40 Best Military and Tactical Watches: A Complete Guide for 2022
1 Comment

40 Best Military and Tactical Watches: A Complete Guide for 2022

While many of watchmaking’s most prestigious brands claim to build watches designed for the military (and especially for elite special forces), the reality is that the majority of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and yes, coasties don’t make the kind of cash necessary to play in the luxury watch space. Still, the military remains a calling in which early is on time and on time is late, so watches are essential gear and, in many cases, a required uniform item. So, what watches do military members wear? To be frank, our evidence would seem to indicate that the overwhelming majority of military members wear inexpensive quartz digital watches like the ubiquitous Casio G-Shock and Timex Ironman. While both are fine watches in their utilitarian category, some service members want something a bit more elevated, combining the classic aesthetic and function of an analog watch with some military flavor and toughness.

Military watches have, of course, transcended the military itself, becoming a popular style for watch collectors thanks to their utility and purpose-oriented designs.  Luckily, there are a ton of incredible military watch options out there suitable both for service members and civilians alike. Wanting a refined aesthetic doesn’t mean you can’t also have "mil-spec" levels of durability, legibility, and reliability. You just have to know where to look. Here we showcase 40 watches that combine a tacti-cool aesthetic with functionality for surviving life’s daily ops as well as the extremes of military service.

Given the wide variety of environments in which service members operate, this list is divided into watches intended for use at sea, in the air, and on land. In addition, special attention is paid to watches on the more affordable side of the spectrum (with a few exceptions), because why drop $10k on something you know you’ll beat up?

Sea: Watches designed for maritime environments and diving have special considerations like corrosion and water resistance as well as underwater visibility. For many, diver’s watches are the ultimate tool and military watches, thanks to their durability, legibility, and dependable service in virtually any environment. With that in mind, this list is admittedly heavy on dive watches. We don’t think you’ll mind...

seiko spb151 spb153 military watch

Brand: Seiko

Watch featured: SPB151 and SPB 153 “Captain Willard”

Specifications: Price: $1300 and $1100, Case Size: 42.7mm, Thickness: 13.2mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46.6mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko 6R35, Power Reserve: 70 Hours (!), Crystal: Sapphire

Seiko’s new SPB151 and SPB153 are updated takes on the iconic Seiko 6105-8110 diver’s watch made famous on Captain Willard’s wrist (well, actually Martin Sheen’s) in Apocalypse Now. With a visual design that doesn’t stray much from the original watch, Seiko has updated the new SPB151 and SPB153 with a sapphire crystal, 6R35 automatic movement with an impressive 70 hours of power reserve, and a moderate-yet-significant downsize from the original watch’s hefty build. Available either with a black dial and bezel insert on an excellent bracelet or a more mission-ready olive green dial and bezel-insert combination on a rubber strap, the Seiko SPB151 and SPB153 are more than capable of accompanying the waterborne service member on missions both on duty and off.

Brand: Seiko

Watch featured: SKX007K2 and SKX009K2

Specifications: Price: $400, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 13.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko 7s26, Power Reserve: 41 Hours, Crystal: Hardlex (Mineral)

While not explicitly tactical, Seiko’s venerable SKX belongs on this list due to its more-than-reasonable retail price, reliable-yet-simple automatic movement, straightforward diver design, modest size, and category leading lume. For aquatic military members, the SKX represents a trustworthy ISO-rated automatic diver’s watch in a less aggressive, more refined package which pairs well with a military uniform on the stock rubber strap or a 22mm nato, but can also easily be classed up with one the many OEM or aftermarket bracelet options. If you’re shooting for the mustache-toting 1990s Navy SEAL look, and you should be, it’s right here. This classic is also on its way out of production, so make moves if you have interest.

 

Marathon GSAR Diver

Brand: Marathon

Watch featured: GSAR Large Diver’s Automatic

Specifications: Price: $1264, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 14mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Swiss ETA 2824-A2, Power Reserve: 38 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire

Canadian brand Marathon (whose watches are made in Switzerland) has been supplying watches and clocks to military forces and governments since 1941. Marathon’s Government Search and Rescue (GSAR) diver’s watch is issued to Canadian Search and Rescue Technicians, who specialize in jumping out of airplanes into dangerous environments to conduct lifesaving missions. Machined from a monobloc of 316L stainless steel, and equipped with features like 300 meters of water resistance, tritium illumination for sustained nighttime visibility, and a highly legible military dial and handset, the Marathon GSAR is a capable military diver’s watch for anyone with amphibious proclivities.

