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Best Tactical Watch for Military Use

The gold plated, classic pocket watch may be chic for the hero in a Western movie, but it is not meant for real-life heroes on the modern battlefield. It could tell the time, maybe with extreme accuracy, but this is not the only feature required by today’s soldier. Your watch must be a technologically advanced instrument that is sturdy, reliable, and useful in both routine and operational activities, over any terrain or in any weather. That is why I have written for you, my reviews of the best watch for military use.

Here's a list of the Best Tactical Watch for Military Use

See the best rated tactical watches on Amazon ratings here

Requirements of a Tactical Watch

To be considered a “tactical watch”, the soldier’s timepiece must do much more than just keep time, obviously. In addition to accuracy and reliability, we also recommend that the watch include key features such as:

1. Rugged enough to withstand the heat, shock and friction encountered on the battlefield.

2. Water-resistant to varying depths depending upon the soldier’s role. A diver would require a watch with the greatest water depth rating, while depth is useless to a soldier in the desert.

3. Clear, anti-glare display equipped with a back light (preferably red) to permit use in dark and low light conditions.

4. A large display/dial with a strong, light weight body without edges or buttons to avoid getting stuck in other equipment.

5. Equipped with a stopwatch, timer, alarm, pre-loaded calendar, and 24-hour time format. Overseas soldiers will require various time zones, sunrise, and sunset features.

6. Solar powered or easy-to-replace battery with a low battery indicator or alarm.

7. A compass, altimeter, barometer, heart rate monitor, and thermometer are also useful. Moon and tide phase functions are desirable for naval soldiers.

We have dedicated a whole post on our research for best tactical watches with compasses to support your buying decision. 

Tactical watches are an important and extremely useful part of a soldier’s gear. The shapes and designs may differ and the brands may vary, but the best watches must be rugged, accurate and reliable.

Best Rated Tactical Watch to Buy

Because of the wide range of possible features and corresponding price ranges, it is difficult to give an undisputed verdict on any particular tactical watch as the best on the market today. If price is not an issue, considering sheer quality and functionality, the Suunto Core Outdoor Watch has been my favorite.

Suunto Core Outdoor Watch

The Suunto Core Outdoor Watch  is designed for the outdoors and it remains a top choice for sportsmen and military personnel alike. Style, elegance, and utility are embedded this high performance watch for all sorts of military and sporting requirements. A few of the features that put this high-tech watch on top of my list are listed below:

1. The brand name, Suunto, means quality and accuracy. This renowned Finnish manufacturer of sports watches and dive computers has been in business since 1936. The Suunto Core Outdoor Watch is a result of their decades of research and commitment to sports.

2. Unlike the bulky watches currently trending in the market, the Suunto Core is reasonably sleek and has an attractive finish. All basic functions, including time, date, countdown timer, sports chronograph, dual time, and sunset predictions for over 400 locations are built into the watch. It is commonly available in military black and regular black, although other bright, attractive colors can be purchased.

3. The barometer is a useful instrument to predict weather and its military utility is widely known. The Suunto Core outdoor watch provides a graphical display of the air pressure during the preceding 24 hours at half-hour intervals. Equipped with an alarm to indicate sudden drops in pressure, it can be extremely useful in predicting upcoming weather when packing your gear.

4. If you are planning to go for a march through hilly terrain, the watch’s altimeter provides you an option to record your trip to an altitude of 29,500 feet. This proved to be a valuable feature for me during my deployment in Afghanistan as I was able to keep track of my ascent and descent speeds. This information had a direct operational significance. On my casual hiking trips, it allowed me to mock my colleagues about how slow they were climbing.

5. This watch has an automatic “Alti/Baro” switch that compares movement against changes in the air pressure. If any changes in air pressure occur while you are sleeping, it will output a barometer reading and not an altimeter reading.

6. A compass is necessary for the soldier; the digital compass in this watch not only points to the cardinal directions, on a rotating bezel, but also allows you to adjust your bearings to follow a desired heading.

7. The watch performs equally well for snorkeling. Equipped with a depth meter to a maximum of 10m, it records the information about your current and maximum depths over a given period of time. The watch is water resistant up to 30m.

8. The watch is fitted with a thermometer (-20ᵒ to 60ᵒ Celsius) and provides output in English, German, French, and Spanish.

9. The operating system is extremely user-friendly and the battery is easily replaced. The watch has an electro-luminescent backlight and is equipped with a low battery indicator.

