15 Best Military Watches: Tactical Watch Review

I went binge shopping on Amazon to find the best military watch to wear on my outdoor adventures.

I spent thousands of dollars and tried 30+ different military wristwatches.

After 143 hours of hiking and testing each watch thoroughly, I ended up with just 15 that I liked.

Some were trash.

And one was the clear winner that I ended up wearing daily.

This guide will help you find a good one without having to worry about being as disappointed as I was with some watches I ordered.

Not to mention the money I wasted on them… Although, in most cases, I was able to get it back thanks to Amazon's 30-day money-back guarantee.

Anyway, let's jump right into this guide so you can find your perfect tactical watch.

Army watches aren’t solely for the officers at the Navy or Air Force, but they're perfect for adrenaline junkies too.

They may be out of your ideal price range, but these watches' functionality and durability will make up for it.

To give you a heads up, here are some of the best tactical watches on the market today for servicepeople:

Best Tactical Watches (Editor's Top Choices)

Watch Preview
#1 Choice
Garmin Instinct Tactical, Rugged GPS Watch, Tactical Specific Features, Constructed to U.S. Military...
Casio Men's PRO TREK Stainless Steel Quartz Watch with Resin Strap, Black, (Model: PAG-240-1CR)
Casio Men's GW-9400-1CR Master of G Stainless Steel Solar Watch
Highly advanced GPS-enabled watch
Best value
Toughest watch
Case Diameter
51 millimeters
51 millimeters
55 millimeters
Water Resistance
330 feet
330 feet
660 feet
Customer Rating
#1 Choice
Watch Preview
Garmin Instinct Tactical, Rugged GPS Watch, Tactical Specific Features, Constructed to U.S. Military...
Highly advanced GPS-enabled watch
Case Diameter
51 millimeters
Water Resistance
330 feet
Customer Rating
More Details
Watch Preview
Casio Men's PRO TREK Stainless Steel Quartz Watch with Resin Strap, Black, (Model: PAG-240-1CR)
Best value
Case Diameter
51 millimeters
Water Resistance
330 feet
Customer Rating
More Details
Watch Preview
Casio Men's GW-9400-1CR Master of G Stainless Steel Solar Watch
Toughest watch
Case Diameter
55 millimeters
Water Resistance
660 feet
Customer Rating
More Details

Most Heavy-Duty Smartwatch: Garmin Instinct Tactical, Your Military-Grade Outdoor Watch

Here’s another amazing product from Garmin, and it’s a one-of-a-kind tough smartwatch known for its durability.

The Garmin Instinct is military-grade, with water resistance up to 330 feet and it can withstand shock and heat.

Besides its strength, this one has a premium look and elegant design.

On Sale
Garmin Instinct Tactical, Rugged GPS Watch, Tactical Specific Features, Constructed to U.S. Military...
8,330 Customer Reviews
Garmin Instinct Tactical, Rugged GPS Watch, Tactical Specific Features, Constructed to U.S. Military...
  • Rugged GPS watch built to withstand the toughest environments. The display size is 0.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Constructed to U. S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100...
  • Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter, Plus multiple global navigation satellite systems...

You don’t need to worry about getting lost somewhere since this military-grade smartwatch has GLONASS, GPA, and Galileo, which works with the global satellite systems used by armed forces.

It’s perfect for camping, trekking or hiking as it has TracBack (used to trace back your steps), barometric altimeter and 3-axis compass.

Say no more to stress in a fully loaded day! This amazing gadget will help you monitor your stress levels and heart rate.

That's something you won't usually get from other watches.

With an extended battery life that will last you a day or more, there’s no need to search for a charging port and carry a charger wherever you go.

This is certainly one of the best tactical watches available, if not THE best.

Read our full Garmin Instinct review here.

  • Military-standard
  • Integrated with multiple global satellite systems
  • Thermal, shock, and water proof up to 330 feet
  • Slightly uncomfortable band

Casio Pathfinder Multi-function: The Defence Watch

Hikers and wanderers, arise! Casio’s PAG241-1CR Pathfinder has all the features that make a perfect adventure companion.

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Casio Men's PRO TREK Stainless Steel Quartz Watch with Resin Strap, Black, (Model: PAG-240-1CR)
1,302 Customer Reviews
Casio Men's PRO TREK Stainless Steel Quartz Watch with Resin Strap, Black, (Model: PAG-240-1CR)
  • Black solar-powered sport watch with multiple features including digital compass, altimeter,...
  • Approximate battery life: 6 months on full charge (without further exposure to light)
  • 51-mm stainless steel case with mineral dial window

With its dual-layer LCD, the defense watch has a large register ring to back up its rotating mechanism that stores direction memories.