MKII Paradive

Brand: MKII

Watch featured: Paradive Gen 3

Specifications: Price: $895, Case Size: 41.25mm at the bezel, Thickness: 15.54mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Made in Japan SII NE15 Automatic, Power Reserve: 50 hours, Crystal: Domed Sapphire

MKII, an American microbrand from the days before microbrands, has been steadily producing military-inspired watches since 2002. With a core principle of taking some of the most iconic military designs and updating their spec to include the benefits of modern watch technology, MKII has rightfully garnered a loyal following among military members and watch nerds alike. MKII’s Gen 3 Paradive is a visual homage to the Benrus Type I, a watch designed from scratch for U.S. military special operators and divers in the 1970s (more on which toward the bottom of this list). The Paradive stays close to the original design visually, while upgrading the concept with a domed sapphire crystal, Super-Luminova on the dial and hands, and Seiko’s excellent SII NE15 movement. Bolstered by what is perhaps the cleanest-ever military diver watch design, and capped off with a useful 12-hour bezel for tracking a second time zone, the Paradive is a more-than-solid choice for an everyday military diver.

 

Brand: G-Shock

Watch featured: DW9052

Specifications: Price: $46, Case Size: 48.5mm, Thickness: 14.7mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Japanese Quartz, Battery Life: 2 Years, Crystal: Mineral Glass

Since we’re keeping it real, we have to include G-Shock in any conversation about military diver’s watches. In all probability, Casio’s G-Shock has more bottom time on military dives than any other watch or set of watches combined. G-Shocks are simply that hardy, cheap, and reliable. The US Navy agrees. Casio’s DW9052 G-Shock is currently standard issue at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City Beach, FL, given to divers right along with their fins, masks, and knives. At around $46, the DW9052 features a backlight, 200 meters of water resistance, quartz timekeeping, industry leading durability, and subtle military street cred for those in the know.

 

Citizen Promaster Diver 

Brand: Citizen

Watch featured: Promaster Aqualand BN2039-59E

Specifications: Price: $695, Case Size: 46mm, Thickness: 16mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Caliber J250 Japanese Eco-Drive Quartz, Battery Life: 11 Months Fully Charged, Crystal: Mineral Glass

Like its fellow Japanese watch giant, Seiko, Citizen has carved out a place on the wrist of many service members and military enthusiasts alike, thanks to its durable, functional watch designs and fair cost of ownership. For divers, Citizen’s Aqualand collection, launched in 1985, has become a mainstay thanks to legible analog-digital displays and accurate integrated depth gauges, which provide excellent backup data to compliment the ever-present dive computer. Citizen’s newest Promaster Aqualand BN2039-59E combines a color coded analog display with separate hands for time and depth tracking, along with Eco-Drive charging capabilities in a surprisingly well-thought-out package that doesn’t look nearly as busy as the stacked feature list would indicate.

CWC SBS Diver 

Brand: CWC

Watch featured: SBS Diver Issue

Specifications: Price: $900, Case Size: 41mm (excluding crown), Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: ETA 955.122 Swiss Quartz, Battery Life: 6 Years, Crystal: Sapphire

CWC (the initials stand for Cabot Watch Company), was founded in 1972 and has produced hundreds of thousands of field, pilot, and diver’s watches for issue to members of the British Ministry of Defense. In fact, filling some impressive shoes, CWC took up the mantle of designing a capable diver’s watch for Royal Navy Divers in 1980 when the previously supplied Rolex Military Submariner became too expensive to make sense for military service. Issued to the Special Boat Service (A British Navy SEAL equivalent) since 1987, the CWC SBS Diver Issue is a classic yet modern tactical diver’s watch complete with a sapphire crystal, reasonable day/date display, Super-Luminova on the dial and hands, and a 120- click unidirectional bezel.

 Tudor Black Bay P01

Brand: Tudor

Watch featured: Black Bay P01

Specifications: Price: $4,100, Case Size: 42mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5612 (COSC-certified), Power Reserve: 70 hours, Crystal: Sapphire

As a watch supplier to the U.S. Navy in 1967, Tudor created a prototype for a tactical divers’ watch, meeting a set of U.S. government specifications, to replace the discontinued Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7928. The “Commando,” as it was code-named, was never mass-produced, but it provided the blueprint for the Black Bay P01 (“Prototype 1”) when it was unearthed years later. The modern watch uses a 42-mm matte-finished steel case with a 4 o’clock crown and a locking, bidirectional dive-scale bezel with a stopping system and a mobile link at 12 o’clock — an upgrade from the prototype model’s patented removable bezel. The domed matte black dial has luminous-treated indexes and the familiar “Snowflake” hands that Tudor’s dive watches have sported since 1969. Inside the 200 meter water-resistant case beats Tudor’s COSC chronometer-certified, in-house Caliber MT5612, with a 70-hour power reserve.

