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The 12 Best Tactical Watches in 2020

Jonathan Tayag
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The 12 Best Tactical Watches in 2020

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Your EDC should be full of gear you can depend on day in and day out, handling everything from the mundane to the unexpected. It's no secret that tactical gear is popular among the EDC crowd, and for good reason: it's built to meet military specification for performance, durability, and reliability. And when it comes to watches, a military watch can deliver that reliable accuracy you need whether you're on a critical mission or meeting a deadline. With a tactical watch, not only do you get mil-spec performance, but you also get a design aesthetic that matches the rest of your utilitarian essentials. In this guide to the best tactical watches, we'll highlight some of the latest and greatest and break down what to look for in your next timepiece.

What to Look for in a Tactical Watch

Durability: Many tactical watches feature shock-proof resin cases to protect their movement. They're better at resisting scratches and usually weigh less than metal cases do. The strap should also match in durability as it can be the weakest link: a thick rubber or nylon band should do the trick.

Dark & Non-Reflective Surfaces: Besides its “anti-bling” appeal, dark and non-reflective surfaces offer the benefit of better concealing your position in the field. It not only minimizes the risk of the sun or a flashlight glinting off your watch and compromising your location, but it also helps against drawing unwanted attention compared to a flashy timepiece.

Reliability: For reliable, accurate timekeeping day in and day out, opt for a quartz movement. Compared to mechanical movements, they're more accurate, not sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, and can withstand shock and impact better.

Legibility: A good tactical watch should be easy to read, especially in the dark. Luminescent paint on the hands and numerals are best (since you don’t need a spare hand to activate a light in low-light conditions). Some tactical watches take this one step further, complementing large markers with tritium tubes. Tritium glows on its own without needing to be charged by another light source. It's bright enough to tell the time but not so bright as to ruin your night vision, and it usually lasts for several years without maintenance.

Suunto Core Tactical Watch

Suunto Core Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
2.26 oz
Altimeter / barometer function
Backlight
Specifications
Movement
Quartz
Case Diameter
49mm
Water Resistance
100ft
EDC Rating


Price
$$$
With its discreet blacked-out design and low-profile screen the Suunto Core is a great choice for tactical EDC. Its heavy duty design can also keep up with the bumps and scrapes. Plus it does more than tell the time: a built in barometer and altimeter helps keep track of altitude on extended treks in the wilderness, and the reliable internal compass helps you keep your way when you start getting lost.
Garmin tactix Delta Sapphire Tactical Watch

Garmin tactix Delta Sapphire Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
NVG compatible
Kill switch for radio silence
GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo GPS compatibility
Specifications
Movement
Smartwatch, GPS time update
Case Diameter
51mm
Water Resistance
10ATM
EDC Rating


Price
$$$$
The Garmin tactix Delta is a rugged GPS smartwatch built to military standards for durability and stress. The tactical application doesn’t stop there: the watch face can be configured to be compatible with night-vision optics, letting you avoid giving you and your team’s location away on a dark night operation. Because it’s a smart watch, the tactix Delta is highly configurable, letting you change the looks on a whim and interfacing with your smartphone to keep track of time, weather, and other relevant data as you go about in the field. And since the battery in the watch lasts up to 21 days, it’s not like most other watches in the space that are so power hungry that they need to be charged on a delicate cradle ever just one day’s use.

Buy at Garmin

Suunto Traverse Alpha Stealth

Suunto Traverse Alpha Stealth

Purchase
Key Features
Hunting, fishing, and hiking modes
Breadcrumb trail GPS mode
Automatic shot detection
Specifications
Movement
GPS time update
Case Diameter
50mm
Water Resistance
110M
EDC Rating


Price
$$$$
Handmade in Finland and built to military spec, Suunto's GPS watches are a staple for the outdoor EDCer. The Traverse Alpha Stealth with its blackout styling, knurled stainless steel bezel, and sapphire glass is built to be a lifeline on your wrist, especially with its core tracking features that could very well save your life. GPS tracking, automatic breadcrumb trail generation, and integration with a smartphone app rounds out the Suunto's complications, along with its more hunt- and fishing-based features. Whether you're on the move or on the hunt, the Traverse Alpha is the wingman you want with you.
Casio G-Shock GW-9400-1B Rangeman Black Out Tactical Watch

Casio G-Shock GW-9400-1B Rangeman Black Out Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
Altitude, Barometer, and temperature sensors
Solar powered
Sapphire glass
Specifications
Movement
Quartz
Case Diameter
54mm
Water Resistance
200M
EDC Rating


Price
$$$$
With an entire catalog of tough, tactical watches, Casio's Rangeman is the cream of the crop. Built with the most features, highest tolerances, and toughest construction, the Rangeman was designed to be the ultimate survival watch since its launch in 2013. And now in its "Master of G" model GW9400-1B, we have their best offering yet. Underneath the substantial 54mm case and sapphire glass beats a Tough Solar movement with a digital display, rated to 200 meters of water resistance. This movement comes with a shock-resistant triple sensor that keeps track of altitude, pressure, and temperature as well as direction.
Marathon TSAR Tactical Watch

