Hiking enthusiasts, members of law enforcement, soldiers, first responders and others often find themselves in situations where weather, terrain, darkness, altitude and other considerations could compromise the operation of a standard wrist watch. Because of this is they need something tougher and more feature-rich. They need a tactical watch.
Every tactical watch we’ll be reviewing below is worthy of the title and has passed muster with our review panel. Let’s get started.
The Best Tactical Watch
We were truly caught off guard by the quality of this incredibly inexpensive Timex entry into the field of tactical watches. While it isn’t going to supplant the Casio Rangeman in our list as is with a few more features and a slightly more heavy duty shell it might give it a run for its money.
The Timex Expedition tactical watch subverts design expectations and in the process delivers a tough, useful tactical timepiece you can also wear to the office. The genuine leather strap won’t wear like stainless but it’s a nice touch that speaks to a more restrained notion of manliness. The subdued earth tones seem perfectly appropriate and the features are well thought out and can help you execute time sensitive orders with precision or aid in your extrication from a tight spot. It’s shock resistant to I.S.O. standards as well as being water resistant down to 100 meters. You could pay 10 times as much for a slightly better tactical watch but ask yourself first if you really need to.
- Weight4 oz
The Rangeman tactical watch is part of the company’s G-Shock series of incredibly rugged watches that have been wowing hunters, mountaineers, first responders and others for several years now. The Rangeman has all the attributes of Casio’s other G-Shock timepieces plus even greater durability, an enhanced layout and an overall feeling of comfort that leaves the competition in the dust.
From its impressive shock resistance to its spot-on button placement and easy, common sense navigation the Rangeman G-Shock tactical watch from Casio is here to serve your needs. The Rangeman’s “Triple Sensor” button activates the sensor screen through which you have barometric pressure, temperature, altitude and directional information at the ready. Throw in one-touch recording, elapsed time measurement and other features and the Rangeman pretty much does it all. Considering it’s less than half the price of other models with more or less comparable features and build quality it’s going to be our go-to choice until something comes along and beats it out.
- Weight10.4 oz
Garmin has hit it out of the park with the Tactix Bravo tactical watch, a watch that looks and acts like a cross between a Rolex and a high performance dive watch. The watch is loaded with usable features including the sunlight readable display with its domed sapphire lens, an omni-directional EXO antenna for the best hunting GPS reception, night vision compatibility and a tough no-nonsense design.
There’s no doubt this is a fine tactical watch. In addition to the above mentioned features is boasts wireless connectivity so you can download software updates, a triple axis compass and matte black, non-reflective coating. It must be mentioned however, that this outdoor watch will typically set you back more than $500. That said, there are plenty of outdoor types who will pay several times that for a decent sized tattoo; and good luck trying to find true North using one of those. All in all the Tactix Bravo is a great tactical watch.
- Weight3.2 oz
Casio makes their second entry into our 2017 Tactical Watch list with their Mudmaster G-Shock watch. From a functional standpoint the Mudmaster is similar to the company’s Rangeman reviewed above, and that’s a very good thing for the most part. The Mudmaster tactical watch features hourly time signals, a countdown timer, low battery alert and 12/24 hour formatting.
You can wear this baby spelunking in the filthiest, tightest cave and it won’t miss a beat. It’s also water resistant and will handle most any surface watersport with aplomb. An array of other useful features includes thermometer, digital compass and auto LED illuminator. So whether you’re pursuing baddies through the Hindu Kush or navigating at night above the treeline as you quest for the summit this tactical watch will be a dependable companion.
- Weight10.4 oz
Super sleek design, reasonable price and packed with great features, this tactical watch from Garmin ticks all the boxes. Garmin have combined a stylish design with true performance to bring you one of their most functional watches yet. The all-black, durable and rugged design has drawn inspiration from the requirements of the tactical gear used in the field.
The comfortable Nylon strap holds a 1.2-inch high-resolution watch face complete with a sunlight-readable Chroma Display. Use your display to switch between two modes: day use and night vision goggle compatibility as you utilize the impressive features on Garmin Tactix Bravo Watch. With a whole host of tactical specific features such as Jumpmaster protected waypoints, TracBack options and a dual-format GPS coordinate program, you’ll be navigating your way around with ease. But that’s not all, you can stay connected with smart notifications, plunge to depths of 100 meters, use the 3-axis electronic compass and so much more as you make use of the 50-hour battery time in UltraTrac mode. For us, this is a great all-rounded matching style with features and manufacturing that can stand up to the roughest conditions.
- Weight3.2 ounces
The SureFire 2211 is a compact marvel that provides a first-in-class tactical light tucked in under the watch face. It’s the kind of feature that creates separation between the 2211 and other tactical watches and will by itself justify the price of admission (which is fairly hefty) for some folks.
