To be a soldier, you need to be a special kind of tough. Much like the well-trained, strong-willed, and hard-bodied men and women who serve their country, tactical watches need to be able to withstand the harshest conditions as well as provide specialized functionality.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty watch that’s good enough for a military mission, then you need to scrutinize the attributes of a watch carefully. The extreme durability of military and tactical watches makes them ideal for a host of outdoor activities. They’re perfect for marathoners, trekkers, mountain climbers, campers, surfers, fishers, scuba divers, hunters, and just about everyone in between.
The tactical watches on this list are rugged timepieces with highly specialized features. Read on; you’re sure to find a couple that will fit your particular lifestyle and sports needs.
Best Military & Tactical Watches
Suunto is a Finnish company that produces high-quality sports watches, dive computers, and military-grade compasses. The brand name is a derivative of the Finnish word “suunta,” which means direction or bearing. And, their logo shows a compass pointer above the “SUUNTO” name. Their name and logo fits perfectly to their identity and history as a company since they have made military-issue compasses for the Finnish, Swiss, and a host of NATO military units.
The Suunto Core is an all-around outdoor watch with a host of very useful features. This all-black watch is encased in a tough composite material that features an aluminum bezel. The Core has a black digital dial that can display barometer, altimeter, and compass information. To put the cherry on this impressive delicacy, it can even display weather information as well as alert of you coming storms.
The Luminox brand is well-known for their tactical watches with highly luminous markings. The US Navy Seals and US Air Force both trust this brand for its high visibility and high precision. Luminox is so confident in their self-powered lighting system that they guarantee that their watches will have a glow of up to 25 years.
If you’re into minimalist watches, then the Recon Point Man is not for you. The dial and bezel feature several sets of markings, each with their own unique functionality. This watch is not about simplicity; it’s about functionality, and Luminox has jammed every bit of functionality into this robust watch.
The bezel has compass and 5-minute markings. The circumference of the dial includes a walk speed scale in miles per hour, and the indexes include both the 12-hour and 24-hour format. It’s encased in black polycarbonate and has a black rubber strap. It also utilizes an anti-reflective sapphire window for added stealth. It’s also rated for 20-bar water resistance, so it’s ready for a deep dive.
Everything about the surefire brand is tactical down to its name. The brand was founded in 1979 and soon started out producing laser sights for handguns and shotguns. Today, their line of products includes tactical flashlights that can be attached to handguns and other firearms, suppressors, headlamps, high-capacity magazine, and, oddly enough, phone cases.
Since SureFire is not a watch manufacturer, they partnered with Luminox to produce the SureFire 2211 Luminox. It’s a wrist-mounted flashlight with an analog watch. The flashlight incorporates high output LED that emits 300 lumens of high-intensity white light. It’s perfect for close-quarters combat situations or for search and rescue. You can also dial it down to 60 or 15 lumens.
The watch is encased in a square casing that also houses the flashlight. It features a round bezel, a black dial, and large luminescent hands and numerals.
The Marathon Watch brand traces its origin to 1904 but only started going by their current name in 1939. In 1941, Marathon Watch became a supplier of watches for the Allied troops. This experience became a powerful driving force for the brand, and today, their watches are produced to military specifications.
The Pilot’s Navigator watch is a military-issue watch and has been worn by American troops both in Iraq and Afghanistan. This watch is proudly Swiss-made. It’s encased in a high-impact fiber shell case with an acrylic crystal. The Swiss watch is designed to be shock-resistant as well as 3-bar water-resistant. Strap this tough little watch on with its 20mm nylon band.
Casio is one of the most recognizable multinational companies from Japan. They produce consumer electronics such as calculators, musical instruments, digital cameras, and watches. In the 1980s, Casio became a giant in the watch industry with their line of affordable electronic watch pieces. In 1983, they introduced G-Shock to the world. G-Shock is short for Gravitational Shock, a name chosen to show just how tough these G-Shock watches are.
The Rangeman Tactical from G-Shock is a radio clock that receives atomic clock radio time signals from radio towers in the UK, US, Germany, China, and Japan. It features a compass, temperature, and depth sensors as well as solar panels. The case and buttons are designed to protect the watch from impact shocks as well as keep mud and dust out. It also works well as a diver’s watch since it is rated for 200 meters water resistance.