This is a pricey piece of equipment but if you are looking for quality, utility and endurance, the Suunto Core Outdoor is the watch to buy. It does not have the ability to calculate point of impact solutions like the 5.11 Tactical H.R.T Titanium watch, but that is a feature I can live without. Reading details in backlight under low conditions takes some getting used to and its resistance to scratches is a bit lacking, as the paint’s finish could be better. Its elastic strap may deter some users, but I liked it because I could wear it over my fatigues and field kit.

Ignoring its price, the Suunto Core Outdoor is undoubtedly one of the best watches I have ever worn.

* To read more, here is our full length review of Suunto Core Wrist Watch.

Best Tactical Watch Under $250

Many quality watches are available under $250 and come adequately equipped with functions that are particularly useful in the military. I am in love with Casio, and the “G Shock” is their Mona Lisa. Based on the “triple ten” concept requiring a watch to have 10 years of battery life, withstand a pressure of 10 bar, and resistant to a fall of 10m, this technology has been in production since April 1983.

My two recommendations in this price range would be the Rangeman and Pathfinder series watches.

Casio G-Shock Rangeman Master of G Series Stylish Watch - GW-9400-3CR

This is the latest in the "Master Of G” series, equipped with a shock-resistant triple sensor that can withstand the most grueling conditions imaginable. Few of the salient features that make it most suited for any combat environment are listed below:

1. Its shock resistant triple sensors allow you to measure altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, and direction. Direct access to all three sensors is provided through a “Sensor” button with a metal cover to protect against impacts. All buttons are cylindrical to withstand any strike. Sensor modes have unique audible tones so you can select the desired settings without looking at the watch.

2. Sunrise/sunset timings, with one touch time measurements.

3. Solar powered, the watch has a “Multi-Band 6” atomic timekeeping system that calibrates the time automatically via radio signals six times a day. It also has a manual receive function that allows you to verify the time’s accuracy whenever you like.

4. The watch is not only water resistant to 200m but it is mud resistant and can withstand temperatures ranging from -10ᵒ to 60ᵒ Celsius.

5. The altimeter has a range from -700m to 10,000m along with 40 memory entries.

6. The digital compass has a graphical direction marker, magnetic declination correction, and provides continuous 60 second measurements with an accuracy of 1 degree. With the 40-entry memory, you are sure to get back to your desired way points.

7. The thermometer unit on this watch reads in Celsius and the barometer measures atmospheric pressure from 260hPa to 1,100hPa. The data is displayed in graphical format, and the atmospheric pressure change indicator alerts you to any developing weather phenomenon.

8. World time, full-auto LED “Super Illuminator” backlight with afterglow, stopwatch, timer, sunrise and sunset timings, 5 daily alarms, and hourly time signal are also built in.

9. The watch weighs only 90 grams and its green color goes nicely with combat dress.

The G-Shock Rangeman Master Of G Series Stylish Watch - GW-9400-3CR is a cool survival watch, but it has a few minor display issues that prevented me from including it in the best of my ratings. While the watch is excellent in good lighting conditions, it has minor glare issues on certain segments of the screen in bright sunlight. Also, many consider the backlight insufficient, but on the contrary, I found it adequate, particularly when considering its military utility. All in all, it is a top quality military survival watch that offers great value for the money.

Casio G-Shock PAG240-1 Triple Sensor Pathfinder Watch

The Casio G-Shock PAG240-1 Triple Sensor Pathfinder watch is a high-performance, dependable device for military operators and outdoor enthusiasts. For those looking for accurate navigation and timekeeping, this is the watch to buy. A few of its most important features are listed below:

1. It is solar powered and the fully rechargeable battery has a life of six months after only a single recharge via sunlight.

2. Equipped with a triple sensor for temperature, altitude, and pressure, the watch also boasts a digital compass that comes in handy during navigations. The altimeter has a range of -700m to 10,000m, the thermometer from -10ᵒ to 60ᵒ Celsius, and the barometer display range is from 260hPa to 1,100hPa.

3. 100m water resistance that is good for swimming and snorkeling (however, it is not sufficient as a dedicated diver’s watch). It also performs accurately under freezing conditions (-10ᵒ Celsius).

4. It is fitted with a fully automatic electro-luminescent backlight with an afterglow for use in low light conditions. It also includes world time features, daylight saving settings, and a 12/24 hour time format.

