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While most regular people like traditional watches to see time from time to time and of course, to look cool.
But if you’re anything like me, you would love to add a military watch to your collection because of its distinct tough look, functionality, and durability.
The military guys should be respected for their broader aims of defense and security, but army uniforms have also significantly affected the sartorial patterns of our society for decades.
And a tactical and military watch is one of those things that many military guys consider a part of their uniform.
Military and tactical watches are a harder type of watch that can resist the most extreme conditions. They are practical, sporty, and long-lasting.
Here, I’ll discuss the best military and tactical timepieces that have the capability to withstand a zombie apocalypse.
Best Tactical and Military Watches: Overview
After reviewing and comparing the top 10 military and tactical watches on the market today, we have determined the best all-around watch is the G-Shock Rangeman.
For those of you who like all of the data that the Rangeman offers but prefer a larger, easier-to-read screen, the Suunto Core is also an excellent choice.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a watch guy. I’m old school and a firm believer that everyone should carry a watch.
Sure, you’ve got a phone that tells the time but what about when your battery dies? Or you can’t get into your pocket? Or do you need to navigate without a compass?
I’ve got a small collection of timepieces from my daily Fossil to dressier ones for formal occasions. The important part is that, while I like all of them, each one has a unique function and purpose. And I’m not taking my Michael Kors out into the brush.
Whether you’re hiking, camping, geocaching, or bugging out, having the proper watch is important. A true military watch can do much more than just tell time; it could be the difference between life and death.
And before you start to say that you aren’t going to stop to switch watches if you’re bugging out, I keep mine attached to my bug-out bag strap, so it’s always ready to go. Stop being so negative, geez.
What is a Tactical/Military Watch?
If you hadn’t noticed from the title, I’ll be using the terms tactical watch and military watch somewhat interchangeably.
For the most part, military watches meet military specifications (mil-spec) while tactical watches are a broader category.
I can’t stand overusing words so I’ll be alternating throughout these watch reviews.
Basically, a tactical or military watch is a watch that has certain features beyond simple timekeeping that are useful in tactical or military situations and can withstand a lot of abuse.
What to Look For in Tactical Watches
A tactical watch offers a slew of features that can really save your butt in emergency situations.
Here are a few options that you want to look for when trying to find the best military watch for you:
Needs to be durable enough to stand up to a lot of abuse. This isn’t about wine tasting, this is the wild, wild west.
The case and bezel can be made from a number of different materials ranging from titanium to carbon fiber to military-grade plastics. Each material has its pros and cons but typically you’ll want something light and sturdy.
The band material can also vary quite a bit. Silicone rubber or resin bands are probably the best for the applications these watches will go through.
But if you’re looking for more of a ‘survival’ watch, there are bands made with paracord for handy cordage when you need it.
Personally, I’d rather carry a paracord bracelet and keep my watch on my wrist. Either way, it’s a good idea to steer clear of leather or metal bands.
Who knows when you’ll need to plant explosives on the underside of a U-boat? Or dive for oysters? Or, more likely, get caught in a thunderstorm?
Most watches for men these days are water resistant to a few dozen meters, but you may want something that can sustain higher pressures, depending on your situation.
Also, since you’ll be pretty active, I’d recommend looking for a shockproof model as well.
Good Battery Life
You might not have the luxury of being able to charge or replace your battery in the field. And when it dies, that’s just a pretty bracelet on your wrist.
The better models are kinetic or solar-powered, but these options may not be available for all brands.
For something like the Suunto Core, the battery will last around 12-18 months with regular use but if SHTF and you’re still around after 12 months, good luck finding a replacement battery.
Mechanical watches have an advantage here because they don’t rely on a battery to keep time but rather, they need to be wound daily to keep ticking.
Automatic watches use your kinetic energy to keep the timepiece wound so they are a great compromise of not needing a battery and not having to remember to wind your watch every day.
A good military watch is purposely designed not to catch on equipment or clothing.
Buttons don’t stick out beyond the case much, if at all, the bezel is more rounded than a typical watch, etc. You don’t want to worry about snagging your sleeve in an emergency.
Some of the higher-end military watches have a “negative display“, meaning the watch face is black and the text is in white. This allows you to read it without ruining your night vision or giving away your position.
Watches with the red backlight, just like tactical flashlights with red bulbs, are also useful for this reason.
If you’re coordinating plans with others, you don’t want to show up late. That’s good advice for life in general.
So having a watch with accurate time is essential.
Your best bet will be finding a model with an atomic clock like the Casio Rangeman that calibrates itself multiple times a day via radio signals.
