Table of Contents
A tactical watch is an extremely useful gadget to have in a survival situation. It is easy to lose track of time when you are stuck in the wilderness for days on end or forced to seek refuge in an unfamiliar territory in the event of an emergency.
A normal wristwatch might be of no use to you in such situations, since it is unlikely to function properly in adverse conditions. A tactical watch, on the other hand, is designed to withstand the rigors of the outdoors. It can perform optimally even in the most demanding of situations such as search and rescue.
In this guide, we take a look at the key factors you should consider while choosing a tactical watch and the 10 best tactical watches available on the market today.
At a Glance: Our Choices for The 10 Best Tactical Watches
Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each watch.
Key Factors to Consider While Choosing a Tactical Watch
This is the single biggest factor that separates the best tactical watches from the rest. The best tactical watch is one that can withstand a lot of abuse and still function perfectly well.
The watch face should have scratch and shock resist capabilities, so that it can withstand the impact of rigorous outdoor activities, search and rescue, and survival situations and still continue to function properly.
A tactical watch, by definition, should be able to function properly even if it is exposed to rain and humidity. Look for a watch with a water resistance of up to 50m at the very least. If you are into snorkeling or recreational diving, you should look for a tactical watch with a water resistance of up to 100m or even higher and can withstand a lot of pressure.
Analog vs. Digital
This is one question that pops up in any discussion related to tactical watches. While quartz movement analog watches are aesthetically appealing, digital watches tend to be more accurate. Digital military watches also present the information you need (time, day, and date) in an easy-to-read format.
So, they seem to be the more popular choice among many survivalists. If you are hard-pressed to choose between a quartz movement analog and digital watch, you can choose an analog-digital tactical watch, which features both types of displays.
Most quartz movement analog, as well as digital watches, have a backlight button, which you need to switch on in order to read the time when it is dark. Such stainless-steel watches, however, are of little use in a survival situation, where you might not be able to use your hands.
For instance, if you are climbing, holding onto something, or holding a weapon, you might not be able to light up your watch. Moreover, if the backlight is too bright, it might draw attention to you, which is something you do not want to do in a survival situation. This is precisely why you should look for a tactical watch whose display is visible even in the dark.
The accuracy of your stainless-steel tactical watch is vital, especially if you want to sync or pair it with other features or devices or if you are in a situation where you have to coordinate with others. For this purpose, quartz movement or digital tactical military watches are the best choices, since they are far more accurate than mechanical stainless-steel case watches.
Superior battery power is one of the hallmarks of quartz movement analog as well as digital best tactical watches. Ideally, you should look for high-quality stainless-steel case tactical military watches that have a battery life of five years or longer.
Other Important Features You Should Look For
- A compass or GPS for easier navigation
- An altimeter to measure the altitude you are at
- A sensor or thermometer to measure the temperature
- A stopwatch
10 Best Tactical Watches
Casio Men’s GG-1000-1A3CR Mudmaster
One of the best tactical watches, the Mudmaster from Casio has a ruggedly made watch face which features an analog as well as a digital display. The window is made of mineral glass, the case is made of resin, and the band is made of steel. It displays time, day, and date in an easy-to-read format. It has a water resistance of up to 200m, which is excellent. It is offers shock resistance and is magnetic resistant as well.
The tactical watch comes with a built-in thermometer which displays the temperature (anywhere from 14 to 140F), an LED backlight which allows you to read the time even when it is pitch dark, four one-time alarms and a snooze alarm, a compass, and a stop watch.
The USP of the Mudmaster, as the name indicates, is its mud resistant construction. You do not have to worry about your watch getting damaged by dust, dirt, sand, mud, or sludge – nothing gets into this watch. So, whether you are in a jungle, swamp, or desert, the Mudmaster will function perfectly well.
On the downside, the clock hands are rather large and tend to partially block the information displayed. Also, this is a big military watch. If you are thinner than the average person, you might find it too big for your wrist.
SureFire 2211 WristLight Series
The SureFire 2211 is a first-of-its-kind watch with features such as a built-in tactical flashlight. The manufacturer says that the stainless-steel watch was designed based on the inputs provided by law enforcement officers and military personnel and it really shows.
The built-in flashlight is excellently designed. At the press of a button, the watch features 300 lumens of white light, which is bright enough to momentarily blind a person. These tactical watches can be extremely useful for hunting and self-defense purposes. What is even better is that the light beam aligns perfectly with your gun – if you are using a standard two-handed grip.
