|Table of Contents|
|What is a Tactical Watch?||Why you need a Tactical Watch|
|What to Look For When Buying a Tactical Watch||7 Best Military Tactical Watches 2017 – 2018|
When you are commuting to your desk job or driving to a classy evening function, you would perhaps wear a dress watch that not only looks pretty, but also costs a pretty penny. But when you are out there in the wilderness or on an adventure somewhere that’s rough, you can leave your pretty watch behind and use something more practical. You need something that can withstand the elements of nature, something that makes the grade of military watches. You need a tactical watch that not only tells the time, but helps you survive your adventure.
What is a Tactical Watch?
Tactical watches are more than just time-keeping devices. They should be tough enough to endure harsh environments and withstand constant abuse. It’s not rare to find some that have built-in compass, multiple time zone options and altimeter, as well as some that are shock and waterproof.
You might also come across the term military watches. Technically, a military watch is one that is issued to military recruits. However, the term is loosely used nowadays, often referring to any tactical watch even commercially obtained and used by non-military personnel. So, if you bought a military watch, it’s a tactical watch that is just called as such. It’s an acceptable term now.
A survival watch, meanwhile, is also another term used for a tactical watch with survival features like compass, fire starter, paracord and GPS, hence the name. You can often hear these terms used interchangeably, and that’s fine. They can be called military watches, tactical watches or survival watches.
However, these are different from the increasingly popular smart watches. A smart watch is like a mini computer that you wear on your wrist. It is often connected to your mobile phone, and you can use this for small computer functions, such as calculator, translators, games, and cameras among many others. This can help you become more organized in your work and social life, but you wouldn’t want to bring this in your outdoor expeditions. It’s just not made for the toughest terrains. They are delicate and can run out of battery in just a matter of hours. Also, this watch isn’t what we are discussing in this article.
Why you need a Tactical Watch
Let’s go back to military tactical watches. You never know, but this timepiece might just be the thing that can help save your life when you are anywhere but the city. If you’re a survivalist, you need a mini survival kit that doesn’t take up a lot of space, and a tactical watch is just what you need.
Much like the smartphones of today that have multiple apps and therefore eliminate the need for us to carry other gadgets, good tactical watches also have almost everything that you need to survive outdoors. Apart from the given of telling time, these timepieces can help you find your way using their GPS or compass, depending on what your watch has. They can also pin down your location on high altitude places with their built-in altimeter. If you need weather forecast, the barometer in your watch might help.
Should you feel a little hot or cold than normal, you can check your body temperature with the thermometer in your tactical watch. That could prove to be a lifesaver if you are suffering from hypothermia or a heat stroke.
You might already have everything mentioned as individual gadgets, and that’s a good thing. But if you can also have all of them in just one nifty gadget, why not, right? It doesn’t hurt to be overly prepared when it comes to your survival. And you are going to carry a watch anyway, so why not make that watch carry a bit more functions than time-telling?
What to Look For When Buying a Tactical Watch
A military watch isn’t any use to you if it doesn’t have the features that you need for the type of outdoor activity that you are going to. If it’s not water resistant to a depth of at least 50 meters, then it’s not what you should use while diving. You would need a tactical watch with a luminous face if you would be in places that have limited natural light.
Apart from the users’ specific and individual needs, tactical watches should at least be waterproof or water-resistant and extremely durable. They should also have backlight and long battery life for obvious reasons.
Additional features vary from one brand and model to the next, but it’s nice to have the most common ones. These extras include a barometer, an altimeter, a thermometer, and direction and navigation functions, such as a basic compass. Also, if you are looking for the best tactical watch, you might as well want to know where it was made it was made and where the movements came from.
Even if you are not going to swim or dive, get a military watch that is at least water-resistant because when you’re out in the wilderness, anything can happen. You can be caught in a rainstorm while biking, encounter a river while hiking, or maybe just spill water on yourself while on a snack break. And if that happens, you still want your watch to be fully functional.
Be mindful of the difference between waterproof and water-resistant, though. Your watch may just be water-resistant, which means it is able to resist water but only to an extent. It can withstand rain or splash but it has a limit on how far below can you submerge it in water. You may encounter texts like 100 meters water-resistant or 100M WR, which means it can withstand the pressure of water seeping in up until 100 meters only. Waterproof means that the watch can be submerged in water.
