10 Attributes of a Good Military or Tactical Watch

10 Attributes of a Good Military or Tactical Watch

While it may seem that smartphones completely superseded wristwatches, there is one type of watches that is still sold like crazy and even gains more popularity today. We are talking about a tactical watch.

Tactical or military watches are extremely demanded today, not only by police officers or Spec Ops, but by ordinary people like you and me too. If you are looking for a good military watch, we have prepared this article for you. Here, we explain what a military watch is, how to choose it, and what to pay attention to when you buy one.

What is a military watch

Military or tactical watch is a wristwatch with a number of specific functions, stylish military design, and extreme reliability that allow the watch to function in a wide variety of conditions.

Of course, there are military watches that were designed specially for Navy or army units. Historically, the very first wristwatch was invented during World War I to replace pocket watches that were common those days. Wristwatches for the army had to be accurate and reliable, and these features have reached us through all the years.

The other type of tactical watches is normal everyday watches that merely look military: they inherit some design features of true military watches, maybe some functions and the khaki color schema, but in reality there is nothing tactical about such watches except design.

So, how do you tell real tactical watches from the “wannabe” ones? Let’s see what makes a wristwatch true tactical.

How military watches are different from civilian ones?

The answer comes from the understanding of what the military watch was designed for. Indeed, imagine a Spec Ops or a military who is in the process of doing their hard job. What do they need from a wristwatch then? It is reliability – the watch must not fail whatever happens. Durability – the watch will be used in hard conditions full of shocks, moisture, mud, and all. Also: accuracy, comfort, and assistance in doing the job.

That’s what makes tactical watches stand out. They are really tough and functional, not just looking like that.

Take the design, for example. A true tactical watch features:

  • Blacked, camo, or khaki colors – to help the wearer remain invisible
  • Sanded non-reflective casing – to prevent flickers and reflections that may disclose the position of the wearer
  • Easily readable face, dials and hands – to instantly read time and other vital info
  • Non-reflective sapphire glass – to effectively withstand scratches and damages and remain clear
  • Overall inconspicuous design. The watch is not about “see how rich I am”, but about functionality and efficiency in the first place.

What are types of tactical watches

There are many types of tactical or military watches, but overall you can group them all into several categories.

Classic military watches

This is a universal class of watches often called classic or aviator type wristwatch. They may look a bit retro, but that does not necessarily mean they won’t have contemporary functions like G-sensor or water resistance.

While being real military watches and sharing all their capabilities, the somewhat classic design allows for wearing the tactical watch outside the shooting range or military camp too. This means a much wider range of situations where such watches look natural.

Functional tactical watches

This type of military watches encompasses many modern functions and capabilities of watches. They are now more of a multifunctional tool on your wrist rather than mere watches. The design is also more contemporary and sports-looking, while the functional part may include almost everything you can imagine from radio and GPS to tachymeter and accelerometer.

Quartz tactical watches demonstrate extreme accuracy and durability under high loads and mechanical damages.

Dive watches

Dive watches are made for those who often submerge underwater – scuba divers, swimmers, Navy and so on. They are water resistant, which means the construction of such watches allows them to survive extreme pressures and remain functional even during submersion up to 200 meters below the surface.

Another distinct feature of dive watches are clear dials that is self-light up with luminous tritium inserts – a nice feature underwater where its getting darker the deeper you submerge.

Navigation watches

Navigation or pilot watches are a special government standard that describes design and manufacturing of watches for Air Force pilots.

The standard specifies the following features of a navigation watch:

  • Standardized design of dials and hands
  • Accuracy no less than +/- 30 seconds per day
  • Waterproof
  • Shockproof (must survive a fall from 4 feet)
  • Luminous hands
  • Non-magnetic / anti-magnetic
  • At least 36 hours of reserve

The design of pilot tactical watches is pretty much the same with only slight variations, which make them look even more classic than classic military watches. But if you want some proven style, a navigation watch is what you need.