The PAG241-1CR Pathfinder also has an uneven surface design to rotate the ring easily with your fingers. You can also automatically switch on its light senses with just a tilt of your wrist.

As you go through changing weather conditions and calamities, the built-in altimeter, barometer, and thermometer are a great help.

Even with all these power-consuming functions, this Casio serves its purpose with its solar powered battery-recharging system.

I think the highlight of this one is its Bearing Memory feature. This function continuously displays the directions that it detects in a graphic format. Unlike typical watches, this memorizes these directions so you can easily follow the course from your previous trip.

This feature also comes in handy when you are in an area where there’s low visibility due to fog or trees. This is a truely unique feature that none of the other tactical watches have.

As they say, “Not all who wander are lost.” Well, maybe, they have a Casio PAG240-1CR resting securely on their wrists. Going on your next journey feels incomplete without heaven-sent watch, which might just be the best men's military watch in this whole guide, even though it's simple and lacks some of the military-specific features.

  • Bearing Memory function
  • Has a world clock
  • Solar-powered
  • Faint alarms
  • May need to be recharged often
  • Low life span

Timex T49612 Expedition Trail Series: Heavy Duty Compass

Start your next adventure with Timex T49612 Expedition Trail Series. It is certain that the Timex Expedition is considered as one of the most excellent choices because of its genius features.

On Sale
Timex Men's T49612 Expedition Shock Digital Compass Olive/Black Resin Strap Watch
852 Customer Reviews
Timex Men's T49612 Expedition Shock Digital Compass Olive/Black Resin Strap Watch
  • Designed For Outdoor Torture Tests
  • Shock Resistant to I.S.O. Standards
  • Digital Compass

This Timex Expedition is one of the best choices designed to sit on your wrist comfortably. A durable nylon strap and a lightweight bezel and resin case hold it in place and make it sturdy. Furthermore, these watches have a heavy-duty buckle for tight fastening.

Thanks to the watch’s quartz movement, this Timex Expedition's digital display readout will always be accurate. Its water resistance is up to 200 meters or 550 feet, while its shock resistance is in compliance with the ISO standards for military personnel watches.

At a low price, the Expedition runs with 16 compass points. If that doesn’t mean major steal, then I don’t know what does. Your search of maps and path-finding will be easy because of this excellent feature. Featuring Timex’s classic Indiglo night-light, you can use these military and tactical watches without having to search for a light source.

  • Affordable
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Contains 16 compass points
  • Backlight might be weak
  • Acrylic dial window
  • Band breaks easily

Casio G-Shock GA100-1A1: Will Not Miss Out A (Milli)Second

Casio’s G-Shock GA100-1A1 is a fighter with its water resistance of 200 meters and strong magnetic resistance. Although it has an all-black appearance, its LED light feature with afterglow will make sure it is not a problem.

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Casio Watch (Model: GA100-1A1)
4,891 Customer Reviews
Casio Watch (Model: GA100-1A1)
  • Water Resistance Depth: 200.00
  • Case Diameter: 51 Millimeters
  • Band Size: Mens-Standard

This famous G-Shock is designed with one analog dial in the center and digital dials on each side.

Its interface has black dial rings and the raised hour markers give this one a three-dimensional look.

Equipped with auto-calendar that is pre-programmed until the year 2099, you will surely not miss a date—literally.

Proving its excellency, the G-Shock GA100-1A1 analog watch boasts its 1/1000-second stopwatch function with speed indicator. The 1/1000 second stopwatch has multiple measuring modes that include lap time, elapsed time, and split time. These features make measuring time very accurate, and this is definitely one you'll want to consider.

Along with this feature are the 29 time zones and world time swapping function. I applaud this model as one of the better military inspired watches for this function because it comes in handy, especially to the travel junkies.

  • Stopwatch and countdown timer
  • Calendar pre-programmed until 2099
  • Distinctive buttons
  • Hard to read in dim lights
  • Relatively heavy
  • Unreliable alarm function

Garmin Fenix 5X Plus Ultimate Multisport GPS Smartwatch

When it comes to mind-blowing features, nothing beats the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus Smartwatch.

And it's getting better and better with every upgrade.

Although we are incredibly impressed with its predecessors, this one has some goodies that make it more exciting than any previous models of the Fenix products.

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Garmin fenix 5X Plus, Ultimate Multisport GPS Smartwatch, Features Color Topo Maps and Pulse Ox,...
1,244 Customer Reviews
Garmin fenix 5X Plus, Ultimate Multisport GPS Smartwatch, Features Color Topo Maps and Pulse Ox,...
  • Ultimate multisport GPS watch that estimates heart rate at the wrist and includes color Topo maps...
  • Wrist based Pulse Ox Acclimation sensor, a non medical device that provides awareness of your...
  • Fit for adventure with rugged design that features scratch resistant domed sapphire lens plus...