Bulova MIL-SHIPS watch

Brand: Bulova

Watch Featured: MIL-SHIPS W-2181

Specifications: Price: $1,900, Case Size: 41mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Automatic Sellita Caliber SW 200-1, Power Reserve: 41 hours, Crystal: Sapphire

In the late 1950s, Bulova made several prototype divers’ watches for the U.S. military that for various technical reasons never made it into serial production and were thus never actually worn by service members. (Long story short, Bulova focused its efforts on perfecting the Accutron rather than working the bugs out of its dive watch and the U.S. Navy ended up adopting the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms instead.) Bulova resurrected this very rare model in 2020 as part of its expanding vintage-inspired collection. Its 41-mm sandblasted steel case is water resistant to 200 meters and houses an automatic caliber with a 41-hour power reserve. The vintage-look dial features cathedral hands, luminous hour markers, and a period-appropriate moisture indicator, a safety mechanism rarely found on dive watches today.

Panerai Submersible Carbotech

Brand: Panerai

Watch Featured: Submersible Carbotech

Specifications: Price: $6,300 - $27,800, Case Size: 42mm/47mm, Case Height: 13.5mm/16.8mm, Lug Width: 22mm/26mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Panerai P.900/P.9010

Panerai, a Florence-based maker of tools and instruments for military divers in the 1930s, has become a powerhouse in the luxury sector, its unapologetically militaristic and indisputably masculine designs blurring the lines between tool watch and luxury item like few brands before or since. The Submersible, which began as a sub-family of the flagship Luminor model, traces its design inspiration to the l’Egiziano diving watch commissioned by the Egyptian navy in the 1950s. As the company’s only true “tool watch” — it’s the only one with a rotating dive-scale bezel — the Submersible has become the major proving ground for Panerai to showcase some of the innovative high-tech materials that it has brought to the watch industry — including Carbotech, a high-performance, carbon-based alloy, as well as BMG-Tech (“Bulk Metallic Glass”), an extra-hard, corrosion-resistant, antimagnetic composite of copper, aluminum, titanium, nickel and zirconium.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms No-Rad

Brand: Blancpain

Watch Featured: Fifty Fathoms No-Rad Limited Edition

Price: $14,100, Case Size: 40.3mm, Case Thickness: 13.45mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber 1151

A specific Fifty Fathoms model produced for the German Navy in 1960 (the so-called “BUND No-Rad”) provided the template for the popular No-Rad Limited Edition in 2021. The watch’s dial, like that of its predecessor, is notable for the colorful disk above 6 o’clock with red segments on a yellow background — a visual shorthand to assure the watch’s wearer that it was free of the potentially dangerous, radioactive luminous paint that had been used on earlier military watches. This period-appropriate detail, a clever call-out to the nuclear-averse Cold War era, joins other historical elements, including the white border on the date window and geometric hour markers. The No-Rad comes in at a relatively modest 40.3mm in diameter, an atypical size for a contemporary Fifty Fathoms model but one more in keeping with its vintage appeal.

Air: Pilots and aircrew members also have special watch considerations like tracking a second time zone, low pressure environments, and legibility. Here are some of the best pilot’s watches for military use.

 

Brand: Sangin Instruments

Watch featured: Kinetic II

Specifications: Price: $579, Case Size: 43.5mm (excluding crown), Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Swiss Ronda Quartz GMT, Battery Life: 3-4 Years, Crystal: Sapphire

Sangin Instruments is a relatively new microbrand on the scene, founded by a U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations veteran. With an eye for detail and an intimate understanding of what special operators need from a watch, Sangin Instruments has quickly developed a cult following among the military, law enforcement, and civilian tactical enthusiast crowd, often selling out of its limited releases in hours. Sangin’s Kinetic II is designed as a pilot’s watch, equipped with a Swiss Ronda Quartz GMT movement, but also serves as a capable dive timer given its rugged build, rotating bezel, and 300 meters of water resistance. While they can be challenging to get, at the price, you can’t do much better for a tactical pilot’s watch with real-world combat credibility.