What are 10 most important attribute of tactical watches

1. Durability

While shelf life of a civilian watch is often 3 or 5 years, tactical watches can easily serve for dozens of years. Military watches are durable thanks to stainless steel, carbon or titanium cases, and extremely reliable mechanism inside. A typical military watch can deal with shock damage, falling down, submerging underwater and so on. When you buy a tactical watch, you can be sure that that won’t let you down for many years.

2. Reliability

Tactical watches are renowned for their reliability. No matter how hard you hit them, they keep going, on and on. That is why some many professions where tough conditions are not rare prefer military types of watches over all others. Sometimes even sportsmen choose tactical watches instead of sports types. Tactical watches are shockproof, mud and dust proof, waterproof, antimagnetic and more – all for 100% reliability.

3. Accuracy

Accuracy is what tactical watches are valued for. Thanks to modern accurate quartz generators, military watches remain accurate without correction for months or even years!

4. Utilitarian design

One of the most distinct features of tactical or military watches is strictly utilitarian design without unnecessary decorations or complications. Every option is available with minimum hassle, and the design promotes straightforward and intuitive everyday use of the watch.

5. Highly legible hands and dials

Reading the watch in dark or low light conditions can be crucial, so hands and dials must remain easily readable.

6. Inconspicuous design

Sandblasted or matte case prevents reflections to allow safely using the watch during stealth operations. A camouflage or dark strap also works for wearer’s invisibility.

7. Tactical functions

Depending on the type of a tactical watch, it can feature a lot of complicated functions: GPS navigation or a compass, chronograph, altimeter, accelerometer, tachymeter, timer, solar navigation, dive bezel and depth sensor, or anything else you may find useful on your mission.

8. Comfortable strap

While it may seem like a minor feature, in fact the firm grip of the strap on your wrist is crucial. You do not want to lose your all-powerful tactical watch because of a loose strap, do you?

9. Scratch-resistant sapphire glass

Now, this is important. While many civilian watches often have plastic glass, for a tactical watch this is intolerable. Even normal glass is too weak for hard duties a military watch is intended for. Always look for a sapphire crystal glass, because it is much more resistant to scratches and hence the dials remain clear and easily readable. Also, the sapphire glass does not make reflections, which is crucial in tactical missions.

10. Proven military background

When the tactical watch you select has some field use history, you can be sure that such watch is really what they tell you it is. All really good tactical watches or their predecessors typically have some military background.

Some tactical watch brands you want to pay attention to

While there are numerous of good brands around, we will name just a few that you can give a chance to. All of these watch brands have proven quality and have real military watches in their product lines.


The tactical watches created by this brand can be seen on wrists of many military in the U.S. and Europe. Aside from that, you could see Seiko Prospex model in the “Predator” movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In addition to perfect quality and a whole lot of tactical functions, Seiko is a good choice for an everyday watch too.


A premium Swiss brand of military watches follows a simple rule: a perfect balance between performance and stylish design. The tactical models offer a range of capabilities you would expect in the device like that, and attractive yet extremely functional design.


A well-known brand of tactical equipment. You just can’t go wrong with Garmin: every single detail of Garmin’s watches is a product of engineering and creative design. The brand offers arguably a little bit overpriced products, but the most technically advanced and feature-rich ones too.


Often worn by Navy SEALs, Luminox watches combine superior durability, uncompromising reliability and the entire set of tactical functions from waterproof to shock resistance thanks to hardened crystal glass.


Casio G-Shock is probably one of the most acclaimed models of tactical watches. And for a reason: Casio has managed to produce possibly one of the toughest military watches in the world. They can survive everything from deep underwater to falling from a 5 meter height. And the practical part is awesome too, so Casio is definitely worth a look if you want a really good tactical watch.


Marathon was one of the brands which history goes back into the first days of wristwatches. The company was making watches in the beginning in 20th century for military and Air Force pilots. So, if you decide to stop on Marathon tactical watches, you will be in a good company.


CWC is a legendary brand. They delivered over 200,000 pilot watches to the British Army since 60’s. Literally, every single model of CWC watched was field-tested by military at some point. This is as impressive as technical and tactical features of CWC watches.

This article is the author's opinion and does not represent the official position of BattleSteel®️

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