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Best Tactical Watches [Hands-On]: All Budgets

Looking for a tactical watch?  Something that looks cool and has withstood hard military use?

I shamelessly admit that I’ve done that Google search…and bought a couple of them throughout the years.

Best Tactical Watches
Best Tactical Watches

Though I didn’t wear mine into battle…they’ve spent long days and nights with me on backpacking trips, range shoots, and keyboard warrior-ing.

Here are my picks of the best tactical watches…across a couple different budgets.  Plus some honorable mentions.

Marathon TSAR 41mm with 1911
Marathon TSAR 41mm with 1911

By the end I hope you’ll know which one to get for boot camp, real missions, or for the office.

1. Casio G-Shock

No surprise here…the Casio G-Shock ($43) is the watch that is mentioned the most.

Casio G-Shock, Black on Black
Casio G-Shock, Black on Black

It has everything you need…can survive almost anything…and costs less than $50 bucks.

However, it’s the one I wear the least.

But that is my bad…I went with the coolest looking black on black.  And you CANNOT see any useful info unless the room is brightly lit and you’re at the right angle.

G-Shock Black on Black Screen
G-Shock Black on Black Screen

I found myself having to use the illumination button to see it every time.

Besides that…it rocks:

  • Shock resistant
  • 200 meters water resistant
  • Great backlight
  • Stopwatch, alarm, and tons of other features
  • Battery life of 2+ years

My only nit-picky thing is that the metal clasp is too shiny in that “cheap” kind of way.  But there’s always replacement bands if it bothers you too much.

Casio G-Shock Clasp
Casio G-Shock Clasp

If you’re looking for a functional watch that has everything you need…but might be a little common…the G-Shock is the way to go.  Plus the price is so good you won’t feel too bad if you lose or manage to break it.

My advice is not getting the Black on Black…if I could choose again I’d go with the Matte Black (screen) on Black.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

2. Pro-Trek PRW-3000-1CR

I’ve been rocking the Pro-Trek ($221) for almost 3 years.  It’s a jump in price but you get a lot too.

Pro-Trek PRW-3000-1CR Triple Sensor
Pro-Trek PRW-3000-1CR Triple Sensor

It’s also not overly tactical so you can use it as a part of your everyday carry.

The “triple sensor” part of it means that it has an altimeter, compass, and barometer.  Plus it measures temperature too.

It’s served me well on long hikes where I had to orient myself and also check on altitude.

Pro-Trek Closeup
Pro-Trek Closeup

It’s showing its wear a little on the outside bezel but the band, clasp, screen, and buttons have been top-notch.

Pro-Trek Clasp
Pro-Trek Clasp

My main complaint is that there’s no “lockout” feature for a screen so there’s been some times where something accidentally touches one of the buttons and I get moved away from my home time screen.

Otherwise it has all the sensors…plus the regular alarms, 100 m water resistance, Atomic timekeeping, and solar battery.

I haven’t had to change the battery in 3 years.

It’s my choice for a more discreet watch that still has everything AND the kitchen sink.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

3. Suunto Core

The Suunto Core ($155) comes up a lot too and is my top choice that I’ve been wearing for 3+ years.

Suunto Core with HK Elite
Suunto Core with HK Elite

It looks super cool especially in the “Military” black on black model.  And no, it’s not like my G-Shock…you can actually read everything still.

Suunto Core with Grey Ghost Slide
Suunto Core with Grey Ghost Slide

It also comes with an altimeter, barometer, compass, and thermometer.

Suunto Core Elevation
Suunto Core Elevation

Which work pretty well…but the compass tends to eat a lot of juice.

It helped a lot during my longer hikes and it’s what I wore to train and summit Mt. Whitney (tallest peak in the continental US).

Eric on Mt. Whitney
Eric on Mt. Whitney

I also love how it has the “lockout” feature so you stay on whatever mode/screen you like.  Plus it has a rolling trend for barometric pressure so you can spot some inclement weather heading your way.

One negative I mentioned was that the compass sucks up a lot of battery.  I found with a hike or two a month and using the compass sparingly…I still had to swap out batteries every year.

