Top Tactical Watches: Tough and Timely – Updated August 2016

Many people are looking for the best military watches, and that makes perfect sense. Most people need a watch that will be accurate, durable, and last despite tough constant use. However, there is no one size fits all simple advice when looking at what is the single greatest military timepiece out there. Instead, the answer to “What military watch should I get?” greatly depends on the intended use the wearer has and what capabilities are needed.

Best Tactical Watches

Considerations When Evaluating a Tactical Watch:

Let’s walk through what makes a tactical timepiece great so that you can get the best military watch for your needs, whether you are gearing up for a deployment in a hostile environment or you are looking for a nice military inspired watch, we have you covered.

What exactly do you need the watch to do? While some aspects of finding the right watch will remain important no matter what the situations, like accuracy and dependability, some specifications will help more than others depending on how you are using the watch. A diver will have different needs than a pilot, who will have different needs than an infantryman. Knowing what your needs are will really be critical to selecting the best watch for your money.

Digital vs Analog Tactical Watches

While this sounds like a simple aesthetic choice, it isn’t always. Choosing a digital versus analog watch can really affect visibility. People generally assume that digital is better. However, analog watches allow better readability that is seen with a simple twist of the wrist and no need to press an illumination button with two hand operation. Additionally, modern tactical options often combine the two elements to get the best of both worlds. You can now get the readability of an analog watch with the accuracy and additional convenient features of a digital watch.

Durability & Accuracy

Obviously, any watch you’re considering for tactical purposes has to be able to take a serious beating. Key features to look for around the topic of toughness are scratch, water and shock resistance. You need your watch to continue fulfilling it’s purpose. It needs to survive whatever you can survive. Cold, hot, wet, snow, sleet, hail, water submersion, impact, shock etc. When looking for a great watch where durability is a critical feature, it’s best not to gamble with unknown brands. Instead seek out a brand that has created Mil-Spec watches in the past, or has a reputation for resilient products and great customer service. Warranties are also a good indication that a brand is willing to stand behind its products.

While the elegance of a mechanical movement is nice to look at, for accuracy, most military members opt for a quartz movement. Quartz has the benefit of lasting years on a single battery and keeping perfect time.

5 Top Modern Tactical Watches

A modern tactical watch has to be accurate, reliable, and tough as nails. With the options available today, there is no reason not to have a watch that meets those requirements and looks great at the same time. Getting right into it, here are our top modern tactical watches:


G-Shock GA-100-1A1
Best Tactical Watch - G Shock GA 100

It’s difficult to fine a better tactical watch than the G-Shock line, and the GA-100-1A1 is perfect example of why that is. The first thing you’ll notice is how readable the high-contrast hands are on the otherwise blacked-out watch. That visibility really comes in handy in low light conditions. Our biggest complaint is that the hands on this particular model aren’t luminous and isn’t an option with this coloration. However, in most cases the hands are bright enough to see in most low light conditions, and if you need to it has a light, but operating it requires two hands to operate or adjusting settings to illuminate when you shake the watch which has an afterglow effect, either of these options could be problematic in a tactical situation. That said, this watch is still very good overall for at-a-glance readability at night.

The size of the watch also helps generally make it more legible. This beefy watch comes in at 55mm, so you definitely know it’s on your wrist, even if it only weighs 70 grams, or about 2.5 ounces. The blacked-out color scheme is unique and attractive, but it can make the digital portion of the watch difficult to read in daylight. Also, at certain times the analog hands of the watch can partially obstruct the digital displays, making them harder to read. The battery life is somewhat standard with Casio recommending battery changes every 2 years. However, if you don’t aggressively use the alarm or lighting functionality, most users report longer battery life.

The functionality is a great blend of practicality. The watch has 29 time zones to function through and features 48 cities that is easy to cycle through. Setting a home city is also a breeze, so that you can revert back to your favorite time zone, even if you’re constantly traveling. The timing display can be toggled between 12 and 24 hour formats, and the watch has a fully automatic calendar programed until the end of 2099, so there is a decent chance this watch will last longer than you will. The stopwatch is accurate to 1/1000th of a second and the countdown timer is useful. The G-Shock also has 4 alarms to make sure you’re never late.

Grady Powell Watch

Grady Powell, US Special Forces wearing a G-Shock GA-100-1A1. Photo credit: Grady Powell

As with virtually everything made by G-Shock, saying this watch is shock resistance is a massive understatement The durability of G-Shocks continues to be unmatched. The watch is submersible to 200 meters or about 650 feet, and features magnetic resistance.

One thing that really stands out is the build quality. This watch looks great, and feels just as solid. It is a bigger watch, but everything from the wider band with dual clasps to the case materials indicate that this is the ideal military watch and a very fair price. The shock resistance and features are all fantastic, and what this watch chooses to do, it does extremely well. If you’re looking for a modern military field watch to use outdoors or in a tactical situation, this watch is for you!

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G-Shock DW9052-1V

Best Tactical Watch for the Military - GShock
If you want proven on a budget, you want the G-Shock DW9052-1V. It has long set the bar for what a tough watch should be. This thing has been virtually everywhere and the world and delivered. Moreover, it can usually be found for less than $50. At that price point, the value this tactical watch offers is unmatched. Personally, I love the simplicity of this watch. It is simple, and gives you all the information you would expect of a modern military watch. It clearly displays the day, date, and time, which are the primary functions I used it for. It is rugged, and obviously so. It is shockproof, and water resistant down to 200 meters. To give you some idea of what that means at the practical level, this watch is commonly purchased by entire battalions before deployments, and for good reason. The watch has a 2 year battery, which will easily last a deployment unless you use the illumination constantly, and even then, it stands a good shot at making it.

