Looking for a tough and capable watch that’s good enough for a warzone? Here’s our guide to the best military watches on the market.
The history of watchmaking is closely tied to the history of warfare. Indeed, the first ever wristwatches first emerged during World War I, when soldiers would strap pocket watches to their wrists using specialised cases.
Watches quickly became invaluable tools for fighting men, essential for timing attacks as well as for navigation. WWII saw the development of pilot’s watches, with large dials and oversized crowns designed to be used through thick gloves, as well as the first field watches.
These days, military-inspired watch designs are some of the most popular in modern watchmaking – and while phones and smartwatches might be more accurate than your average quartz or mechanical watch, modern soldiers still rely on watches when they’re out in the field.
Whether you’re a LARPer or a real man of action, here’s our guide to the best military and tactical watches on the market today.
Our research & why you should trust us
Our research process for selecting these best military watches is based on our previous experience trying on and owning these watches for ourselves. We have over 15 years of experience in the luxury watch space.
- We have tried on every single one of these watches and rigorously tested their functions, features and wearability, and we regularly update this article.
- There’s no product placement in this article – this is our pure, unadulterated opinion informed by years of experience writing about watches.
- Some of these watches on this list are watches we own ourselves – we’ve put our money where our mouths are.
- While this list (as well as DMARGE’s broader editorial focus for watches) focuses on luxury watches, we’ve provided a diverse mix of price points, materials, case sizes, aesthetics and brands in order to provide a thorough cross-section of the military and military-inspired watches on the market.
- All of the watches included are manufactured by reputable, established brands that have been in the watch business for many years. No dodgy microbrands here!
- We regularly attend watch fairs in person such as Watches & Wonders as well as visit boutiques both officially and off the clock in order to stay up-to-date on the watch industry.
Military watch FAQs
How do I pick a men's watch?
Aesthetics, complications, quality and brand aside, the most important thing to consider when buying a new watch is that you choose one that's the right size. If you have a smaller wrist, go for timepieces with smaller diameters or thinner cases. Measure the circumference of your wrist. If it is between six to seven inches, choose a watch with a case diameter of 38-42 mm wide, for example.
How is a men's watch supposed to fit?
If your watch leaves imprints on your skin, it is too tight. Ideally, it should be loose enough to slide more than two inches down your wrist when your arm is perpendicular to the ground.
How many watches should a man own?
Most men only own one watch, but fashion experts say you should have three – an everyday watch, a workout watch, and a dress watch for special occasions.
What watches do soldiers actually wear?
While there's a wide variety of watches in service with militaries around the world, most modern soldiers wear Casio G-Shocks, as they're cheap, tough and reliable.
Casio G-Shock DW5600 Series
Let’s start with a watch that real soldiers actually use in 2023: the classic Casio G-Shock DW5600 series. One of only four G-Shocks that have an official NATO Stock Number (meaning it’s a ‘standardized material item of supply’ recognized by all NATO member states), the DW5600 is cheap, tough and reliable – everything a soldier needs.
While its feature list is somewhat basic by modern G-Shock standards, it’s got more features than most quartz watches on the market (and far more than most mechanical watches, especially those in military service): a powerful backlight, chronograph and alarm functions… It’s also effectively bulletproof, shock-resistant and water-resistant to 200m.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
Easily Hamilton’s most iconic timepiece, the Khaki Field is the go-to field watch for any military watch aficionado. Rugged, utilitarian and versatile, the Khaki Field is available in a wide variety of sizes, dial finishes and either quartz or mechanical movements – we’ve opted for the latter as it’s more ‘authentic’ for a field watch and a more premium choice.
Its sandblasted stainless steel case houses a manual-winding movement with a ‘weekend proof’ 80-hour power reserve and comes mounted on a hardy textile NATO strap. You can also get this one on a steel bracelet.
IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43
The iconic IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch is modelled after pilot’s observation watches utilised by both Allied and Axis air forces during WWII, and remains one of the best-known military watches in the watch industry today. Immaculately crafted, this is a traditional pilot’s watch non pareil.