Suunto Core Compass
Suunto Core Compass

Not terrible…but I would have expected more.

Another negative is that the strap has started to break after 3 years.  It’s been through a lot and I did spray it with some 95% DEET while in the Amazon that scuffed it up pretty good.

Suunto Core Clasp
Suunto Core Strap & Clasp

So it’s not THAT big of a deal…especially since there’s a lot of replacement options too.

Otherwise overall it’s my favorite pick and it comes in at a reasonable $150 too.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s your take on the Suunto Core?

Readers' Ratings

4.99/5 (799)

Your Rating?

4. Rolex Submariner Date

Ok…let’s ball it up a little bit with the Rolex Submariner Date ($8550).

Rolex Submariner Date
Rolex Submariner Date

Rolex might be the most recognizable luxury watch brand out there…but it has its military roots when it was issued to British Ministry of Defense (Milsub), US Airforce (Turn-O-Graph), and more.

It’s robust, submersible to 300 m, non-electronic, and holds value.

Plus it looks classy with a suit or out in the field.

Rolex Submariner on Schmidt & Bender PMII
Rolex Submariner on Schmidt & Bender PMII

One of my favorites for something that will turn heads AND do its job as a timepiece.

at Rolex

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. Panerai Luminor

My favorite luxury tactical watch is the Panerai Luminor ($9100).

Panerai Luminor Power Reserve on HK Elite
Panerai Luminor 1950 GMT Power Reserve on HK Elite

Born from Italian frogmen way back when…

Italian Frogmen with Panerai
Italian Frogmen with Panerai

It’s still popular in watch circles but isn’t overtly recognizable unless you’re in the know with its famous crown guard and lever device.

Panerai Luminor 1950 Power Reserve
Panerai Luminor 1950 GMT Power Reserve

It’s chunky but not TOO big even for my average wrists.

Panerai On Wrist
Panerai On Wrist

It’s what I wear when day shooting becomes night drinking on the town.

PSA 1911
PSA 1911 & Panerai Luminor 1950

Plus…it has a clear back so you can look at the gorgeous movement.

Panerai Movement
Panerai Movement

If you’ve got the coin…you can’t go wrong with Panerai.

But my luxury watch days are over…now that I’m into firearms (RIP wallet also).  Because these watches can’t shoot bullets!

at Panerai

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

6. Marathon TSAR

My latest addition and current non-electronic favorite for everyday wear goes to the Marathon TSAR 41mm.

Marathon TSAR 41mm, Rubber Strap
Marathon TSAR 41mm, Rubber Strap

Mil-spec and built for diving…the TSAR stands for “Tritium Search And Rescue,” it straddles the perfect line of a little military but still appropriate for a dress shirt.

There’s a couple different sizes and for me (and most) the 41mm is perfect. There’s a 36mm version but it’s definitely on the smaller side.

The tritium vials are bright and the 12 o’clock marker is an extra bright Maraglo.

Marathon TSAR 41mm with 1911
Marathon TSAR 41mm with 1911

So far no scratches on its sapphire glass…but I’ll update with more range trips!

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Or to check out the other versions (size, movement, no government markings, etc)…click here.

7. 5.11 Pathfinder

The Pathfinder is at it’s core simple. And in the best ways possible.

This is a no nonsense watch that delivers exactly what you need in a good time piece and nothing else. From the 22mm NATO band to the watch face, it’s goal is to be utilitarian and functional.

5.11 Pathfinder
5.11 Pathfinder

Luminous markers make it fairly easy to see and read in the dark, but deep inky blackness kind of dark makes it a challenge to read.

A stainless steel body, Japanese movement, and mineral crystal display all lend to this being a pretty robust unit that can take a fair amount of abuse and still look and work great.

5.11 Pathfinder
5.11 Pathfinder

Plus, it’s rated for 100 meters/330 feet of water. More than enough for the average user.

at 5.11

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

8. 5.11 Field Watch 2.0

One of our editors has been testing the Field Watch 2.0 for a while now and it quickly became his go-to EDC watch. Why? Because it’s basically the Pathfinder but plused up in almost every way.

