When you’re looking for the best tactical watches for military and survival, you should look closely at a few of the key features and understand the benefits these features deliver. You’re not just looking for an accessory to give you accurate time. Far from it! When you’re hiking, camping or training away from civilization, you need a reliable tool, one that’s as useful as a good knife or a durable pair of boots.
As you look for the right watch, you’ll usually see three words used to describe the products – military, survival and tactical. The first word, “military,” generally indicates the watch meets or exceeds standards and specifications set by the military, so you may also see the term mil-spec. For survival and tactical watches, the category can extend to many more products, which means you need to be careful when you read the specs and compare prices.
If you’d rather wear one watch for everyday use and switch to a different timepiece for military or survival activity, you can keep this special watch on your bug-out bag strap or in a similar place so it’s always ready for you. Start your search/shopping by learning more about what a tactical/military/survival watch is and what it can do for you.
Choosing the Best Tactical Watches for Military, Survival
Two key factors you should always look for in a tactical/military/survival watch: durability, waterproof. When you are just starting, perhaps buying your first watch of this type, make sure you’re prepared to spend a bit more money than you might think, then buy the most rugged watch you can afford. This will pay off in the long run. If you get the right watch the first time, you won’t have to spend more money (and more time) searching for a second one.
To repeat: Buy a rugged, durable watch. Spend a little more and get one that will take the abuse it’s going to get. You can get a light-but-sturdy watch with the bezel and case made from military-grad plastic, carbon fiber or titanium. All of these have their good points and negative points, so you should take this into account when you’re searching.
1. The Band
In addition to choosing a rugged watch, you’ll need a tough band that will also be comfortable enough for regular wear. Of course, if you keep the watch strapped to a bug-out bag or backpack you’ll want a reliable band that won’t end up losing your watch for you as you move to and from your locations.
Many people prefer silicone rubber for the band, which is wise since this material will hold up under almost any conditions.
Others prefer paracord, which serves a double purpose. You not only have the watch right where you need it, but you can use the band for other purposes. Consider a paracord bracelet as your watch band and you’ll be taking two tactical tools with you in one item.
It’s best not to use metal bands or leather, since both can be uncomfortable in heat or cold, and may even cause skin irritation as you sweat. Add “shockproof” to your requirements and you’re well on your way to having the watch you need.
2. Battery, Accuracy
Some of the best choices among military and tactical watches are solar-powered. You also have to be cautious when buying a battery-powered watch, because it can sometimes be difficult to locate the correct replacement battery. One of the best battery-powered watches will take care of you for a full year but the battery is not available just anywhere.
As to accuracy – if the battery is strong and fresh you should be able to use all the features on your watch, and it should keep accurate time. After all, that’s why you have it in the first place. But you may want to look into a model with atomic-clock calibration, which re-calibrates on a regular basis using radio signals.
Make sure the buttons used for settings etc. don’t stick out too far and the overall shape is not difficult to work with.
Your watch should also be easy to read in most conditions, so look for a black watch face with white letters and numbers, or find one with backlighting. Red is great for this feature.
Best Tactical Watches for Military, Survival 2017
1. Casio G9300-1 Mudman G-Shock – Best Overall
This solar-powered watch is water resistant to an amazing 660 feet, includes a moon graph, thermometer and digital compass and is shock-resistant.
This watch has a lot of computing power and is designed for stress-free use in outdoor conditions. With one look you can see time, day of the week, date, direction north and even the phase of the moon.
You can depend on the accuracy – no problem there and the solar power makes it extremely convenient. It also shuts down on its own at night to save battery.
Bottom line – it’s a tank of a watch!
Basic Specs: Resin body; Buckle band; Fixed bezelCheck Price and Rating on Amazon.com
The Casio PRG-270-1 Protek is water-resistant to 330 feet, is resistant to low temperatures and includes an altimeter, digital compass, barometer and thermometer.
In addition, you also get a sunrise/sunset timer with this watch. It’s solar-powered like the G9300-1.
This is a tool with a lot of features for the money, though it may not be as durable over the long period as its slightly more expensive brother.
With the many features mentioned you’re carrying a lot of information on your wrist. It looks a bit “busy” at first glance but gives you a lot of work for the price.
You’ll probably get 8 to 10 months of use from the battery without further exposure to light.