The Big Pilot is, well, big, but this 43mm model is a more wearable take on the classic timepiece. A pure, time-only piece, it features an oversized screw-in crown and an exhibition caseback.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Patrouille de France 70th Anniversary
France’s Bell & Ross is a brand that’s all about militaria. Their signature square case designs are meant to mimic aircraft cockpit instrumentation, and they also have a partnership with the Patrouille de France, the precision aerobatics demonstration unit of the French Air and Space Force, as well as other armed forces branches.
As its name implies, this piece commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Patrouille de France and features a micro-blasted black ceramic case, a royal blue dial with the Patrouille de France logo at 9 o’clock, and a matching blue calfskin and canvas strap with stitching in the colours of the French flag.
A contemporary take on the three-handed ‘Dirty Dozen’ watch design – a group of 12 watches commissioned by the British Ministry of Defence from different manufacturers – the Bremont Broadsword houses a chronometer-rated BE-95-2AV movement inside its two-piece 40mm hardened steel case. Mounted on a khaki green sailcloth strap, this is a tough watch from the only luxury watchmaker with a partnership with the Ministry of Defence.
Panerai Submersible BMG-Tech
Italian brand Panerai also has a military genesis, having grown to prominence as the official watch supplier to the Royal Italian Navy. These days, all of their watches are modelled after the distinctive cushion-shaped dive watches they produced during WWII, with the Submersible being the most technical take on that formula.
This particular Submersible is crafted from BMG, or Bulk Metallic Glass. An exotic next-generation alloy, BMW is both much harder and lighter than steel while also being corrosion-resistant and antimagnetic. Add in 300m of water resistance, a unidirectional diver’s bezel, Panerai’s famous locking crown guard and lume bright enough to conquer the depths and you get one capable beast of a watch.
Marathon Pilot’s Navigator
A Canadian-based watch company that manufactures its watches in Switzerland, Marathon has a long history of producing military and field watches – indeed, Marathon is the sole supplier of watches to the United States Armed Forces. They offer exceptional durability and value plus a rather unique aesthetic.
The Marathon Pilot’s Navigator (which, as the name suggests, was originally designed for US Air Force pilots) features a unique high-impact fibre shell case that is sweat and shock resistant, as well as lightweight. The case has a matte stealth finish to avoid unwanted reflections and the special asymmetrical shape ensures the matte grey steel crown is fully protected.
If the fibre shell case wasn’t unique enough, it also features tritium tubes instead of lume – something few modern watches offer. Tritium tubes are self-illuminating gas tubes, meaning they will not dull down in brightness like normal watch lume, which needs to be ‘charged’ by an external light source to glow.
Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon
Swiss firm Victorinox is best known as the maker of the famous Swiss Army knife, but they also produce a line of surprisingly tough watches, like this I.N.O.X. here. This model is crafted from a carbon fibre composite and features a tough rubber strap.
The best bit? This watch comes with a special waterproof Pelican-style case, a black protective bumper you can slip over its bezel, as well as a blacked-out Victorinox Spartan Swiss Army knife.
Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback
Zenith has been making pilot’s watches since the very first days of aviation. In 1888, the Swiss brand filed a trademark for the French term “Pilote”, followed by the English version “Pilot” in 1904 – demonstrative of how early they got into the pilot’s watch game. To this day, Zenith is the only brand that can put ‘Pilot’ on the dials of its watches.
Featuring a black ceramic case and a black opaline dial with a corrugated pattern – inspired by the famous Junkers Ju 52 – the Big Date Flyback (as the name implies) boasts an updated version of Zenith’s famed El Primero 3600 flyback chronograph calibre with a big date complication. A modern take on the classic ‘onion’ crown and a durable black Cordura-effect rubber strap complete this military-inspired piece.
Tudor Pelagos FXD
Developed in conjunction with the French Navy’s combat swimmers, the Tudor Pelagos FXD is a no-nonsense, stripped-back take on their Pelagos dive watch that features fixed strap bars, a bidirectional timing bezel, a hardy single-piece woven fabric strap with a Velcro closure and a tough yet light titanium case.
Under the hood beats a COSC-certified in-house movement which features a 70-hour power reserve and helps the watch achieve a 200m water-resistance rating.