The 2211 tactical watch features aircraft grade aluminum construction, a self-illuminating dial, a gauge that keeps an eye on the battery and a micro USB port and cable for recharging. It’s a comfortable outdoor watch that will help extricate you from trouble when night has settled in. The watch was developed after consultation with law enforcement who stressed their need to bring light to bear on various situations without having to tie up a hand to do so. Whether you’re a police officer, first responder, climber or plumber you’re going to find the 2211 to be the answer to your prayers.
- Weight3 oz
It’s hard to believe just from looking at it that this is a tactical watch but all disbelief will evaporate once you’ve had the chance to put it to the test. Beneath the civilized exterior beats a tough, durable heart with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal cover, luminous hands and water resistance to 330 feet.
The Hamilton Black Khaki Men’s Field Tactical Watch runs contrary to every design rule you’ve come to believe governs tactical watches. But tactical it is. Battery-less operation should be considered a must for any serious tactical watch yet even some of the highest-priced watches out there don’t offer it, while the Hamilton does. The watch wears well even after long hours in the rain, the hands and hour indicators glow in the dark and the second hand has a red tip that can be somewhat mesmerizing. The watch never feels bulky and, as a final bonus, you can wear it to the board meeting. A surprising gem of a tactical watch that’s fully worthy of inclusion on this list.
- Model HML-H70455533
The Luminox Men’s Recon Analog tactical watch is fashioned from black carbon polycarbonate, features a unidirectional black bezel with 24 hour display, luminescent white and green hands, markers and numerals, has a compass built into its strap and is water resistant down to 200 meters.
The Luminox Men’s Recon Analog tactical watch also features hyper-accurate Swiss movement, clear self-powered markers, a tough as nails shell and a snug comfortable fit that doesn’t make you feel like you’re wearing a shipping container on your wrist. There are a few features that might prove to be redundant, such as the tachymeter, but many folks are just fine with having too many features rather than not enough. It’s light, durable as can be and won’t set you back an arm and a leg.
- Weight9.9 oz
Marathon WW194013 is a simple, durable, comfortable tactical watch that’s relatively light, easy to read and easy on the eye. The asymmetrical design will grow on you and many who are put off by the bulky nature of most tactical watches will find the overall size of the Navigator a breath of fresh air.
Marathon watches have been made in Switzerland for nearly 80 years and this svelte tactical watch embodies many of the characteristics you come to expect from Swiss engineering: high efficiency, great accuracy, tasteful presentation and dependability. The tritium gas tubes are self illuminating so there’s no need to worry as the night wears on and the impact resistant shell won’t let you down. The nylon band is comfortable enough and it’s never a chore to read this watch. All in all a dependable piece of survival kit; if a bit on the expensive side.
- Weight3.2 oz
Feature-rich and built like a brick you-know-what the Pathfinder tactical watch is engineered to withstand the most brutal conditions whether natural or manmade. It sports an array of clock-related features, it’s water resistant down to 100 meters and the hardy buckle clasp means it’s not coming off even if you find yourself thrown into raging white water.
The Casio Triple Sensor Tactical Watch will hold its own during any open water activity and should stay intact during short jaunts into truly deep water. Its impressive feature set will allow you to safely extricate yourself from any type of back country hardship or enable you to chase that 12-point buck deep into the mountains without getting lost. Ideal for skiers, ice climbers, rock climbers, kayakers, mountain bikers, mountaineers and more. The solar battery is rated to 13 years so you should have no power issues and the whole thing rests comfortably on the wrist. A great value at less than $200.
- Weight3.2 oz
Suunto is hardly a household name but they make some well-regarded military watches and this Core Blackout Tactical Watch is a fine example. It has a more compact profile than other tactical watches but is rich in features. There’s an altimeter to track your elevation, a compass to point you in the right direction and a barometer to monitor weather. It’s really more of a meteorological kit than a watch.
Some tactical watches provide light while others provide a warning that there’s inclement weather on the horizon. Which is the more valuable service is open for debate but there are plenty who would argue it’s more important to know if rain is in the offing than to have a tactical torch on your wrist. But the Suunto Core Blackout tactical watch will do more than let you know there’s rain ahead. It will also tell you how far up the mountain you’ve ventured in pursuit of that buck and the best compass will let you find your way out when you have to break off pursuit due to foul weather. A true tactical watch that provides survival basics and more in an attractive package you could likely wear to work.
