Field watches have had their role in history, as they have served as reliable timepieces for soldiers since World War II with their accurate timekeeping and rugged construction. In modern times, this kind of watch has made it on the wrists and collections of civilians.
The field watch has become popular to consumers not only for its accuracy and durability but also for its minimalist aesthetic that makes for a versatile style for matching any outfit. Moreover, modern field watches are being designed with a bit more style; additional functions; technological advancements; and reinforcements to suit the needs and preferences of the modern man.
Brief History of the Field Watch
To give a little background in the history of the field watch, there was a time, specifically before World War I, when wristwatches weren’t exactly considered manly but seen more as dainty accessories rather than for utility and were marketed only towards women, while men relied on their pocket watches.
However, for the military, the problem with pocket watches is that when in battle, it could be risky to be searching the pockets of one’s trench coat to reach for one’s pocket watch. So, that’s when wristwatches specifically for the military was devised for a more practical means of keeping time. Furthermore, this also changed the notion that wristwatches were only meant for women.
The first military watches were called “trench watches”, as they were named after their purpose that is to be used in the trenches. But it wasn’t until World War II that militaries provided watches as standard issue. And the most commonly issued was the A-11 Military Spec.
Apart from the field watch, another timepiece that became part of military history also worth noting is the Cartier Tank Watch, a watch with a design said to be based on the military vehicle, hence its name. The first of its kind was presented to American forces leader, General John Pershing after the victory of the American forces over Central powers in World War I in celebration of their triumph.
If you’re interested to know more about the field watch and its contribution to military history, you can check out our full article on field watches.
Apart from their functionality, field watches have become well-favored for its style and has remained popular to date.
Field watches sell from under a hundred to well into the thousands. For this article, we’ve picked out some of the best watches ranging from under $100 up to $500 max to offer recommendations in a price range that most of our readers can afford.
(Please note, all prices were checked at the time of publishing and all watches were selling for $500 or less. However, prices may have fluctuated since then, possibly pushing them over the original budget).
Best Field Watches Under $100
Timex Expedition Scout Chronograph Watch
Even at its low price, you can get a quality timepiece from Timex.
Although it’s the most affordable on our list, the Timex Expedition Scout Chronograph Watch is one to last with a classic appeal that won’t fade. And there’s an added chronograph feature in this field watch to add to that.
Combined with this quartz watch’s functionality is a simplistic aesthetic. Enclosed by its brass case and the scratch-resistant mineral crystal dial window is a beige dial that is perfectly complemented by its brown leather strap. Other useful features of this watch include a date display at the 4 o’clock position, water resistance to 100 meters, and let’s not forget about Timex’s signature Indiglo backlight.
Citizen Eco-Drive Stainless Steel Watch
The Citizen Eco-Drive Stainless Steel Watch is a field watch with a bit more pizazz.
It’s tastefully crafted with an appealing contrast of colors on its dial. Encasing its dial is stainless steel along with scratch-resistant mineral crystal. And to complete its design is a brown calfskin leather strap.
This Japanese quartz watch tells time in both 12-hour and 24-hour formats, and it comes with Arabic numeral markers at 5-minute intervals. A date display is also provided at the 3 o’clock position. And it’s water resistant to 100 meters.
Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch
Epitomizing the classic field watch with its black dial with white markers and lumped hands; stainless steel case; and black canvas strap, the Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch makes a versatile timepiece that offers functionality and chic minimalism.
It runs with a 40-hour power reserve, 21-jewel Japanese automatic movement that can be seen at the exhibition case back. Apart from the time, this watch also tells the day of the week and date through its display at the 3 o’clock position.
With its Hardlex crystal, this watch is protected from scratches. And with its 30-meter water resistance, this watch is protected from splashes.
Best Field Watches Under $200
Bertucci A-2T Vintage Watch
As a product of a fusion traditional military features with modern technology, the Bertucci A-2T Vintage Watch is a rather impressive timepiece. It’s designed extremely durable and quite appealing, but most of all, it’s reliable in timekeeping.
This ruggedly handsome Swiss quartz watch is constructed with a black ion-plated titanium case that has a screw-down crown and screw-down case back, hardened sapphire crystal dial window, and black Zulu strap with military spec nylon webbing and heavy duty stitching. This watch also made our list of best titanium watches.
Furthermore, incorporated into its rugged construction is an ergonomic approach with their own patented features. Their Unibody case is as comfortable as it is durable. And its crown, as well as its high-performance band has their Active Comfort design.
Impingement of wrist movements is prevented by the design in its crown, while for the band is a one-piece design with their Fold and Tuck excess band retention feature and wide adjustment range, which makes for comfortable wear that can perfectly fit any wrist size.
Its dial is characterized with a high contrast design in black and white along with super luminous hands and markers. It provides the time in both 12-hour and 24-hour formats. And it has 100-meter water resistance.
Orient Defender Multi-Eye Function Field Watch
Military inspired with a refined design, the Orient Defender Multi-Eye Function Field Watch is a multifunctional timepiece that’s quite stunning.
On its aesthetic high contrast dial, you can find subdials for the 24 hours and day of the week, as well as a date display at the 6 o’clock position. And enclosing it with a reinforcement of scratch resistance is a durable mineral crystal dial window.
Housed within this beautiful watch is a 40-hour power reserve, 21-jewel Japanese automatic movement. This watch is water resistant to 100 meters, and it comes with a screw-down crown and screw-down case back to match.