While a bit chunky on how it looks, this beast comes with a sapphire crystal and band that fits snugly to your wrist. The wristwatch is surprisingly comfortable, which is crucial to allow free movement while engaging in physical activity.

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus Sapphire is considered the king of GPS watches as it’s packed with features like a pulse oximeter (oxygen saturation), an altimeter, and comes with pre-loaded topographical maps.

The storm alarm is one of the highlights of this black watch, as it detects drops in barometric pressure. This comes in handy if you are in an area where extreme weather changes are common.

The Fenix 5X Plus is an excellent choice as a sports watch for training. If you’re into triathlon, trekking, and other outdoor activities, this one is going to be your best buddy!

It's also worth mentioning that this model has a built-in music storage, Garmin Pay, and a Galileo-based navigation system.

This is the ultimate GPS sports smartwatch you definitely want to check out one day if you're looking for the best tactical watches.

  • Lots of incredible features
  • Premium rugged design
  • Navigation, GPS (location tracking)
  • Sport Options for Training
  • Topographical Maps
  • Built-in Music Storage
  • Expensive
  • Some music streaming services are not supported
  • Bulky Appearance

Casio G-Shock Rangeman: Designed For Your Comfort

In addition to the G-Shock watch series, the Rangeman is loaded with a ton of features that will make it one of your must-have military watches when it comes to extreme outdoor activities.

On Sale
Casio Men's GW-9400-1CR Master of G Stainless Steel Solar Watch
3,633 Customer Reviews
Casio Men's GW-9400-1CR Master of G Stainless Steel Solar Watch
  • Solar-powered digital watch in stainless steel with multiple displays, red contrasts, and textured...
  • Quartz movement with analog display
  • Protective mineral crystal dial window

The Rangeman is one of the rugged ones that can withstand even the toughest environmental conditions. This one can also keep track of different readings such as altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, and directions.

The design of this stainless steel Casio keeps its functionality at your fingertips and make it as user-friendly as possible. This is what makes this model one-of-a-kind when it comes to tactical digital watches. Its cylindrical buttons give an outstanding operation which is enough to resist impact.

The sensor button covered with metal protects it from possible impacts and keeps foreign materials out. Each sensor node has a corresponding tone. So when you press it, you’ll know what mode you’re in without even looking at the screen.

I can definitely say that this watch, although a tactical watch, offers utter comfort. Some can be bulky or heavy.

  • Easy user interface
  • Has Triple sensor
  • Shock-resistant
  • May cost you a little more
  • Needs direct light
  • Some may not be a fan of its negative display

Timex Men's Expedition Field Chronograph Watch

Your next addition to your collection could be the Timex Expedition Field Chronograph Watch. Aside from that fact that it is manufactured by one of the most trusted watchmakers in the world (Timex), its genius features make this tactical watch deserve its spot in this article.

On Sale
Timex Men’s T49905 Expedition Field Chronograph Black/Brown Leather Strap Watch
5,449 Customer Reviews
Timex Men’s T49905 Expedition Field Chronograph Black/Brown Leather Strap Watch
  • Adjustable brown 20 millimeter genuine leather strap fits up to 8-inch wrist circumference. On...
  • Black dial with date window at 4 o'clock; Arabic numerals in increments of 5 up to 60
  • 30-minute chronograph measures to 1/20th second

Despite its rugged style, Timex Expedition Field Chronograph Watch promises excellent experience since it was created to survive the most difficult hiking trails while matching your corporate wardrobe. By the way, I wrote a separate round-up about the best survival watches.

The genuine leather straps of this Timex chronograph do not only give physical ease as it also provides sophistication in your day-to-day activities.

Timex Expedition Field Chronograph is available in four colors: brown-black, beige-black, green-black and tan-black. This chronograph comes with impressive features such as Indiglo night-light, an easy to operate date window and three sub-dials.

Just like other watches, this chronometer has a water resistance up to 100 meters and a shock resistance that complies with the standards set by the ISO.

  • Fashionable
  • Bright Indiglo lights
  • Chronograph accuracy
  • Stem can easily break off
  • Issues on second hand alignment
  • 100-meter water resistance

Luminox Evo Navy Seal: Recommended By US SEALs and Pilots

This proves its worth through its durable design. The ticker is made of polyurethane case and matching durable polyurethane band which includes a buckle clasp, which makes this one of the more unique ones used by troops.

