16 Best Military Watches That Can Survive the Battlefield

military watches

Military watches embody the definition of ‘form over function’. This is the reason why this type of watch is still popular today. Find out how these timepieces went from the battlefield to your wardrobe by reading this guide.

What are Military Watches?

Traditionally speaking, a military watch is a timepiece issued to soldiers. It had to be durable, easy to read, and accurate. In addition, these watches had to pass strict requirements and certifications before they can be called a military watch.

But in modern times, a military watch doesn’t necessarily have to be issued by the armed forces. In fact, certain timepieces are now considered a military watch if they resemble the government-issued models during the war.

History of Military Watches

From Pockets to Wrists

Watches did not arrive in this world with a strap to wear on our wrist. In fact, men used only pocket watches before the 19th century as wristwatches were considered as women’s accessory.

But during the 1880s, the norm started to change. Men, particularly those from the military, started to wear their watches on their wrists. They did it not for aesthetics, but for convenience.

If you were a soldier in combat, fumbling for your watch inside your pocket can be so much trouble. With that said, it would be easier to check the time if the watch was situated where they could readily see it. Thus, they started attaching straps to their watches so they could wear them on their wrist. It soon became socially acceptable for men to wear wristwatches.

The Impact of WWI to Military Watches

As World War I raged on, soldiers needed better watches. With that said, a lot of watch brands started developing their own technology to meet the demands of warfare. A few of those are the luminous dials and unbreakable crystals.

The MIL-SPEC was Born

Before the Second World War broke out, the US military was implementing a system called the US Military Specification (MIL-SPEC). What this means is that everything the military used, from guns to watches, should follow specifications and quality requirements. Only watches that met these standards earned the right to be called a military watch.

Military watches, Bulova Military Watches
Photo from mybulova.com

Type A-11 Military Watches

When talking about military watches, the Type A-11 stands out. In fact, it is even widely referenced as “the watch that won the war”. This was the watch issued to Allied Air Forces and Army personnel.

Four companies manufactured the watch, namely, Elgin, Bulova, Waltham, and Hamilton. But due to the strict requirements that it had to meet, Type A-11 watches looked exactly similar to each other. They had a black dial,  white hands, and Arabic numeral hour markers. In addition, they had 60-sec gradations and high-visibility design.

When it comes to features, a hacking movement was necessary. This allowed the soldiers to synchronize their timepieces down to the last second. In a war, being late even just for a few seconds can cost you your life.

British Broad Arrow, military watches
Photo from gearpatrol.com

Britain’s WWW

If the Americans had the Type A-11, the British had the WWW. The three letters meant “Wrist. Watch. Waterproof”. Watches that passed the standards gained the right to have the British Broad Arrow engraved on the dial. The British Broad Arrow can be seen in the picture above.

To produce these military watches, the British Ministry of Defense asked neutral Swiss watch companies to manufacture the timepieces for them. Lucky for them, 12 watchmakers agreed to their plan. These were  Jaeger-LeCoultre, Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Longines, Lemania, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex. Collectively, they were called the “Dirty Dozen”.

These watches had to be waterproof, chronometer-grade, and durable. Although these were not as popular as the Type A-11, they were similar when it comes to design.

The Reason the Military Wear Watches Backwards

If you’re observant, you might notice that some people wear their watches backwards (i.e. the dial is facing the same direction as your palm). This trend started in the military.

The first reason why they do this is because it is easier to check the time in this position. Especially while they are aiming a gun. Secondly, it was a way for them to avoid bumping the dial of the watch against rough surfaces.

While this was originally meant for practical reasons, it gradually became a fashion statement.

Top 16 Best Military Watches

Seiko SNK803, Military Watches

1. Seiko SNK803

Why is it good?

A military watch list is never complete without the Seiko SNK803. This watch has a solid build, top-notch accuracy, and a pleasing design. With that said, it’s no wonder this model has become iconic. A lot of watch enthusiasts recommend this to budding collectors.

Despite having a low price tag, it stays true to its military style. The design of this watch is very purposeful with its clean and legible dial. And with its 37mm case diameter, it is neither small nor bulky. In addition to that, the watch is also fitted with a very comfortable nylon strap.

