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The Best Military & Tactical Watches Built To Take A Beating

Best Tactical Watches 0 Hero

Preparation and punctuality are pivotal in executing any mission successfully. Whether you’re in the military, an outdoorsman, or a weekend pioneer who believes in precision, a quality timepiece is an essential piece of gear. When you need more than a standard timekeeper for your activities, turning to military and tactical watches is the right plan of attack.

Timing is everything when you’re set on victory, whether you’re carrying out a well-oiled stratagem or conquering a hike in the great outdoors. However, when it comes to tactical timepieces, you can get lost easily in the wave of choices available. This is why we’ve taken the time to do extensive research and compose a list of the best military and tactical watches on the market. On top of diving into our picks for the best tactical timepieces that money can currently buy, we’ll also be exploring what factors to consider when purchasing a tac watch.

The Best Tactical Watches

What Exactly Is A Tactical Watch?

Simply meaning relating to combat tactics or strategic use on the battlefield, the word “tactical” gets thrown around a lot these days, however, there are certain segments where the descriptor is genuinely applicable such as the tactical watch — or “tac watch” — space. As the monicker suggests, tactical timepieces are engineered specifically for use in combat. Consequently, these watches are incredibly rugged, with case constructions and bracelets that have been designed to stand up to the extreme rigors and abuse experienced on the battlefield. On top of being largely impervious to shocks and vibrations, tac watches almost always also feature fairly robust water resistance ratings. Like other styles of military watches such as pilots watches or field watches, tactical timepieces also tend to sport fairly minimalistic dial layouts that make them super easy to read upon just a quick glance. These dials almost always come fortified beneath super hardwearing crystals or lenses, too. 

Another element that makes a watch tactical is the features that it possesses, as a great many of today’s latest and greatest tac watches come loaded with all manner of combat and tactical-specific amenities and capabilities. This includes everything from the ability to be synchronized with other watches to blackout modes and kill-switches to night vision compatibility. There are also a handful of smart tactical watches that boast cutting-edge tactical features such as onboard GPS and mapping, jump master modes, stealth modes, built-in flashlights, and even applied ballistics software that lets the wearer calculate long-range shooting solutions on the fly. 

The Most Important Features To Look For When Buying A Tactical Watch

Because of their unique use, tactical watches tend to feature a host of fairly unique traits which in turns makes for a fairly unique shopping experience. Below, we’ve broken down the eight most crucial characteristics and components to take into account when shopping around for a military or tactical wristwatch.

Durability: As instruments that are engineered to be used in combat and other extremely unforgiving conditions, tactical watches need to possess immense strength. As a result, you’ll want to examine a tac watch’s case material, lens or crystal type, the construction of the band or bracelet, and even the materials used to craft smaller elements like the watch’s crown, case-back, or bezel.

Water-Resistance: While this area is technically a subcategory of durability, we feel it’s worth devoting its own section to. Though they aren’t made specifically for use in aquatic settings like dive watches are, tactical timepieces still need to possess ample waterproofing. As such, it’s important to look into a given watch’s water resistance rating, as well as if it has other elements that are conducive to use below the waves — such as a screw-down caseback or a screw-down crown (versus a push-pull item). 

Accuracy: When the success of a mission — and at times, the lives of those on it — is dependent on being perfectly timed, coordinated, and executed, precise timekeeping instruments are imperative. This area will ultimately come down to the type of movement used in a watch — such as a mechanical, automatic, or quartz movement. 

Readability: Another crucial area to consider when buying a tactical watch is the visibility of the dial. Due to the environments and types of missions and applications in which tactical watches are typically used, having the ability to easily read a watch’s dial with just a quick glance is absolutely essential. While one might assume that visibility and readability primarily boil down to the size of the watch, the reality is that these areas are more owed to the simplicity of a dial — not being cluttered with text, sundials, and other markings — and bold, easily-legible numerals and markers in a color that hugely contrasts the dial. 

Illumination: Another crucial component to a quality tactical watch is the presence of decent lume. This is typically achieved through the use of luminous paint (like Super-Luminova), but can also be done via the implementation of micro gas tubes or even embedded tritium. 

Bracelet or Band: While obviously not as important as the case, the type of band or bracelet that a watch comes paired with is nonetheless of importance — even more so when dealing with tactical timepieces. Though some tactical watches see their cases mated to metal bracelets, the majority of these items ship with rugged rubber or textile bands

GPS Functionality: Watches with GPS technology can be literal life savers. Whether you’re sailing the ocean, embarking on an expedition in the wild, or going on a rescue mission, knowing your location can be quintessential to one’s success. While GPS functionality is almost exclusively found on smartwatches, these capabilities can still be surprisingly robust, with some models offering access to GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellites — all of which come backed by dual-format coordinates. These watches also tend to feature route tracking and location sharing. 