On Sale
Luminox Men's 3051 EVO Navy SEAL Colormark Watch
662 Customer Reviews
Luminox Men's 3051 EVO Navy SEAL Colormark Watch
  • Luminous black watch featuring notched unidirectional bezel, contrast white markers, and date...
  • 44 mm Polyurethane case with mineral dial window
  • Swiss quartz movement with analog display

Highlighting an analog-quartz movement, unidirectional bezel, and a durable mineral dial window, the US Navy SEALS and the US Air Force Pilots highly recommend this tactical watch.

The Luminox Evo Navy Seal analog watch also holds off circumstances where there is low to zero light source. It glows brighter compared to other luminous watches available in any stores.

This prominent feature makes every dark mission manageable with this on your wrist. On its pitch black dial are white contrasting markings. Moreover, you can see a handy calendar at it's three o’clock. The unidirectional textured bezel features highly visible minute indexes for easy readability. It is also water resistant up to a depth of 660 feet.

  • Resilient mineral crystal
  • Highly luminous
  • Preferred by the US Navy SEALs and US Air Force Pilots
  • Expensive
  • Unusual strap size
  • Not scratch-resistant

Marathon Military Navigator: Tried And Tested By Troops

As the name suggests, the Military Navigator is an excellent tool for the troops, especially for pilots and parachute missions that require the best military watches. It showcases its functions made in accordance with MIL-PRF-46374G Type III, Class 1 US Government Specification.

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This one weighs very light and will not disappoint you with its fiber-shell case. The case has a water resistance of 60 meters and is shock-resistant.

The Military Navigator is built with special acrylic crystal engineered to highly resist rapid pressure changes. This is especially useful so that the case does not shatter easily, making it perfect for special forces.

To ensure great built quality and high accuracy, the Military Navigator Pilot’s quartz is made in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland. Fancy, right? With its high torque, 3 jewel ETA F06 quartz movement, this model provides the most accurate timekeeping. The ETA F06 movement is accurate to -0.3/+0.5 seconds per day. It also includes an End of Life (EOL) indicator that will advance the second's hand once and every four seconds to notify you that you need to change the battery.

For added information, the Military Navigator is issued and worn by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Self-illuminating
  • ETA F04 quartz movement
  • High-pressure resistant
  • Nylon strap
  • Expensive
  • Not scratch-resistant

Luminox Men’s 8831.KM Recon: The Bright And Luminous

Coming to you with its reinforced polycarbonate bezel and case, this Luminox is one of the best tactical water resistant military service style watches worthy of your attention.

Luminox Recon Nav SPC Rubber Mens Watch 8831.KM
  • Style:Casual
  • Case:Black polycarbonate
  • Movement:Swiss made quartz

On its dial are luminescent white and green hands and markers that will enhance reading visibility.

This one features three different hands. It also has a date display window at the three o’clock position, a raised scale, and a compass.

Processing on a quartz movement, it has a water resistance of 200 meters.

The most unique feature is that it comes with a removable compass. I think it’s necessary for the watches to have this option so the field watch you’ll wear will be lighter. This removable compass is originally placed on the watch’s polyurethane strap band.

With defined luminous markings on the compass, this watch guides you accurately. Even in situations that don’t have enough light, you can consider this a savior.

  • Scratch-resistant
  • Removable compass
  • Very luminous
  • Hour hand does not adjust independently
  • Low life span
  • Relatively smaller

Suunto Core All Black Military Men's Outdoor Sports Watch

It is possible to be loaded while still weighing just over two ounces with the Suunto Core. Just like most, Suunto Core watches are packed with traditional functions like dual times, a date display, barometer, compass and an alarm.

Suunto Core All Black Military Men's Outdoor Sports Watch - SS014279010
6,479 Customer Reviews
Suunto Core All Black Military Men's Outdoor Sports Watch - SS014279010
  • An altimeter tracks your vertical movement, a barometer tells the Trend in air pressure, and a...
  • Suunto core tracks both the weather and the sun for you; Operating temperature: 20° C to +60° C /...
  • A weather Trend graph and storm alarm along with preset sunrise/sunset times for over 400 locations...

But of course, the Suunto Core is built with its own top features. It can predict the possible time for sunset and sunrise, which can help you maximize daylight hours.

In addition to its altimeter and barometer, it has a depth meter that gives an accurate water depth reading up to 30 feet. Plus, it can function in English, German, French, and Spanish languages. Who knew watches could be multilingual?

Here comes the most amazing part. You can go on days without your local weather forecaster because this one will keep you updated. While you’re out on a hike or having a camp, Suunto Core will be responsible for your weather updates.

The Storm Alarm can sense approaching storm despite the sky looking bright. A rapid drop in air pressure over a three-hour period can activate it. Once its senses changes, the Alarm Storm will sound and flash, notifying you that unpleasant weather is fast approaching.