When it comes to specs, it is equipped with Hardlex crystal. This mineral is often lauded for its durability and tolerance to scratches. Apart from that, it is also less reflective, thus minimizing sun glare.

In terms of movement, it uses the Seiko 7S26B. Its smooth mechanism allows the watch to stay precise and accurate. And if you’re the type who likes admiring a watch’s calibre, you’ll be glad to hear that its case back is made of transparent glass.

Seiko SNK803 specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 40 hours
  • Dimensions: 37mm
  • Water resistance: 100m

Timex Weekender, Military Watches

2. Timex Weekender

Why is it good?

If you value simplicity, check out the Timex Weekender. It is a military-inspired watch with a reliable quartz movement. It can even run for at least three years without changing its battery.

With its clean and simple dial, the watch goes with any kind of outfit. What makes it more versatile is its easy-to-change straps. You can change it from a robust green nylon strap to a classic black leather in an instant. Like the military, it can camouflage its way to any of your outfits.

Furthermore, what makes this watch stand out is its humble price tag. In fact, it is one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest watch on this list.

Timex Weekender specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power reserve: n/a
  • Dimensions: 38mm
  • Water resistance: 30m
Timex Expedition Scout, Military Watches
Photo from timex.com

3. Timex Expedition Scout

Why is it good?

Another budget watch to check out is the Timex Expedition Scout. One look at it and you’ll know that it was heavily influenced by military watches. While this watch is often compared to the Weekender, they have subtle differences. The Expedition Scout is slightly larger and has a busier dial.

An outstanding thing about this watch is its luminosity. Its Indiglo technology is one of the brightest in the market. Instead of illuminating only the hands and hour markers, the whole dial glows in the dark. We’ll admit, the Indiglo is nice to look at.

In terms of aesthetic, this watch is available in various colour schemes — from cream to black to camo! This makes it a good daily watch to wear casually.

Timex Expedition Scout specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power reserve: n/a
  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Water resistance: 50m
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, Military Watches
Photo from hamiltonwatch.com

4. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

Why is it good?

The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical falls on the middle price range. When it comes to pedigree, Hamilton has strong roots in the military. They even have three collections that were inspired by the three branches of the military. The Khaki Navy for the Navy, Khaki Aviation for the Air Force, and finally the Khaki Field for the Army.

Inside, it is powered by the hand-wound H-50 movement. The calibre is available with or without a date function and can keep the watch running for up to 80 hours. That’s more than double than the average power reserve.

Undeniably, the Khaki Field Mechanical is one of the most handsome military watches in the market. In fact, it is a recreation of the original 1960s model. No wonder why it gives off a retro vibe. Additionally, it is available in black, white, and olive green. 

If you’re looking to upgrade from your Seiko but still can’t commit to a high luxury watch, this is the way to go.

Hamilton Khaki Field specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Hand-wound
  • Power reserve: 80 hours
  • Dimensions: 38mm
  • Water resistance: 50m
Seiko 5 SNZG15, Hamilton Watches
 

5. Seiko 5 SNZG15

Why is it good? 

If you want a military watch with a slightly modern feel, the Seiko 5 SNZG15 is for you. This model has quite a following from the watch community for good reason. Firstly, it is sturdy thanks to the Seiko 5 collection’s Diashock shock-resistant design. Secondly, it is very affordable.

Inside the durable case, it is equipped with Seiko’s 7S36 calibre. It is automatic and runs at  21,600 bph. Overall, this calibre is a reliable and accurate workhorse for the price.

The SNZG15 is the perfect watch if you’re looking to upgrade from a quartz watch to a mechanical one. It is one of the most bang-for-buck military watches around.

Seiko 5 SNZG15 specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 43 hours
  • Dimensions: 42mm
  • Water resistance: 100m
Timex MK1, Military Watches
Photo from timex.com

6. Timex MK1

Why is it good? 

The Timex MK1 is yet another reliable military watch from Timex. It is one of the brand’s most iconic designs. In fact, it was inspired by the original MK1s back in the ’80s. Back then, these were mostly used by soldiers and were made to be disposable. The watches even had instructions on their case backs on how to discard them.

But now, Timex has upgraded it to become a very durable watch. The design was the same; however, the materials used were more sturdy and reliable. It is also fitted with Timex’s reliable analogue quartz movement that will last for years.

