Security personnel, soldiers of fortune, boots on the ground grunts, extreme sportsmen, survivalists, and anyone who lives on the edge and pushes the boundaries of life should have a tactical watch on their wrist. These timepieces are made to stand up to the elements, survive hideous abuse, and keep perfect time even when the power is out, the government has broken down, infrastructure has collapsed, and Jar Jar Binks is the lead in the next Star Wars film. They’re waterproof, scratch resistant, and often have a few pathfinding features for escaping the wilderness in one piece.
Picking a watch for military or paramilitary use is all about your needs, but all of them need a few basic features: Foremost should be rugged scratch and shock resistance, usually a nice sapphire crystal with a quartz interior. Then you look for waterproofing and pressure fighting. We suggest aiming for higher ATM’s (atmospheres) to ensure that a jump in the ocean to save one of your mates from drowning won’t bust your watch. Finally, we try to go analog rather than digital for longevity. So that you make it out of the bush alive, we’ve got your 15 best military and tactical watches.
Timex T49612 Expedition Trail Series
Pro: Practically unbreakable
Con: Acrylic dial window
Standard Issue: Don’t let the digital readout fool you, the Expedition is built with quartz movement that will keep it on track. Using 16 compass points, this can work for map tracking and pathfinding while a nice resin band means it shall not leave your wrist.
Casio G-Shock GA100-1A1
Pro: Stopwatch and countdown timer
Con: Difficult to read in low light
Black On Black: Able to dive down more than 650 feet, equipped with an LED light complete with afterglow, and a body that will resist interference from magnetic structures, the GA100-1A1 is an easy choice for a go-to watch, and a tough enough hombre for special ops.
Timex T49825DH Expedition
Pro: Knurled case sides
Con: Water resistant to 330 feet
Weighty Measure: A hulk of a timepiece bearing a slide-rule bezel and true quartz movement, you’re getting a lot of watch for the money. Stainless steel on the outside with a pristine crystal that is clear as still water, the chronos are just gravy.
Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Multi-Function
Pro: World clock works well
Con: Alarms are faint
Sunburst: A solar watch that really delivers, this Casio fights off changes in altitude, weather, pressure, and will continue to tick as the mercury drops. Multiple alarms, a stopwatch, and heaps of easily accessible features provide as much fun as it does utility.
Casio G-Shock Rangeman
Pro: Easy sensor operation
Con: Cannot be seen without direct light
Unflappable: Bearing a shock resistance intended to withstand long drops, loads of pressure, and precise, atomic time-keeping, the Rangeman is as tough as your fatigues. Lots of sensor feedback keep you abreast of changes that could endanger your life.
Blackhawk Advanced Field Operator
Pro: Electrochemically bonded PVD finish
Con: No sub dials
Time Tested: Crafted out of 316L stainless steel, the Advanced Field Operator is meant to be taken into the bush and under the sea. Miyota quartz movement keeps perfect time and can’t be knocked out of alignment. Scratch resistant with easy-to-replace straps to suit any style.
Luminox EVO Navy SEAL
Pro: Resilient mineral crystal
Con: Unusual 23mm strap size
Night Bright: Luminox specializes in making their watch faces visible. Numbers pop in the dark and let you read in 24-hour and standard time with embedded numbers around the bezel. 660 meter water resistance and little else makes this a rugged, minimalist timepiece.
Marathon Military Navigator
Pro: ETA F04 quartz movement
Con: Nylon strap
Uncle Sam Grade: Made to the demanding MIL-PRF-46374G specifications, this is a pilot’s watch meant for real-world use. It’s specifically made for circumstances paratroopers might encounter and as such bears a fiberglass case, has a 6 ATM rating, and copes with rapid pressure changes without breaking apart.
Luminox Men’s A.8831.KM Recon
Pro: Added compass
Con: Hour hand does not adjust independently
Data Dump: A glut of information comes on the 46mm face of the A.8831.KM. On the bezel is a set of minutes, inset 24-hour time, and then a walking speed measurement. The quartz movement is clean and sapphire crystal hard to mar.
Pro: Easy, responsive buttons
Con: Band tends to crack in rough weather
Meteorologist: Forget the news, let this tell you about current conditions. Weather, barometer, altimeter, and alerts during pressure changes or impending storms keeps you up to the second in every way. All while weighing just over two ounces.
Pro: Non-reflective PVD coating
Con: Temperature reading is unreliable
Lost Soul: Formidable GPS manufacturer Garmin has finally made a worthy watch. With auto-syncing, tri-directional compass, and altimeter, this keeps you on course day or night. A rechargeable battery powers the readout and runs for 50 full hours in GPS mode.
Hamilton Khaki Field
Pro: Steel crown
Con: Time changes with impact
Pretty Boy: Dapper as Don Draper, you can’t go wrong with the Khaki Field in any circumstances. An unbreakable sapphire crystal and stainless steel case complete the look and feel of professionalism and power.
Pro: Anodized aluminum body
Con: Huge profile
Lantern Bearer: The SureFire bears its own little tactical LED handgun light along with the large, white-on-black clock face, all charged via micro USB. Easy to read and recharge, it’s Swiss quartz engineered for accuracy on and off the shooting range.
MTM Special Ops Silver Air Stryk
Pro: Your choice of band
Con: Steep learning curve
Old and New: Borrowing on a classic design, the Air Stryk is as much art as machine. A multi-function display set to world time is sunk into a 316L steel face with screw down crown, chronograph mode, and innumerable hidden bells. True Swiss Analog movement completes the experience.
Breitling Super Avenger II Military
Pro: Water resistance to 1,000 feet
Shining Example: Luminous markers make it easy to read, a gorgeous textured crown makes it easy to use, and the full stainless steel body makes it impossible to injure. Laden with chronographs and created with a selfwinding mechanical movement, it’s among our favorite heirlooms.