Garmin is an American and Swiss technology company that was founded in 1989. Its main products are mostly GPS sensors and computers for use in various activities and conditions. They have systems for cars, planes, boats, and outdoor sports. Recently, they have also adapted their technology into wearable devices.
The Garmin Tactix Bravo Tactical Watch only comes in black and utilizes non-reflective materials for added stealth. The dial is a 1.2-inch-high resolution display protected by a sapphire dome crystal. The display is daytime readable and can be set for night vision compatibility. It uses an EXO antenna to receive GPS or GLONASS reception for satellite tracking. It has sports as well as tactical features and utilizes an incredible navigational system that plots your movement and is able to direct you back to your starting point through the same path you came. It also comes with a barometer, compass, and altimeter included.
For added connectivity, you can also sync it with a compatible phone and receive emails and texts on the Tactix Bravo. This altimeter watch is rated for 100m water resistance, so don’t be afraid to swim with this wrist computer. It comes with a heavy-duty rechargeable battery that lasts anywhere from 20 hours in full GPS mode to about 21 days when only used as a smartwatch.
The Panerai company is for the discerning rugged gentleman. Starting early in its history, the brand has had a strong connection with the Royal Italian Navy. They provided the frogmen of Italy with officially issued Panerai watches with innovative luminescent hands and indexes for better visibility underwater. The Navy loves the brand so much because they’re specifically built to withstand scuba-diving level pressures.
The Panerai Submersible Marina Militare starts this list on the ritzy side. It’s a robust shock resistant, dive watch that runs on an automatic movement protected by an Incabloc anti-shock system. This watch has a 3-day power reserve when not worn. The case and bezel are made out of Carbotech, a light yet very durable carbon fiber composite.
With a 3-bar water resistance rating, it’s an ideal diver’s watch. This particular model is a limited edition and purchasing one will entitle you to a day’s training with the actual Elite Italian Navy.
This next Luminox entry is designed with the fighter pilot in mind. The F-22 Raptor features a 44mm diameter case made of titanium. The case, back, bezel, and bracelet too are made of titanium. To add to the already formidable protection, the window crystal is made out of an anti-reflective sapphire.
The F-22 Raptor features a black dial with luminescent hands and hour indexes and is an awesome tribute piece to the F-22 Raptor. The sub-dials for the chronograph are inspired by the actual instrumentation panels of the fighter jet. The back is also engraved with an image of the F-22 Raptor, and you can see a rudimentary silhouette of a fighter jet at the base of the second hand.
For more durable timepieces, be sure to browse our list of the best survival watches.
Marathon Watch has a second entry on this list of the best military watches. This time, it’s with a tactical diver. The Search & Rescue Diver’s Watch is manufactured to comply with Military Specifications. In fact, this very model is issued to the American Marine Corps. It is for this reason that it has come to be known as the Government Search and Rescue, or GSAR.
This watch under $5000 comes with a black dial and Tritium markers for easy visibility underwater. It’s encased in silver surgical stainless steel with a black bezel. It’s rated for 30-bar or 300-meter water resistance for reliability in extreme underwater conditions.
The Bell & Ross brand of watches was first only a project for a university class by the company’s namesakes. Today, the brand has become successful, realizing the vision of its 1992 beginnings – that of timepieces that match shape with function. Due to this working vision, this luxury watch brand can be described as making functional time instrumentation rather than simple watches.
Bell & Ross’s entry on this list is the WWI-92 Military. Its design features the simple aesthetics of the 1920s. It features a 45mm round steel casing with a glass bead blasted finish. The dial is black and has legible luminous white hands and numeral indexes. It features both the 5-minute increments as well as the hourly numerals. It comes with a brown calf-skin strap. It’s rated for 50m water resistance, so it’s safe for swimming but not diving.
The WWI-92 Military’s simple and elegant classic design makes it perfect for those who are into minimalism or are fond of history-inspired pieces.
Multi Time Machine, or MTM, is a brand that was started in the 1980s by a former Special Forces officer. Having a founder that has first-hand military experience has proved to be the secret sauce for MTM. Instead of following watch trends, the MTM way of doing business has always been to follow the needs of its consumers – namely, military servicemen who are not unlike the founder himself.
The MTM offering on this list of the best military & tactical watches is the highly specialized Special Ops RAD watch. It’s the only Geiger counter watch ever produced in the world. This titanium watch is able to detect Gamma radiation ranges between 0.0001 up to 9,999 millisieverts, or mSv. It also measures dose rates up to 4,000 microsieverts per hour, or μSv/h. This is shown in a bar graph or a digital numerical display. You can also set the maximum radiation threshold, and the RAD will alert you with an alarm once it’s reached. The watch is encased in titanium and comes with a fabric strap.
