The Best Military Watches – 2017 Buyer’s Guide
A whole lot hasn't changed when it comes to the gear men carry with them daily; in the trenches, at sea, or in the air; pocket knives, matches and cigarettes were often the common near necessities that all infantry members had. Now-a-days the modern man can still be found carrying many of these items and although they have traded in others such as C rations and sewing kits for chewing gum and other common tools there is one item that remains timeless.
Popularized by the Great War, the wristwatch has seen much in the area of product innovation. Originally worm by women, infantry men started to trade in the pocket watch for the wristwatch on the battle field. The military wristwatch over the years has improved substantially aesthetically while still maintaining its rugged design, constructed to be tough enough to stand up to extreme conditions and manufactured to military specifications. Due to a part of nostalgia as well as the desire to own a watch which will withstand extreme conditions, more civilians have shown interest in purchasing military watches. Today's main problem is that many brands are designing everyday watches to replicate these watches, but they are neither built for durability or have the features necessary to be considered fit enough for military use but yet they are being labeled as such. What we aim to do is provide you with detailed information on considerations to make when buying a special force watch, inform you on the categories of watches available, take you through some of the most well-known brands, compile a list of tactical watch reviews and finally wrap up with our top picks for the best military watches on the market today. We will focus on the functional military watches in this article rather than provide information on the best original military watches for collectors.
So what exactly defines a military watch?
By definition, a military watch essentially is any watch purchased by a governmental agency for use by military personal. It was a watch that was worn in active duty by any soldier, marine, or pilot and often larger than the normal civilian watch as to accommodate extra features. Watches issued for the military, carried a serial number or governmental marking and were made by the manufactures according to a military specification document called a mil-spec. These mil-specs outlined the specific design and performance requirements of the watches if they were to be sold to the government. The markings on the watches often indicated the model and to which unit was issued the watch.
More important than the rest, watches made to the mil-specs were meant to withstand harsh conditions on the battlefield and acted as a reliable timepiece.
What makes a good tactical military watch?
Over the years, design has changed and new editions have been released, however the main features are still present, making them look and feel very similar to the watches worm by those in the military. In addition to a larger, easy to read screen, the typical military watch normally has a longer band so that is could be easily worn over a jacket. Military watches were often quite minimal with a design based strictly on functionality. As light was an essential requirement on the battlefield since most missions were throughout the hours of darkness, a light source became incredibly necessary for the wartime watch. These watches were lit by a luming method which over the years changed from use of radium and zinc sulfide to tritium and zinc sulfide as it was proven to have a considerably less amount of radiation. As new technology was introduced, along with a demand for more health conscious luming options, manufactures started experimenting with non-self-lamination technologies. These technologies focused on using an external light source made of photoluminescent materials in order to activate the glowing properties.
When looking at the particular design of a military watch, manufactures preferred to construct the cases out of dull materials so that they would be less detectable on the wrists of the soldiers and would be non-reflective. This non shiny watch case, along with a metallic coating, also made them less susceptible to environmental conditions and more resistant to the ever changing elements.
Overall, the best tactical military watch is the one that is practical, durable and has all functions for your needs. To be more knowledgeable in your purchase, we suggest taking into consideration various features when choosing the right military watch for you. Selecting a wristwatch specific to your needs will guarantee that it will serve your purpose and most importantly, provide you with fast and accurate information.
Considerations Before Buying
There are certain aspects of a good tactical watch that you're going to want to look for no matter what your intended use is. Factors such as durability, a strong and reliable power source, and water resistance are just some of the main features you will want to focus on when looking for the best watch.
Models made of titanium along with straps from nylon or leather provide the most durable of watches. Resistance to the elements is of utmost importance to ensuring your watch will not only last years but will consistently perform to the highest degree just as the day you bought it.
The best power sources for a military watch now-a-days are either solar or kinetic. Although other sources do exist, such as the automatic self-winding and the mechanical hand winding, these methods of power are most preferred by those seeking to stick to tradition.
Quartz - powered by a replaceable battery, these watches are the most accurate for keeping time.
Solar Powered - as accurate as quartz and do not require a battery replacement. The charging of the battery is through an external light source, typically the sun.