Furthermore, you can have bonus features like the digital thermometer, a weather trend indicator, and a digital compass. With these qualities, you have a tremendous companion for all your outdoor events.

  • Responsive buttons
  • Storm Alarm
  • Can be used in many languages
  • Band may not be durable enough in rough conditions
  • Water-resistant to 30 feet only
  • May consume battery life fast

Hamilton Khaki Field: Elegant And Functional

At first glance, the Khaki Field might look like your typical office watch. However, it won't take a spot in this round-up just for nothing.

On Sale
Hamilton Men's HML-H70455533 Khaki Field Black Dial Watch
214 Customer Reviews
Hamilton Men's HML-H70455533 Khaki Field Black Dial Watch
  • Round stainless steel watch with black dial featuring white Arabic indices and date window at 3...
  • 38 mm stainless steel case with sapphire crystal dial window
  • Automatic self-wind movement with analog display

True to Hamilton’s military heritage, the Khaki Field is built to last with its reliable and high-quality materials.

It consists of stainless steel case, three-hand time display, dark dial with light and luminescent numerals, a durable NATO strap binds it.

It has a water resistance of 100 meters which is suitable for swimming and snorkeling.

Recalling Hamilton’s great hand-wound timepieces, this sturdy watch is designed exquisitely. What I like most about this field watch is, despite it being one, its style does not fall short on elegance and class.

The watch reads “Hamilton” with simple 12- and 24-hour scales, luminous hands and markers, and a font recalling vintage watches. It is very evident on its large stainless steel crown that pronounces knurling for easy manipulation just screams functionality.

  • Elegant-looking
  • Luminescent numerals
  • Stainless Steel crown
  • Expensive
  • Time changes with impact
  • Water-resistant to only 100 meters

Luminox SureFire: Well Lit Watch

The Luminox SureFire is built and designed for the life outdoors. Sitting securely on your wrist, its white-on-black design is constructed of very light hard-anodized aerospace aluminum.

SureFire 2211 Rechargeable Variable Output WristLight with Watch, 300 Lumens, Anodized Body
91 Customer Reviews
SureFire 2211 Rechargeable Variable Output WristLight with Watch, 300 Lumens, Anodized Body
  • Straps to support-hand wrist for instant access to 300 lumens
  • Precision faceted reflector creates perfect MaxVision Beam that’s wide and evenly dispersed
  • Ambidextrous switching activates three levels of useful light: 300, 60, and 15 lumens

The adjustable nylon band that is durable enough to hold its own little tactical LED handgun light in place complements it.

Running on a Swiss quartz movement, it's sure to deliver most accurate readings.

It utilizes a virtually indestructible LED and optic. You can activate its brilliant 200-lumen beam just with a press of either two button-type switches.

The SureFire comes with a USB cable that you can use to recharge the lithium-ion battery. Through its built in LED fuel gauge, you are alerted when to recharge it.

This day, it’s necessary for a product to be convenient and an asset to be on-the-go along with its functionality. That’s why I think these features are the watch’s cherry on top.

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Anodized aluminum body
  • Built-in LED light
  • Large profile
  • Too bulky for everyday use
  • USB cable port has no cover or protection

SMAEL Men's Military Analog Digital Watch

Are you planning to go to a new adventure? Start it with SMAEL Men’s Military Analog Digital Watch. This steal is perfect for both indoor and outdoor activities such as fishing, climbing, swimming, trekking, running and more.

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It made it to the top 15 due to its multifunctionality.

Its functions include auto calendar, daily digital alarms, stopwatch, and countdown timer. Its shock and water resistance also makes it very suitable for individuals who seek thrill and adventure.

As for its aesthetics, the SMAEL Men's Military Analog Digital Display Watch dons a fashionable sporty design. It has a large dial face, numbers with lights that display time even in the dark, and a military-style outlook.

The SMAEL Men's Military Analog Digital Watch is perfectly designed and is available in 11 colors: red, gray, black, blue, gold, green, khaki, orange, silver, army green and sky blue. Priced at around $16 in Amazon, it also comes with gift box in case you are looking for a perfect gift for a special occasion.

  • Excellent quality
  • Built-in LED light
  • Comfy band
  • Small digital display
  • Unreadable manual
  • Small day indicator

Breitling Super Avenger II Military: Worth The Price Tag

The Super Avenger Military is just one of the most water resistant watches. Out of all the military style watches on this list, it is the most reliable watch that functions up to 1,000 feet underwater.

Found on its display are luminous markers and a well-defined stainless steel crown for easy usage. A stainless steel body makes it highly durable.

Sold on a limited edition, this timepiece has a 48-mm non-reflective case on a dial that features a 24-hour military time display.