Garmin comes back on this list – this time, with the Tactix Charlie. The Tactix Charlie has a 1.2-inch diameter display with a 240 x 240 resolution. The Tactix Charlie comes with a 16 GB memory, a heart sensor, and a gyroscope – all not found in the Bravo.
Training and gym features are also much more elaborated with the Charlie. There are also outdoor features and cycling features added. The Charlie has an overall shorter battery life when compared to the Bravo because of the added features. Tis watch under $1000 still comes with GPS navigation, path tracking, and Tracback – the feature that guides you on the same path back to your starting point. Overall, it’s a great entry on this list of awesome tactical watches. Compare it to its sibling if you’re interested.
Hamilton is an American brand that was founded in 1893 on American soil. In 1969, manufacturing in America halted. Today, it’s owned by the Swatch Group and is headquarters is in Switzerland, making the Hamilton Swiss-made. During the Second World War, Hamilton focused all of its resources and manpower on serving the US Military by producing their wristwatches.
The Khaki Field series is a classic military watch that they’re proud to say has been tested to be rugged and resilient. Even while sporting a more classical look with a slim, round silver stainless steel case, it is still a very robust and able field watch that can be worn in outdoor excursions. Its design evokes the look preferred by military officers, but don’t be fooled; this watch can get down and dirty in the toughest boot camps.
Timex is a famous American brand that was founded in Connecticut in 1854. It started life as a mass producer of affordable wall clocks. And, as soon as technology allowed, they produced smaller timepieces such as pocket watches and wristwatches. Timex is known for their two most popular features – Ironman and Indiglo. The Ironman provides extreme robustness, high precision chronographs, and high water resistance. The Indiglo is a very effective backlight in a soothing blue color that illuminates the watch dial perfectly.
The Timex Command is a simple digital watch that features a military-inspired camo-patterned watch guard. The case is made of green stainless steel, and the straps are made of green resin. The Timex Command has a chronograph, timer, and Indiglo backlight. While it doesn’t have a lot of specialized features, it is shockproof and is rated to be water-resistant for 100m. So, it’s still a pretty decent watch you can wear for most outdoor activities.
The Japanese giant returns with the G-Shock GA700UC-3A. This watch is on this list because it comes in very military-inspired color palettes. The available colors are olive green, dark gray, and tan. Choose one that matches your fatigues.
You can dive with this Japanese watch and be as rough with it as you want. Being a G-Shock, this military watch is made to be extremely durable and rugged with a functional shock-resistant design. It is rated for 200m water resistance, and it also comes with world time and chronograph features. In keeping with the military theme, you can also switch between 12-hour and 24-hour time formats.
This next entry needs only to be introduced once, and you’ll immediately know why it’s on the list. The name of the company is Military Watch Company, which is also abbreviated to MWC. The name of this Swiss watchmaker is clever since it seems generic and vague and yet it conveys the purpose and products of the company in a very specific way.
MWC produces mil-spec watches to military organizations, law enforcement agencies. and civilian distributors worldwide. If you’re not that familiar with the brand, you should know that their watches are also sold under different brands names since they also produce wholesale private label watches for their clients.
Their entry on this list is with a classic military watch, one that would have been worn by infantry soldiers of NATO forces. The watch is encased in a 40mm diameter stainless steel housing with a hardened mineral glass. It’s a 10-bar water-resistant watch that can be worn while swimming. It uses a 5-year battery to power its movement. It features a black dial with luminescent hands and markers. The strap is a 20mm fabric strap that’s issued by NATO.
Take a look at some of these reliable skeleton watches from our list, and pick your favorite.
Breitling is a popular Swiss watchmaker that is known for their aviation series watches. The brand has a long history that started in 1884. The Breitling brand began by focusing on chronograph watches, and in the earliest days of the technology, they were at the forefront of its innovation. Throughout the decades, it is this innovative spirit that has kept Breitling as one of the most prestigious and highly specialized functional military and outdoor watch brands around.
The Emergency is the world’s first watch with an emergency beacon. Once activated, the Emergency broadcasts a distress signal on the 121.5 MHz and 406.040 MHz emergency distress frequencies. The transmitter in this watch has a separate power source capable of 18 to 24 hours of transmission depending on temperature conditions.