Nevertheless, unless your tactical watch is a divers’ watch, don’t make it a habit to submerge it in water every day because it can only take so much abuse. Divers’ watches are rated ISO 6425, which means it can be exposed to water regularly.
When you are in an outdoor adventure, you are exposed to rough conditions. As much as you would want to treat your equipment with delicate care, you wouldn’t be able to do that in the wilderness. And so your gears should be able to keep up with your surroundings as well. This includes the watch on your wrist. Choose a shock-resistant and scratch-resistant watch that won’t stop running after a few meters’ fall. Choose one that has bands that won’t give up from wear and tear.
You need to be able to read your watch even in dark conditions. Military watches should have backlight because there will be times when natural light isn’t available to you.
Long Battery Life
Get military watches that have good quality batteries because you never know when they would die. You might be out in the wild when the batteries run out and so you wouldn’t have the opportunity to change them. If you can find the best military watch for you that is either kinetic- or solar-powered, then great. You wouldn’t have to worry about changing or recharging the batteries.
Sometimes it is not enough to just look at the sky to tell what the current weather is. You can say that the sky appears clear so it will continue to be a sunny day, but there might be a sudden shift in the temperature so you need a more accurate tool. A fully functioning barometer measures the surroundings’ barometric pressure, which can alert you if there’s a storm brewing.
It’s also good to have an altimeter in a watch, especially if you are mountain-hiking or doing something similar. Altimeter is used to measure the altitude or elevation. You would be able to measure how high you are located, which can be useful in survival during emergency situations.
You can lose track of your own body temperature when facing extreme conditions. That might not seem important, but it actually is because you might be suffering from hypothermia already and you still think that it’s just normal during a chilly night. A thermometer will help you check your temperature every now and then.
Most military watches have a decent compass at least. It’s the first tool that you need when you are outdoors. It’s just really important.
Some high-end military tactical watches don’t just have a compass, they also have a built-in GPS, or Global Positioning System. So if you get lost in the woods, a GPS can help you navigate the surroundings easily.
Made vs. Movement
Where the watch is made usually depends on the brand. Many outdoor enthusiasts prefer their watches made in the USA, Japan or select countries in Europe as they have more than earned their reputation of producing quality products. In watch manufacturing, however, it’s not that simple of where it is made. You might read that your watch is “Japan Movement” but it’s not necessarily made in Japan.
When you read of “movement,” it means it contains watch movements made in the specified country. Japanese movement contains watch movements made in Japan, while Swiss movement contains watch movements from Switzerland. The materials may have come from one country but they could be cased elsewhere, perhaps to save on labor costs, tariff, shipping etc.
That’s why you may encounter a military watch that is Japan movement but China-made.
Military watches can be quite expensive, and no wonder, they have power-packed features. Nevertheless, there are still quality ones out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
Here are Mike’s Gear Reviews’ top 7 picks for military tactical watches in no particular order. Prices stated here are from Amazon.com unless otherwise stated.
7 Best Military Tactical Watches 2017 – 2018
For such an affordable price, this survival watch has everything and more. It promises a lot, claiming it’s the ultimate all-in-one that you need for your outdoor adventures, including camping, sky diving, fishing, boating, mountaineering and hiking. It is equipped with compass, fire starter, thermometer, analog clock, whistle and timer dial.
It boasts of being durable enough to withstand extreme weather and rough outdoor conditions, all the while being “super lightweight.” The bands are adjustable Velcro straps so it can fit on your wrists comfortably. Its 1.125” face is large enough to provide clear view of the analog watch.