Analog vs Digital
While digital watches may have all the fancy features and gizmos, analog watches aren’t just for your parents.
The Rangeman and others like it may calibrate themselves to the atomic clock, what happens if an EMP wipes that ability out? Or the battery dies?
If you had a self-winding Swiss watch (that only loses about a second a month), you wouldn’t have to worry about any of that.
Powered by nothing but precision engineering and elbow grease, a purely mechanical watch will keep on ticking as long as you keep moving.
And if SHTF, you’ll be able to use your watch to navigate via the sun. Which is more than those guys with digital compasses can say.
Optional Watch Features
Things like a compass, GPS, barometer, altimeter, etc. You’d be amazed at what they can fit into a tactical timepiece.
Depending on your needs, here are some optional features that you might find useful:
Sunrise and Sunset Times – When you’re out hiking, it can get dark fast. Good to know exactly how much time you have left to make camp.
Barometer – Watches with built-in barometers can alert you to upcoming storms, giving you time to find shelter. Some watches even have built-in storm alarms.
Altimeter – It’s a function of a tactical watch that measures altitude. For those of us in flat states, this won’t get much use but if you’re hiking in a mountain or, I don’t know, maybe jumping out of a plane, I’m sure you can appreciate this function. It’s also useful for navigation.
Compass – Speaking of navigation… Sure you can plot a course with an analog watch but it’s going to take a while and it won’t be as exact.
A number of military watches are equipped with digital compasses to give you a precise reading at the touch of a button. Or, in the case of many Casio G-Shock models, just a glance.
Thermometer – In extreme temperatures, it’s important to keep an eye on your thermometer to know when to get out of the elements. Keep in mind that, since it’s on your wrist, your body heat will affect the reading.
GPS – Who needs maps and compasses when you have GPS?! Just kidding, you should always have a backup. But having a GPS on your arm is exceptionally handy in several situations.
The Best Military Watches
Of course, there is no single best military/tactical watch, it all depends on your needs and situation. These are our top picks:
Casio G9300-1 Mudman G-Shock – Best All-Around Military Watch
I’m pretty sure this thing has more computing power than my eMachines computer from high school.
In fact, I’m positive of it.
Just look at that black resin bezel. There’s so much going on!
At a glance, I know what day of the week it is, what the date is, which way is north, and what phase the moon is in. Oh, and it tells the time too.
Not only does the G9300-1 give you a data mine of information but it’s packaged in a case (a resin case, that is) that can withstand whatever you dish at it.
Shock resistance, water-resistant, mud-resistant, baby-proof, and of course gluten-free.
The best part about the Mudman is that it is solar powered so you’ll never have to worry about changing the rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Unless the sun gets blotted out by some nuclear winter. But you’ll have bigger worries than watch batteries at that point…
I’ve paid a lot more for watches that do a lot less. If you’re serious about being outside, the G Shock Mudman is a very good choice for you.
I have no idea what a “moon graph” is but I’m sure it’s useful as well.
Pros: Resistant to everything but bad news, solar powered, stocked with a digital compass and thermometer, and comes in black.
Cons: Missing an altimeter and barometer. Not that I use these often but when you do need them, they’re very handy.
Verdict: If a tank and a weather station fell in love and had a baby, this timepiece is probably what it would look like. Don’t you want to strap that on your arm now?
Suunto Core Black Military – Best ABC Watch
If you’ve researched military or hiking watches at all, you’ve probably run across the Suunto Core before.
These watches are some of the most sophisticated things you’ll ever put on your wrist without worrying about getting it wet or dirty.
The number of sensors, processors, gizmos, and doohickeys packed into the Core is staggering.
Not only can it sense weather patterns, but it can also actually track and record them to give you the most accurate storm alerts possible.
Wow, I’m pretty sure I heard my weatherman say that exact phrase… maybe he has a Suunto Core.
For those of you information junkies who put an emphasis on the Know in Know Prepare Survive and don’t mind spending a bit more (depends on the model but typically less than $200), this is the watch for you.
Pros: Big digital display and unidirectional bezel is easy to read, provides plenty of data (storm alarm, tide graph, etc) , and is pretty well priced.
Cons: No GPS. It’s a big boy so if you’ve got small wrists, keep that in mind.
Verdict: The Suunto Core is the most advanced thing you’ll ever wear that isn’t loaded with iOS or Android software.
It gives you every bit of information you need at a glance, can stand up to quite a bit of adverse weather, and doesn’t come close to breaking the bank. What more could you want?