5.11 Field Watch 2
5.11 Field Watch 2.0

The case is slightly larger at 44mm, the Field Watch retains the stainless steel body and Japanese movement, and even the 22mm NATO band — but it also adds a date window, ratcheting unidirectional dive bezel, and more easier to read and brighter dial face.

Everything about it makes it just a little better than the Pathfinder and really helps make the Field Watch a great EDC choice for when you need a good watch without a lot of frills, but don’t want to blow rent money on a time teller.

5.11 Field Watch 2
5.11 Field Watch 2 .0

Another nice thing about both the Pathfinder and the Field Watch is that 5.11 really kept their branding down to a minimum. One complaint we’ve had with 5.11 gear in the past is that often anything made by 5.11 just screams “Made by 5.11”.

We joke that the easiest way of spotting an plain clothes cop or a CCW carrier is by the fact they are wearing 5.11 pants, shoes, and hat.

5.11 Watches
(left) 5.11 Field Watch 2.0 (right) 5.11 Pathfinder

Seeing that signature branding really toned down for these watches is nice. If you replace the band with something a little more classy, both watches could easily pass as something much higher-end and be perfectly at home with a suit and tie.

at 5.11

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

We dig that a lot.

Honorable Mentions

There’s a lot of other great tactical watches out there.  Here are some popular affordable ones that I’ve seen and handled…but don’t currently own.

But I want to pick up some time!

9. Luminox 3051 EVO Navy SEAL

Ok…it has Navy SEAL in the name but the Luminox 3051 EVO ($178) it isn’t some gimmick.

Luminox 3051 EVO
Luminox 3051 EVO

It’s super visible during the day and has colored dials that really glow in the dark for low-light situations.  Plus 200 m water resistance.

10. Marathon Navigator

Mil-spec and really popular before and now.  The Marathon Navigator ($300) was designed for pilots and paratroopers.

Marathon Navigator
Marathon Navigator

Comes with date function, tritrium gas illumination tubes, and water resistant up to 200 feet.


More Best Tactical Watches
More Best Tactical Watches

There we have it…if you’re looking for the most economical and popular…you can’t go wrong with the G-Shock.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And if you want a little bit more features…I recommend the Suunto Core.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

As for the luxury ones…it’s more a matter of personal taste.  But my heart goes out to my Luminor 1950.

How did I do?  Any other ones I should check out and add to Honorable Mentions?  If you’re looking at other EDC gear…check out our other hands-on articles: Best EDC Flashlights and Best EDC Knives.

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46 Leave a Reply

  • Pete

    Jesus didn't even include the Garmin ones.

    June 19, 2021 9:19 pm
  • Celt

    So many suggestions of "tactical" considerations without solar recharging, sapphire crystal or at least overlay, and how about throwing in atomic timekeeping and a compass?

    June 17, 2021 3:18 pm
  • Michael

    There are only 3 mentions worthy of being called "Tactical" and the other overpriced "Presitge" models do nothing except impress the owner, maybe someone else, and put a major dent in your pocketbook...monies that could be used to buy more practical "tactical" gear. I rarely wear my limited edition "pilot styled" Breitling for $9K, but instead wear my iPhone 12 everyday with my edited black styled face. So practicality and functionality win!

    June 15, 2021 2:42 pm
  • John

    My Recommendation: G-Shock GW-6900.

    The SEALs switched from Rolex to G-Shock in the early to mid-1990s. The first model they adopted was the G-Shock DW-6600. It is no longer in production, but it had been an official issue in some (maybe many) units.

    Casio updated the DW-6600 to create the G-Shock DW-6900. They also created a solar, atomic version of the DW-6900. It is the GW-6900. Since it's solar, you don't have to change a battery--well, not for at least 20 years. Since it's atomic, it always has the correct time.

    So the Casio G-Shock GW-6900 is the solar, atomic update to the original G-Shock model adopted by the SEALs.