Tactical-Specific Elements: As tactical watches have grown more advance and specialized, we’ve seen these timepieces bestowed with a growing number of features designed specifically for use in combat and other tactical scenarios. This can include everything from onboard GPS and mapping to dedicated jump master modes to night mission-ready stealth modes to built-in LED flashlights. What’s more, there are even some tac watches that boast applied ballistics software which enables the user to calculate long-range shooting solutions while in the field. 

Other Supplementary Features: Above and beyond basic timekeeping duties, plenty of tactical watches also come loaded with supplementary features or abilities such as a stopwatch or date window. Some of the more high-end and/or technologically advanced tactical timepieces on the market also feature amenities such as health and fitness tracking, access to live weather reports, connectivity to smartphone apps, tide tracking, and onboard compass, barometer, and altimeter sensors. 

Why Are Tactical Watches Worn On The Inside The Wrist?

If you spend enough time looking at tac watches, you’ll no doubt quickly notice that many operators opt to wear these tactical timepieces with the case on the inside of their wrist. Wearing a watch upside-down is done for a myriad of specific reasons. First and foremost, it helps to keep the watch better protected compare to being worn on the outside of the wrist, plus it allows the wearer to easily glance at the dial or face while holding or operating a weapon. Additionally, wearing a tactical watch on the inside of the wrist also helps to keep it better hidden, mitigating the likelihood that enemy personnel may spot the watch’s lume or dial reflection from afar. 

SUUNTO Core Alpha Stealth

Suunto Core Alpha Stealth
  • Made in Finland
  • Built to MIL-STD-810 standards
  • Ships w/ Berry amendment-compliant textile strap
  • Features night vision-compatible red backlighting
  • Offers great value
  • Very shiny, reflective lens
  • Nylon band’s buckle rings easily snag on close (though simply swapping the strap easily remedies this issue)

Best Affordable Pick: Crafted in Finland and tested and built to MIL-STD-810 standards, the SUUNTO Core Alpha Stealth is a tactical-specific outdoor watch with a 49.5mm composite case, an aluminum bezel, and a matrix display with night vision goggle-friendly red backlighting. Sold with a Berry amendment-compliant textile strap, the watch also features a storm alarm, 30 meters of water resistance, sunrise and sunset times, access to weather information, and an onboard temperature sensor, altimeter, barometer, and compass. Tipping the scales at just  2.36 oz, the Core Alpha Stealth watch also measures just 15.1mm thick.  

Case Size: 49.5mm
Case Material: Composite
Movement: Smartwatch
Water Resistance: 30m
Lume: Red Backlighting

MWC P656 2023 Model Titanium Tactical Series

MWC P656 2023 Model Titanium Tactical Series Watch
Photo: MWC Watches
  • Features full titanium case and bezel
  • Stellar illumination provided by Swiss Tritium GTLS tube inlays
  • Can operate at extreme altitudes of up to 40,000’
  • Ronda 715li movement offers 10 years of battery life
  • Warranty limited to just 24 months

Best Titanium Pick: A brilliant example of a watch engineered from the ground up solely for tactical applications, the MWC P656 2023 Model Titanium Tactical Series Watch is constructed around a 42mm titanium case that boasts a rotating titanium bezel and a minimalistic dial equipped with Swiss Tritium inlays at the hour markers and the minute and hour hands. Water resistant down to 300 meters and capable of accurately operating at altitudes of up to 40,000’ without the need for any compensatory pressurization, this watch also features a high-precision Ronda calibre 715li quartz movement that affords a removable ten-year battery.

Case Size: 42mm
Case Material: Titanium
Movement: Quartz
Water Resistance: 300m
Lume: Tritium

Seiko Prospex “Arnie” SNJ025

Seiko Arnie Prospex SNJ025
Photo: Seiko
  • Famously worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1987’s Predator
  • Updated & modernized solar-powered version of iconic Prospex watch from 1982
  • Features hybrid digital analog dial
  • Has 2 methods of illumination
  • Takes a while to adjust the time

Best Solar-Powered Pick: A modern, highly authentic, and now solar-powered interpretation of the Japanese brand’s original hybrid dive watch from 1982, the Seiko Prospex “Arnie” SNJ025 is an iconic timepiece that was famously worn on screen by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1987’s Predator. Water-resistant down to 200 meters and compliant with ISO standards for scuba diving, the Arnie Prospex watch is constructed around a matte black 47.8mm tuna-style case with a uni-directional-rotating bezel and a hybrid digital analog dial. Powered by a Caliber H851 solar quartz movement, the watch also packs a power reserve display function, LumiBrite hands and markers, screw-down crown, pushers, a local time indication mode, and a whopping six months of battery life when fully charged. 