Kinetic - also a quartz watch, this type of watch has the addition of a rotor that generates an electric current by spinning to recharge a battery.
Automatic (Self Winding) - powered by the natural movement of the wrist, which means that it requires wearing in order to function.
Mechanical (Hand Wound) - as the name suggest, these watches are wound by hand and must continue to be wound once or twice a day to ensure regular functioning. These types of watches have a lower accuracy and normally lose around 30 seconds a day.
Precisionist - simply a Quartz watch with a specifically designed crystal which allows for the highest accuracy from any watch available today, excluding radio controlled watches.
A standard feature of all military watches are that they are able to withstand being submerged in water, some upwards of 300 meters.
Simply another name for a watch but with the feature of an additional hand that is independent from the rest (used to keep time as a stopwatch).
Those in the market for a Special Forces watch will most likely require this function whether you find yourself hiking into the night, hunting, or are simply walking in the dark and need to accurately read the time. H3 technology is great because it allows the watch hands to glow without the use of a battery up to a period of 20 years.
Additional tactical features
Depending on your specific use, you may want to look at purchasing a military watch that has some of the following features.
- GPS (A great feature of digital watches, making instant location coordinates readily available)
- Altimeter (Useful for navigation by helping verify a location by use of a topographic map)
- Barometer (Measuring atmospheric pressure)
- Storm Alarm (Works by analyzing the barometric data to identify drastic changes in pressure which normally indicate a storm is coming)
Categories of Military Watches
General Service/Infantry Watches
- A standard issued watch
- Commonly used for ground units and field infantry
- Often inexpensive designs but built to be rugged and withstand poor conditions
- Highly accurate for reliable timing
- Larger dial then the standard watch
- Clear and easy readability during aircraft vibrations
- Ability to measure time intervals
- Tachometer for performing speed and distance calculations
- Solid design
- Will withstand underwater pressure and other extreme conditions
- Toughest type of watch and most expensive as a result of its intense durability
Once you've decided on the specific features you're looking for in a military watch, it's time to delve deeper into the brands. There are many options on the market today which means making a decision and narrowing down the search much more difficult. With our guide, we hope to simplify the process and provide the best possible recommendations for brands and models of watches, all with the best features and those which follow as close as possible to the mil specs set out by various governmental organizations.
A leading manufacture in all three categories of military watches with their strongest being their dive collection. Marathon is a company that started out in Switzerland under the name of Weinstrum Watch Co and later became Marathon when the owner made his move to Canada. All Marathon watches are still currently crafted in La Chaucer-de-Fonds, Switzerland and continue to follow the military specifications set out in the governmental mil-specs.
Marathon takes pride in their watches and are confident they are able to hold up in extreme weather condition no matter the terrain. Since the 1940's they have been supplying their watches to North American forces and currently still have a contract to continue manufacturing for the military. The Marathon brand produces both digital and analog watches with multiple movement options that have a heavy focus on durability and functionality.
Notable Innovations: A unique feature of this brand is that it uses luminescent H3 technology of tritium gas to create a consistent glow which lasts up to 20 years.
Current collection: Land, Air, Sea
Founded in 1892, Hamilton started out by producing pocket watches, later moving into wrist watches with a focus on time pieces for aviation, producing products with precision and accuracy in their navigation features. By the early 1900s the Hamilton brand was an official manufacture of military watches specifically to be worn on the wrists of American forces. The company is now a part of The Swatch Group and has been since 1971, Hamilton is known for spreading their brand throughout the aviation industry and later onto the cinema screens. Most commonly known for utilizing new age Swiss technology, this American born brand, has continued to invest in innovation towards the navigation watch and is consistently making progress in the areas of technology.
Notable Innovations: In 1957 the brand came out with the world's first electric watch. The first battery powered wristwatch was the Hamilton Ventura which was on the market by 1970. Also in the same year the world’s first LED digital watch started measuring time.
Current collection: Jazzmaster, American Classic, Ventura, Broadway, Khaki Field, Khaki Aviation, Khaki Navy.
