THE Guide to Awesome Tactical Watches

Interested in tactical watches but don’t know where to start?

First off, they’re are similar in almost every way to a military watch. They’ve been designed for the rigors of duty. Built to be tough, hard, and precise, because you never know what kind of situation you could find yourself in.

image of the luminox point alaog all black watch

The case should be able to withstand any and all abuse that comes with tactical enforcement. You might be required to step in and take down a suspect and the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not your watch is going to crack under the pressure, or from slamming some creep head first into the concrete to disarm him.

The elements that go into the crafting of any superior tactical watch need to be as unyielding as the threats that are out there.

Comparison Guide

Included in the below table are the follow 7 attributes:

  • Picture
  • Watch
  • Material
  • Band
  • Face
  • Overall Rating out of 5
ImageWatchCaseBandFaceCoolest FeatureOverall Rating Out of 5
image of the Seiko SNAD61 with polyurethane strap and alarm functionSeiko SNAD61Stainless SteelPolyurethaneHardlexAlarm Clock4.3
front view of the Victorinox 241596 night visionVictorinox Night VisionStainless SteelRubberSapphire3 illumination options5
Casio master of rangeman triple sensor solar powered watchCasio G-Shock Master of G RangemanStainless SteelCarbon FiberInorganic GlassSolar Powered4.9
Citizen Men's AT0200-05E eco-drive analog timepiece with chronograph and sub dialsCitizen Men’s AT0200-05EStainless SteelCanvasMineral CrystalChronograph4.4
dual time zone analog swiss made tactical watchVictorinox Maverick IIStainless SteelRubberSapphireDual Time Zones4.4
imae of the tissot v8 with sub-dials and chronogprahTissot V8Stainless SteelLeather CalfskinSapphire CrystalChronograph4.7
front view of the carbon case luminox sentryLuminox SentryReinforced CarbonRubberMineral CrystalBezel4.2
image of the deep 6 diver analog all black timepieceMomentum Deep 6Stainless SteelRubberMineral CrystalAll Black Watch3.5
image of the Fossil CH2564 with blue tinted face and leather bandFossil CH2564Stainless SteelLeatherMineral CrystalSub Dials4.5

What’s So Special About Tactical Watches?

For one, they’re tough customers and they offer a wealth of great features and functions. Things that you’ll actually use, like stop watches, countdown timers, a thermometer, functions to track multiple time zones, a luminescent face, and much more.

While your watch will never replace the gear on your utility belt you want to know it’s one piece of equipment you’re not going to have to worry about failing when you need it most.

That means the face needs to be protected and the case needs to be strong, even if that means adding some extra weight. Think steel, titanium, or resin and not plastic. Plastic is a good option for a Swatch, but not a man’s watch.

You have a variety of choices in the make-up of every facet of your timepiece, from the case to the band to the glass, all of it more than ready, willing, and able to meet any challenges head on. Just like you.

A Band That Can Keep Up

Most come with rubber, resin, or canvas wrist bands which is usually a better choice than stainless or leather. You don’t want to worry about scratching the strap which is what makes rubber or polyurethane such a good choice.

Not only are these bands durable but they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to replace if they get a little chewed up. And they usually fit better because you can add a new adjustment hole wherever you need one. They’re an overall great value.

You Don’t Want to Risk a Scratched Face

When it comes to selecting a face you really only have two options: mineral glass and synthetic sapphire. Mineral is easier to scratch than sapphire but is has a little more give making it tough to crack.

image of the Luminox 0201.BO analog with rubber strap and all black faceSapphire is as close as you can get to scratch proof but it’s extreme hardness makes it easier to crack. Not easy, mind you, but just a tad bit easier. Both are great options and are part of any good tactical timepiece.

Your budget should be the deciding factor when deciding between these two options.

Recommendations

Now that we’ve got the general requirements out of the way here’s a list of my top 10 tactical watches. All are built to the highest quality and definitely won’t let you down while in the field.

And they look good enough for you to wear outside of work. They’re extremely rugged and durable and are loaded with cool and useful features.