Check out our in-depth Seiko Prospex “Arnie” SNJ025 review here.

Case Size: 47.8mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement: Solar Quartz
Water Resistance: 200m
Lume: LumiBrite

Luminox Navy SEAL Dive Watch 3502.L

Luminox 45mm Navy SEAL Dive Watch 3502L
Photo: Luminox
  • Engineered to meet the needs of the world’s most elite fighting force
  • Made in Switzerland
  • Features full CARBONOX case & bracelet
  • Luminox Light Technology lighting system offers 25 years of constant glow
  • Expensive price considering quartz movement

Best Tactical Dive Watch: In 1993 when the U.S. Navy SEALs needed a new standard-issue watch, the elite fighting force turned to Luminox, tasking the American watch brand with developing a tactical watch to meet the needs of the SEALs — an effort that ultimately gave way to the Luminox Navy SEAL Dive Watch 3502.L. Lightweight yet incredibly durable, the watch heavily utilizes a proprietary carbon fiber compound, with the material used to craft its 45mm case, rotating bezel, and bracelet. Powered by a quartz movement, this Swiss-made dive watch also features a tempered scratch-resistant mineral crystal, a date window at 3 o’clock, 200 meters of water resistance, Luminox’s own proprietary self-powered illumination, and a stainless steel case back.

Case Size: 45mm
Case Material: Carbon Compound
Movement: Quartz
Water Resistance: 200m
Lume: Luminox Self-Powered Illumination

MTM STATUS Tactical Smartwatch

MTM STATUS Tactical Smartwatch
Photo: MTM Watch
  • Case crafted from solid titanium
  • Features hybrid layout w/ analog hands over digital display
  • Has WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Comes loaded w/ 5 alarms & 60 preset city timezones
  • Battery life limited to 25 hours per charge
  • Warranty limited to 3 years

Best Tactical Smartwatch: Offered with a wide variety of different case color, dial color, and band, strap, and bracelet options, the MTM STATUS Tactical Smartwatch is a high-end, tactical-specific smartwatch that’s just as conducive to use on the battlefield as it is for day-to-day city life. Equipped with a locking screw-down crown and a fixed bezel, the watch’s 45mm case is crafted from solid titanium. Backed by a three-year warranty, this high-tech tactical watch is kept ticking via an MTM Proprietary system paired with a Swiss analog movement. This hybrid digital-analog watch also features pre-set timezones with over 60 included cities, the ability to program up to 5 alarms, 100 meters of water resistance, an onboard 410-mAh Lithium battery affords around 25 hours of use on a single charge, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and the ability to pair of the dedicated MTM Connect smartphone app.

Case Size: 45mm
Case Material: Titanium
Movement: Smartwatch
Water Resistance: 100m
Lume: EL Backlighting


GSHOCK Carbon Mudmaster GWG2000
Photo: Casio | G-SHOCK
  • Crafted around G-SHOCK’s Carbon Core Guard structure
  • Features a slew of onboard sensors & systems
  • Can operate in extreme temperatures
  • Uses glove-friendly pushers & buttons
  • Weighs less than 3.75oz
  • Very large case size as 61.2mm across & 16.1mm thick

Best Ultra-Tough Pick: Designed for use in some of the world’s most hostile and unforgiving environments, the G-SHOCK MUDMASTER GWG2000-1A3 is an ultra-tough tactical outdoor watch that’s loaded with genuinely useful features and functionality. This solar-powered watch is constructed around G-SHOCK’s wildly rugged Carbon Core Guard structure which has been bestowed with a forged carbon bezel, stainless steel pipes, silicone buffers, mud-resistant buttons, and a resin band. Also equipped a digital compass, an altimeter, a barometer, and a thermometer, this G-SHOCK watch reference also boasts multi-band 6 atomic timekeeping, a stopwatch, countdown timer and super illuminator double led lights. Water-resistant to 200m, this MUDMASTER model is also ultra-low temperature-resistant and is capable of operating in conditions as low as 14°F (or -10°C).