Brand: Breitling

Watch featured: Aerospace Evo Titanium

Specifications: Price: $4375, Case Size: 43mm (excluding crown), Thickness: 10.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 51mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Breitling 79 Thermocompensated Quartz, Battery Life: 3-4 Years, Crystal: Sapphire

Though many service members reach for inexpensive watches knowing they’ll beat the crap out of them, many pilots, most of whom are higher-earning commissioned officers, do wear luxury watches. Swiss giant Breitling has for decades produced capable military aviator’s watches which combine a luxury aesthetic with legitimately useful features for aviation. The Aerospace Evo Titanium is the most recent in a long line of fully featured analog-digital watches built with flight-specific features like a second time zone, alarm, calendar, 1/100th- second chronograph, and a countdown timer. Executed in lightweight titanium, the Aerospace Evo is a serious, high-tech watch for pilots who fly serious, high- tech aircraft.

Brand: Marathon

Watch featured: Black Pilot’s Navigator with Date

Specifications: Price: $320, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Water Resistance: 60m, Movement: ETA-F06 High-Torque Quartz, Battery Life: 5 Years, Crystal: Sapphire

Making its second appearance on this list is Marathon, whose military-specific pieces are leaders in value and ruggedness. For pilots and navigators, Marathon designed the Navigator, a straightforward time-only quartz watch in a rugged, lightweight composite case with an easily polished acrylic crystal. The Marathon Navigator series has been issued to military pilots around the world for decades for a reason. As an inexpensive and comfortable watch with a highly legible dial and handset thanks to the use of tritium tubes, and built specifically for low pressure environments — like a fighter jet’s cockpit —the Marathon Navigator is a serious bit of kit for pilots and flight enthusiasts who want the real deal.

Brand: Sinn

Watch featured: EZM 10 TESTAF

Specifications: Price: $5680, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 15.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 53mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Sinn SZ01 Automatic Chronograph, Power Reserve: 42 hours, Crystal: Sapphire

For the higher-budget pilot who happens to be a watch enthusiast, and there are a lot more of these than you’d imagine, Sinn’s EZM 10 TESTAF is about as good as it gets. Balancing cool guy tech in the form of the excellent SZ01 chronograph movement with a highly legible dial and handset all in a titanium case, the EZM 10 is also independently certified to meet the TESTAF (which stands for Technischer Standard Fliegeruhren) standard, a German guideline for what constitutes a professional pilot’s watch. Sinn’s EZM 10 TESTAF does about as much as you can ask from a mechanical watch designed for pilots, with a 24-hour subdial, central 60-minute chronograph counter, and a case filled with argon gas to fend off humidity inside the watch.

Brand: Laco

Watch featured: Pilot Watch Original Westerland

Specifications: Price: $1350, Case Size: 45mm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug-to-Lug: 53.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Hand-wound Mechanical ETA 2801.2, Power Reserve: 46 hours, Crystal: Sapphire

As one of the original manufacturers of military pilot’s watches since 1925, Laco have cemented a place in history, capably strapped over the wrist of a thick leather flyer’s jacket on many a combat sortie. Laco’s pilot watches, the Westerland included, are big and for good reason: pilots in flight, especially in the pre-digital era, required at-a-glance timekeeping both for navigation purposes and to coordinate mission objectives. So, while the Westerland appears more like a slice of vintage aviation history, the Laco Westerland is still a worthy in-flight companion thanks to excellent legibility, SuperLuminova on the dial and hands for night ops, and a heavy duty leather pilot’s strap. Of course, for a tank of a watch like this, the small-wristed need not apply.

Brand: Citizen

Watch featured: Promaster Skyhawk A-T JY8108-53E and JY8075-51E

Specifications: Price: $895, Case Size: 45mm, Thickness: 12.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive Quartz (Syncs to Atomic Clock), Battery Life: Up to Ten Years, Crystal: Sapphire

Always at the forefront of value and functionality for your dollar, Citizen also produces a number of trusted aviation-themed watches which are often spotted on a military flyer’s wrist. Citizen's Skyhawk series, a descendant of the original Navihawk, is an analog-digital, feature-rich, Eco-Drive powered pilot’s watch built to complement the unique needs of pilots in flight. Available in a range of colorways including a subdued, black ion-plated variant, the Citizen Skyhawk A-T looks the business while also syncing with your local atomic clock and tracking a wide range of timekeeping features, including world time, two alarms, UTC, a 1/100th of a second chronograph, a countdown timer, and more. Outside of something like a smartwatch, the Citizen Skyhawk A-T offers about as much data as you can ask for in a solar-rechargeable package with an unnecessary-but-awesome 200 meters of water resistance.