The curved sapphire crystal above the dial has also been treated with a glare-resistant coating.

Furthermore, its strap is made of synthetic fabric which military units commonly used for special operations. The heightened bezel rotates in one direction making it one of the most perfect watches for diving. You really can’t argue why this is considered one of the best.

Among others on this list, the limited edition Super Avenger Military is the only option that runs on a self-winding mechanical movement. Mechanical movements are preferred for luxury watches because of the level of craftsmanship exerted on its mechanism. An intricate series of very little components that work hand in hand to support the timepiece is just one of the painstaking work done to finish a watch of this type.

Its sweeping and smooth motion is just so satisfying compared to the individual ticks that quartz movement made. Although mechanical movement is the oldest type of watch movement to date, developments in technology have made it a more precise system. That’s when you know you got the best bang for your buck. This might just be the one if you want to take it on dives.

  • Water-resistant to 1,000 feet
  • Self-winding mechanical movement
  • Highly durable
  • Stainless Steel body
  • Expensive
  • Only 500 units are sold currently
  • Relatively heavy

Summary: The Best Military Watches

  • Garmin Instinct: Best Garmin Military Watch (Editor's Choice)
  • Casio Pathfinder: Best Casio Military Watch
  • Timex T49612 Expedition Trail: #1 Timex Military Watch
  • Casio G-Shock Rangeman: The Finest GShock Military Watch
  • Suunto Core: Top Suunto Watch for Military
  • SMAEL Men's Analog Digital Watch: Excellent SMAEL Military & Tactical Watch
  • Hamilton Khaki Field: Most Elegant Field Watch
  • Marathon Military Navigator: Best Army Watch
  • Luminox Evo Navy Seal: Best Classic Military Style Watch
  • Breitling Super Avenger II: Top-rated Military Dive Watch

Brief History Lesson on Military Watches

Before we dive deep into the factors to consider when buying one of these, a little backstory won’t hurt. It’s nice to learn a thing or two about your potential new watch.

Brief History On Military Watches

A military watch’s history can be traced back to the First World War. It is said that its name was coined because demand for a fighter positioned in a guard tower was made by German military. It was told that the German military wanted to know what time it was and asked the fighter.

Unfortunately, the fighter’s hands were occupied and it was hard to take out his pocket watch. In another story, it was reported that Kaiser Wilhelm I, the King of Prussia and the first German Emperor, requested a watch at a Berlin public exhibition. The primary watches were then issued in the Boer War. You can find a page dedicated to just German watches here.

Newfound Idea

Later on, the idea became popular so they started producing more at a faster rate, despite the World War happening. The first model was designed to be kept in the pockets of soldiery. Its straps were made of fabric and a metal log held it.

Newfound Idea

Some had a metal cover, while others had crystal stones. Some officers removed some parts of the cover for easy access to time watching and without opening the cover frequently.

Eventually, military operations all over the world made it a necessity because of its importance.

Here then comes the important question: what makes a good tactical watch?

Evolution of Design

With the passing of time, here comes the evolution of designs. A lot of new editions and upgrades have been made to recent models.

Despite these changes, the main features are still existent. Most models are not big on style since its functionality is more important. A good field watch must still have a long band so it will be easier to wear over a jacket.

Throughout military missions, officers work in total darkness which made light as an essential requirement for their operations. To address this problem and search for solutions, it became a necessity for a tactical military watch to have light. Originally, these watches were lit by a looming method using radium and zinc sulfide.

But, over the years, this changed to tritium (I wrote a separate round-up on tritium watches) and zinc sulfide because these have relatively less amount of radiation. Along with the rise of technology and health-conscious options, experiments were made using non-self-lamination technologies. This is used as an external light source made of photoluminescent materials.

Evolution of Design

Manufacturers preferred using cases out of dull materials so the tactical watch would not be attractive and less detectable on the soldier’s wrists. Using this type of materials would also make it anti reflective.

So, a non-shiny watch case with a metallic coating is a typical example. These specifications can also make the watch less susceptible to environmental conditions. Thus, it can be unaffected by the ever-changing elements.

Nowadays, thanks to the technological evolution, a tactical watch integrates a wide variety of easy and useful functions. These include GPS tracking systems, altimeter, barometer, thermometer, daily alarms and more. Check out my triathlon watch reviews if you want to find more watches with advanced features such as GPS. Today, these are also used by law enforcement and the Swiss army corps for instance.

Modern Military Watch Brands

For Every Outdoor Adventure

Doing extreme sports or rough outdoor activities can sometimes be a hassle. You need to bring certain gadgets that serve a specific purpose to guide or assist you - digital compass, stopwatch, GPS tracker, solar-powered, water resistance and a lot more paraphernalia.