Established in 1989 this Swiss made brand is well known for their system of self-powered illumination which meant that for roughly 25 years, their watches would be able to provide illumination without the exposure to an external light source.Their watches are notable for their luminous light technology which uses tritium inserts to provide long-term luminesce. Due to the power and functionality with extreme accuracy, these watches were requested specifically by use of one of the departments of the U.S Air Force.
Notable Innovations: Luminox developed the first Navy SEAL series in 1993
Current collection: Land, Sea, Air, Space
A. Lange & Söhne
Founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange, the Dresden watchmaker began manufacturing pocket watches initially and later branched into wristwatches. The German created company have been classed with other luxury brands for their visually distinguished design which display a great deal of uniqueness that easily separates them from other manufactures of similar luxury brands. The time pieces produced by A.Lange & Söhne are almost always made with mechanical movements over quartz. You can easy recognize an A. Lange & Söhne watch by certain characteristics such as blue screws, hand graced balance cocks, three - quarter balance plates and gold chitons.
Whether you want a practical watch or one that is fashion forward, a watch from the A. Lange & Söhne collection with be sure to suit. Since there are only a few thousand of their watches manufactured every year, you can have confidence knowing that your time piece is part of a carefully crafted product developed in house and finished by hand.
Notable Innovations: Keeping with the values of watchmaker’s quality over quantity.
Current collection:Lange 1, Zeitwerk, Saxonia, 1815, Richard Lange
Some of the best tactical watches have been manufactured by Citizen, a Japanese company which has become one of the largest in the world of watchmakers. There are several divisions of Citizen, all which make up the group called Citizen Holdings, founded in 2012. The timepieces being produced by Citizen are often made with quartz movements or solar powered movements called Eco-Drive. Since 1924, when the brand released its first pocket watch, they have been innovating since, always looking to the latest technology when creating their collection.
Although Citizen started as a watchmaker’s brand, another division of the company now produces electronic devices for business and consumer use.
Notable Innovations: Creation of the first electronic watch.
Current collection: A mixed collection of casual, dress, and sports watches
Known for their aesthetic appeal, the Casio brand blends modern technology with a well-crafted design to create a watch with extreme durability. This is a brand that has always had the idea in mind that any watch they were to create, would have plenty more functions than simply telling the time. Many of the Casio watches have unique features such as a phone book at the touch of a button. One of the best capabilities of Casio watches are that they work with radio controlled technology, allowing them to automatically adjust to time zones while you move around them!
Among the various designs of wristwatches for men, Casio also has a line specific for women (Baby-G), offering a variety of functions. If you're looking for a watch that keeps the environment in mind, you can be sure that among the Casio collection, you'll have several options that are solar powered and will last upwards of 25 years without every needing to worry about changing a battery.
Current collection: Baby G, Edifice, Entice gents, Entice ladies, Pathfinder/Outdoor, G-Shock (Claims to be the strongest most dependable watch on Earth), Shear, Youth
Notable Innovations: In 1974, Casio released the first digital watch that was equipped with an automatic calendar.
Founded in 1881 (incorporated in 1917) in Tokyo, Japan, Seiko considers themselves a brand that is focused on emotional technology when designing their functional and stylish wristwatches. Producing both quartz and mechanical watches, they have created a luxury brand which has expanding into eyewear, jewelry and other devices such as printers. Seiko, which means exquisite when translated, is well known for manufacturing extremely accurate timepieces and have as a result become the official time keepers for many world class events. In a Seiko watch, it is easy to see practically and elegance joint together in a beautiful balance. What's so great about this brand is that for a relatively low price, you can own one of their kinetics watches, which are essentially self-recharging quartz watches are. The repertoire of the Seiko brand is known to be far greater than much of their competition.
Notable Innovations: In 1969 Seiko came out with the first quartz watch, the Astron. Later they released the first multifunctional digital watch and the first spring dive watch.
Most notable collections: Spring Drive (glide motion technology), Sportura (sport watches), Velatura (marine collection), Arctura (simplistic yet elegant line)
Our Top 10 Military Watch Reviews - Breakdown of Core Features
The Top 5 Best Military Watches You Can Buy!