- Weight1.4 oz
Timex has been known for many years for creating durable, reasonably high-quality timepieces. The Men’s Expedition is a fundamentally sound tactical timepiece that looks bold, is water resistant to 100 meters, has 100 hour countdown capability, a variety of alarm settings and shines bright through the gloom with its Indiglo night light. The genuine leather strap is also a nice touch.
The Expedition tactical watch has a generous face that’s easy to read under any conditions. It’s moderately sized so it’s not going to get caught on every little branch as you hack your way through the woods. It’s reasonably easy to set the different time functions and the Indiglo backlight is nice and bright and easy to activate. This is one of the outstanding tactical digital watches and at just over $30 it won’t bust your kit budget to get it.
The SMAEL Men’s Sports Watch embraces the bulkier profile of most tactical watches and does such a good job replicating that look few will believe it cost less than a large pizza. From the comfortable resin band to the handy hour tone and water resistance down to 50 meters it’s a certifiable steal at its price point.
If you were to place this tactical watch next to the G-Shock most people would not be able to tell that one costs 10 times more than the other. That’s a testament to the skill of the SMAEL designers and engineers. The SMAEL offers a robust back light, 12 hour analog and 24 hour digital display, a basic compass right on the face along with date and day display and a more than adequate alarm. How they managed to pack all that in and replicate the look and feel of a much more expensive tactical watch is a neat trick.
- Weight4.8 oz
Tactical Watches Buyers Guide
People who’ve never owned a tactical wrist watch typically have a lot of questions about them. Below we’ve rounded up 4 of the most common questions we encountered when talking to people about tactical watches in the hope these answers – along with the following list of “Things to Look for When Buying a Tactical Watch” – will help you make an informed decision.
Q: What Is The Best Make Of Tactical Watch?
A: For our money the choice is clear: Casio. Others may disagree and you could certainly make an argument for a couple of other manufacturers but Casio wins the day for us by consistently delivering high quality, feature rich, dependable and affordable tactical watches.
Q: What Is A Tactical Watch?
A: A tactical watch is a timepiece designed to be worn on the wrist that embodies rugged construction while incorporating useful survival-related features. They’re intended to continually operate regardless of how difficult conditions may get and are typically highly shock and water resistant. They are also commonly referred to as “military watches”, “army watches” or even “combat watches”.
Q: What Can A Tactical Watch Do?
A: Different manufacturers incorporate different features and in many cases the feature menu is price-dependent. Or, rather, price will often depend on the number, type and quality of the features on offer. Most offer basic survival features like a compass, illuminated hands, water resistance, shock resistance and alarms. While a more upscale tactical watch may offer features such as a barometer, altimeter, thermometer and even GPS. As of this writing one – the SureFire 2211 reviewed above – offers a built in flashlight feature that allows you to keep both hands occupied with other things while still bringing light to bear on the task in front of you.
Q: Who Wears A Tactical Watch?
A: Anyone can wear a tactical watch but they’re mostly used by people who spend a great deal of time outdoors in often less than ideal conditions. That would include first responders, police officers (self defence), extreme athletes, rescue workers, firefighters, hunters and more.
Things To Look For When Buying A Tactical Watch
Here is our list of things you should look for when buying a tactical watch.
Durability – This is first on the list because if the tactical watch can’t stand vigorous impacts, shocks and intense movement all the features in the world won’t do you any good. Aircraft grade aluminum or carbon polycarbonate are at the high end of the material spectrum and should serve you well for years. It’s also crucial that the lens be shock, scratch and impact resistant and for that reason you’ll want one made of sapphire.
Water resistance – Anyone working outside like construction workers, first responders, police officers and more, or those engaged in extreme sports like mountain biking, base jumping or even surfing, is going to need a watch that won’t flinch when it gets wet, or even submerged. Every watch on our list is water resistant down to at least 50 meters and that should be the absolute minimum level of water resistance for your outdoor watch. Looking for more? Check out our dive watches guide.
Luminescence – If you find yourself engaged in strenuous outdoor activity after dark you want to be able to read your watch by simply glancing at the face. Having to tie up both hands to engage a backlight is less than ideal. For that reason look for watches that feature self-illuminating hands and digits that will always light up regardless of the battery situation.
Analog Or Digital – The face of the timepiece is a matter of personal preference. As long as it’s properly luminescent either analog or digital will serve you well. Many models of tactical watch actually provide both in the form of a large analog face and a smaller digital window displaying 24 hour military time. If you need as much information at your disposal as possible that’s probably the option for you.
Power – The last thing you want is for your watch to die on you in a tight spot. As such the power source for your tactical watch is crucial. Lithium-ion batteries are a popular, dependable choice but even they will eventually need to be recharged at some point. If you spend long days in the bush you’ll want to consider a self-winding watch (or a watch winder) that feeds off your movements or a solar powered watch that recharges using sunlight.