5. The watch has 5 daily alarms, a countdown timer, a calendar, a stopwatch and its accuracy is within 15 seconds per month.

While the Casio G-Shock PAG240-1 Triple Sensor Pathfinder performs exceptionally well in predicting weather (with its built-in barometer), the altimeter reading can be flawed at times. Additionally, for the price of this watch, I would have wanted an atomic clock synchronization to be built in. Its alarm is on the quieter side, but that is understandable in a tactical watch. The strap is rugged and the watch can withstand the various weather hazards and threats on a modern battlefield.

Best Tactical Watch Under $100

Quality watches in this price range are hard to find, because to stay within the $100 budget, you will be compromising on a certain aspects of the watch. If you want a modest combination of technology, durability, and economy, the following two watches come to mind.

Casio G-Shock Twin Sensor Watch GDF100-1A

​The Casio G-Shock Twin Sensor Watch GDF100-1A can be described as attractive, reliable, durable, and adequate. This is indeed a high performance watch equipped with numerous useful features for military as well as outdoor applications.

A few of the characteristics I like about this watch are: 

1. The G-shock feature means that the watch is resistant and rugged enough to withstand vibrations and hard knocks.

2. The watch is equipped with front facing twin sensors to work as an altimeter/ barometer and thermometer. The altimeter has a range of -700m to 10,000m and the barometer measures air pressure within a range of 260hPa to 1,100hPa. The thermometer can measure temperatures between -10ᵒ to 60ᵒ Celsius. So if you are planning a trip through mountains, this watch can be extremely handy.

3. The Casio GDF100-A is water resistant and good for snorkelers and divers alike. It can withstand water pressures to a depth of 200m.

4. Based on Japanese quartz movement and carrying a digital display, the watch is extremely accurate with a maximum error of 15 seconds per month.

5. The black-colored watch is stylish and equipped with a “Super Illuminator” LED backlight for use in low light conditions.

6. Features like world time (48 cities), five daily alarms, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, a fully pre-programmed calendar (until year 2099), 12/24 hour time options, and a five year warranty make it a watch to have.

The watch may feel a bit heavy (1.44 ounces), but that is normal for today’s advanced watches. Since the watch uses atmospheric pressure to measure altitude, the altimeter readings may be skewed at times (the watch does not have an automatic sensor switch like the Suunto Core). Despite this shortcoming, the watch is a reliable piece of engineering that can serve a soldier under all sorts of tactical environments.

Casio 3 Eye G-Shock GA100-1A1 Watch

The Casio 3 Eye G-Shock GA100-1A1 Watch, available in black, is a trendy wristwatch used by military and outdoor enthusiasts. Based on their time-tested “G Shock” technology, Casio has created a reliable and durable piece of equipment that continues to receive great customer reviews around the world. A few of the watch’s features are listed below:

1. The watch is water-resistant to a depth of 200m and is a top choice amongst scuba divers.

2. The watch is protected with an anti-magnetic shield to prevent time inaccuracies.

3. The watch contains an automatic LED with an afterglow that allows easy reading of the time and data at night.

4. The watch has four daily alarms and a snooze option. It is equipped with an hourly time signal and features a world clock with 29 time zones and 48 cities.

5. It has a stopwatch with a display of 1/1000th of a second. It is useful for sports and numerous military applications. I have used it to calculate distance by measuring flash to bang difference and got accurate results.

6. The watch has both a digital and analog display, and its battery lasts about two years. With an error probability of only 15 seconds per month, the watch is reliable and accurate. It is also pre-loaded with a calendar through 2099 and supports 12/24 hour formats.

7. The watch is rugged and able to withstand shocks, vibrations, and impacts. It weighs 70 grams.

​The watch is low-tech by modern standards, as it does not have any advanced features like a barometer or thermometer. The dual display (analog and digital) is handy but the backlight does not fully illuminate the digital display. It is slightly bulkier and heavier when compared to other G-Shock models on the market, but the watch is a decent buy for tactical use within this price range.

Another resource we recommend is checking out Tactical Distributors. Similar to our views of best tactical watches, they believe top brands such as Suunto and Casio G-Shock get the job done. It takes a special watch to handle the rigors of the outdoors, whether it be cold or hot in temperature. You need a watch that has the water/heat resistance as well as the mechanical advantages like keeping track of multiple alarm times and measuring time accurately to match your skill-set.. With all of this said, we hope our review of best tactical watches helped you in your research. 

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