You can also reduce the light output to 60 lumens or 15 lumens, as and when needed. You can program it go from low output to high output or high output to low output, depending on your preference. The ambidextrous design makes this tactical watch best for you to switch on the light instantly – whether you are right-handed or left-handed.
The built-in Luminox quartz movement timepiece is made of the best and most durable mineral crystal and is water resistant. The clock hands are self-illuminating, which makes it easier for you to read the light in dimly lit or dark conditions.
One downside is that the 2211 is more of a military flashlight and less of a tactical watch. It does not have a digital display and nor does it have a built-in thermometer, stopwatch, timer, or a compass – features that can be commonly found in other tactical watches – especially at this price point.
Also, the rubber wristband in these quartz movement tactical watches feels uncomfortable on the wrist, especially due to the fact that the stainless-steel military watch is quite heavy.
Timex Expedition Field Chronograph Watch
The Expedition is one of the most beautifully designed tactical watches from Timex. It has a vintage military watch look to it, which many people find appealing. The field watch is made of hardened, scratch-resistant mineral glass, which can withstand a ton of abuse. It has a water resistance of up to 100 meters.
The Expedition watch face features a large, easy-to-read dial that features Arabic numerals – from 5 to 60 in increments of 5. It also features three sub-dials, which are designed to track minutes, seconds, and 1/20th of a second – for a period of up to 30 minutes. The dial also features a small date window that displays the date.
A thing that we have noticed with one of the best Timex analog tactical watches is that they tend to tick rather loudly. Surprisingly, it is not the case with the Expedition watch, as it is quite silent.
The Indiglo technology lights up the dial evenly so that you can read the time in the dark. The manufacturer claims that it uses less energy than most other tactical illumination systems and extends the life of the battery, which we believe is true since the backlight is bright enough to read the time, but not so bright as to drain the battery.
The adjustable military leather strap comes across as classy for a tactical watch. The manufacturer also offers double-layer fabric slip-through straps in different colors.
On the downside, the stainless-steel military watch does not have any hour markers even though it has a date window. While it is not a disadvantage per se, it can make it a tad harder for you to read the time, especially if you are used to wearing some of the best digital military watches.
Also, the leather strap which features in this watch tends to absorb sweat and dirt, especially if you wear the field watch every day. Moreover, it is not waterproof, which is odd considering the Expedition is touted as a tactical ‘outdoor watch’.
Casio G-Shock GW-9400-3CR RANGEMAN
This is an intricately designed, highly functional field watch from Casio. G-Shock tactical watches are generally known for their durability and the GW-9400-3CR is no exception. Made of hardened mineral glass, the watch is designed to withstand pretty much anything – mechanical shock, water pressure, atmospheric pressure, and centrifugal force.
The GW-9400-3CR is accurate to a T, thanks to multi-band atomic timekeeping technology. The digital display shows time, date, and day in an easily readable format. The world time feature allows you to switch from one zone to another instantly – up to 31 different time zones. It also keeps track of the daylight savings time and adjusts automatically, as and when needed.
The Tough Solar technology not only utilizes solar energy but also utilizes the light emitted from fluorescent lamps and other such sources to power the watch. This tactical watch has a water resistance of up to 200 meters, which is excellent if you enjoy water sports.
The USP of the GW-9400-3CR is the triple sensor system, which includes a barometer (to measure atmospheric pressure), an altimeter (to measure the altitude), and a thermometer (to measure the temperature). Apart from this, these tactical watches also have features such as a digital compass, a stopwatch, and five alarms.
On the downside, the temperature readings of the watch are not accurate, since the sensor tends to factor in your body temperature as well. You need to take it off your hand in order to get an accurate reading. To be fair, this is not a specific problem with the GW-9400-3CR. Almost all watches with built-in temperature sensors have the same problem.
Also, the backlight seems to be asymmetrical – the left side is brighter than the right side. While it is a minor inconvenience, we expect better from tactical watches at this price point.
This is a stylishly designed tactical model that comes with a host of features including an altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and a compass. It has a water resistance of up to 100 feet. It has a storm alarm, which is designed to sense rapid drops in air pressure and warn you of approaching storms. It also has a depth meter, which measures depth up to 30 feet and can be the best feature if you are a fan of snorkeling.