Size And Weight – The typical tactical watch can be pretty bulky. Since we’re not all built like NFL linemen it’s fair to say you’ll want to give due consideration to the size and weight of the device you’re strapping on to your wrist. You’re going to be wearing it for long hours after all and want it to be an asset not an anchor. Fortunately there are several high quality tactical watches that embrace a slimmer profile like the Hamilton Men’s Khaki and the Timex Expedition tactical watch reviewed above.
Additional Features – Any additional features will be up to your personal preference or the demands of your particular job or sport. Additional features you may want to consider include a barometer, an altimeter, a thermometer and GPS for obvious reasons. GPS however won’t do you a lot of good if you don’t have some form of reference to plot the data onto.
Maintaining Your Tactical Watch
It’s built tough, with you in mind, so you want to ensure that it’s going to continue operating smoothly as time goes on. It’s had your back, so now, you need to upkeep your fantastic tactical watch—here’s what you do:
Don’t Submerge To Clean – A lot of people think that having water resistance on your tactical watch (we’ll explain later) means that you can dunk it to clean all the gunk out of it. That’s not necessarily true; you have to pay attention to the model and its capabilities.
Clean Often – When we’re wearing our watch, we sweat. It’s just what happens. Grime fills in all the tiny crevices that we just can’t see until we take off our watch. Use a toothpick or a very small nail cleaner (this would be a good time to bust out your Swiss Army Knife, too) and gently chip away all the grime. It can only take a few days for this to start building to a visible level.
Certified Dealer – Most certified deals are also experts at maintaining your watch. Ever been walking through the mall and you find that little kiosk that cleans watches and jewelry? They know what they’re doing, and can even make repairs to clasps and other components in the meantime.
Water Resistance Explained
If you read diving capabilities on your watch, you’re probably picturing dropping a watch into the ocean for as deep as the requirement says, and pulling it out unharmed. Well, it’s not that simple. Just because it says there’s 33t of diving capability doesn’t mean that you should go jumping into the sea with it. Here’s what you need to know about the different diving capability thresholds on tactical watches.
Up to 33ft – Take it out when it’s raining; if you’re doing dishes and you splash some water on it, it’ll be just fine. This resistance is just meant f or the everyday wear and tear. You shouldn’t be testing the waters too much, but you don’t have to worry about a little flash rainstorm every now and again.
Up to 98ft – We’ve all done this at least once—look down at your wrist, and you’re still wearing your watch. If you’re good up to 98ft, then you’re fine to keep showering. This is also going to be okay with quick, accidental submersions. If you reach down into the water to grab a fish off a line, your watch will be just fine.
Up to 164ft – You’re good for all of the above—showering, dishes, rainstorms—but you’re not going to hop on a jet ski with this model, alright? That’s a big no-no. If you’re the kind of fella who likes looking stylish when he takes a dip in the pool, or your partner is being playful and pushes you into the ocean when you’re out on the boat, your watch is going to be alright.
Up to 328ft – Don’t scuba dive or deep dive, but everything else is fair game. You can handle most watersports (keep it vanilla though) and handle most of the wear and tear of the real world. Take a dunk in the hot tub or the pool on the deep end. You’ll be alright.
Up to 656ft – If you want a diving watch, you’re going to need more than just water diving requirements. You’ll need a sapphire crystal, and a bunch of other fixings—but you don’t want that. You want a tactical watch to handle every situation that you’ll be faced with, even in high-pressure situations. Don’t deep dive with this one, but it’s not going to kill the thing if you go a hundred feet underwater.
All About Tactical Sensors
You’re getting into the big leagues now. Think you can handle it? These are the devices that are used by our Marines, and by the most logistic and tactical-minded people on the planet. Your tactical sensor is going to respond to your environment—any environment—and stick out the elements with you. Overcast, sandstorms, hurricanes—these are made to last. These are excellent if you need to give someone your location, especially if you’re going hiking in the woods.
While you can imagine how the military could use these effectively, your life isn’t quite as dangerous as that. If you’re looking for a way to use your tactical sensor, refer to the booklet that comes with your tactical watch. Every sensor is different, and its capability double so—find out what the best practical means of use are by adhering to the booklet.
The modern tactical watch is a marvel of design and engineering that provides those engaged in life saving occupations or extreme outdoor activities with the information they need to perform their tasks safely and efficiently. With the right tactical watch you no longer need a satchel of instruments to navigate the woods or bring life-sustaining aid to those in need. Everything you need is on your wrist.
We hope you found this tactical watch information helpful and don’t forget to stop back on a regular basis for more insightful product review guides from your friends at gearhungry.com.