The link above does not have user comments yet, but the same watch in blue strap color has two customer reviews, which both gave it only three stars each. These are the pros and cons of the tactical watch, according to those reviews.
|Inexpensive||Big and bulky|
|Multiple features||No backlight|
|Lightweight||Unknown watch brand|
Here are the specs as detailed on the site:
- Fire starter: Built-in fire starter for easily igniting camp fires
- Compass: For Omni-navigation
- Timer Dial: Easily time your treks and hikes through the woods
- 1.125” Face: Provides a clear view of the time with limited glare
- Thermometer: Stay in touch with current, increasing or decreasing temperatures
- Whistle: Alert campers or scurry off wild animals from camping grounds
- Adjustable Velcro Strap: Retro-fit the watch’s band to suit your needs
- Snap-Closing Buckle: Securely and swiftly fastens your watch
- Analog Watch: View time in a traditional chronological interface
- Weather Resistant: For usage in all extreme outdoor conditions, hot or cold!
- Lightweight: Built super light with the outdoor activist in mind
- Price: $14.99
This $14.99 survival watch promises a lot of things for just a fraction of the cost of its high-end counterparts. If you are in a budget, then this could be the best tactical watch for you. It really seems like the ultimate gadget that you can bring with you to the great outdoors. It is lightweight as well even though the reviews said it’s contradictorily big and bulky.
Its watch face looks basic and non-exceptional. It even looks as inexpensive as it is. It also doesn’t have a backlight, which is, as mentioned above, quite important when you are outdoors.
It is from the brand Wealers, an outdoor leisure company that appears to specialize in portable camping cookware set and equipment. The brand’s catalog on its website doesn’t include watches anymore, so it’s safe to assume that military tactical watches aren’t their department. It’s not specified where the watch was made.
At $45, this is more expensive than the Wealers survival watch but still low-priced compared to other watches that offer the same features. And this LAD watch really does have a lot of functions! It has the popular ABC functions—compass, barometer and altimeter—as well as an assortment of others, including a weather forecast, chronograph, dual time mode, thermometer and stopwatch.
Often compared to the popular and pricey Suunto Core in looks and functions, this German-made tactical watch is a great cheap alternative. It’s a digital watch, so everything, including the compass, is digital in negative luminous display.
It is water-resistant at 30 meters and runs on Quartz movement. It’s a big watch at 13mm thick, but it doesn’t look as bulky as the others in this list because of its sleek, hip design. It’s marketed as a sports watch, but with all the features it offers, it’s very much a tactical watch as well.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this watch, according to the online user reviews.
|Relatively cheap||Poor backlight; no adjustable brightness option|
|Lots of functions||Bezel for decoration only|
|Easy to use||Needs constant recalibration|
The specs of the watch are as follows:
- German Sensor
- Weather Forecast (sunny / cloudy with sun / cloudy / raining)
- Altimeter: Altitude Graph (automatically records on the hour), Meter (m) or Feet (ft), Altitude Graph (stores up to 34 past hourly data)
- Track Mode (Relative Altitude: It can measure the ascending or descending altitude between the starting and the finish point.)
- Barometer: Sea level pressure graph (stores up to 34 past hourly data), -mb, hPa or inHG
- Digital Compass: Magnetic Declination, Calibrating
- Thermometer: Celsius or degree Fahrenheit
- Chronograph: Measure elapsed time, measure lap time (up to 10 laps), range (99 hours, 59 minutes, 59.99 seconds), timer sounds (sounds for 30 seconds when counting to zero)
- Dual Time Mode
- Daily Alarm (daily alarm 1 and 2 are working independently)
- Day and date calendar: MM/DD or DD/MM format
- Power Saving Mode
- Electro Luminescence Backlight
- 12-hour/24-hour switchable
- [Size] Case diameter: 45mm / thickness: 13 mm, Band length: 150-220mm / Width: 22mm, Weight: 57g
- Accessories: original box, instruction manual (English)
- Price: $45
There’s no question why the LAD Weather watch is often compared to the much more expensive and popular Suunto watches. From the looks alone, this can pass as the real deal. It has almost the same features and functions as well, making it a really great buy.
But as the cheaper alternative, it does indeed have its cheap moments. It has an acrylic face material instead of Suunto’s mineral crystal, which is probably why it scratches easily, and it is mostly made in plastic. So it does really feel cheaper to the touch. But if you are not that particular about that, then you would have no problem with its looks.
Many users have complained about its poor backlight as well. There is no adjustable brightness option so if the display isn’t clear enough for you, then it’s going to be an issue. There were also complaints of the altimeter, barometer and compass needing constant recalibration.