It’s almost always a handful. But, what if all of these functions can be rolled into one durable device? Fortunately for our sake, the tactical watch exist.

The tactical watch makes every hike, travel, training, or any extreme outdoor activity seem tolerable and hassle-free. With its features that are specifically made for the life outside, you can handle every activity well.

Modern, Elegant, Luxurious

Originally, a tactical watch was made specifically to meet the needs and demands of the military men, hence the name, which is to keep track of the time and date.

As years passed by, consumer demands have changed, which made way for numerous upgrades and developments. Nowadays, professionals of different fields prefer these types of watches because of the versatility and functionality it brings.

Plus, they can also look elegant and luxurious, above all. You’re not just paying for its features; you’re also paying for its unique design and appearance.

Watch for hiking, outdoor, training

Even if you don’t work in the military, if you have a strong admiration for adventure and just love the life of being active and physical, a good military timepiece will serve you right. With its convenient features and high-tech functions, you will be surprised to realize that a timepiece could be capable of so much more.

Luckily for us, various brands produce remarkable and high-quality timepieces so we’ll have a lot of options. You might want to prepare your wallets though, as they don’t always have very friendly price tags. However, with its capabilities and services, you get a great bang for your buck. Along with your potential tactical watch, your next adventure awaits you.

Factors To Consider When Picking Military Watches

Basically, the point here is that the best field watches focus more on functionality and durability. To claim your money’s worth, it is only fair to purchase one of the field watches available. To help you with your decision-making, there are a few considerations when you’re in search of the perfect tactical watch.

Buying A Military Watch

It is a necessity for the best field watches to be resistant to elements and tremor. This means they're both shock resistant and water resistant AND scratch resistant. You need to make sure that your watch does not only last a long time but also performs remarkably as if it is fresh from the box.

Power Sources

There are many types of power sources. The greatest ones considered are either solar or kinetic-powered watches.

Power Sources

However, for others that want to stick to tradition, automatic or mechanical powered sources are the perfect choice. There are six conventional types of power sources. You can find them as mechanical (hand-wound), automatic (self-winding), kinetic, solar powered, precisionist, and quartz. Solar powered ones guarantee power at all times.

Night Vision

This specific feature is required when you go hiking or hunting, and that proper tactical watches for men simply need especially if there’s a search and rescue operation. You can also use this watch when you visit an area where there’s not much light, but you still need to keep track of time, else even the best tactical watch would be useless in that kind of situation. A tough watch’s night vision is a pretty convenient feature because it makes the military grade watch very useful literally at all times.

Additional Features

Sometimes, one of the factors that push us to search and buy a new gadget is because we need it for a specific purpose or an upcoming event. They are known to be jam-packed with various tough features. And this fact is the reason why many people admire these watches.

Additional features

If you’re a hiker or you just love to be in new and different places, a built in GPS will come in handy. Some features of the best military tactical watches are altimeter, barometer, and storm alarm, among other things. There are even quite a few rugged smartwatches that can be used for military and survival purpose. I really wouldn’t wonder why some may hurt your wallet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Got questions? Here are frequently asked questions and their answers.

What is a Military Watch?

It has distinct features that make it different from typical watches and suitable for military and marines operations. Although classic models were primarily used by the military, today, many brands of watches made efforts to revive these timepieces and market them to civilians.

They are meant to withstand extreme conditions, moisture, dust, and impact. They are usually made of durable material and have a simple yet rugged style.

On top of their high durability, they also have incredible features designed to help military in the field like navigation systems, altimeter, barometer, and luminous digits and hands.

Overall, EDC watches are one of the most highly sought-after watch types on the market because of their wide range of features and use-cases.

While most classical military timepieces were analog ones, today you have the choice between remakes of those and highly advanced digital watches or smart watch versions that come with any feature you can imagine.

What is the Best Tactical Watch?

The top military watch is the Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor watch. It’s one of the most heavy-duty GPS smart watches to date, and it can withstand heat, impact and is also scratch resistant.

With its heart rate monitor, TracBack, GLONASS, GPA and Galileo navigation, you won’t get lost in the field. Not only that, but you can also benefit from its storm alert function, elevation monitoring feature and 60 hours of battery life.

We can safely say that with all those features in a watch, it’s already a steal!

What Watch Does the Military Use?

Today, the military uses the Marathon Navigator (Swiss made and one issued by the government) and Casio G-Shock because of the high level of accuracy and durability they have. These watches passed the Military standards overall.

Back in the day, Military men were issued watches meant to use in the field with basic functions, but it’s not designed to last. In 1999, the MIL-W-46374 which is considered the stricter official specification for army watches was issued for the men in service. These watches should have a high level of accuracy, must be shockproof and can survive the harshest conditions.