Marathon TSAR Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
Tritium tube luminescence
316L stainless steel case
Date window
Specifications
Movement
ETA F06 Swiss quartz
Case Diameter
41mm
Water Resistance
30ATM
EDC Rating


Price
$$$$
Marathon has been the US Government’s go-to maker of military field, aviation, and diver’s watches for decades now, and their TSAR Swiss quartz diver’s watch is the cream of the crop. Unlike other watches that have a spot of lume that dies down after a while in low-light situations, Marathon uses tritium gas tubes that illuminate themselves 24/7 for up to 25 years, so you’ll always be able to read the time especially during critical watches. This watch was designed for critical search and rescue missions, with 3mm thick scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass and a water-resistance of 300 meters. If you prefer the more classic feel you get from an automatic watch however, this timepiece also comes in a GSAR automatic movement option that you can pick up instead.
SureFire 2211 Luminox Wristlight Tactical Watch

SureFire 2211 Luminox Wristlight Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
300-lumen variable output side light
USB rechargeable internal battery
1.5 hr max runtime on high output
Specifications
Movement
Swiss quartz
Case Diameter
2"
Water Resistance
Not rated
EDC Rating


Price
$$$$
This hybrid design leverages the LED flashlight tech prowess of SureFire with the quality you expect out of a Luminox Swiss quartz watch. We’ll start with the stand-out feature: a side-mounted variable-output SureFire LED flashlight built into the side. It features a refractive optic that lets its small emitter spread its intense 300 lumens out perfectly for use as a tactical companion light when drawing a sidearm. Its rechargeability also means the watch itself is USB-rechargeable, letting you avoid button-cell batteries and having to open everything up just to get your watch going. And of course the 2211 is also a great watch, with a reliable Luminox Swiss quartz movement inside and big bold diver-style legends and lume that allow for low-light reading in a pinch.

Buy at LAPG

Casio G-Shock GWFA1000-1A Analog Frogman Tactical Watch

Casio G-Shock GWFA1000-1A Analog Frogman Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
Bluetooth smartphone link for dive logs
Tide indicator
Dual time
Specifications
Movement
Atomic radio timekeeping
Case Diameter
53.3mm
Water Resistance
200M
EDC Rating


Price
$$$$
You know the G-Shock line for its immense durability and water-resistance, but if you plan on taking one down to the depths you’re going to want a Frogman model like the GWF-A1000-1AJF. It's ISO-certified water rated down to 200 meters, letting it stand up to great pressure at depth and of course handle a spot of rain and some handwashing if you’re the type that stays above water. One of this watch’s unique features is that it can pair with your watch via Bluetooth, letting you change settings and access data. Plus, its built-in six-band radio atomic timekeeping makes this watch even more accurate than a standard quartz movement G-Shock, and the tough solar power design of the watch ensures it’ll keep on ticking as long as you have it on your wrist every day.
Luminox XS.3503.NSF Navy Seal Foundation Tactical Watch

Luminox XS.3503.NSF Navy Seal Foundation Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
Self-powered illumination
Tempered scratch resistant mineral crystal
Carbon reinforced unidirectional turning bezel
Specifications
Movement
Swiss quartz
Case Diameter
45mm
Water Resistance
200M
EDC Rating


Price
$$$$
When you think of a quartz diver watch you probably have something big and bulky in mind, but Luminox’s ingenious designers managed to make a relatively slim watch water-resistant down to 200 meters with the XS.3503.NSF timepiece. This exclusive watch was made in partnership with the Navy Seal Foundation, which supports personnel and their families during times of injury and loss. As for the watch itself, carbon compound reinforcement throughout lends to the lack of heft but also the serious durability of the watch. It also gives the watch a distinctive low-profile look. The big bold Arabic legends are highly legible on the blue dial, and colorful blue yellow lume on the hands and hour markers allow for low-light reading at a glance.

Buy at Luminox

Maratac Titanium Field Automatic

Maratac Titanium Field Automatic

Purchase
Key Features
Swiss LumiNova Grade X1 luminescence
Titanium case
Hacking function
Specifications
Movement
Seiko NH35 automatic
Case Diameter
39mm
Water Resistance
10ATM
EDC Rating


Price
$$$$
Maratac automatic mechanical field watches have been a staple choice in the EDC community for providing quality timekeeping in field watch design that’s perfect for all operations in the field or out to the office. Their new Titanium Field Automatic is one of their best models yet, with a 6Al4V titanium case cut out of a solid block and a Seiko NH35 24-jewel automatic mechanical movement with a hacking feature. The 39mm diameter is great for most wrists, and the 18mm band width allows a wide variety of NATO and Zulu straps to be used on the watch depending on your taste and needs.
Mk II Paradive G3 Tactical Watch