If you're part of law enforcement, the military, or are an avid hiker and trekker, the Casio Rangeman GW9400-3 has all the features you'll want in a reliable timepiece. With heavy stock and abrasion resistance, you don't have to worry about a delay being causing due to movement. A unique design of the buttons on this device is their cylindrical shape which means you can easily press them without needing to take off your gloves.
Essential features of the Casio include an altimeter/barometer with a tendency graph to help predict weather, a compass and thermometer. The built in thermometer is handy for measuring the temperature of both air and water but it must be noted that fluctuations in body temperature while wearing the watch may have an effect on the reading.
Time calibration radio signals are received to the watch several times a day (6) making the time on the watch as accurate as it can be. When looking for an all-around watch with precise military specs, look no further than the nearly flawless Casio Rangeman GW9400-3.
For a watch built precisely to the MIL-PRF-46374G Type III, Class 1 US Government Specifications this Navigators Pilots quartz watch performs with high accuracy, is sweat and shock resistant, and lightweight and water resistant. With the use of acrylic crystal resistance, this navigator watch will hold up against quick pressure changes in order to prevent the shattering of the watch's crystal.
The watch is powered by a 3 jewel ETA Quartz movement, accurate to -0.3/+0.5 seconds per day, guaranteeing a high degree of accuracy in its timekeeping capabilities. Self-illumination is possible due to the use of tritium tubes that are positioned on each of the hour markers which allow for a consistent glow in low light situations for upwards of 25 years.
Manufactured with a fiber shell high impact case along with a stainless steel back, gives strength to this watch model.
Despite the dark design of this Luminox, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to luminescence on this time keeper. The hands and markers of the polyurethane watch glow 100 times brighter than the normal competition. The Luminox Evo Navy Seal Blackout was specifically designed and crafted for use by the Navy Seals.
The ability of this watch to function incredibly well in the darkest to allow for accurate and clear reading of the time while minimizing the visibility of the person wearing it makes it a solid special force watch.
The Blackout is incredibly lightweight, easy to use and very simplistic. The case is constructed with reinforced polymer, along with a black rubber strap, making it aesthetically quite plain but 100% functional.
The Tactix Bravo has the tactical enthusiast covered when it comes to this GPS watch that is perfect for hiking, mountaineering, backpacking and everyday use. The bezel, made of stainless steel adds protection to the case and along with the sapphire glass lens, durability and abrasion resistance is at its highest. You can purchase this watch either with a nylon strap or one made of silicon; choosing the better strap will depend on your personal preference and use.
A great feature of this watch is its ability to show the coordinates of your exact location in a MGRS format while guiding you in the direction of waypoints to help you safely arrive to your destination or make your way out of danger. With the addition of the jump master mode, parachuters will be easily guided to their target landing area. We're not done yet, this nifty watch packs more of a punch. With the Garmin Tactix Bravo there's even a way to link in with the web and connect your watch via an app so you are able to better track your activities and fitness.
Finally a watch that is extremely tactical and easy to use; strong enough to hold up in the call of duty while also being appropriate for everyday use. The design, with a clear display and user friendly interface makes this watch an easy choice if it’s your first time purchasing a standard military tactical watch.
More advanced features of the Suunto Core Military watch include a depth meter and storm alarm which is based on the barometer measurements and will notify you when there is a quick change in pressure. Meant for water activities, the depth meter is able to track your dive up to 10 meters below the surface.
It's not always easy finding a watch that is tailored specifically to your needs however with a little guidance and clear understanding of what's available, we're sure you'll make the right decision on which military watch to purchase. Luckily there are many strong brands in the watch making industry, all of which have been harnessing the latest technology in an effort to create the best Special Forces watches around. What this means is that in the end, no matter which brand or model you end up going with, you will most likely walk away with a solid product.
Hopefully with your newly acquired knowledge, along with our military and tactical watch reviews and recommendations, you've been able to narrow down your search and come that much closer to finding the best military watch for you!
Our number one recommendation for the best of the bunch is the Casio Rangeman GW9400CM-3. This is a product that will meet your tactical needs, provide you with accurate time and direction no matter where you are and withstand even the toughest conditions. If you have any uncertainty on which watch to buy, feel confident putting your trust in our recommendation. We know you'll be satisfied navigating life's challenges with this tactical tool.