Finally, patrons of the brand can choose between two case materials for the watch — aluminum and stainless steel. If you want a light-weight feel of the watch, you should get the former.

Timex MK1 specs:

  • Case: Available in Aluminum and Stainless Steel
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power reserve: n/a
  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Water resistance: 30m

Luminox Atacama Field Automatic, Military Watches

7. Luminox Atacama Field Automatic

Why is it good? 

The Luminox Atacama Field Automatic is under the brand’s Land collection. And this collection is being used and endorsed by various land-based law enforcement groups such as the NYPD. This is when you know it’s the real deal.

With its 44mm case, the watch is easy to read. Meanwhile, the orange and blue accents are a treat to look at against the cream dial. In addition to that, the dial is protected by a sapphire crystal that’s coated with anti-reflective material.

Speaking of performance, this watch uses the Swiss Automatic SW220-1 HH5 calibre. This workhorse beats at a frequency of 28,800 vph and can power your watch up to 40 hours.

Luminox Atacama Field Automatic specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 40 hours
  • Dimensions: 44mm
  • Water resistance: 200m

IWC Mark XVIII Edition “Le Petit Prince”, Military Watches

8. IWC Mark XVIII Edition “Le Petit Prince”

Why is it good?

Any bookworm watch collectors out there? The IWC Mark XVIII Edition “Le Petit Prince” is a must-see. Undoubtedly, the watch’s midnight blue dial is enough to make your jaws drop.

In terms of power, it is fitted with the IWC 30110-calibre movement (ETA 2892-A2). It has 21 jewels and can squeeze up to 42 hours of power reserve. In addition, the watch’s inner case is made with soft iron. Thus, making it more resistant to magnetic fields.

But that’s not all. At the back, there’s an engraving of the Little Prince. This small detail is a nice addition to the overall look of the watch.

Paired with a brown leather strap, this watch can be worn both in casual and semi-formal occasions. As a famous quote from the book goes: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly”. So if your heart can’t think about this watch, go get it!

IWC Mark XVIII Edition “Le Petit Prince” specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 42 hours
  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Water resistance: 60m

Victorinox Maverick

9. Victorinox Maverick

Why is it good? 

Victorinox has been tied to the Swiss military for a long time. Which is why the Victorinox Maverick is something you must check out if you’re hunting for military watches.

The black dial of the Maverick makes it easy to pair with different outfits. On the inner part of it, you can see the military’s 24-hour markers. Meanwhile, the outer part features the 12-hour Arabic and index hour markers.

Another thing that makes this watch more valuable is that it can double as a dive watch. It has a rotating bezel as well as a water-resistance rating of 100m.

This watch is a great choice if you’re looking for a military watch that is affordable, reliable, and versatile.

Victorinox Maverick specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power reserve: n/a
  • Dimensions: 43mm
  • Water resistance: 100m

Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000, Military Watches

10. Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000

Why is it good? 

The Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000 is the only digital military watch included in this list. Over the years, the G-Shock line has become a cult favourite and for good reason. The watches are known for being indestructible.

Aside from that, it packs a ton of features. It has atomic clock accuracy, chronograph, perpetual calendar, and a 300-city world time among others. 

Furthermore, it can double as a smartwatch when you connect it to your phone via the G-Shock Connected mobile app. Setting up reminders and syncing atomic time are only some of the things you can do with the app.

Beyond its features, the G-Shock GMW-B5000 can be a fashion statement. Its matte black case is stealthy enough and can blend in with various casual outfits. It’s definitely something Solid Snake would wear.

Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000 specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: n/a (Digital)
  • Power reserve: n/a
  • Dimensions: 49.3mm
  • Water resistance: 200m

Citizen BM8180 03E Eco Drive

11. Citizen BM8180 03E Eco Drive

Why is it good? 

If the Citizen BM8180 03E Eco Drive were a movie, it would be Rambo. This eye-catching timepiece is one of the most bang-for-buck military watches around.

The watch is equipped with the Eco-Drive caliber 7878, which features solar panels. What this means is that your watch is powered by the sun and that you wouldn’t have to change the battery every now and then. This technology by Citizen has reduced the use of disposable batteries.