Case Size: 61.2mm
Case Material: Resin & Stainless Steel
Movement: Solar Quartz
Water Resistance: 200m
Lume: LED Backlighting

Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon

Victorinox INOX Carbon
Photo: Victorinox
  • Made in Switzerland
  • Features unique hexagonal case design
  • Crafted from super rugged yet lightweight carbon composite
  • Comes w/ crushproof Pelican storage case
  • Case comes mated to Paracord strap
  • Torture-tested via battery of 130 extreme endurance homologation tests
  • Devoid of tactical-specific features

Best Carbon Fiber Pick: Paired with a survival-style Paracord strap, the Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon is a simple yet dependable tactical watch that features a 43mm case that’s crafted from the same ultra-rugged and incredibly lightweight forged carbon fiber composite that’s used to aid space shuttles in their reentry to Earth’s atmosphere by fortifying the ship from extremely high temperatures. Offered in a trio of different color options, the I.N.O.X. Carbon also sports a highly-accurate quartz movement, a date window, Super-LumiNova lume, and a unique hexagonal case design. Water resistant to 200 meters, the Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon is also sold in a custom Pelican-style crushproof case that houses the watch, along with an extra strap and a removable protective bumper cover.

Case Size: 43mm
Case Material: Forged Carbon Composite
Movement: Quartz
Water Resistance: 200m
Lume: Super-LumiNova

Garmin tactix 7 Pro Ballistics Edition

Garmin tactix 7 Pro Ballistics Edition
Photo: Garmin
  • Has Applied Ballistics Elite software
  • Features Ballistics Bullet Library w/ over 1,200 custom measured bullets
  • Is night vision-compatible
  • Boasts built-in multi-LED flashlight
  • Comes loaded w/ kill-switch, stealth mode, & jump master mode
  • Also had full suite of health & fitness tracking features
  • Expensive price

Best Overall Tactical Watch: Built to MIL-STD-810 standards, the Garmin tactix 7 Pro Ballistics Edition is essentially a state-of-the-art ballistics computer and calculator that you can wear on your wrist. Constructed around a 51mm fiber-reinforced polymer case with a titanium bezel and case-back, the Ballistics Edition tactix 7 Pro comes loaded with Applied Ballistics Elite software that enables users to calculate long-range shooting solutions while in the field, as well as an Applied Ballistics Bullet Library containing more than 1,200 custom measured bullets. On top of a 1.4” sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel touchscreen display, this tactical smartwatch model also boasts a multi-GNSS satellite unit, 100 meters of water resistance, a built-in multi-LED flashlight, a pulse OX sensor, a battery offering up to 37 days of life, and a handful of additional tactical-specific features such as a kill switch, a stealth mode, night vision compatibility, a jump master mode, dual-position formatting, and projected waypoints.

Case Size: 51mm
Case Material: Fiber-Reinforced Polymer & Titanium
Movement: Smartwatch
Water Resistance: 100m
Lume: N/A

Panerai Submersible Forze Speciali

Panerai Submersible Forze Speciali
Photo: Panerai
  • Special edition watch honoring Italy’s Special Forces
  • Boasts unique protected crown design
  • Has black DLC-coated titanium case, bezel, & case-back
  • Features an Incabloc anti-shock device
  • Powered by 328-component Panerai P.9100/R calibre auto movement w/ 3-day power reserve
  • Very expensive price
  • Less rugged compared to other tactical watches

Best Luxury Pick: A special edition version of one of the most iconic luxury watches of all time, the Panerai Submersible Forze Speciali honors Italy’s Special Forces with a unique black and blue color scheme contrasted via seafoam green accents. Equipped with its signature protected crown design, this Panerai model boasts a 47mm titanium case with a DLC-coating that features 300 meters of water resistance and a 328-component Panerai P.9100/R Calibre automatic movement with 37-jewels, an Incabloc anti-shock device, a Glucydur balance wheel, and a three-day power reserve. The case also comes outfitted with a titanium rotating bezel with a ceramic inlay and a DLC-coated titanium case-back. This face of the watch sports a pair of sub-dials, circular hour markets, and a generous amount of Super-LumiNova lume.

Case Size: 47mm
Case Material: Titanium
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 300m
Lume: Super-LumiNova

The Best Tactical EDC Gear

Best Tactical EDC Gear 0 Hero

Interested in checking out a wider selection of tactical equipment that isn’t limited to just tac watches? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best tactical everyday carry essentials for a curated selection of ultra-tough mission-ready EDC items.