Basic Specs: Resin body; Buckle band; Fixed bezelCheck Price and Rating on Amazon.com
3. Fathom Stainless Steel Dive Watch – Best Dive Watch
It’s marketed as a dive watch but will give you outstanding service in almost any conditions. Of course, it will stand up to moisture down to 660 feet and comes with a polymer band for extended wear.
The Fathom company even puts a Morse Code guide on the back of the watch. The back is stainless steel and this watch comes with a rotating bezel.
If you’re looking for a sturdy, wearable watch this one will serve you in combat situations, outdoor activity and when you ski at the lake.
Basic Specs: Stainless steel; Buckle band; One-way rotating bezelCheck Price and Rating on Firsttactical.com
The Suunto Core Black Military watch is water resistant to 100 feet and delivers an altimeter, barometer, compass (of course), storm alert, weather indicator and sunrise/sunset timer. It’s powered by lithium battery.
This durable item has a slightly different look than most of the watches reviewed, with “rounded” look that even extends to the band. (You may even want to look into getting one in a different color.)
This sophisticated timepiece carries a wide range of sensors and processors, including the ability to sense changes in weather patterns. You get reliable storm-alert information. Great watch for the price.
Basic Specs: Resin body; Buckle band; Weather informationCheck Price and Rating on Amazon.com
It gives you a digital compass, thermometer and is water-resistant to 200 meters.
While it doesn’t have all the features of watches costing two or three times as much, it is reliable and efficient.
This watch also gives you a lap timer, if you are interested in a good product for runners. Simply put, it does the work it’s designed to do and you probably won’t have to borrow money to buy one.
Basic Specs: Resin/plastic body; Buckle band; Thermometer, lap counterCheck Price and Rating on NYWatchStore.com
It’s water-resistant to 660 feet, and includes compass, thermometer, barometer and altimeter. It’s also shock-resistant, making it sturdy enough for rugged, outdoor conditions.
If you’re in the military, chances are you’ve seen this on a number of wrists. It’s rugged but light, won’t snag on clothing or equipment, and it gets its power from the sun. You probably won’t be able to hurt this watch.
Shock-resistant Triple Sensor to keep accurate information available at all times. Cylindrical buttons are great for operation. One-touch time and elapsed-time measurement. Digital with black face.
Basic Specs: Resin body; Buckle band; Radio signal time calibrationCheck Price and Rating on Amazon.com
It’s a good activity watch with a sturdy case that can take most of the shocks you’ll give it. It’s designed to be sleek and pleasing to the eye, so you can also wear it in locations other than tactical/survival.
The black resin case has a polished top ring, and you won’t have to spend a lot of time on maintaining this one.
You’ll get an alarm, lap time and a 24-hour, military clock face, which makes it useful for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts as well.
Water-resistant to 100 meters so you may be able to make use of it for light diving.
Basic Specs: Resin body; Buckle band; Lap timer; 24-hour military time faceCheck Price and Rating on Amazon.com
8. Timex Expedition Gallati Watch – Best Budget Watch
It’s a classic analog watch with raised top ring and matte black finish. The nylon band will stand up to outdoor use, and you’ll benefit from the Indiglo Night Light for convenient use at night.
It’s water resistant up to 150 feet and uses quartz analog movement for accuracy.
The price makes it attractive to budget shoppers but it’s still rugged enough for outdoor use.
Basic Specs: Resin body; Nylon buckle band; Indiglo Night Light; Water resistantCheck Price and Rating on Amazon.com
9. Luminox Recon Point Man 8820 – Best High-End Watch
But this Swiss product will be popular with military personnel looking for an exquisite analog watch.
It includes a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, turning bezel and a high-contrast dial.
The design is based on specifications for professional military use.
Basic Specs: Nylon buckle band; Carbon base; Water resistantCheck Price and Rating on Amazon.com
10. Marathon Military Navigator Quartz Watch – Best Military Watch
It’s another watch that will catch your eye when you’re searching for the best tactical watches for military and survival.
Built to strict military specifications, this watch is designed for pilots, law enforcement personnel and others in the military.
The fiber-shell case is water resistant to 200 feet and highly shock resistant. Bezel is bi-directional. This lightweight Swiss watch is extremely accurate as a time piece and will stand up to your outdoor activity.
Basic Specs: Nylon buckle band; Resin case; Water resistantCheck Price and Rating on Amazon.com
To repeat the advice given at the start, make sure you’re prepared to spend a bit more money than you might think, then buy the most rugged watch you can afford. If you get the right watch the first time, you won’t have to spend more money (and more time) searching for a second one.