However, with its price, it is still a great buy. A multi-function tactical watch such as this usually goes for much higher price. As one reviewer notes, if this stops functioning after a few months, then you can just buy a new one and it’s still much cheaper than a $400 watch with the same features.
The complete name of this watch on Amazon is Palada Men’s Sports Digital Wrist Watch Electronic Quartz Movement Water Resistant Military Business Casual with LED Backlight. It’s quite a mouthful, but unlike the first two watches in this list, it doesn’t have that many functions. It claims to be a military watch, but it’s generous to call it that. It’s a sports watch with few survival features.
This China-made watch is water-resistant at 50 meters. It’s suitable for swimming but not for diving. It is shock-resistant and has LED backlight and alarm clock. It’s digital with negative display. The TPU plastic band looks strong enough to withstand normal, everyday wear.
As per online user reviews, here are the pros and cons of owning this watch:
|Simple||Compass display just decorative, not functional|
|Comfortable to wear||Few functions|
|Display hard to read when indoors, and when you’re not looking at it directly even when outdoors|
Let’s take a look at the features it offers. They are not much, but they would do for some of us who like simple, no-nonsense timepieces.
- Original Japanese Quartz movement
- Watch Material: Imported. The band is made of TPU, soft and comfortable to wear.
- Outdoor Sports Watch: Senior acrylic mirror, high transparency, compressive and abrasion
- Watch Waterproof: 50M / 164FT water resistant. In general, suitable for swimming and cold shower, not suitable for long time underwater activities such as diving.
- Watch Function: LED backlight, second chronograph, hourly alarm and alarm clock, shock resistant
- Digital Watch: A big digital display, makes it easier to read the time
- Shock resistant
- Price: $22.99
This is the watch for people who like their gadgets straightforward. It has basic features and uncomplicated functions. It is water-resistant and shock-resistant and has stopwatch. It’s also very comfortable to wear, according to the users. Other than those, there’s not much else to say about this watch.
It does have a few disclaimers on its Amazon description, though, perhaps in response to buyers’ complaints. Although it appears to have a compass, it’s actually just for decorative purposes only. It’s also not advisable to use this when in very hot or very cold temperature. And if you are using this while swimming, don’t press any button underwater. Otherwise, water will enter the device, causing it to stop working.
One of the most common complaints is the poor visibility of the display. When indoors, the display is hard to read, which shouldn’t be a problem because it’s designed for outdoor use anyway. However, even if outdoors, you need to look at the face watch directly to be able to read the display clearly.
At $22.99, it’s not an expensive watch. However, there are many other watches with the same features at a much lower price. It’s probably not the best tactical watch out there, but it’s a passable sports watch.
The most expensive in this list, the Casio Men’s GA-110TS-1A4 G-Shock Analog-Digital Watch is also the most highly rated. It’s not a surprise that it is, though. As a member of the extremely popular G-Shock (Gravitation Shock) series, this sports watch is designed to resist mechanical shock and vibration. It also has the line’s signature bulky look and overloaded sports features.
Looking stylish in gray resin band with neon orange accents, this watch boasts of a whole lot of functions except for basic compass, barometer and altimeter that are common with military watches. It doesn’t have a navigation and direction functions, or a thermometer feature as well.
It does have world time, with 29 time zones and world time-swapping, as well as countdown timer, auto-calendar, 12/24 hour formats, stopwatch and auto LED light. Like its fellow G-Shocks, it is also shock and magnetic-resistant. It is water-resistant up to 200 meters as well.
It is both analog and digital. If you can’t read the poorly lit negative display, then the analog orange hands could be its saving grace.
Let’s look at the user reviews online for its pros and cons:
|Switchable bands||Underwhelming visibility; poor LED backlight|
And here are the specifications as detailed online:
- Shock-resistant sports watch featuring black-and-orange dial with LED light, countdown timer and 1/1000-second stopwatch
- 55 mm resin case with mineral dial window
- Quartz movement with analog-digital display
- Also features 29 time zones (48 cities + coordinated universal time), city code display, daylight saving on/off, home city/world time city swapping, 5 daily alarms (with 1 snooze alarm), hourly signal, full auto-calendar (to year 2099), 12/24-hour format, and resin band with buckle closure
- Water resistant to 200 m (660 ft): In general, suitable for professional marine activity and serious surface water sports, but not scuba diving
- Price: $120 (currently discounted at $76)
Perhaps what Casio can be most proud of its G-Shock series is its durability. It truly is a quality product that delivers the promised resistant features. Its signature design is something else as well. When you see a watch with large face and equally bulky bezels and thick bands, it would likely remind you of a G-Shock watch.
