Choosing a tactical watch: which features are critical?
Since our founding, we were built around tactical watches. So we know a little something about the need for tactical watches in a military setting. This is our advice and thoughts around choosing the right tactical watch, specifically for those in the military.
Why do members of the Military need a special watch?
Shouldn’t any watch do just fine? The short (obvious) answer is that no, not every watch is created equally. When your life is on the line, you need equipment that works. You do not have time to think about repairing a faulty watch or anything else.
In addition, military settings are tough. Non-constrained. Your equipment must be able to handle everything from combat to jumping from planes to diving into the ocean. And your watch must be constructed so that it helps you, rather than hinders you.
Choosing a watch for a member of the armed services requires some thought and some effort to get it right. So what should you think about?
Key characteristics of a tactical military watch
These are the important traits to look for when choosing any watch for a member of any branch of the armed services. You may want to adjust these slightly depending on the branch (Army versus Navy versus Marines versus Air Force versus Coast Guard). But these are good requirements for any military watch:
- Tough construction. This is a watch built to serve, not to look pretty. Don’t buy a high-end watch and expect it to survive a deployment. Buy a watch built with stainless steel and designed to take a beating. For example, the face crystal (or glass) should not stick above the casing. Otherwise it will get knocked off. Make sure it uses sapphire crystal. Nothing can be second class in a military situation.
- Doesn’t track you. Sometimes the obvious should be said. Don’t buy an Apple Watch for the military. They track you. They need recharging. They break easily. And they need the internet to function. Get a proper watch made for the situation. Apple watches are for gamers, not for our servicemen and women.
- Built to last a lifetime. In a tactical situation, you never know what is coming. And you just need to know your watch will work and keep time. Find a watch with a Swiss movement. These are still the best in the world for a reason, the Swiss know how to build a well constructed movement. Don’t choose a watch made in China. Built in America gives you more confidence that the construction is solid and can handle your life.
- Waterproof at depth. Sweat damages some delicate watches. And 100 feet of saltwater will definitely damage a watch not built for it. Find a watch with at least 300 meters (900 feet) of water resistance. This will cover true dives as well as the sweat and water that come from tactical situations. Your watch should be able to handle whatever you need to accomplish.
- Doesn’t draw attention. Many watches are built to draw attention. Tactical watches should be designed expressly not to draw attention. We recommend black watches with just enough lume to show you the time. In the dark, you don’t want everyone to be able to see your location because of the tritium tubes glowing in the watch hands. Don’t buy a gaudy gold watch. Trust me.
- Smart details. Finally, a true tactical watch will use a NATO watch strap. NATO straps are designed to hold onto your watch even if a screw bar breaks. Also, notice I said ‘screw bars’ – don’t choose a watch that uses spring bars for tactical situations. They will break. Make sure the back is stainless steel as well. And, ideally it would also have a 24 hour clock available for military time issues.
The good news is: you can find a great tactical military watch that will fit all of these criteria. And it will cost less than you think, since it’s made for you and not made to look pretty.
Our recommended tactical military watches
Need a more specific recommendation? Well, we have those as well. Here are the best tactical military watches available:
In third place is the Springfield GMT field watch. Specifically, the black one. Not as tactically designed as the other two, but it still has the features that are critical in a military watch. If you are looking for a watch that isn’t as clearly ‘military’, then it’s a great choice.
Choose the Right Watch for Military Personnel
Smith & Bradley was founded to support members of law enforcement and the military. We believe deeply in making high-quality watches that perform in extreme environments. And these are some of the key details that are important when choosing a tactical watch for a member of the military. Be smart and give them a watch that helps, no matter the situation.