Brand: Farer

Watch featured: GMT Bezel Automatic

Specifications: Price: $1,400, Case Size: 40.5mm, Thickness: 11.75mm, Lug-to-Lug: 44mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Sellita SW330-1 Top Grade, Power Reserve: 42 hours, Crystal: Domed Sapphire

While fairly new on the scene, British-born Farer has made a name in the microbrand space by combining unique designs with quality Swiss movements and interesting pops of color. Second-time-zone tracking capabilities are huge for pilots, who may want to set their second time zone either to home time while deployed or UTC (Universal Time Coordinate) for mission tracking purposes. Farer’s new GMT Bezel Automatic is robust thanks to 200 meters of water resistance and a domed sapphire crystal, but also refined with a highly legible and charming dial, hand, and bezel combination. For the military pilot or aviation lover with a bit more flair, Farer’s functional GMT Bezel Automatic watch, with some unique color accents and a sensible case size, offers a lot in the plus column.

Longines Avigation Type A-7 1935

Brand: Longines

Watch featured: Avigation Type A-7 1935

Specifications: Price: $3,450, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 14.10mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Automatic Longines Caliber L788, Power Reserve: 60 hours, Crystal: Sapphire

The Avigation Type A-7 1935 from Longines’ Heritage collection is a modern reinterpretation of a watch ordered by the U.S. Air Force in (you guessed it) 1935, built to meet rigorous specifications in terms of aesthetics, durability and precision. The black dial, tilted 40 degrees to the right, was aimed at military fighter pilots who’d wear the watch on the inside of their wrist over thick gloves in order to read the time quickly and easily without releasing the controls. Also designed specifically for an aviator’s gloved hands is the big, onion-style crown at 12 o’clock that not only winds the watch but includes a single push-button in its center to control the starting, stopping and re-starting of the watch’s chronograph function. Longines Caliber L788.2 — the automatic movement inside the 41-mm steel case, tilted at an angle to match the dial — uses a column wheel system to drive the stopwatch and provides a power reserve of 54 hours.

Victorinox Airboss Mechanical

Brand: Victorinox

Watch featured: Airboss Mechanical

Specifications: Price: $1,095, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 10.16mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200-1

The Airboss takes its name from the officer on an aircraft carrier in charge of takeoff and landing time for the fighter jets. A classical-looking military pilots’ watch with a ruggedly functional look, produced by Victorinox, the company best known for giving the world the ubiquitous Swiss Army knife, it’s got a 24-hour inner ring on the dial, inside the traditional 12-hour scale (with the numeral 12 marked by the Swiss cross logo). The 42mm steel case is mounted on a contrast-stitched, ecologically tanned calf leather strap and its sapphire exhibition caseback offers a view of the Swiss automatic movement inside.

Luminox X Bear Grylls AIR Series GMT

Brand: Luminox

Watch featured: Luminox X Bear Grylls AIR Series GMT Watch

Specifications: Price: $695, Case Size: 45mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Quartz Ronda 515, Batter Life: 50 months, Crystal: Sapphire

When you’re making a watch for “Man vs. Wild” star and former SAS combat trooper Bear Grylls, it had better be one that can provide lots of tactical utility while also taking a beating in harsh conditions. Luminox, a Swiss watch brand known for making military-tough watches worn by actual troops, delivers one with the AIR GMT model, equipped with a world time and GMT function indicated on a rotating bezel made of Luminox’s proprietary Carbonox material. The 24 world cities the brand chose to engraved on the bezel represent the home bases of the world’s most elite military forces. The stencil-style numerals on the black dial accompany an orange-tipped GMT hand; the contrast color is also used for Gryll’s “Never Give Up” motto in a matching color on the dial as well as the rubber ring around the crown that helps ensure the case’s sturdy water resistance.

Mühle Glashütte SAR Rescue Timer

Brand: Mühle Glashütte

Watch featured: S.A.R. Rescue Timer

Specifications: Price: $2,800, Case Size: 42mm, Case Height: 13.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW 200-1, Mühle version

Mühle Glashütte, founded in 1869, is the oldest family-owned watchmaking company in Germany while also being, in practice, one of the youngest, having not produced a wristwatch until 1996, after a long history of making speedometers, dashboard clocks, and other equipment for military vehicles. Today the watch most emblematic of the brand is the S.A.R. Rescue Timer (S.A.R. refers to the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service, the unit for which it was built). The steel watch’s tough rubber bezel acts as a shock absorber for the Mühle-customized automatic Swiss movement inside the steel case. An uncommonly dense 4mm sapphire crystal, with a cyclops lens to magnify the date, protects the dial, with its large, luminous triangular markers at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Shop here.

