10 Best Tactical Watches in 2020

10 Best Tactical Watches in 2020

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 milspec 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 nightvision, and it usually lasts for several years without maintenance.

The Best Tactical Military Watches

Garmin Instinct

This tactical offering from Garmin is built to the U.S. military standard for thermal, shock, and water resistance. On board, you’ll find a 3-axis compass, multi-GPS signal support, and activity monitoring. It comes in a sleek black color way with an adjustable, perforated nylon band for a comfortable fit. Besides its milspec durability, it's a practical pick for everyday wear thanks to its regular activity tracking.

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Garmin Tactix Charlie

If you’re looking to kick things up a notch, consider Garmin's Tactix Charlie. This watch takes things to the next level with real-deal military features. You’ll find upgraded fitness metrics like VO2 Max and a race finish time predictor. There’s a dedicated tactical mode that has Jumpmaster activity (speed of descent and altitude readings when jumping out of a plane), advanced GPS metrics, and projected navigation waypoints. You can also customize the watch face to your needs and get notifications from your mobile phone right on your wrist.

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Suunto Traverse Alpha

Handmade in Finland and built to military spec, Suunto's GPS watches are a staple for the outdoor EDCer. The Traverse Alpha 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 Alpha's the wingman you want with you.

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Luminox Black Ops 8882

Luminox's Black Ops family delivers on no-frills, tactical watch features in its purest form with all the right styling. In the dark is where it really shines, with glowing tritium tubes at each hour and on the hands. The ample use of tritium provides excellent low-light legibility without needing a charge, able to glow continuously for 25 years. The rest of the watch is completely blacked out thanks to its carbon compound case. You’ll also get 200m of water resistance, an anti-reflective and durable sapphire crystal, and a unidirectional ratcheting bezel to track elapsed time.

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Marathon JSAR

With a 46mm case and a dial packed with markers and lume, it's easy to get intimidated by the Marathon JSAR (Jumbo Search and Rescue)'s design, but at its heart is a simple watch designed to be the toughest timepiece you can wear. Made for search and rescue operations, the JSAR is at home in the water, with an impressive water resistance of 300 meters. The ETA Jumbo F07 movement gives accurate timekeeping, and the MaraGlo photo-luminescent coating on the dial markers and hands gives visibility in low light and especially underwater. A large date window sits at the 0430 position, while its second hand acts as an EOL (end of life) indicator, advancing in 4-second increments to let you know when its battery needs replacing. From the office to the depths, the JSAR gets the job done.

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Marathon Pilot's Navigator

Durable, reliable, sleek, and legible: the Marathon Navigator has it all. This quartz-powered watch features a completely blacked out case with a 12-hour timing bezel running around the outside. On the dial, you’ll notice tritium gas tubes that glow 24/7/365 for over a decade. These make it easy to tell the time no matter what the lighting conditions are. EDCers will appreciate the more classic look of the watch when compared to the rest in our list.

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traser Mil G Type 6

The traser P66 line captures the brand's understated look in daylight while displaying its signature impact at night. While the dial's design is minimalist and delivers its info with a series of concentric outer dials, it's in the dark where its tritium illumination gets a chance to shine. Under its 45mm fiber-reinforced polymer case and sapphire glass lies a Swiss Made quartz movement with day and date complications, while a screw-down crown ensures the integrity of its 200 meters of water resistance. A rubber strap rounds out the P66's comfort even for long wears.

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Casio G-Shock GPR-B1000-1 Rangeman

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. The GPR-B1000 is the latest and greatest iteration of the series, with all the features of a modern G-Shock. Underneath the substantial 58mm case and sapphire glass beats a Tough Solar movement with a digital display, rated to 200 meters of water resistance. This movement comes with Bluetooth connectivity to Casio's mobile app, giving you up-to-date timekeeping info as well as GPS capabilities. The Rangeman also tracks nearly every conceivable reading useful for both outdoor and tactical applications, including Altimeter, Barometer, and Temperature information, all wrapped up in the best mud and shock resistance Casio can muster.

