13 Best Tactical Watches of 2017
Outdoor 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. We’re going to start with the 3 tactical watches we feel stand clear of the competition – our “Hall of Fame” entries – before highlighting our “Honorable Mentions” and wrapping up with 2 tactical watches we feel deliver exceptional value – our “Best Bang for your Buck” entries. Let’s get started.
Our Top Picks for Best Tactical Watch:
Casio G-Shock RANGEMAN
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.
Garmin Tactix Bravo
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.
Casio Men’s GG-1000-1A3CR
Casio makes their second entry into our 2017 Tactical Watch Hall of Fame 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 Hall of Fame tactical watch will be a dependable companion.
Luminox Evo Navy Seal
The Luminox Evo Navy Seal tactical watch is a joy to behold that embraces all the best aspects of the tactical watch (versatility, ruggedness, usability) while demonstrating conclusively that style and toughness are not mutually exclusive. A short list of its features include GMT scale, luminous clock hands and hour markers, scratch resistant crystal and water resistance to 200 meters.
The Luminox Evo is maybe the most comfortable tactical watch out there and much of that can be laid at the feet of the silicone rubber watch band. That band, as well as the rest of the watch, is as rugged as it is stylish and comfortable. The watchface is easily readable in daylight and especially at night when it exudes an eerie beauty that’s difficult to quantify. While the Luminox Evo Navy Seal is not a feature-laden tactical watch it is durable as all get-out, won’t be intimidated when it starts to rain and will provide you with accurate easy-to-read information day or night.
SureFire 2211 Luminox
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.
Hamilton Men’s HML
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.
Luminox Men’s A.8831
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.
This 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.
Timex Men’s Expedition
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 Hall of Fame 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.
Casio Men’s PAG240-1CR
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.
Suunto Core All Black
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 flashlight 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 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.
Timex Men’s Expedition
Timex has been known for many years for creating durable, reasonably high-quality timepieces. So it shouldn’t be any great surprise that this tactical watch ends up in our Best Bang for your Buck section. 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.
SMAEL Men’s Sports Analog
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 and one that qualifies the SMAEL Outdoor Watch as a Best Bang for your Buck.
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.
What is the best make of tactical watch?
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.
What is a tactical watch?
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”.
What can a tactical watch do?
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.
Related: Tactical Flashlights Buyer Guide
Who wears a tactical watch?
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, 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.
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 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.
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.