    June 15, 2021 11:44 am
  • M

    PRAETORIAN Phalanx Phantom

    November 18, 2020 12:07 am
  • Bryan

    I'm a BIG fan of the MTM collection, didn't see that mentioned in the comments yet. I've been beating up my MTM Warrior for years. Simple, no electronics or gadgets and I've only replaced the battery once in the since I've owned it (10 years).

    November 11, 2020 8:51 am
  • David Akins

    I've had a Garmin Tactix Delta for about 8 months now, and I love it. Definitely a pricy watch, but this thing is a tank and has survived getting bashed into things repeatedly. And I've broken 3 Casio G-shocks in the span of two years. It's also the only "smart" (no touch screen) watch I've had that I genuinely enjoy.

    November 2, 2020 9:54 am
    • Victor Mazó Fracchia

      Do you try an Iwatch? I thinking to buy one of those and looking for someone to have one

      November 5, 2020 10:54 am
  • beaky

    Luminox is a great watch but you missed the boat on G Shocks as they have doazens of cool watches in the $150 range

    October 27, 2020 12:16 pm
  • S

    Omega Seamster Diver 300 M. My wife dropped mine off of our boat into a lake where the boat was docked. I searched all weekend for the damned thing and never found it. Over a year later fourth of July 2020 my 10 year old nephew found it and returned it to me. It was still working. I'll never own any other time piece brand. Still can hardly believe that we found it let alone it still functioned.

    October 26, 2020 6:24 pm
  • Bedrock

    Breitling Blackbird is my go-to for high-end tactical watch.

    October 26, 2020 6:05 pm
  • Joe Nunzio

    Look into Citizen Eco-Drive and Garmin watches. You will not be disappointed. I own several.

    October 25, 2020 11:19 pm
  • Rob

    Any mud master (Casio)

    October 25, 2020 11:00 pm
  • G Johnson

    Love the watch review, but I agree with the guy who said you really only reviewed 3 watches. The almost 10k ones really aren’t worth mentioning to us average joes. Personally, I think any tactical watch should at least be all metal, be water proof to 200 meters AND never need a battery. After having a 400.00 self winder that failed after 14 months and didn’t keep time very well, I’ve switched to a citizen eco drive diver.

    October 25, 2020 8:38 pm
  • Jables

    Seiko 5

    October 25, 2020 8:38 pm
  • Ian

    I'm surprised there isn't any mention of the Garmin Fenix 5 series. I've had one going on four years and it's truly outstanding. Includes altimeter, barometer, compass, thermometer, step/motion tracking. There is a dedicated app store where you can download things to customize your watch (applies to most Garmin devices) like different watchfaces, a ballistic calculator, star map, a toothbrush timer or a calculator. You can also get data fields like track logs, varying types of coordinates (like MGRS), VO2 levels, heart rate graphs and plenty of others. Excellent piece of gear that I have beat the living crap out of over the last few years and it's still going just as strong as it ever was. Not even a single scratch on the sapphire crystal. Not one.

    October 25, 2020 6:44 pm
  • M. Arroyo

    I use a Casio F-91 W when competing at USPSA and IDPA matches. Can't beat it for the price ($10.00) and a 7 years battery life!
    I would add Hamilton in the dressy category with such a rich history of mil spec watch making.

    October 5, 2019 6:47 am
  • Mestengo Hidalgo

    You need to do a better job with your research. Example, read the Amazon reviews for the Suunto.

    September 25, 2018 5:16 pm
  • Tad

    You always have great reviews, so please understand this criticism comes with respect. It would have been nice to have actual practical options on the list other than the Panerai and Rolex. Sure they are good watches, but this is not going to help the general public, so in reality you only reviewed 3 watches. I should expect a review on top 5 tactical private jets next.

