
A watch is a critical tool for navigation, in the woods and especially on the water. Speed times time equals distance when at sea. Knowing that the tide occurs 52 minutes later each day is easy to track when on a remote section of coastline if you have a watch. Knowing the time of day and the basics of barehand navigation will allow you to find the cardinal directions in seconds.
The mystery of longitude was solved with a time piece. It took John Harrison 31 years to develop his device in a workshop in Greenwich, England. If you’ve ever wondered why the zero degree longitude line goes through Greenwich, this is why.
We’ve had young people attempt to do all of these things with their phone, only to show up late after their alarm didn’t go off because their phone ran out of power. Don’t be that person. Phone batteries don’t last long, especially when it’s cold. Bring a watch.