As a watch, the Emergency is a complete adventurer’s watch. It has a chronograph, analog and digital display, 24-hour format option, a compass bezel, a calendar, and countdown functions. It’s encased in titanium and incorporates a sapphire, glare-proof crystal. As for the strap, you can choose between rubber or titanium bands.
Breitling continues the list with their second offering, the Chronospace Military. This watch is built to be tough enough to withstand harsh conditions. Its case is made of hard black steel that features a compass bezel. It utilizes a glare-proof sapphire crystal for clarity in the brightest conditions. It’s water-resistant rated to be 5-bar. It comes with an analog and digital display, a chronograph, timer, split timer, and world time. It’s an all-around professional military watch.
The Suunto company returns with another high-tech offering. The Suunto 9 is a smartwatch for the outdoor adventurer. It’s tested by professional triathletes in the toughest real-world conditions.
The Suunto 9 is a very powerful triathlon watch that will provide high performance whenever you need it. It has intelligent battery usage features that make the power last up to 120 hours. It accurately records tracks and paths covered with GPS and motion tracking technology. It has weather information as well as a storm alarm, a digital compass, and host of training features.
The Suunto 9 is encased in a polyamide and glass fiber composite glass that has a stainless steel bezel and a crystal sapphire window. It’s rated for 100m water resistance. You can strap this technological wonder on with its comfortable silicon strap.
IWC is a Swiss brand that was founded by an American in 1868. IWC stands for International Watch Company, which pretty much sums up their business plan for world domination. In 1978, IWC pioneered the use of titanium in their bracelets. Throughout decades of operation, they have mastered their manufacturing processes and have come to be known for their high-quality aviation and titanium watches.
Their entry on this list is the Top Gun Pilot watch. This watch is a real beauty – especially the Mojave Desert variant. It features a 44.5mm ceramic case that protects a self-winding, automatic, Swiss movement with a 46-hour power reserve. It has an inner iron case that protects it from magnetic fields. This pilot watch features a glare-proof sapphire crystal that’s secured against pressure drops. It also has chronograph functions.
The dial is a gorgeous dark brown with luminescent markings and the strap is made up of both fabric and rubber for added durability. It’s rated for 6-bar water resistance, which makes it capable of being used during water sports. The case back features an engraving of the Top Gun logo and the words: United States Navy Fighter Weapons School.
Notable Entries & Previous List
Timex T49612 Expedition Trail Series
The quartz movement in this model of the Timex series will keep the digital reading from falling off track as many cheaper digital watches will do. It is also nearly impossible to break this quartz watch, and its 16 compass points are perfect for tracking and pathfinding. The acrylic dial window is a negative for some.
This lightweight model gives up-to-date weather conditions so you can take cover should severe weather be on the way. Barometer, altimeter, and pressure change alerts are also available and up-to-date with this model.
The G-Shock can work literally anywhere (out at sea, on land, or in the air). This brand is also one of the most durable on the market, but it still maintains a strong synthetic appeal. And the use of solar power helps keep a stable time regardless of conditions or amount of use.
A perfect diving or cave watch, this model allows you to dive down more than 650 feet, and it is still effective. This other G-Shock model also comes with an LED light and will resist interference from other magnetic structures. It also comes equipped with a stopwatch and countdown timer.
The Gallatin looks like a traditional analog wristwatch at first glance. But don’t be fooled by the appearance. This model is water-resistant up to 50 meters. Its durable nylon wristband will withstand any conditions or mess. The Indiglo Night-Light is perfect for evening adventures. And the quartz analog movement will keep the watch accurate.
The Recon Point Man was designed with military personnel in mind. The Swiss company Luminox designed this watch with Andrew Micheli, a former NCO with Swiss Army Military Security. It includes a scratch-resistant anti-reflective sapphire crystal, a graduated turning bezel, and a contrast-color countdown quadrant on the dial.
The Pathfinder is one of the best working solar-powered watches on the market. This model will also keep ticking through changes in altitude, pressure, and in temperature. The Pathfinder also has multiple alarm clocks and a stopwatch among its multiple features. It also has a very strong world clock. The Pathfinder may not be the best watch to wake up if you are a heavy sleeper. The sound from the alarm isn’t very loud, but it’s decent.
