Watches are an integral part of many everyday carry setups. Beyond their primary use of telling time, they’re also a reflection the wearer’s personality and style. These watches have rich historical appeal as they were made for and worn in the field by infantry, Special Forces, and WWII pilots. Nowadays, military style watches are popular amongst the EDC community for their features, legibility, durability, and aesthetic. They go hand in hand with tactical gear you might already be carrying, but can easily be dressed down due to their timeless designs. In this guide, we’ll show you our recommendations for good looking, rugged watches that won’t break the bank.
3 Styles to Look For
Field Watches: The Field Watch is usually presented with a slim case, with large, easy to read indices. The thinness keeps the watch from snagging on other gear and will easily tuck under a shirt sleeve. Commonly seen with 12 and 24 hour numeral markings, these watches make telling military time an effortless task.
Pilot (Flieger) Watches: The signature mark of a Flieger is the triangle at the 12 o'clock mark. These watches have large faces and are reminiscent of WWII aircraft gauges that they are inspired by. Also known as “observation watches,” these timepieces make it easy to keep track of time elapsed whether you’re in the air or on the ground.
Heavy-Duty Digital: When you need a timer, calendar, stop watch, alarms, and more on your wrist, there are few better options than a heavy duty digital watch. Shockproof, waterproof, and nearly bombproof, these watches are seen in the field in modern military applications.
Now that we’ve got you acquainted with these common types of military watches, here are six of our favorite examples — all coming in at under $100:
This list was most recently updated on May 30th, 2016
Momentum Steelix Field Watch
The Momentum Steelix is a rock-solid field watch catches the eye in many ways. And I don’t just mean by its massive 44mm 316L stainless steel case. It’s all in the details of the design: large Arabic numerals on even hours set inside much smaller 24-hour markers on a chapter ring, sword style hands, an extended cut-out date window, high contrast orange accents, and lume on everything you’d hope for. Although it is a field watch by design, its 200m water resistance pushes into dive watch territory. It’s a big watch, sure, but an even bigger value when you consider its unique styling, tanky build, and sub-$100 pricepoint.
One of the key features of a military watch is legibility, and this solar watch from Seiko does it well. The SNE331's large, stenciled numerals dominate the otherwise clean dial with a rugged, no-frills look. Luminescent sword hands and indices pop against the roomy, blacked-out 43mm stainless steel case. It’s solar powered for longevity in the field to keep its Japanese kinetic quartz movement going. Other features like a hardlex crystal window, day/date window, 100m water resistance and a buckled nylon strap make this watch an excellent daily driver if you like to do it big.
When it comes to great military watches on a budget, our readers were quick and eager to put in a good word for Bertucci—and with good reason. Their A-2S Field Watch features a durable stainless steel case with a modest brushed finish and wearable 40mm diameter. Super luminous hands and markers make its 12/24-hour dial easy to read, and a mineral glass crystal keeps it protected. Its curved case back provides all-day comfort for your wrist and screws down for water tightness to 100m. An all-metal Japan made quartz movement keeps this rugged everyday watch ticking.
Timex Expedition Military Field Watch
The Timex Expedition watches are an excellent choice when considering military style watches on a budget. The clean looks, high legibility, Indiglo nightlight, quick-date feature, and reliable quartz movement result in a timepiece that looks like they cost way more than they do. The stainless steel case is slim and comfortable and the 42mm face wears well on any sized wrist. The indices are labeled with minute markers, allowing the wearer to quickly see how much time has elapsed. At under $40, this watch is a no-brainer to add to your collection.
Seiko 5 Automatic Field Watch
The Seiko 5 line was introduced in the 1960’s for having 5 distinct features, all provided at a value. Each watch in the 5 lineup has an automatic movement, water resistance, day-date display, an unbreakable mainspring and a shock-resistant design. These features result in a handsomely styled military watch that will stand up to EDC use and abuse without breaking the bank. The SNK809 measures in at 37mm — ideal for those who want to wear a watch but not be burdened by something huge on their wrist.
Timex Expedition Scout Watch
Another affordable military watch from Timex, the Expedition Scout packs many of the same features as the Military Field but in a different design. The black face and brushed gunmetal case result in a more understated look. The Dark green canvas band is high quality and comfortable. You still get Indiglo nightlight, a date wheel, and large, easy to read indices all for around 40 bucks. The seconds hand is a bright yellow arrow, not only does this increase legibility, but it adds a needed pop of color to the dial.
Citizen Eco Drive Military Watch
Blending both the Field and Flieger style watches into one package, the Citizen BM8180-03 achieves a distinct military look. Sporting a mineral glass crystal and stainless steel case for durability, the watch can stand up to daily wear. Better yet, its Eco-Drive charging feature makes for low maintenance upkeep as you won’t have to change its battery. For extra utility, the timepiece is waterproof to 100M — meaning you can shower and swim without taking the watch off. The day-date display, large luminous hands, and hour/minute indices are easy to read at a glance. (Editor's note: Since the time of publishing, the price of this watch may have increased slightly above the $100 mark.)
Parnis Flieger Hand Wound Pilot Watch
This Flieger watch from Parnis is a classically designed pilot watch that has a substantial wrist presence. When legibility is key, the 44mm face and large numerals will come in handy. Featuring a hand-wound movement and a large onion-style crown, this watch is a mechanical masterpiece. The Tianjin Seagull movement is visible through the clear caseback, allowing the wearer to witness the gears in motion. The 22mm dark brown leather strap adds to the vintage aesthetic. At only $85, this watch is a great deal — especially given how much it looks like its more expensive counterparts.
Casio G-Shock GA100SD Digital Watch
Breaking away from the classically styled military watches, the GA100SD from Casio represents a more modern take on a military watch. Although several branches of the US Military have stopped issuing timepieces, the watch of choice for many servicemen are made G-Shocks. Sporting ultra tough shock resistance, an auto-on LED backlight, world time, a precise stopwatch, countdown timer, and 200M of water resistance, the GA100SD is packed with features. The sand colored exterior is perfectly suited to match dessert camouflage but is right at home for casual civilian wear as well. One battery will keep the watch going for approximately 2 years.
We’ve just barely scratched the surface of all the military style watches out there. Do you have an affordable favorite for everyday wear, or has your smartphone made the wristwatch obsolete? We’d love to hear what’s on your wrist in the comments below!