    September 24, 2018 6:00 pm
  • Dennis

    My wife offered to buy me a new watch for my upcoming week long hunting trip in the PNW High Cascades hunt area. She said I don't want you to get lost out there, since I'm not all that familiar with where my hunting buddies are planning on taking me.. Told her I have my GPS/Compass app on my smart phone and she said you need a good hiking/hunting watch too as a back-up. You know...the "two is one, one is none" rule.. I finally broke down and said OK I will research it. So, after reading this article I did some additional research and have zero'd in on a "Suunto Traverse Alpha". Has some great GPS features and get this...even has a "shot detector" where it logs a marker where you were when you made that terrific shot and killed that trophy deer/elk (thinking positive). So I'm ready to pull the trigger on that one and place an order.

    August 17, 2018 3:19 pm
  • Richard Williams

    looks like you have covered most of the ones or some variation generally worn by operators. Not sure about those high end ones but overall great article

    August 15, 2018 2:50 am
  • Hammer

    Luminox for the win. For the price they are pretty hard to beat. Mine has been rock solid.

    August 7, 2018 5:04 pm
  • Matt

    I can't believe Eric does not (did not?) wear Tissot T-Touch watches. And nobody mentioned them in the comments? Especially T-Touch Expert Titanium, and the new one T-Touch Expert Solar II.

    No offense, but watch simply has to be Swiss Made. Sometimes Italy or France are ok. But totally not cool as "Swiss made" LOL

    August 7, 2018 12:56 am
    • Eric Hung

      Ever since I knew about them from Mr. & Mrs. Smith I kind of wanted one...

      August 7, 2018 4:01 pm
  • Chris Fullwood

    My favorite EDC tactical watch is the Maratac SR-35. Water resistant to 10 atm so 100m. It has a 4:00 crown position. This helps keep the crown from digging into your wrist. It is automatic so no battery to worry about.

    August 6, 2018 6:02 pm
  • John Napiorkowski

    Although not a tactical watch, one thing I love about my Apple Watch is how I can be alerted to and read text messages from my wrist without having to put down and secure my gun during target practice. Since I need to be found at all times (and the practice range is very loud and I'm wearing ear protection so won't notice a ringing phone) it gives me a lot of peace of mind.

    August 6, 2018 6:14 am
    • Eric Hung

      True...good point! Also jealous you still have service at your range.

      August 7, 2018 4:01 pm
  • Darren

    Even though it is not manufactured any longer (that i can find) the 5.11 Tactical H.R.T. watch is a TRUE tactical watch with built in Ballistic Calculator.

    August 6, 2018 5:41 am
    • Eric Hung

      Wow didn't know those existed!

      August 7, 2018 4:00 pm
  • John

    I like the Rolex GMTII with the submariner band. Double clasp and expands for wetsuit (as if) use.

    August 6, 2018 4:29 am
  • Burdy

    Uh, just so you know, the Rolex being automatic has been known to be damaged with heavy pistol shooting, so it does not qualify. And how in the heck do you leave out the greatest tactical time telling piece in the world in the Sinn UX. Oil filled case, hi torque/accuracy quartz, 5000m WP. Submarine steel case and tegimented bezel. It's the most bomb proof tactical watch on the market and you don't even mention it.

    August 6, 2018 4:10 am
    • John

      I’ve had mine for 40 years and had one problem, a cracked mainspring bracket that was covered under warranty. I don’t think that disqualifies it. And I’ve shot everything from BPS to .357 magnum to AK47 full auto....Hmmm, have to try the Barret...

      August 6, 2018 4:37 am
  • Jim M.

    Meh, tactical Rolex? First time I've ever heard that. When I'm wearing a Rolex for Tac-ops, the S has already HTF, and I've "rolled" my local pawn shop! I go with the basic Timex Ironman. All I expect out of my watch is time, alarm, light, chrono and durability, of course. The large digits are also a plus for these old eyes. For the price, I feel no guilt when I ruff it up. Worst case, I just go to "Wally-World and grab a new one. That being said, the only problem I've ever had is with the band, and that's always been due to user abuse! In my opinion, Timex Ironman is the best budget tactical watch for the average Joe.

    August 6, 2018 3:16 am
  • B .