IWC Pilot's Watch Spitfire

Brand: IWC

Watch featured: Pilot's Watch Spitfire

Specifications: Price: $9,500, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 14.4mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic IWC 82100

IWC’s Spitfire collection of Pilot’s Watches which takes its inspiration from the Mark 11 navigation watch IWC developed for the British Royal Air Force in 1948 and is named for the Supermarine Spitfire, a WWII-era British military plane used by the RAF. One of the most recent versions features a matte-grey titanium case framing a black dial styled like that of a historical observation watch (outer zero-to-sixty minutes scale, inner 12-hour ring), which was designed to enable early 20th-century pilots to use it for celestial navigation. IWC’s manufacture Caliber 82100 ticks inside, shielded by a solid caseback and storing a 60-hour power reserve. In keeping with the recent expansion and updating of the IWC Pilot’s Watch families, the watch and its strap are equipped with IWC’s EasX-CHANGE system that allows the wearer to quickly and easily swap between straps (alternates are sold separately) without using tools.

Land: While less endangered by the ingress of seawater or low pressure environments, field watches designed for soldiers on the ground still face a slew of challenges, such as extreme shocks, dirt, and combat operations. Here are a few of the best when it comes to ruck-humping, ground pounding combat operations on land.

Timex North Field Expedition

Brand: Timex

Watch featured: Expedition North Field Post Mechanical

Specifications: Price: $229, Reference: TW2V00700JR, Case Size: 38mm, Case Height: 8.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Mechanical TY6DSK-1 

Timex is an American brand that has made a slew of military-inspired and eminently affordable watches over the years, and with the Expedition North Field Post Mechanical, Timex brings together the classical field-watch dial, a 23-jewel, manually wound mechanical movement with hacking seconds, and an eco-friendly strap made of DriTan leather, all for an impressive sticker price under $250. The crystal is nonreflective sapphire (an upgrade over previous Expedition models, which used mineral crystal), and the stainless steel case resists water pressure down to 100 meters thanks to the screw-down crown. The hands and numerals glow brightly in the dark thanks to a coating of Super-LumiNova. 

Bulova Hack Watch

Brand: Bulova

Watch featured: Hack Watch

Specifications: Price: $395, Reference: 96A246, Case Size: 38mm, Case Height: 13.45mm, Lug Width: 18mm, Lug to Lug: 47mm, Crystal: Mineral, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Miyota Caliber 8250

During World War II, New York-based Bulova supplied watches — in addition to other instruments like telescopes, altimeters, artillery range finders and even fuses for explosives —  to the U.S. Armed Forces under a special contract with the government. The original “Hack Watch” got its name from the lock-down mechanism for its running seconds that allowed for perfect synchronization, or hacking, of multiple watches in the planning of a mission. The modern version of the Hack Watch features a vintage-look military-time dial with an inner 24-hour ring, large Arabic numerals, luminous cathedral hands, and a boxy crown. It’s powered by an automatic movement, a Japanese-made Miyota 8250, which has a 42-hour power reserve. The NATO-style strap that anchors it to the wrist is made of black leather, a slight concession to civilian luxury over military utility. Shop here.

G-Shock Camo Print

Brand: G-Shock

Watch featured: MTGB1000DCM-1 (Camo print)

Specifications: Price: $1,200, Reference: MTGB1000DCM-1, Case Size: 55.8mm x 51.7mm, Case Height: 14.4mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Quartz Solar

Recently released in G-Shock's tactical-oriented MT-G series, the MTGB1000DCM-1 deftly mixes high-tech sleekness with military-issue aesthetics. The watch has a round camo-printed case reinforced by carbon fiber within a stainless steel core guard structure and makes a bold statement with its complex analog dial under a sapphire crystal and its use of the G-Shock “Triple G Resist” technology, which renders it shock-resistant enough to stand up to just about any hard knocks to which a wearer would expose it. Its toolbox consists of a daily alarm, a countdown timer, a full auto calendar, and world-time displays for 39 time zones in 27 cities worldwide. Built-in premium features include G-Shock’s Two-Way Time Sync technology, which combines Bluetooth connectivity and Multi-Band 6 self-adjusting atomic timekeeping for accurate timekeeping virtually anywhere in the world, and the brand’s Tough Solar technology, which enables the watch to constantly recharge itself from light sources without the need to change batteries.