But Casio missed the mark on a few points on this one. This Japan movement, China-made watch has underwhelming display visibility. As with the other negative display faces in this list, this G-Shock is also difficult to read due to weak LED brightness.
If you are looking for a tactical watch for the rough outdoors, skip this one. You would need something that can help you with navigation and direction, and the GA-110TS-1A4 isn’t exactly what you need in a survival watch. It has no functions that can help with your survival when you’re outdoors. It is a sports watch, and it functions efficiently as such.
It’s also worth mentioning that the actual product is in a much lighter gray in color than the darker, almost blackish one in the photo. It’s a point of concern for some buyers on Amazon so please keep that in mind if you are considering purchasing this.
The cheapest watch in this list, Blue Straw Survival Bracelet Watch is a must-have for novice outdoor enthusiasts. For just $11, this military watch has such a lot to offer that even its bracelet is functional.
Made in China, this watch has covered the basics for outdoor survival. It has compass, whistle, thermometer, fire starter scraper and a three-meter paracord, which makes up the band itself. It’s a nifty little multi-tool that you can comfortably wear while out in the wilderness.
It’s like an emergency tool kit on your wrist. You can use it for mountaineering, backpacking, hiking and camping. You can’t use it anywhere with water, though, because it is not water-resistant at all.
According to user reviews online, here are the why’s and why-not’s of buying a Blue Straw Survival Bracelet Watch:
|Comfortable to wear||Not waterproof/water-resistant|
The following are the specifications of the military watch on Amazon.
- 6-in-1 Survival Gear: Bracelet Watch + Compass + Whistle + Thermometer + Fire Starter Scraper + Paracord
- High Quality: Made from durable 7-strand 550Lb parachute cord that can be unraveled into a 3-meter rescue rope and used in emergency situation.
- Fashionable & Excellent: Unique design and multifunctional to wear and use. Great gift to your friends or relatives. Perfect for lashings, camping, first aid, climbing, boating, mountaineering, hiking, backpacking, adventures & military.
- [Size] Extend length: 26cm; Width: 2.5cm; The bracelet is unadjustable and perfectly fits wrist sizes 7-9 inches. Besides wearing on the wrist, it can be hung on your backpack.
- Notice: The watch is not waterproof. Please do not let the watch get wet or soak in water.
- Price: $10.99
The Blue Straw Survival Bracelet Watch is the best value for money entry on this list. It’s just $10.99 and yet it has basic things you need for surviving an outdoor adventure. A watch that has weather forecast is nice to have, but when it all comes down to it, it’s just an extra thing that you can do without. And this watch doesn’t have that. What it has are the functions that you would need first and foremost when you are outdoors, like a compass and something that can start a fire.
It’s not all perfect, though. You cannot get it wet because it is not waterproof at all. It is also not adjustable. So if your wrist is smaller than 7 inches or bigger than 9, you wouldn’t be able to wear this.
Users also complained about faint luminosity of the watch face. It has no backlight so it relies on its glow-in-the-dark hands. But it’s faint so it’s allegedly unreadable at night.
You might not see Bear Grylls wearing this because it’s not for people beyond the newbie phase. You might want to own this if you are just a noob outdoor adventurer or if you are going to a familiar, relatively safe place. But beyond that stage, get yourself something better.
But anyway, for a cheap watch, this is quite a steal. This could be the best military watch at this price range.
Like the Blue Straw watch above, SharpSurvival Survival Watch V3 also has paracord for its bands. When you are out in the wild, you almost always have a use for rope. And so having a paracord as emergency rope is ingenious.
As the name implies, this is a survival watch through and through. It also has compass, whistle and fire starter. It’s an emergency kit that you bring with you all the time.