The government still issues combat watches to the military men, but they are allowed to provide their own as long as it passes the US Military standards for these timepieces.

What Watch Do Navy SEALs Prefer?

Navy SEALs prefer tough watches that can go with their hard-core training and missions. The ideal watch must withstand whatever life throws at it, and of course, the accuracy level must be perfect.

When you browse around forums and other online communities, there are only two brands you’ll always hear, and these are the Casio G-Shock and Luminox 3000 Series.

Casio G-Shock, designed by a Japanese watchmaker, undergone “The Triple 10 Test”. These tests involved surviving a 10-meter drop, stays functional even if submerged up to 330 feet, will last ten years of battery (it uses Japanese quartz-timekeeping).

G-Shock DW-6900 was issued to SEALs in the 1980s, and it remained as one of the most popular tactical wrist watches today. It’s not surprising, especially that this model has 200 meters (660 feet) water resistance, and it has all the functions needed for SEALs’ toughest job.

Luminox is another brand that offers watch with incredible function and resiliency. For over 25 years since the first release of their official SEALs’ watch, Luminox 3000 series is continuously improving.

In 1993, the elite squad used Luminox watches. It usually has a black-colored dial and body, and with the use of Luminescence Technology (tritium), the digits and hands shine bright in itself even in the darkest parts of the earth. Just like G-Shock, it is shock-proof, water-resistant up to 660 feet, and you can benefit from its accuracy with its Swiss-quartz timekeeping.

Although you can say Luminox has a better edge than G-Shock, most SEALs still prefer the latter due to its cost, practicality and weight. Luminox watches can be a bit on the heavier side. However, it’s no biggie if you don't mind the weight and you have the budget for it.

How to Change a Watch from Military Time to Standard Time?

To change a watch from Military time to Standard time, here’s what you need to do. There are two ways to change it from military time to standard time.

First, with the dial facing you, you need to press the “Adjust” button on the top left side. You should see a flashing of the time setting. You can then press the lower right side button once which changes it the 24-hour format to 12-hour AM, PM setting. Set the time manually, then press the “Adjust” button once more.

The second way is for you to advance the hours. You can do this by going through the 24-hour cycle and then back to AM and PM and so on. Hit the “Mode” thrice, until the TUES blinks, as well as the seconds. Press the “Reset” button until you see the hours blinking. It then changes from 24-hour mode to 12-hour mode (AM, PM). Keep on advancing the hours until you get the correct time.

Every watch is different though, and you might want to consider reading the manufacturer’s manual on how to set the time back to the civilian time setting from military time format.

Why Do Military Wear Watches Backwards?

Military wear watches backwards due to reasons that might surprise you.

One reason the military wear their watches backwards is that it will allow them to check time conveniently while aiming at a target, which happens most often when they’re in the field.

Another reason is that military men should be discreet and should avoid being seen or heard at all cost. Recognizing that most tactical watches have luminous digits and shiny casings which may reflect light, wearing their watches backwards seems logical to prevent unwanted attention from potential enemies.

Third, it also protects the watch itself from getting damaged.

Where to Buy Military Watches?

Buy tactical watches only from credible stores like Amazon. They have the Amazon A-to-z Guarantee that protects its buyers.

You can also refer to this review as your guide as we only recommend our topnotch, hand-picked army watch choices. We tested each product first-hand for your convenience, so you no longer have to purchase several watches to know if they fit your needs.


In my opinion, the best EDC watch is the Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder. As you go on a hike or start training, this Casio stands strong as it is built to endure tough conditions.

Packed with great functions (like the built in altimeter, barometer, and thermometer), user-friendly design, and a price that won’t hurt your pocket, the Casio Pathfinder is an easy choice.

Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Multi-function

The Bearing Memory feature will ensure you a smooth and worry-free journey. Plus, you never have to worry about its battery draining in the middle of the day because it is solar powered!

However, if you're looking for truely the most advanced tactical watches for military without being worried about the price too much, you'll want one with built-in GPS and more advanced mil spec features.

The Garmin Instinct comes with GPS and many more advanced features and is far more than "just another one of many basic options". I highly recommend going for this one if you need more than a simple watch.


We really can’t run from the fact that military watches make the most versatile timepieces. The best tactical watches may be a little too pricey, but the features and outstanding quality you get in return are priceless. If you still think they're too expensive, check out our list of automatic watches under 500.

These watches are not only handy in times of hikes, training, and other heavy outdoor activities, but they can also be helpful in a typical and normal day. Investing in this type of timepiece is the right way to do!

Links, prices and images pulled from Amazon Product Advertising API. Last update on 2020-10-28.