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Casio G-Shock GW-B5600

Casio's GW-B5600 has everything you could want from a G-Shock and more, thanks to its improved mix of materials and added Bluetooth compatibility. This updated version brings a classic silhouette into the present day as one of the smartest tough digital watches you can EDC. Aside from the iconic square display and the illuminated LED backlight that you’ve come to expect from a G-Shock, you’ll also get a watch that’s lighter and smarter than ever before. A new band made from a combination of stainless steel and composite resin results in a watch that’s shock resistant and waterproof up to 200 meters. In addition to its construction, Multi Band 6 technology automatically synchronizes with six calibration signals around the world to ensure timekeeping accuracy. The GW-B5600 also features Bluetooth compatibility, allowing you to connect to your smartphone for a few extra features, such as reminders, a battery level indicator for your phone, and even a built-in phone finder. You also won’t have to worry about replacing the batteries thanks to the Tough Solar system, equipped with a durable solar that can charge even off of indoor lighting.

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Casio G-Shock GA-2000-1A2 Carbon Core

To make the Carbon Core case, Casio mixes resin with carbon fiber. The mixture results in a case that's actually more durable than either of those materials alone, and lighter in weight at 64 grams—10 grams less than most G-Shocks. But don't mistake light weight for fragility, as the monocoque construction is still designed to stand up to severe shock, and it also enjoys water resistance down to 200 meters. As a timepiece the GA-2000-1A2 excels, with accurate Japanese quartz movement and an ultra-legible design that features both digital and analogue readouts. The three-dimensional face adds a bit of flair in the design but it also provides clear separation between the analog and digital subsystems, making it easier to differentiate the two when, say you are keeping track of multiple time zones, or timing things with the stopwatch or countdown complications.

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For more watches, check out our guide to the Best Field Watches in 2019.

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Discussion (13 total)

DO NOT invest in anything SUUNTO unless you like unreliable pieces of cheaply made junk. I had a traverse years ago, hated it. 2 years ago when I got my Samsung Gear S3 Frontier, I thought I'd try the SUUNTO Alpha... wow... what a piece of junk. To top it off, the notifications required an app that was extremely faulty and also not reliable. Plus, their GPS was WAAAAY off, even on high accuracy, which would not last a 4 mile hike without draining the battery.

All these GPS watches are a total waste. If you need GPS, invest in the correct kind and save some money not trying to get an EDC watch with GPS included. You will be greatly disappointed and your battery life will suck.
Some very neat watches on this list. I've always loved the look of the Marathon JSAR.

But the Luminox is garbage in the field. Personal experience-- two cracked crystals in two years. You might think, well at least with the tritium lume it would make for a good dive watch despite their fragility-- but they are lacking the all important ISO 6425 rating. Luminox is very far into the tacticool category, but not all that tactical.

G-shocks continue to be top of my list for field watches. The plain DW5600 being my favorite due to low cost, durability, and legibility. The high-end Frogman would have made a nice addition to this list also, considering all the functionality, and its ISO 6425 rating.
The word tactical is overused. If you want a good watch that is going to truly be tactical the shity something that does not stand out overdone and doesn't look military or "tool watch". Hamilton Khaki Field, Luninox Field Watch, Rolex Explorer, Omega Seamaster Railmaster or the Bertucci A-2T.
My Maple Leaf JSAR has been one of the best gear investments I’ve made in a while. So accurate, and it takes an absolute beating!
Still would love it with a Swiss Mechanical Movement. The watch looks fantastic!!!
Japanese movements are just as good and actually are stronger thought the watch was designed for on top of that a Swiss Movement would drive to cost up substantially.
There's one exception to the norm of crummy GPS tactical watches now: the Garmin Instinct I've been rocking the past several months is defying the stereotypes. It's tough, looks awesome, and the battery life for the "EDC Tactical Smartwatch" category is off the charts: 2+ weeks of normal us"smartwatch use" (!), and roughly 14 to 20 hrs of GPS on time on a full charge. Believe, me, I was skeptical of the stated numbers in the specs, but it's definitely doing well. Honestly, one would be hard-pressed to find a handheld GPS receiver that holds a charge that well! :) Add to that how useful it is for EDC with the "smart features", and it's a real winner in this space!
If you are going to recommend watches that came out WAY before 2019, then I will add that the Nixon Regulus Watch should have been on this list.
Is the 2019 word of the year , tactical?
Third recycled article in as many weeks. Hope you all are enjoying your long summer vacation-- must be nice LOL
still no vostok very disappointing most of those on the list arent worth anything
I also like the look of the JSAR MARATHON but not with a Quartz mechanism for heaven's sake! It would look and feel like a real watch with a Swiss Mechanical Movement.
Does anyone know anything about Traser P66 Type 6 MIL-G? I'm planning on getting one later. How reliable is the watch, can it take beatings from the environments? Can you bathe and shower with the watch on without having any issues?