    I got an old timex. got it back when more people had pagers than cell phones. face is all scratched up. straps broke off several times and i just dont bother anymore. put it in my pocket. i have replaced the battery a bunch and its still waterproof for jumping in the pool/creek. same seal inside too. i have abused it so much its amazing it still works. i take it hog hunting at night to use the light on it if i need to see something up close but not give away my location. people tell me to get a new watch but i got one that works and i dont need one, as of right now. but, that g shock seems like a good one to look into if i ever need another. All the letters wore off long ago so i cant tell you what model it is. .

    August 6, 2018 12:57 am
  • Jackman

    Maybe different people have different understanding of 'tactical'... I don't really think some watches, especially the luxury ones in this article will withstand extensive shock and vibration from a firing gun holding in hands, or collision and impacts incurred while the wearer is moving in a tactical situation. I believe these watches are overall good for daily use and normal wear, but in my opinion, such rolex or suunto, or even luminox are luxury/sport/outdoor/fashion watches that root from(but no longer being) military purposes/have military or tactical features/better than common watches but can't really be 'hard military used', typically, luminox watches, I regard them as over priced 'military style swatches'...

    In fact there are some watches that had been battle-tested in recent military conflicts and, recognised by modern western military forces. Marathon and some base g-shock trims like dw-6900 and dw-5600 have nato stock numbers or NSN, so if you need a real robust tactical/military watch they are the results, despite they don't hold many other functions like altitude or temperature.

    Just my words.

    August 6, 2018 12:26 am
  • Dennis

    Since you threw a Rolex into the line up, I'll throw in Breitling amongst the higher end offerings that look good at a night on the town or at the range.. I've had their titanium Aerospace since 1993 and have worn it everyday exposing it to scuba diving, rock climbing, flying, hunting, you name it... and it's still going strong!

    Breitling has an amazing array of models to lust over. If I were to buy again and had the $$$ I would look at their Military model and a few others...they even have one with an emergency ELT transmitter in it.

    They also now have models with rechargeable batteries. Take a look at their official Breitling website it's really fun to drool over their models and doesn't cost a penny to look and wish!

    August 5, 2018 10:51 pm
    • Eric Hung

      I do love Breitling too! I'll have to check out their newer models with the rechargeable batteries.

      August 6, 2018 12:19 am
  • Kirk Taylor

    I’m with you on the Rolex Submariner. I also like the GMT Master II

    August 5, 2018 8:33 pm
    • Eric Hung

      Great choice, Kirk...I love the dual colored bezels on them.

      August 6, 2018 12:18 am
      • John

        AKA PepsiCola bezel. Latest one I saw in HK for 395K Euro...white gold or something.

        August 6, 2018 4:42 am
  • Grizzly_0s0

    I've got the Casio G Shock Mudman in Brown (read FDE) and I love it. It set me back $300 and I had to order it from Australia but it was worth the coin. It's tough as nails, Solar powered but not atomic. It has a thermometer and a compass which for me was all I needed as far as a features go. I've been looking for another tough watch but something maybe capable of being synced up with my phone.

    August 5, 2018 8:31 pm
    • Eric Hung

      Nice rec! I'll have to check out all these solar G-Shocks.

      August 6, 2018 12:17 am
  • Dr.. Mike

    Enjoyed reading your recommended tactical watches. Nice to know I already own 3 of them.. don’t like subjecting the Rolex and Panerai to heavy duty shiock however.. would like to recommend another Casio G Shock, the Multi band 6 with atomic time keeping and solar powered

    August 5, 2018 5:08 pm
    • Eric Hung

      Nice, Dr. Mike! And I'll have to check out the multi band 6 if I get another G-Shock.

      August 6, 2018 12:16 am
  • 7seasdiver

    I'm on my third Casio G-Shock, but I'm talking about over a 35-year +/- time frame. One caveat, with ANY battery powered watch, is that if you take it underwater (I do) there are VERY few jewelers that will change the battery and guarantee watertightness. Because of this, ditch the battery for a solar-powered one, you will never have to open the case. Just a word of advice from someone who's been there.

    August 5, 2018 7:56 am
    • Eric Hung

      Great tip!

      August 5, 2018 11:46 am
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