Brand: Garmin

Watch featured: Tactix Delta

Specifications: Price: $899, Case Size: 51mm, Thickness: 14.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 51mm, Lug Width: 26mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Quartz, Battery Life: 21 days in smartwatch mode, Crystal: Sapphire

Frankly, Garmin’s Fenix, and especially its military-adapted Tactix series of GPS-enabled smartwatches, could lead any of the categories here with a staggering set of features, impressive durability, and comfort on the wrist. The Tactix Delta features heart rate monitoring, every timekeeping feature imaginable, access to apps, a customizable display, live GPS tracking with turn-by-turn directions, newly added solar charging functionality, and even an optional ballistics calculator for snipers, all in a fiber-reinforced polymer case with a DLC-coated bezel. Now commonplace on the wrists of special operations forces, regular soldiers, pilots, and law enforcement, Garmin’s military-oriented Tactix is a full blown 51mm tactical computer on the wrist.

Brand: Suunto

Watch featured: Traverse Alpha Foliage

Specifications: Price: $299, Case Size: 50mm, Thickness: 15mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50mm, Lug Width: 24mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Quartz, Battery Life: 14 Days, Crystal: Sapphire

Suunto watches have long been associated with military members. The Finnish company's earlier ABC (altimeter, barometer, and compass)-equipped outdoor watches, such as the venerable Vector and Core, were longtime go-to options for military members who needed more data than the common G-Shock can provide. In keeping with Garmin, its most direct competitor in the tactical smartwatch space, Suunto’s Traverse Alpha is another excellent option for operators who require some smartwatch functionality in a package that can survive the hardship of military service. With a large 50mm-wide but lightweight carbon case and every timekeeping, fitness tracking, and navigation feature you will likely ever need, the Suunto Alpha Traverse is an excellent option for data-hungry tactical operators. At a sale price of $299, the Suunto Traverse series is also a bit less expensive (though admittedly less fully featured especially in terms of GPS) than some of the newest Garmin tactical smart watches.

Brand: Marathon

Watch featured: General Purpose Mechanical in Black, Sage Green, or Desert Tan

Specifications: Price: $360, Case Size: 34mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 40mm, Lug Width: 16mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Japanese Automatic, Power Reserve: 41 hours, Crystal: Sapphire

Frankly, sometimes, you just need a watch which tells the time and makes the trip in one piece. For the proverbial infantryman, Marathon (yes, them again) produces the General Purpose Mechanical, a simple, rugged, and refreshingly compact 34mm watch in a composite case. While at first glance a bit dainty, the GPM’s modest size makes sense when you consider the amount of gear carried by the average soldier. Sometimes you just need something low-profile. With a Japanese automatic movement for reliable timekeeping, tritium illumination for ready legibility day or night, and a reasonable cost of ownership, Marathon’s GPM is one of the best options for a battle-ready field watch. Also, thanks to the composite case material, the GPM is available in black, sage green, and desert tan to complement the uniform of the day.

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

Brand: Hamilton

Watch featured: Khaki Field Mechanical

Specifications: Price: $495, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 9.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 150m, Movement: H50 Handwinding Mechanical, Power Reserve: 80 hours, Crystal: Sapphire

Hamilton is another long-time supplier to the military, having produced field watches for issue to the US Army for decades. Hamilton’s Khaki Field Mechanical, available in a wide array of colors and case materials, is perhaps the purest field watch available, with design language that evokes the classic image of the GI storming a beach somewhere. In a modest 38mm-wide case, the Khaki Field Mechanical series is low key, easily fitting under sleeves and unlikely to catch on on a soldier’s kit. For the watch enthusiast crowd, the Khaki Field Mechanical is also interestingly equipped with a lengthy 80 hour power reserve, but you will have to wind the thing yourself. For our deep dive into the Hamilton Khaki Field Watch's history, click here. 

Brand: CWC

Watch featured: G10 Military Issue

Specifications: Price: $380, Case Size: 36.5mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 42mm, Lug Width: 19mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Swiss Quartz ETA 955.102, Battery Life: 5 years, Crystal: Acrylic

Another case for the most classic field watch design is made by CWC’s G10, the issue watch for service members in Britain’s Ministry of Defence from around 1980 to 2008. With somewhere around 200,000 of these having seen service all over the world, it’s safe to say the CWC G10 can probably handle anything coming its way even with a restrained 36.5mm case and modest 12mm thickness. A battery hatch on the caseback that can be opened with a coin allows the average watch nerd to easily change batteries after somewhere around 5 years of trusty service. The CWC G10’s smaller size works really well for smaller wrists, a bonus for the plethora of service members who aren’t built like a young Chuck Norris.

 

Ball Engineer Master II Green Berets

Brand: Ball Watch Co.