Casio Men’s PRG-270-1 “Pro Trek” – Best Affordable Military Watch
Much like its cousin, the G Shock Mudman, the Pro Trek is triple sensor, solar powered, digital watch and comes packed with a slew of fancy features.
While it can’t withstand the stupid amount of abuse that the G9300-1 can, the PRG-270-1 can take its fair share of licks and keep ticking.
And unlike its brute of a cousin, this Casio has some upgraded features like an altimeter, barometer, sunrise and sunset timer, and it even washes your car for you!
Ok… one of those isn’t true. But it’s still a lot of calculations and information sitting on your wrist.
If all of that isn’t enough for you, the PRG-270-1 is low temperature resistant, tracks world time across 31 time zones, has 5 daily alarms, a stopwatch and countdown timer, and comes with a military time option.
And, just to make the pot a little sweeter, the Pro Trek is a bit cheaper than the Mudman.
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the looks on this watch but if you’re using it right, you won’t be doing any turns on the catwalk.
Pros: The Pro Trek has a heap of sensors, is plenty enough durable, and costs less than most other watches in this category.
Cons: Maybe it’s just me but this watch looks like what designers in the 80’s thought would be stylish in 2023. I just can’t get past that…
Verdict: More features than almost all of the other watches on this list for a very reasonable price tag makes this Casio a great deal. Not the prettiest girl on the block but does its job well.
G-Shock Rangeman Master Of G Series Watch – Best G-Shock Watch
This stainless steel solar watch is one of the least expensive military watches on the list and good heavens, look at that thing (click on the image to see more pictures).
Seriously, I’ll wait.
With the exception of whatever the hell a moon graph is, the G Shock Rangeman can do everything that the Mudman can do and more. And look like a total badass doing it.
Probably why the Rangeman is the preferred choice for military personnel around the world.
Also probably why it’s called the ‘Master of G’. Because out of all of the Casio G Shock watch models (and there are a lot), this is the king of the bunch.
The “Multi-Band Atomic Timekeeping” feature keeps you as punctual as a drill sergeant and the solar-powered battery will make sure that never changes.
It’s shock-resistant, mud-resistant, low temperature resistant, and water resistant to 200 meters and keeps perfect time across 31 time zones and 48 cities.
Some other notes about the Rangeman: It’s got a negative digital display, it’s lighter than you think it’d be (in a good way), it’s specifically designed to not snag on clothing or equipment, and it can be used for self-defense.
Because anyone wearing one of these is way too hardcore to even think about robbing.
Pros: Lots of features, solar-powered, durable, can survive in harsh environments, looks badass, and well-priced.
Cons: Negative display isn’t for everyone (If the negative display is a no-go for you, check out the GW-9400-1CR). Bit of a learning curve to figure out how to use all of the features.
Verdict: You already know what I’m going to say. This is my top pick. Altimeter, barometer, thermometer, digital compass, atomic clock, quartz movement, chronograph, solar powered, and tougher than nails made out of adamantium, coated in unicorn tears, and blessed by the pope.
This G-Shock timepiece is so manly, I think I just got pregnant writing this review.
Little known fact; the Casio G-Shock Rangeman would have gotten the Purple Heart Award except nothing has ever hurt it.
Luminox Recon Point – Best Analog Tactical Watch
Digital watches not your style? Don’t need any triple sensor features? The Recon Point may be for you.
Luminox is the company that designed a watch back in 1994 specially for navy seals.
And the Luminox Recon Point is designed in collaboration with former Swiss Army Military Security NCO Andrea Michele, someone who has actually been in the field and knows what military operators need.
Featuring Swiss quartz movement, along with an analog display, this watch is simple, easy to read, and efficient. Which are all important things to have in a watch when every second counts.
But the Recon Point isn’t without a few bells and a whistle or two. It doesn’t have a barometer or 50-lap timers, it doesn’t even have an alarm.
The point of the Recon was to aid in ground navigation for, as its name suggests, recon point men to patrol through enemy or hostile territory and make it back alive. Which makes it perfect as a military watch.
The anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal makes the face easy to read and won’t give away your position by glinting off light (I guess that could be a negative if you’re trying to use it for signaling).
And the case is carbon-reinforced polyurethane which makes it light and durable.
Plus, the alternately colored “countdown zone” (the 9, 10, 11, and 12 markers) just looks really cool at night
Pros: Simple, easy to read at a glance, don’t need to press a button to read it in the dark, and you can wear it in the field or to a black-tie event without looking out of place.
Cons: Not as bright as the ISOBrite T100 and the luminescence only lasts half as long. No sensors or alarms.