Tactical Watch Buying Guide

Looking for a watch but not sure tactical is the direction you want to go? Here are some key elements that you should look into for any watch you’re interested in.

Casing Material

  • Plastic: Cheap watches are made out of plastic. I’m talking about both quality and price. As a general rule I’d stay away from any case made of plastic because it will be easier to damage than one made of tougher materials. Doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a military, tactical, dive, or aviator. DON’T DO IT!
  • Fossil fs4487 analog with sub dialsResin/Carbon Fiber: This is a pretty cool material that is new to the watch world. It’s the same stuff a number firearms, especially pistols are made out of so you know it’s extremely tough. My biggest concern is about scratching. But if the case is black you likely won’t notice any nicks or blemishes like you would on a silver stainless steel case.
  • Ceramic: Also a fairly new material. It’s extremely strong, scratch resistant, and durable. I’d be surprised if we don’t start seeing it more in the future. It tends to be a little pricier than other case materials but it’s worth the price in my book.
  • Stainless Steel: More watch cases are made with steel than any other material. It’s strong and scratch resistant making it a solid choice. It’s heavier than resin and titanium but you likely won’t notice the weight unless you’re not used to wearing a watch regularly.
  • Titanium: Titanium looks similar to steel but is lighter and stronger. It’s a really good option for a divers or anyone else who expects their watch to take a lot of hits. Definitely an excellent choice if you’re tough on your watches. It’s an expensive option but as high quality as you can get.

The Face Needs to be Strong

Whether you want a tactical watch or not my advice about mineral versus sapphire above still stands.

Mineral is a great mid-range option that will suit most people just fine. In fact, it’s hard to find a tactical style timepiece with a sapphire face since it adds significant cost.

image of the Casio AWGM100B-1ACR analog solar powered all black watchSapphire is much more expensive and is usually found on luxury or high end sport watches. The additional benefit sapphire has over crystal is that most new watches come with an anti-glare coating making them easier to read in direct sunlight. Most people, including myself, consider that a luxury I can live without.

You will also come across the occasional plastic face. Plastic is just ok. It scratches easy but is actually pretty resistant to cracks. It is very inexpensive though and easy to replace if it gets too banged up. I would pass on plastic unless your budget absolutely won’t allow for mineral.

The Watch Strap Needs to Hold Up

Choosing a band is more important than most people think. If it doesn’t fit right or is made out of cheap material it will pinch your wrist or pull out your arm hair. Both are really annoying and should be avoided AT ALL COSTS!

You have four main options when choosing a strap. Choose wisely my friend:

  • Rubber/Plastic/Polyurethane/Etc: I really like synthetic bands because they’re comfortable, durable, and cheap to replace if they get worn. They’re also easy to resize since you can add a new hole exactly where you need it meaning you always have a perfect fit.
  • Canvas: Also a good option because it’s very tough and less likely to tear or rip than rubber. It can fray slightly over time which doesn’t look very professional if you’re planning on wearing it to work.
  • Stainless Steel: The metal link band is a classic look, and it’s very durable. There’s no chance if it ripping or breaking. The downside is that if it gets scratched it’s harder to replace and sizing is a little more complicated than with rubber or canvas. Check out this guide on how to resize your own watch so you don’t have to pay a jeweler to do it for you.
  • Leather: A great choice for high end watches but not recommended if you’re going to be wearing it while sweating or swimming. I know a lot of manufacturers claim they’re water proof but I still remember a leather strap dive watch I had once that soaked up salt like like a potato.

Is It Water Resistant

Water resistance is one of those features that’s confusing to most people. When a watch says it’s water resistant to 50 meters it really isn’t.

It’s more like 3 meters. Here’s my rule of thumb: I always make sure my non-dive watches are resistant to at least a hundred meters and my dive watches are 200 meters plus. 100 meters should be safe for everyday swimming or surfing and 200+ will start to get you into scuba range.

Need a watch that will go even deeper? Check out my dive watch guide.

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