The build quality is exactly what you would come to expect from a G-Shock, which are known the world over for quality. The resin band is comfortable and securely holds on the watch. This watch is the standard in shockproof, affordable digital watches.

Jared Ogden, Navy SEAL, wearing a Casio DW9052-1V with signature knife. Photo credit: Camillus Knives

 

Marcus Luttrell, Navy SEAL and author of Lone Survivor. Photo credit: MarcusLuttrell.com

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5.11 Tactical Field Ops Watch

Best Tactical Watch - 5.11 Tactical Field Ops Watch

This watch is amazing for sharpshooters. It’s from 5.11, which is well known in the tactical industry as a leader. One of the first things you will notice is how readable the dial is. It is much more legible than some other tactical watches, including most G-Shocks. The illumination of the watch is bright and clear. The large 50mm diameter makes the watch easily visible under most conditions. The high-density polycarbonate frame feels tough and features an omni-directional bezel. It has an alarm, timer, and digital compass, which is always useful to those spending serious time in the outdoors, not to mention military and tactical uses. This is, of course, in addition to the time, date, and day of the week. The compass is great and very sensitive and accurate.

However, the main draw of this watch is the SureShot ballistic calculator from Horus Vision which calculates windage to 1,000 yards and beyond. Obviously, f you’re interested in distance shooting or competing in firearm competitions, this is am amazing and unique feature, even by tactical watch standards.

The 5.11 is water resistant down to 100 meters, so will handle most use cases, but is not an all out dive watch. Obviously, the truly special thing about this watch is the fact that it is catered to the long range shooter.

The watch has some nice accompanying features. The strap is polyurethane and includes a strap extender if you have larger arms or if you wish to wear the watch outside of your clothes or gloves.  It comes in a ballistic nylon case and includes an allen wrench to make adjustments.

This watch geared towards the long range shooter is available in black and tan colorations and comes backed by a two year warranty.

Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper and Navy SEAL wearing the 5.11 Tactical Field Ops Watch - photo credit: redux

Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper and Navy SEAL wearing the 5.11 Tactical Field Ops Watch – photo credit: redux

This is the best tactical watch for long-range shooters, and has an impressive set of features that are purpose-built for sharpshooting. Again, the big features relative to the other timepieces on this list on this bad boy are the digital compass and ballistic calculator. In addition to being the perfect piece for shooters, and the bottom line is it is an excellent durable watch that would be perfect for military or outdoor use.

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Suunto Core

Best Military Watches - Suunto Core

It feels unfair to call the Suunto Core a watch. Perhaps calling it a wrist worn computer is more appropriate because of the Core’s impressive functionality. The Core features include an altimeter, thermometer, barometer, compass, and sunrise/sunset locations for over 400 locations. Also, it tells time. While all those features make it sound as if the Core could have a confusing interface, it is actually a breeze to navigate. If you’re in the military or an outdoor enthusiast, it is obvious how useful those features are.

Furthermore, the material and build quality on this Suunto are excellent. The watch is incredibly easy to read with a large display. And, despite being a negative display, the size of the display more than makes up for that. And if you do not like the negative display of the all black, the Core comes in a variety of colors and display options, so you’ll find something to your taste. The buttons are well designed and easy to press.

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Timex  T5E901 Ironman Watch

Top Tactical Watches of 2016

If you’re a minimalist, look no further. This is the watch for you. And, it’s a Timex. It tells you the day, date, and time in a very clear and efficient display. As you would expect, it has a stopwatch (with split) and indigo features that work well and are easy to operate. That means this thing take a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’ like a boss. There are 3 alarms, and the battery life is good to boot. However, there are two features that separate this watch from some of the other options on this list; size and price. The 38mm resin case easily fits under any sleeve size doesn’t add too much weight to your arm. You will rarely bang this watch on things like happens with other bulkier watches (but if you do, it can take it) and you won’t be carrying around extra weight. Further, this thing is a bargain. It is insanely cheap for how long it lasts.

Best Special Forces Watch - Timex Ironman

A US Special Forces soldier in Kandahar province, Afghanistan wearing a Timex Ironman watch. Photo Credit: United States Army

The watch is water resistant to 330 ft, or 100 meters. What makes this watch really amazing is just how long it lasts for how little it costs. The watch is simple but it is incredibly utilitarian and durable. Aptly named the Ironman, we haven’t seen an environment where this watch doesn’t hold up.

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Luminox Navy SEAL Colormark 3050 Series

Best Tactical Watch - Luminox Navy SEAL Colormark 3050 Series

The Luminox 3050 series is not a budget watch, but it is a terrific watch. It is a tough as nails analog watch that is housed in a 44 millimeter carbon reinforced PC case. The movement is a quartz movement, and can be accessed through the screw on case back. The movement has a date feature in addition to the time which is displayed in a window at the three o’clock position. The dial has 24 hour markings and is illuminated with Luminox Lighting Technology (LLT) that the company claims will last 25 years with no need to be charged. One feature that we like about the lighting is the contrast between second and the minute and hour hands, so you can quickly identify the hands in darkness. Further, the 12 o’clock position is illuminated green in contrast to the other hour markers, which are illuminated blue.

The bezel features a 1 way rotating bezel, as you would expect from a dive watch. The watch is water resistant down to 200 meters or 660 feet. The watch weighs 56 grams, or about 2 ounces, and has a case height of 13.8 millimeters.

Here is Nick North, Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer, explaining why he likes the Luminox and selected the watch to be adopted for official Navy use.

Additionally, the Luminox is employed globally by more special operations forces than the Navy SEALs, and they list other organizations like the FBI, US Air Force, and a whole host of SWAT teams. The full list can be viewed on Luminox’s website here. This watch comes in many different colorations, and could be just what you are looking for if you want a simple but proven analog option.

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