The Navigator Watch from Marathon was designed for pilots, parachutists, and law enforcement agents. This military-themed watch should appeal to minimalist with its neutral coloring and design. The specialized fiber shell case is water-resistant up to 6 atmospheres. This highly accurate timekeeper is also lightweight and is resistant to sweat and shock.
The Rangeman has a top-of-the-line sensor system that will let you know when danger is coming. So if you are an adventure seeker or someone whose line of work puts you outside in the line of danger, this watch might be perfect for you. The Rangeman’s shock resistance can withstand long drops and loads of pressure. And it comes with precise, atomic time-keeping.
Camouflage!!! I know it is just for aesthetic value, but this G-Shock model comes with that authentic camo look perfect for any outdoor adventure. The GD-X6900 illuminates itself well with a super illuminator, high brightness, and an auto LED backlight. It also comes with a full auto-calendar, a battery life of 10 years, and the user’s knowledge that this model has been tested to handle most any environmental situation.
The Field Operator can be taken both out into the bush and under the sea with its stainless steel craftsmanship. The Miyota quartz movement cannot be knocked out of alignment and keeps perfect time. This watch is also very durable with strong scratch resistance and bands that are easy to replace. All operations for the watch must be done with the one large dial.
The Timex Digital Compass Watch is a throwback to a time of bulkier watches with limited color scheme. The black coloring and green digits make it fashionably distinct in this day and age. But don’t let the 90’s digital watch feel fool you. This model has state of the art quartz movement, a band made of resin, and a water resistance of up to 200 meters, making it comparable to any watch on today’s market.
This resilient model made from mineral crystal comes with a highly visible screen that can be read in the dark as well as the light. A user can also read both standard and army time at the same time with both sets of digits visible on the screen. This is also a great watch for divers with its 660 meters of water resistance. The Evo comes with a 23mm strap.
This gorgeous tribute to pilot watches from the 1920s can be worn any time of day with its leather strap and neutral coloring. The WW1 model is also sturdy and reliable in spite of being thinner than most watches on the market. With its one dial and clear hour and minute displays, the WW1 is a very user-friendly model. The watch trades the bells and whistles for a minimalist design in both look and features. These models run anywhere from $2500 or more.
The X-Lander is loaded down with features. These include a user-replaceable battery, weather trend indicator, altitude log, and multiple date and alarm functions. This model is also durable thanks to its tough metal case and rubber strap.
The black coloring of this vintage design watch works well for everyday outfits and not just for those in the great outdoors. The glass used in this model (as opposed to crystals) helps maintain this model’s streamlined look and improves its scratch resistance capabilities. This versatile watch also looks good with most active-wear clothing.
This bulky model is made of stainless steel and pristine crystal. The timepiece comes with a slide-rule bezel and true quartz movement. The knurled case sides further protect this watch from damage. But in regards to its water-resistant capabilities, this watch is limited to only going down to 330 feet.
The most unique feature with the Luminox Recon model is the location of the compass. Unlike most watches (that have the compass embedded on the main face of the watch), the Recon places its compass separate at the bottom of your wrist. That allows the 46 mm face to feature a lot more, including a set of minutes, a 24 hour time watch, and walking speed measurements. Also, the quartz movement keeps time accurate and the sapphire crystal makes it durable. One drawback is the hour hand does not adjust independently from the rest of the watch.
The GPS manufacturers created their best watch with the Tactix. This model will keep you on course wherever you are with its auto-syncing, tri-directional compass, and altimeter. The rechargeable battery can run up to 50 hours in GPS mode before needing a charge. The Tactix’s non-reflective PVD coating is also a plus.
No watch on this list carries with it the professional look of the Hamilton Khaki Field. The unbreakable sapphire crystal and stainless steel case are both durable and fashionable. And the brown leather strap tops off the professional look.
Breitling Super Avenger II Military
The easy to read Super Avenger features army time on its main face. It also has separate clock faces for standard minutes and hours. The full stainless steel body makes it one of the most durable watches on the market with a water resistance of up to 1000 feet. This model is also one of the easiest to use with its self-winding mechanical dial.
The most unique feature on the Surefire is the LED handgun light on the side. It also comes with an easy to read white-on-black clock face. The anodized aluminum body keeps it durable and its Swiss quartz engineering keeps it accurate even while you are shooting at the shooting range. It is also easy to recharge. This style of watch is much larger than some would prefer, but extremely unique if it fits your tastes.