Verdict: This is a good-looking watch that does what it needs to do and only slightly more. If knowing the temperature, altitude, and air pressure at any given time is important to you, this isn’t your watch.
If impressing people after you exfil yourself out of the Canadian wilderness is, you might want to check it out.
MARATHON WW194006 GSAR – Best Automatic Mil-Spec Watch
The GSAR (meaning Government Search And Rescue) is actually the only watch on our list that explicitly meets mil-spec (and ISO 6425/diving watch) standards. This watch is so legit it even has a NATO stock number printed on the back.
Not only that, this is the exact watch that is issued to US Marines. So you know it’s tough.
The GSAR also doesn’t use a battery. It’s an automatic winding watch which means it uses your kinetic energy to keep this Swiss-made timepiece wound up and ticking on time.
Just remember that if you take it off for more than 24-36 hours, you’re probably going to have to set it again.
Like the Luminox, the Marathon uses Tritium gas tubes to illuminate the hands and hour markers. These tubes don’t need to “charge” in the sun to stay bright at night and they are always on.
And will be for the next 25 years.
Also, like the Luminox, the GSAR uses an anti-reflective sapphire crystal that is easy to read and won’t give away your position. And the 316L surgical-grade stainless steel case can take a beating while looking fine doing it.
Pros: Issued and used by actual Marines in the field, simple and easy to read, and no need for a battery.
Cons: Have to keep it on or it’ll stop working, doesn’t have any sensors or other features. The biggest con, though, is the price tag. This baby ain’t cheap.
Verdict: If you’ve got the money and the need, there aren’t a lot of better choices on the market. Like a real Marine, the GSAR does its job, through thick and thin, and does it well – without any fanfare or dressings. It’s a watch you can count on when things get tough.
Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR – Best GPS Watch for Military
Unlike its brother, the Core, the Ambit3 does have GPS. And a heart rate monitor (though only when you’re wearing the chest strap).
So if the Suunto Core appealed to you but the lack of GPS was a deal breaker, the Ambit3 might just be the perfect bowl of porridge for you.
The addition of GPS shouldn’t be understated here. When you’re able to track yourself via satellites, there are more things you’re able to do than just see where you are on a map (though that’s a pretty big deal in itself).
You’re also able to track your speed, pace, route, and distance as well as plan and track routes.
Armed with this watch and all of its sensors, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way home from anywhere on the continent.
The heart rate tracking also has survival uses and even includes an “activity-based recovery time” calculator so you don’t overwork yourself and/or expend too many calories.
The major downfall of the Ambit3 is its dependence on a reliable network to provide GPS data. Though, even without a connection, the ABC sensors still work (thankfully, the compass is not GPS based).
Pros: Altimeter, barometer, compass, thermometer, GPS, heart rate monitor, and speed, pace, and distance monitoring. Plus, weather info!
Cons: Won’t be very useful in the event of an EMP. The storm warning alarm isn’t as helpful or accurate as you might think.
Verdict: If you’re the kind of person who spends a lot of time in uncharted territory or hiking in places without trail markers – and you don’t think an EMP attack is likely – the Ambit3 Peak is an excellent watch.
Unless the battery dies (it can last up to 200 hours), it’s almost impossible to get lost with this GPS-enabled wrist computer.
Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical Watch– Best Bang for the Buck
Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical is a great tactical watch designed for explorers and adventures and it’s one of the best ones on the market for this purpose.
Previous Garmin watches, specifically the Vivoactive 4 watch, served as inspiration for this model.
While it outperforms its predecessors in terms of features, it has the same hefty appearance but is much lighter. If you sleep, eat, and breathe the outdoors, this military-style watch can be your best buddy.
It’s designed to withstand beatings and handle harsh elements and you can use it whether you’re planning to go bouldering near your home or hiking in a new place by following a map.
What I like the most about this tactical watch is that it comes with an affordable price tag. Plus, I was also impressed with the battery life of this watch, which is 14 days and it doesn’t include the sleep mode.
The Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical features a chemically strengthened dial glass and behind that lies a monochrome display of 45 mm, allowing for easy readability. Plus, there are 12 different watch faces and designs to choose from.
When it comes to features, the Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical is one of the best tactical watches that money can buy.
Some of the most notable features include a heart rate monitor, magnetic compass, storm alerts, sunset and sunrise times, area calculation, and distance and speed measuring functions.
Pros: The Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical watch offers good battery life and features a well-designed display with multiple design options.
Cons: The body of this tactical watch is made of plastic, which is not as durable as many other tactical watches of the same price range. Plus, the sleep tracking function doesn’t work accurately at times.
