Military watches should be just like the actual military: tough, adaptable, and extremely dependable. It should be able to withstand the dry, hot, and sandy conditions of the desert, the wetness and humidity of the tropics, the cold dryness of the arctic, and everything in between.
It should be waterproof to hundreds of feet, keep on ticking after being completely covered in mud, and able to withstand the scrapes and hits that go along with the most difficult job in the world.
It’s only function might be to tell you the time or it might also be able to determine your elevation, what kind weather to expect within the next few hours, what the temperature is, what your heartbeat is, or which direction you should be traveling.
But above all else, a military watch should be one piece of equipment you don’t have to worry about.
I’ve reviewed and compiled a list of military timepieces that will help you decide which one is right for you. I’ve looked at a lot of watches, and honestly, most of them don’t cut it. The watches included below are the best of the best.
They meet the above specs but are also affordable and good-looking enough that you won’t be embarrassed to be seen sporting one around town.
How To Find a Military Watch That Meets Your Needs
The above table will help you determine the watch that’s right for you. It’s important to think about what you’ll be doing while wearing your watch. Are you a pilot looking for an aviator watch? Then a watch that includes an altimeter and barometer are important. Are you looking for dive watches? Your watch should be waterproof for prolonged periods and be make of non-corrosive materials. Do you spend a lot of time in the outdoors? A compass and weather indicator are invaluable tools. Do you work in law enforcement? Your tactical watch should have a strong band and scratch resistant face.
While required functions can vary, there are a few key components to look for in a watch:
Analog or Digital?
There really is no right answer to this question. Analogue watches are generally considered more “grown-up” than digital but both are very accurate timepieces. In fact, the best military watches are usually a combination of analogue and digital. The timekeeping display might be analogue but the additional features like the barometer or gps are displayed digitally. Battery life tends to be the same for both digital and analogue so that shouldn’t be a major concern. It really comes down topersonal preference
Watch bands are usually plastic/rubber/synthetic, nylon, metal or leather. All can be good options depending on what you’ll be doing while wearing your watch.
- Rubber or plastic bands are a really good option. They’re light, durable, flexible, and more affordable than metal or leather bands. They’re obviouslycompletely waterproof which makes them good dive watches since they don’t corrode and dry quickly. They tend to wear faster than other bands and may have to be replaced more often.
- Nylon bands are comfortable on your wrist, easy to replace, and can be trimmed to reduce any overhang at the end. They’re also extremely durable and a good option when picking out a military watch. They’re quick to dry and are a good fit for dive watches.
- Metal bands are extremely durable, comfortable, and easy to clean. However, it can be difficult to adjust the size of the band so if you need to wear your watch on the outside of a shirt or jacket that may not be an option. Metal bands that don’t fit exactly right can pinch your wrist or pull out your arm hairs which can be irritating.
- A leather band would probably be your last choice for a military watch. While leather bands can be very strong and comfortable they also can take a long time to dry if they get wet and can irritate your wrist. Leather is tough to clean and because of the sweat it absorbs they can start to smell pretty funky before too long.
Over the past 10 years all the best cases have been made out oftitanium. Titanium is renowned for it’s strength, hardness, toughness, lightness and durability. In fact, if you had a titanium case and steel case with the same strength attributes, the titanium case would be half the weight of the steel case. Titanium is also extremely rust and corrosion resistant which makes it an excellent material for dive watches.
Resin watch cases have been gaining in popularity over the past few years. Resin is light and non-corrosive but there have been concerns about it’s durability. Older cases tend to crack after a few years which kills their waterproofing. However, better manufacturing is thought to have significantly improved the quality of resin cases but only time will tell if that is indeed true.
A light case is important if you’re going to be packing a bunch of additional features into a watch. Adding cool things like a compass, altimeter, and barometer won’t seem worth it if you watch isnoticeably heavy on your wrist while rock climbing or swimming. Steel or steel composite cases are a good option if you’re looking for an affordable watch that you don’t expect to do much more than tell time.
The three main watch faces are sapphire crystal, mineral glass, and acrylic.