What sets this apart from the Blue Straw watch is it’s water-resistant of up to 5 ATM (130 feet or 40 meters) for 15 minutes. The extra feature is perhaps why it is almost twice as expensive as the Blue Straw watch.
Here are the pros and cons of getting this survival watch:
|Survival features||Faint luminosity|
Let’s take a look at the specs:
- Survival Fear in Seconds: Easy access magnesium flint rod fire starter & scraper, compass & whistle
- Adjustable Paracord Wrist Band: 12+ ft 550lb nylonparacord for trapping, fishing, marking trails
- 5 ATM Water Resistant: Can be submerged for up to 15 minutes. Features luminous face for night use
- Ultimate Survival Tool: Perfect for camping, wilderness hikes, outdoor enthusiasts & military
- Price: $19.97
At almost $20, it is not the cheapest watch in this list alone. The cheapest one belongs to the item before this, and it almost has the same features as this. However, this is water-resistant, and that may prove to be well worth its price.
It is advertised as having a luminous face, but some users commented on how the face plate and dials didn’t glow in the dark. So don’t put much stock in it.
The watch is from US company SharpSurvival. It is not indicated where the watch is made from.
One of the more expensive in the list, the Yidula Survival Paracord Watch Compass Bracelet Waterproof has a little extra tool that the others don’t have: a small blade/knife.
This Japan movement military watch comes with paracord bracelet, a compass, fire starter and a luminous display face. It is 5 ATM water resistant and can be submerged in the water for 15 minutes.
For $45, it does not include a lot of features. It is a standard, black tactical watch, which some users complained of being uncomfortable to wear.
Here are what they are saying about the watch:
|Includes small outdoor tools||Bulky|
|Uncomfortable to wear|
The following is its specifications, as detailed on Amazon.
- Best Craft: Unidirectional ratcheting black polymer bezel. Black dial with luminous hands and black Arabic numeral hour markers. Minute markers around the outer rim. GMT scale. Date display at 3 o’clock position. Japan mechanical movement – durable, mechanical watch is the mainspring driver. Use properly, you can use a lifetime.
- Survival Tool: The tactical watch is 5 ATM water resistant and can be submerged for up to 15 minutes. High Quality Compass
- Emergency Paracord: Fits all wrist sizes between 7-10 inches. 12 feet of paracord bracelet made of ultra-strong, military-grade 550 Paracord. Has been tried & tested to a minimum of 550lbs/250kg. With the sea ship same rope, with corrosion resistance, anti-aging.
- Outdoor Necessity: This watch contains a variety of field outdoor survival equipment.
- Price: $45.48
A standard-looking military watch, the Yidula Survival Paracord Watch is a decent option. It does not have fancy extras, but rather practical additions. It’s exactly what you want to bring with when you are on a short hike, camp or hunt. The luminous face appears to be working well, according to users, unlike the two watches above.
It’s apparently uncomfortable to wear, though. But that’s not an uncommon complaint on bulky watches. Perhaps the biggest negative about this is that it’s such a simple survival watch for its price. There are a lot of other cheaper watches that offer the same things; we even tackled a couple here.
So the question is if it’s worth $45.
Mike’s Top Choice
Out of the seven watches mentioned, Mike’s Gear Reviews can say that the LAD Weather German Sensor Master is the best tactical watch. If you are looking for a multifunction timepiece that has almost everything you need for an outdoor adventure, this is it. It is perfect for hiking, camping, trekking or even swimming because it is water-resistant. The poor backlight issue may be a bummer, though, so keep that in mind.
But for those who just want the most basic of basics, go with the Blue Straw Survival Bracelet Watch. You can never go wrong with this $11 multi-tool timepiece. Just don’t bring it anywhere near water.
As we have detailed above, there are so many things military watches can help you do. You can start a fire with it, pinpoint your exact location on Earth, whistle for help and a lot more. What it can’t do, however, is be a substitute for actual survival training. You need skills to survive outdoors, and that’s something military watches can’t give you.
Getting ready for your next adventure? Visit our Gear Reviews section where you can find the best reviews and buyer’s guides to help you select the best items that will help you survive outdoors.