Watch featured: Engineer II Green Berets

Specifications: Price: $2,299, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 12.35mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Ball RR1103 (COSC) 

A wristwatch meant for use by elite military operatives should be legible at a glance in any lighting, tough enough to withstand harsh conditions, and reliably accurate in its timekeeping. Ball Watch delivers the trifecta with its Engineer II Green Berets model, whose 43mm titanium case sports a matte black carbide coating and a screw-down crown for a 100-meter water resistance. The hardened sapphire crystal includes a magnifying lens over the 3 o’clock date window, the only element that disrupts the circle of large applied hour indexes; in typical Ball style, these markers as well as the hands are enhanced with micro-tubes filled with tritium gas, a substance that allows them to glow brightly without any need for an outside light source to charge them. The Swiss movement inside, ensconced behind a solid caseback, is COSC certified for chronometric precision. The watch comes mounted on a thick, military-style strap. Shop here.

Bremont Armed Forces Broadsword

Brand: Bremont

Watch featured: Armed Forces Collection Broadsword

Specifications: Price: $3,445, Case Size: 40mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Bremont Caliber BE-95-2AV, Power Reserve: 38 hours, Crystal: Domed sapphire

London-based Bremont worked directly with the British Ministry of Defence to develop its Armed Forces collection, a series of military-influenced watches that take inspiration from the legendary “Dirty Dozen,” field watches issued to the British Army during World War II. Those wartime watches were built to exacting standards for military use, tested for water resistance, luminosity in the dark, and precise timekeeping. The Broadsword model from that military-commissioned collection, which is built to the same standards, offers the most direct visual throwback to the Dirty Dozen look, with a two-part, hardened steel 40-mm case, a black dial with lume-treated white hour numerals and hands and a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, and a khaki green sailcloth strap. The chronometer-certified automatic Caliber BE-95-2AV ticks behind a specially engraved caseback with the heraldic badges of all three of Britain’s military services: Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force (RAF).

Benrus Type I Limited Edition Reissue

Brand: Benrus

Watch featured: Type I Limited Edition Reissue

Specifications: Price: $1,695, Case Size: 42.5mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Automatic ETA Caliber 2681, Power Reserve: 38 hours, Crystal: Double-domed Sapphire

Benrus, an American watch company founded in 1921, secured the first contract to produce watches for military members during the Vietnam War. The Benrus Type I model, made between 1972 and 1980, was built to meet a specific set of criteria from the U.S. Department of Defense and was worn by elite special ops teams such as the Army Rangers and Navy SEALs. The Type I, which was never released to the public during that era, returned as a limited edition in 2020 and marketed to civilian collectors of rare militaria. It bore the same 42.5-mm “turtle” case shape as its predecessor, with a bead-blasted, anti-glare finish and a screw-down crown. Its bezel rotates in both directions rather than one, making it useful for mission countdowns and marking the model as more of a field watch than a dive watch. An automatic ETA movement beats inside, behind a caseback etched, like the original’s, with a slew of military specs.

Bell & Ross MilitaryBrand: Bell & Ross

Watch featured: BR V1-92 Military

Price: $2,400, Reference: BRV192-MIL-ST/SCA, Case Size: 38.5mm, Case Height: 11mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Caliber BR-CAL.302

Bell & Ross’ best-known watches, the dashboard-clock-inspired Instrument models, are anything but understated in their stature and design, but the BR V1-92 Military, from the brand’s round-cased Vintage collection, takes a subtler route. Its field-watch-style dial has only a 60-minute track, marked at five-minute increments — a period-appropriate design used on military aviation watches worn during the World Wars. Also historically appropriate are the sword-shaped luminous hands and the red “MT” ("Military Type") indication on the dial; thoroughly modern, on the other hand, are the round date window at 4:30 and the airplane-shaped counterweight on the central seconds hand. The automatic, Sellita-based Bell & Ross Caliber BR-CAL.302 beats inside the 38.5mm steel case.

1 Comment

Join the Conversation

RD
Ridldbf D.

Hamilton is for me!

Tissot Telemeter 1938: Hands-On Watch Review

The Dirty Dozen: History’s Most Legendary Field Watches

Authorized Retailer

Official Authorized Dealer of over 40+ leading luxury brands.

Customer Support

Dedicated customer service staff ready to resolve any purchase or product issues.

Shipping + Fulfillment

Swift delivery directly from our fulfillment center, no product sourcing or un-stocked consignment.

Curated Collection

We work with leading luxury brands to provide the best selection for discerning collectors.