Verdict: While Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical might not be the most durable watch out there, it’s the bang for the buck because of its extensive list of features. If you’re an adventurer and looking for a feature-rich product, it can be a perfect tactical watch for you.
Garmin Tactix Delta Solar: Best Tactical Watch for Advanced Features
The Garmin Tactix Delta Solar literally comes with more than 100 features, including navigation and mapping and a wide range of tracking and performance metrics.
The Garmin Tactix Delta Solar is one of the best tactical watches and it comes with a power glass that covers the entire display of the watch, which is something that not most manufacturers do.
Not only does it improve the ability of the watch to absorb UV light to charge the battery but it also increases the battery life, allowing the watch to live up to its name.
I took almost 10 days to understand the ins and outs of this tactical watch and I have to say that I was impressed with its battery life. On the 10th day, when I was done testing, it still had more than 50 percent battery left.
However, I have to mention that the GPS mode consumes battery like crazy and you shouldn’t expect this watch to last more than a day in this mode.
I personally prefer tactical watches that come with GPS functionality. After all, you don’t want to go through the hassle of having to keep a note in your brain about the distance you’ve covered.
Another great feature that I liked about this product is its advanced satellite connectivity, which allows it to summon help from almost anywhere in the world.
It also has incident detection functionality, which will inform one of your contacts immediately that you’re in an emergency after detecting an impact or shock consistent with an incident. I can see hikers and cyclists being pretty keen on this feature.
Pros: It has a stylish and sturdy design and offers more than 100 features that you can use. It’s the best premium tactical watch that comes with all the features, except for a supercharger.
Cons: Although there are over 100 features, you’re not going to use them all if you’re not a tactical watch geek like me. Plus, the price is also at the high end of the premium, and the battery doesn’t perform well when it’s set to GPS mode.
Verdict: If you’re a watch geek and want something that offers everything that a person can possibly need in the great outdoors, and you don’t mind spending a pretty penny, then you can go with this watch.
CASIO G-Shock FROGMAN GWF-A1000-1A2JF – Most Rugged Tactical Watch
The most interesting thing about this watch is that it sits a bit asymmetrically on the wrist.
The positioning of the case of this watch is slightly toward the left side. Despite this unconventional design, the watch feels remarkably comfortable.
Wearing this watch for the very first time, I felt that I was about to place a heavy-duty manacle on my wrist. However, when it was finally fastened, it felt very comfortable.
The CASIO G-Shock FROGMAN Solar Watch has the capability to connect to your smartphone through Bluetooth. Using the dedicated app of the watch, you can set the date, current time, alarm, tide location, saving status, daylight, dual world time, and much more.
You don’t necessarily need to use the app to adjust these settings as you can do it using the watch as well. Unlike its name, using the watch is far easier than fiddling with the frog.
The best thing about this watch that annihilates most solar-charged batteries is its battery life. It can last for up to 5 months without exposure to UV light once fully charged.
In addition, if you charge and place this watch in a dark place after turning on the power save function, it’ll remain active for up to 30 months. Plus, with a water resistance of up to 656 feet, it also works as a perfect dive watch.
Pros: It’s the most rugged and heavy-duty watch I reviewed for this list, featuring scratch-resistant sapphire crystal over the dial that enhances the ruggedness.
There’s also a reliable G-Shock-connected app to easily use all the offered features. It’s also easy to understand and use and offers a long, very long, battery life.
Cons: Not suitable for all wrists because of its humongous size. Plus, it doesn’t offer a depth sensor and step tracker. I usually don’t need these features but many people do, and they come in handy.
Verdict: If you have big hands and wrists, unlike me, this is one of the best games in town. It’s a durable and long-lasting tactical watch, designed for rough use.
If none of these watches blow your skirt up, check out these runner-ups. They weren’t the best in my opinion but you know what they say about opinions and belly buttons.
Well, there you have it. Our top picks for the best military and tactical watches. As I mentioned before, the best watch for you will depend on your particular needs and situation.
- Do you prefer analog or digital?
- Do you need an altimeter and barometer?
- Is readability more important than having a whole dashboard of data at a glance?
- Is GPS a must?
- How much do you want to spend?
For example, if you’re a law enforcement officer who doesn’t want to spend more than $150 and likes the “tacti-cool” look, your best choice would probably be the First Tactical Canyon.
Or, if you’re like me and want a great ABC watch that you won’t have to worry about getting dirty, you’ll probably lean towards the Casio G-Shock Rangeman.
So which tactical/military watch do you prefer? Is it one we missed? Let us know in the comments.