- Sapphire crystal watch faces are the very best. They’re the strongest and extremely scratch resistant but you definitely pay for it. Sapphire crystals are made by crystallizing aluminum oxide at extremely high temps. While sapphire watch faces are the strongest they’re also the least forgiving which makes them susceptible to cracks if you really smash them.
- Mineral glass watch faces are good quality and are found in a lot ofmoderate and high end watches. While not as hard or scratch resistant as sapphires, they’re close, and getting closer all the time. Improvements in the coating used to harden crystal faces have improved their scratch resistant properties and have reduced glare which is important when you’re in direct sun.
- Acrylic watch faces are the least expensive but also have some major downsides. They scratch easily and aren’t nearly as rugged as mineral or sapphire. They are extremely cheap though and easy to replace if they get damaged.
Watches can do so much cool stuff these days it can be easy to forget their main purpose is to tell time! The two main methods watches use to keep time are quartz and wind-up.
- Quartz timekeepers work by measuring the very predictable vibrations of quartz crystals. The battery in the watch helps keep the quartz vibrating and measures the vibrations to tell time. Very little energy is used to keep the quartz vibrating which means quartz watches can last a very long time with a single battery.
- Wind-up watches have been used for over 500 hundred years so there must be something to ‘em. They use a combination of gears, springs, and oscillating mass (think very small tuning fork) to keep track of time but you need to make sure they stay wound (using watch winder is an option). A major upside is that they don’t need a battery which means you don’t have to worry about your watch dying when you’re in the back-country. The downside is that they’re not as accurate as quartz.
The type of watch, band, case type, face, and timekeeping mechanism are the basic features you need to review and consider before deciding which one to buy. The watches included on this site are a mix of different features but they all have one thing in common: dependability. Your watch should be one piece of equipment you don’t have to worry about.
5 Awesome Military Watches for Men
Now that we know what makes a military watch lets take a quick look at 5 awesome models that should be part of any enthusiasts collections.
There are probably close to 100 different G-Shock models but they’re all incredibly tough and excellent timekeepers. What makes these watches particularly unique is the lengths Casio has gone to ensure this watch will never break on you. They’re manufactured to withstand a 10 meter drop, are water resistant to 200+ meters, have a 10 year battery life, and more. Not only is this watch nearly indestructible but it’s loaded with awesome features too. You can keep track of every timezone, there are stopwatches, counters, and alarms, and it has a great light that allows you to see the whole face clearly. There’s more of course but those are the big ones.
What makes this watch so unique is the all black construction. The band is black, the face is black, and the dials are black. However, this watch uses Luminox’s patented illumination technology to allow you to see the face and tell the time quickly without having to push any buttons, even if it’s pitch black outside. The small white markers on the face and hands are actually tiny gas filled tubes that will stay lit for decades. This is a great watch to have when wearing gloves when it’s next to impossible to find and push the light button on most watches.
This watch is short on bells and whistles but that’s actually a good thing. It tells the time and keeps track of the date but that’s about it. Except for one other very important feature. This is an automatic watch which means it doesn’t need batteries. And no, it’s not solar powered. It uses the movement of your wrist while you’re wearing it as a power source. This is an ideal watch for extended trips away from civilization where a dead battery means a dead watch. The sturdy canvass strap is comfortable and won’t chafe your wrist.
Suunto Core Computer
This watch is the polar opposite of the Seiko. It’s loaded to the gills with awesome features that you won’t know where to begin. It’s got a barometer, altimeter, gps, thermometer, and more. But what’s really cool is that it takes data readings every 60 seconds which you can download to your PC. You can keep track of all your hiking or running stats to see where you’ve been and how fast you’re moving.
Like the Suunto, this watch is not short on features. It has a thermometer, stopwatch, keeps track of time in up to 48 cities, and more. One feature that a lot of people appreciate is that it’s solar powered. Having all those gadgets in a small watch can be a real drain on the battery so having a way to charge it is a real plus. And, since it’s a Casio you know it’s built to last.