Its rugged design is complemented by a comfortable fit. Indeed, the nylon strap that comes with it can fit different wrist sizes.

Overall, this watch is a reliable workhorse that wouldn’t hurt your wallet. Just as you would expect from a company that produces near-Atomic timekeeping.

Citizen BM8180 03E Eco Drive specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power reserve: n/a
  • Dimensions: 37mm
  • Water resistance: 100m

Longines Heritage Military

12. Longines Heritage Military

Why is it good? 

If vintage is what you want, take a look at the Longines Heritage Military. This retro-styled timepiece takes inspiration from the watches that were used by the British Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

When it comes to aesthetics, the watch can be easily mistaken for a vintage one. Its cream dial is clean and only displays the Arabic numerals in a simple font. To take the vintage vibe a notch further, Longines added a few brown stains.

Despite the retro design, the movement used inside is new. The automatic caliber L888.2 has 21 jewels and up to 64 hours of power reserve. It also has no complications whatsoever. Overall, this movement is durable and tells accurate time.

Longines Heritage Military specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 64 hours
  • Dimensions: 38.5mm
  • Water resistance: 30m

cartier tank solo watch, cartier watch, co-ed watch

13. Cartier Tank

Why is it good? 

Believe it or not, the Cartier Tank is one of the earliest military watches. Despite its elegant exterior, this iconic watch takes inspiration from the Renault tanks used during World War I. In fact, Cartier gave its prototype to U.S. General John Pershing in 1918. 

Its rectangular shape and Cartier’s signature roman numeral markers both give it an art deco style. This makes the watch a perfect dress watch as well.

In modern times, a Cartier Tank usually comes with a quartz movement. It is also available in different sizes so people can choose something that fits their wrists.

The Cartier Tank is one of the most iconic watches in history. This is perfect for people who want a luxury watch that can be worn during formal occasions.

Cartier Tank specs:

  • Case: Available in Stainless Steel or Gold
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power reserve: n/a
  • Dimensions: Available in 31mm and 34.8mm
  • Water resistance: 30m
Shinola Runwell Automatic, Military Watches
Photo from shinola.com

14. Shinola Runwell Automatic

Why is it good?

The Shinola Runwell Automatic is the flagship model of the brand. Its richly-printed dial is hard to ignore. Apart from that, the designers chose the perfect font for the Arabic numeral hour markers. This makes the watch easy to read and look at.

Furthermore, it uses the automatic Sellita SW200-1 movement. It has a total of 26 jewels to help reduce friction to maintain accuracy.

Shinola Runwell Automatic specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 38 hours
  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Water resistance: 50m

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, luxury watch brands

15. Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

Why is it good? 

A lot of people overlook the military origins of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. It all started when British Army officers realized that they needed a watch that won’t break during polo matches. Thus, the Reverso was born.

What makes this watch unique is that you can flip the dial over to protect it. Only the case back is exposed. This way, the officers can avoid breaking the glass of the watch while playing. And in case you were wondering, the brand made it look elegant on purpose so that the officers can still wear it during more formal occasions.

In terms of performance, the Reverso is top-notch. It boasts a hand-winding mechanical movement that contains 93 parts and 18 jewels.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso specs:

  • Case: Stainless steel
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 38 hours
  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Water resistance: 30m
Bell and Ross BR V1-92 Military, military watches
Photo from bellross.com

16. Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Military

Why is it good?

The Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Military is one of the most simple military watches you’ll see. Instead of the usual square dial that the brand is known for, this watch sports a round-shaped case. It’s made of stainless steel with a satin-brushed finish to mimic vintage military watches.

It is evident that minimalism was applied to the watch’s design. The thin bezel and highly domed sapphire crystal were similar to watches issued by the Dirty Dozen.

Finally, the dark brown leather strap produces a classy look that ties everything together.

BR V1-92 Military Bell & Ross specs:

  • Case: Stainless Steel
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power reserve: 38 hours
  • Dimensions: 38.5mm
  • Water resistance: 100m

Final Notes

Until now, military watches are popular due to their practicality and durability. It doesn’t matter if you’re a civilian. A military watch or two is always a good addition to your watch collection.

While you’re at it, check out the history of the Breitling Chronomat!

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