The military watch is lightweight and feels very comfortable to wear. It is available in a variety of different colors and variations, though we believe that the all-black version stands out from the rest in terms of looks.
The field watch displays time, date, temperature, and altitude in an easy-to-read format. It also displays sunrise/sunset times for more than 400 locations around the world. It comes with a built-in stopwatch and countdown timer. The watch also features multiple language settings including English, French, German, and Spanish.
On the downside, the strap of the military watch looks and feels fragile. It is unlikely to last long, especially if you plan on wearing the watch every day. The watch itself is not as ruggedly built like many other watches at this price point.
The altimeter readings of the military watch are not accurate at times. The backlight is not up to the mark. You might struggle to read the time when it is dark.
Timex Expedition Classic
The Expedition Classic is a neatly designed digital watch from Timex. It has a large, easy-to-read display that shows the time, date, and day in large fonts. The Indiglo backlight military technology illuminates the display evenly so that you can easily read the time even when it is dark. You can set the time in 12-hour mode or 24-hour mode, depending on your needs.
The military watch features a 100-hour chronograph and a 24-hour countdown timer. It offers a water resistance of up to 100 meters, which means you can wear it while you are swimming or snorkeling, but not when you are diving.
The watch comes with three alarms, all of which are loud enough to wake you up even when you are in deep slumber. The leather strap with black nylon accents accentuates the stylish look of the watch.
One thing that we particularly like about the Expedition Classic is the long life of the battery. The manufacturer says that the batteries can last up to 10 years, which is great. It is also stylish enough to be used as a dress watch.
On the downside, the acrylic lens of the watch does not offer scratch resistance, which is not something we expect from an outdoor watch. The buttons are hard, pointed, and quite resistant, so you might find it slightly difficult to press them, at least for the first few times.
The military leather strap, as we have previously pointed out, tends to absorb sweat and grime easily, so you will have to clean it regularly.
Casio G-Shock GA 100-1A1
This is an analog-digital watch that is built for the outdoors. The all-black look is quite stylish and adds to the overall appeal of the watch. The display shows the time (in 12-hour format or 24-hour format, depending on your preference), date, and day. It also has a world time feature, which allows you to switch between 29 time zones across 48 cities.
The GA 100-1A1 is large, heavy, and rugged to the last fiber. It is built to withstand a tremendous amount of abuse. It has shock resistance, is magnetic resistant, and has scratch resistance as well as water resistance of up to 200 meters. It comes with a stopwatch that can measure up to 1/1000th of a second.
The military anti-skid buttons are easy to operate. The auto-calendar is programmed until 2099. The CR1220 batteries can last up to two years.
The biggest problem with the GA 100-1A1 is that the digital readout is hardly readable. Even under normal lighting conditions, you might struggle to read the time. Switching on the backlight does not help either, as it only illuminates the analog hands of the watch.
The alarm features are not quite audible, which can be a problem for many people, especially those with hearing problems.
Luminox Men’s 8831 KM Recon NAV
The 8831 KM is a stylishly designed quartz movement analog watch from Luminox. The combination of black dial and luminous clock hands looks aesthetically pleasing.
The 8831 KM has 12 hour as well as 24-hour markings in Arabic numerals. The dial window is made of sapphire crystal and comes with an anti-reflective coating.
On the sapphire crystal display, you can read the time and date. The watch has a built-in compass, which can help you find your way out of unfamiliar places. It features water resistance of up to 330 feet, which makes it a stellar watch for people who enjoy snorkeling and swimming.
One of the biggest downsides of the 8831 KM is its price tag. It is very expensive, especially considering the fact that it lacks several features that can be commonly found in stainless steel watches that are far cheaper.
Also, it is not as ruggedly built as many of its lower-priced military counterparts, which is a letdown. When you pay this amount of money, you expect a tank of a watch, which the 8831 KM clearly is not.
|Water Resistance:||100 meters|
(+) Sturdily built
(+) Built-in altimeter, barometer, and thermometer
(+) Built-in compass
(+) Water resistance of up to 100m
(+) Can be charged by any source of light
(-) Compass dial accumulates dirt
(-) Backlight button is hard to find in the dark
The PAG240-1 is a solar-powered digital watch that comes with an assortment of features. It is a part of Casio’s PRO TREK lineup. The digital display shows you the time in two different formats (12-hour or 24-hour, depending on your needs), date, and day. The world time feature allows you to choose from 31 different time zones from 48 cities around the world.