MARATHON Swiss Made Military Field Army Watch
Designed for the use of infantry and military personnel, the MARATHON Swiss Made Military Field Army Watch meets the military standards under MIL-PRF-46374G, Type I, Class 1. Whether for a soldier in the field of battle or for a modern man in his day to day life, this watch won’t disappoint.
The highly durable, impact-resistant fiber shell case; scratch-resistant sapphire crystal dial window and a black nylon strap that composes this watch makes for a tough exterior. And it’s reinforced with 30 meter-water resistance.
It runs with a 3-jewel quartz movement. For reading the time in the dark, MaraGlo photoluminescent paint is applied in the hands and markers.
Best Field Watches Under $500
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Watch
Deeply rooted in military tradition, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Watch exemplifies a classic field watch. It’s durable, precise, and reliable. To top it off, it also makes a stylish timepiece for the modern man.
It boasts the design of a quintessential field watch from its green Nato strap, stainless steel case, to its luminous high contrast dial that’s enclosed by a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal dial window.
This Swiss mechanical watch has 17 jewels embedded in its movement and can store up to 42 hours of power reserve. 50 meters is its water resistance.
Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic Watch
Rather multifunctional but with a more elegant appeal, the Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic Watch is an impressive timepiece in terms of utility and style.
This sophisticated timepiece is packed with terrific features.
Its 25-jewel Swiss automatic movement has a generous 80-hour power reserve. And you can check it out in its exhibition case back.
In addition to its reliability in timekeeping, it provides the convenience of a GMT; date display; and 100-meter water resistance.
Moreover, sapphire crystal protects this watch from scratches. You can read more about Hamilton Watches here.
Victorinox Swiss Army Night Vision Watch
The Victorinox Swiss Army Night Vision Watch is a stunning timepiece with a sleek design. But there’s more to it than just looks. Although a bit dressy, it also makes a great watch for the outdoors.
The main highlight of this watch is its Night Vision feature. It’s an LED lighting system with six lighting functions that are controlled by the push of the button on the lower left side of the case.
For its dial, there’s an illumination mode, which emits blue light good for reading the time in the dark. By the 12 o’clock position, it has a white LED flashlight that has three light modes, namely extended light mode; signal mode; and S.O.S signal mode. And by the 6 o’clock position is a red LED locator that also functions as an end of life indicator. The watch hands and markers are also luminescent.
Another fantastic feature of this Swiss quartz watch is its durability. Its case is made of stainless steel that’s treated with black ice PVD. And its dial window is a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that’s also anti-reflective.
Moreover, it has a date display at the 6 o’clock position and is water resistant to 50 meters.
German Military Titanium Watch
Modeled after the watches that were made for the Infantryman of the Future and German KRK (Crisis Reaction Forces) Soldiers, the German Military Titanium Watch is more of a utilitarian timepiece. Although rather minimalist, it’s very reliable.
A titanium case; scratch-resistant, anti-reflective sapphire crystal dial window; and rubber strap make up this durable watch. It runs with a Swiss quartz movement and also provides a day of the week and date display at the 3 o’clock position. On its dial are luminescent hands and markers.
It comes with water resistance to 200 meters that’s reinforced with a screw-down crown and screw-down case back.
Lum-Tec Combat B42 Watch
Skillfully crafted with quality materials and cutting-edge technology, the Lum-Tec Combat B42 Watch is a durable and reliable timepiece with a sleek appeal.
Its rugged construction is composed of 316L Surgical grade stainless steel with titanium carbide black PVD coating in a gunmetal finish; anti-reflective, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal dial window; and desert tan nylon military strap. It’s also reinforced with their Anti-Shock movement mounting system and High-tech Viton gaskets.
For a highly luminous dial, they applied their MDV Technology with grade X1 C3 Super-Luminova on the hands and markers.
This watch runs with a Miyota Japan OS20 Chronograph movement with 5 years of battery life.
It’s water resistant to 200 meters, and it comes with a screw-down crown and screw-down case back for extra resistance to water.
Traditional vs. Modern Field Watches
Traditionally, field watches were primarily made to meet military standards. So they are designed to efficiently provide precise timekeeping and endure extreme conditions.
Take for example, the A-11 most commonly issued in WWII, which lost or gained only 30 seconds a day. Before the quartz watches came into the picture, it was considered the most accurate at that time. And so that the time can be read in any condition, the case of field watches are designed large, as well as the dial, is designed with high contrast, usually have a black background with white markers and comes with luminescence in the hands.
In terms of durability, they can withstand dust; water; and extreme temperatures. Generally, they are constructed with a stainless steel case. And usually going together with the case is a Nato or Zulu strap in canvas or leather material. With these kinds of straps, the watch is kept intact on the wrist and won’t get lost in battle.
Typically, those are the ideal features of a watch for the field in accordance with military standards. But apart from that, there are other features that can make them highly convenient, especially with the modern versions being produced.
As watch companies constantly strive for innovation, the field watch would be taken to new levels. Its traditional characteristics are mashed with modern enhancements.
Additional functions are being added to it like a chronograph, GMT, lighting functions, and etc. Technological advancements are being applied to it. For upping the durability, some are made with a stainless steel case that is reinforced with ion plating, and there are also some that are even made with a titanium case.
Nevertheless, the A-11 issued during WWII followed by the A-17 in the 1950s have become the basis of most modern field watches.
For a watch that’s accurate and durable, a field watch is definitely a good choice. And a great thing about it is that watch companies are revamping the traditional field watch to suit the needs of the modern man. But if you opt for a true military watch, you can go for the more traditional ones.
Whatever it is that floats your boat, hopefully, this article may help in your search for the right watch according to your preference and budget.