Mk II Paradive G3 Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
Super-LumiNova BGW9 lume
Double domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Screw-down crown
Specifications
Movement
Seiko SII NE15 automatic
Case Diameter
41.25mm
Water Resistance
20ATM
EDC Rating


Just released
Price
$$$$
The Ml II Paradive G3 is a vintage-styled maritime homage to a tactical watch issued to US Special Forces and CIA operatives between the 1960s and 1980s. Mk II made modern improvements and made it available for purchase commercially today, resulting in the Paradive G3. Where the original had a basic arcylic crystal, this version gives you the scratch-resistant sapphire glass that EDCers demand from their high-performance watches. There are several models of the watch available, varying on date function and GMT compatibility, but they all feature a Japanese automatic hacking movement and 20ATM water resistance as well as compatibility with NATO style straps or a rubber strap if you prefer.
Hamilton x Tenet BeLOWZERO Auto Tactical Watch

Hamilton x Tenet BeLOWZERO Auto Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
Titanium case
24mm lug width
Sapphire crystal glass
Specifications
Movement
H-10 automatic
Case Diameter
46mm
Water Resistance
100M
EDC Rating


Just released
Price
$$$$
Hamilton has been in the mechanical watchmaking game for more than a century now, and they’ve made many a field and military in their time. But when they were called on to design a watch for an exacting movie director making an unprecedented spy film, they had to put together all their expertise to make a timepiece that went above and beyond being a prop. The result is the new Hamilton BeLOWZERO Auto, a sleek and low-profile automatic field watch cased in titanium with a blacked-out aesthetic that you can buy today.
Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon Limited Edition Tactical Watch

Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon Limited Edition Tactical Watch

Purchase
Key Features
Carbon composite case
Paracord strap
Super-LumiNova lume
Specifications
Movement
Swiss quartz
Case Diameter
43mm
Water Resistance
20ATM
EDC Rating


Just released
Price
$$$$
The camo aesthetic of the I.N.O.X. Carbon Limited Edition keeps things low-profile in the field, and the paracord strap is handy for both comfort but also for its myriad of uses in an emergency situation. Giving the watch its name, however, is the unique lightweight carbon composite case that makes this one of the lightest watches in the category at just 3.2 oz. Its reliable swiss analog quartz movement keeps on ticking despite strain, and the dial features Super-LumiNova for low-light applications. As a bonus, ordering the watch also gets you a special Evolution 23 SAK multi-tool and with both in hand you’ll be ready for whatever life brings to the table.

#victorinox #hamilton #mk-ii #marathon #luminox #surefire #maratac #casio #garmin #suunto #tactical-watches #buying-guides #tactical #watches #tactical-watch #best-tactical-watches #best-tactical-watch #military-watches-2020 see all



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Discussion (6 total)

NUNQUAM NON PARATUS ·
As a military veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, here is my personal experience:

Luminox watches are garbage. I owned one and it broke often. Customer service was terrible (looking at you Saltzman Watches of Rhode Island!!). Luminox doesn't care about the military service members it markets to. It only cares about looking as tacti-cool as possible, and selling watches to people that want that look. Read between the lines on even that Navy SEAL Foundation edition watch-- Despite the price being marked up way more than the model it is based on (the 3051), Luminox does not donate one penny of the sale to the foundation. It is a transactional relationship. Luminox advertises the NSF to raise awareness, while the NSF lends their brand to legitimize the notion that Luminox is the watch of choice among SEALs (it is not). Little more than a publicity stunt without a single service member or veteran getting anything of value directly from Luminox, despite their huge markup on the product.

I could never trust a Luminox in the field. When I bought mine, I didn't know any better. I bought the hype and thought that I was getting a good piece of gear. I was mistaken. Learn from my mistake.

G-Shock is the best all around. There is no brand, make, or model of watch that is going to ever be able to give me a better sense of confidence in reliability than a G-Shock. If I had to pick one watch to strap to my wrist and wear for an entire deployment, with no promise of having any sort of ability to get support or replacement of the watch during that time-- it would be a G-Shock. Doesn't even need to be one of these expensive models listed here-- Just a $40 DW-5600 will do the job relentlessly.

Second to that, a cheap Timex is not a bad way to go. I had a Timex Camper that served me well for a number of years. They are small and cheap enough that you could buy two and have yourself a backup. That being said, I haven't purchased a new Timex in years. I have heard rumors that lately their quality control has gone down.

I know I have seen some other service members on here... I would be interested to read your two cents as well. Let's elevate this forum and get past the hype and marketing and get some insight into real world experiences folks.
Shawn Bailey ·
Thanks for the insight! Every watch on this list, I’d likely have to sell my kidney to afford 🤣
Marko ·
From all these watches I believe that G-Shock and Suunto are number one option for Army and Special Forces all around the world.
Antonio Lamas ·
G-Shock is my choice. Cheap, strong, honest and functional.