When it is dark, you can illuminate the display using the LED backlight switch. There is also an auto-illumination option available in this watch, which allows you to illuminate the digital readout simply by turning your wrist.
The biggest selling point of the PAG240-1 is the triple sensor feature, which comes with an altimeter, a barometer, and a thermometer to measure the altitude, atmospheric pressure, and temperature respectively. Apart from this, it also has a digital compass, which we believe is a must-have feature in any tactical watch.
The PAG240-1 is shock-resistant, scratch-resistant, and offers water-resistance of up to 100 meters. It is designed to charge automatically when exposed to a source of light. The charging rate, however, might differ depending on the source of light.
On the downside, the military rotating dial on the compass tends to accumulate dirt and grime quite easily, which might prevent it from rotating. Also, the backlight button of the watch might be hard to find in the dark.
Suunto Traverse Alpha
|Water Resistance:||100 meters|
(+) Handmade watch
(+) Meets military standards
(+) Ideal for hunting and fishing
(+) Built-in compass and GPS
(+) Comes with a storm alarm
(+) Bluetooth and night vision goggle compatible
(-) Strap is fragile
(-) Poorly designed apps
The Traverse Alpha, true to its name, is a ruggedly built and extremely durable watch. It is tested by the manufacturer as well as a number of other independent agencies around the world. In fact, it is one of the few watches that meet the United States military standard (MIL-STD-810).
The Traverse Alpha has a moon phase calendar and also notifies you of moonrise and moonset times so that you can figure out the best time to fish or hunt game. It also comes with a built-in flashlight that can be used for hunting as well as tactical purposes.
It has a digital compass as well as GPS and GLONASS systems, using which you can find your way out of any place. It features a built-in altimeter, barometer, and thermometer. It has a water resistance of up to 100 meters. The watch also comes with a storm alarm, which senses the changes in atmospheric pressure and weather and notifies you of approaching storms.
The Traverse Alpha is Bluetooth and military night vision goggle compatible. It has a built-in step and calorie counter, which is a salient addition to a tactical watch.
On the downside, the strap comes across not as sturdy as we expected it to be. Also, the apps offered by Suunto are poorly designed, so it takes forever to transfer data in and out of the military stainless-steel watch.
What Watch Do Navy SEALs Use?
Navy SEALs are often required to carry out missions in extremely harsh conditions. So, they are extremely choosy about the tools and gadgets they carry with them. One of the most common choices of Navy SEALs includes Casio G-Shock watches – specifically the DW 6600 (which has now been discontinued), the GA 100, the DW 9052, the GD 350, and the G-Shock Classic.
Apart from this, Navy SEALs are also known to wear the Luminox Navy Seal, Timex Ironman, Seiko SKX007K Automatic, Suunto Core, and Resco Patriot.
What Watch Do Special Forces Wear?
Just like the Navy Seals, the military Special Forces are also often required to work in extraordinarily tough conditions. So, they usually look for watches that can withstand a great deal of abuse including mechanical shock, water pressure, and rapid changes in centrifugal forces.
Some of the military watches that are commonly worn by the US Special Forces include the Casio G-Shock watches, Suunto Core, Timex Ironman, and Luminox Evo.
What is the Toughest Watch?
The military toughness or durability of a tactical watch is directly proportional to its ability to withstand abuse – ranging from mechanical shock to exposure to elements, rapid changes in atmospheric pressure and centrifugal forces, and general wear and tear.
Among the watches we have reviewed above, the G-Shock GW-9400 fits the criteria in terms of ruggedness and durability. Apart from this, Suunto Core and Traverse Alpha are also known for their durability.
A tactical watch is one of the must-have gadgets for survivalists and preppers. It is more durable and way more functional than a run-of-the-mill wristwatch. At the same time, it costs way more than a regular wristwatch. So, you ought to be careful while choosing a tactical watch and make sure you do not spend your hard-earned money on an average product.
If we had to choose the best tactical watch from the ones we have reviewed above, it would be the Casio G-Shock GW-9400. It fits the bill of a reliable tactical watch – exceptionally sturdy, accurate, has a long battery life, shock resistant, water resistance, scratch-resistant, can tell you the time, date, day, temperature, altitude, and weather.