The field watch first came about so officers in the military could coordinate artillery, cavalry, and other operations in a timely manner. Obviously you may not be commanding armed forces and part of an elaborate strategic operation, but there is still benefit from the no nonsense utility of a well designed field watch. The wristwatch design has evolved since days of military field watches, but there have been some dominant features that have emerged which epitomize this style of watch. A slim profile (to prevent the watch snagging on other gear) and large easy to read indices are two such features. Check out our list of the best field watches in our section below.
The 5 Best Field Watches of 2017
Here are our top picks for the best field watches currently available.
The Seiko 5 is an inexpensive model that has been on the best seller list for years. It is a great timepiece for everyday carry. The Seiko 5 has a good number of incredible features well wrapped in an attractive stainless steel case. The green dial with green canvas band embodies the feel of an excellent military inspired timepiece. The face is smaller than our other picks on this list, clocking in at 35mm, making it harder to read at a glance. Nevertheless, some may prefer a smaller face.
The Seiko 5 is water-resistant up to 30 meters (100 feet). The 21 jewel automatic movement keeps this watch ticking away without a battery. It actually is powered from the kinetic energy produced by the movement of your arm! For optimal time keeping, you will want to wear this about 8 hours a day. As an alternative, you can choose to wind the main spring by turning the crown.
It is the perfect piece that can function both as an accessory for casual night out on the town as well as an outdoor companion for a hiking or camping trip. The Seiko 5 wins our award for the best field watch under 100.
- Case Diameter: 35mm
- Band Width: 18mm
- Case Thickness: 11mm
- Weight: 7oz
Hailing from Shinola, Detroit the Filson Mackinaw represents USA made craftsmanship that takes on characteristics of the renowned Swiss Quarts Movement. The classic, elegant look of the watch hasn’t lost its appeal for decades. The military grade G10 nylon strap is built to last, doesn’t get in the way, and is comfortable even on a sweaty wrist.
The brand’s case measures 43 mm and is made of brushed steel, with PVD back plating that is tough enough to protect the precious inner elements. It also features a glare-proof sapphire crystal and a screw down crown. To reduce glare, the watch has an anti-reflective sapphire crystal coating that is also scratch resistant.
Readability is optimized by bold features such as the super-LumiNova hands, index, and numbers on the green dial. The Shinola Argonite 715 quartz movement is superb.
Simply put, the Filson Mackinaw field watch is simply a sturdy and attractive model. It is one of the best field watches and has risen to the top in terms of sales for years running now and is our pick for the best edc watch.
- Case Diameter: 43mm
- Band Width: 20mm
- Case Thickness: 13mm
- Weight: 3.8oz
The Tudor is a legitimate field watch model that is sufficiently packed with modern taste. It is among the best durable watches out there. Tudor watches are notoriously ripped off by those who try to make a quick buck with look-alike replicas. The bund style strap option featured above really brings back the adventure / military feel of the original Ranger watch.
Featuring a 41 mm steel case, this watch will resist most physical damage and its 150 meters of water resistance is among the top specs in the field watch category. The lovely satin finishing, sharp edges, signed screw-down crown, and excellent proportions are true to the function over form essence of field watches.
The Tudor Heritage Ranger takes what watch enthusiasts love about vintage watches and updates it into a modern piece. The ‘Explorer’ dial style with numbers only at the poles takes after the 1967 Ranger’s dial. It truly looks like a watch dial from the 1960’s.
- Case Diameter: 41mm
- Band Width: 40mm
- Case Thickness: 12.2mm
- Weight: 2.9oz
The Seiko Prospex is one of the best selling field watches available. It easily made our list of the best military watches. Its robust stainless steel with black hard coating face and and curved hardlex glass makes the face of the Prospex as durable as a tank. You get a 60 minute chronograph in 1/5 second increments.
Its water resistance rating clocks in at a respectable 100 meter depth, 10 bar W.R. so you’re not going to lose it to a few splashes here and there. These ratings actually mean you can go snorkeling and other prolonged contact with water, you just don’t want to go diving with it.
The cool thing about the Prospex is that it is purely powered by light alone. The overcharging prevention function and energy depletion forewarning function are helpful in aiding you to manage its light sources. If you are worried about losing power to it, we must say, don’t worry. A full charge will last the Prospex for 6 months of operation. It takes about 5 hours in full sunlight for it to get a full charge.
- Case Diameter: 42mm
- Band Width: 21mm
- Case Thickness: 13mm
Going for less than $40, the Timex Expedition field watch is the ideal watch for budget shoppers. In our opinion, it is the best field watch for the money. The stainless steel case is slim and features quartz movement with an analog display. A simple face with 12 hour markets and 24 hour time on the inner dial, and a date window by the 3 o’clock marker gives you the necessary info you need at a glance. The 50 m (165 feet) water resistance is suitable for short periods of swimming such as in a pool or lake, but don’t take this one diving. This is our pick for the best hiking watch.
The Expedition Scout collection is available with a nylon or genuine leather strap. These straps are simple and functional, and are 20mm in width. The leather is going to be a bit more stiff to begin with, but once you break it in it becomes easy to buckle. The INDIGLO nightlight is one of our favorite features of this field watch, and not something you often see at this price point.
- Case Diameter: 40 & 43mm
- Band Width: 20mm
- Case Thickness: 11mm
- Weight: 3.84oz
General Thoughts on the Right Watch to Wear in the Field
Picking the right brand is one of the greatest challenges most people face when buying a new watch. Furthermore, selecting the right watch for your intended purpose is also key. An active, outdoor enthusiast type person is not going to want to rock the Rolex during their day to day. Whereas an urbanite that does not spend much time outdoors probably doesn’t want a field watch. Even when it comes to selecting the best rugged watches, there are a wide array of models all vying for that spot.
The list of watches is endless, ranging from luxurious, rugged, dive, pilot, just to mention a few. There are thousands of watches out there, and some are more suited for a given purpose. We can’t deny the fact that defining a field watch is pretty challenging, especially for the folks that have never had an interest in one. We would say that field watches incorporate both style and versatility in their design. Furthermore, they are made to be as functional as possible; slim, utilitarian, and not showy.
They are constructed to not get in the way or snag on anything. As you could imagine every second counted for military men who wore the first field watches. Field watches are similar to dive watches in the regard that most are extremely water resistant (100m or so) so you could wear one snorkeling for instance, just not to the same depths as a dive watch.
The Benefits of a Field Watch
Here are a handful of the top benefits field watch advocates purport as reasons to buy and wear a field watch. The best outdoor watches will check all the boxes below.
- Ease of Use. One great advantage of wearing a field watch is that you free yourself from the burden of having to locate and unlock your phone every time you want to check the time. With a watch, a twist of your arm is all you need. This is very important, especially for technicians who are out in the field. To them, every minute counts.
- Water-Resistant. Nearly all field watches are water resistant, and if they aren’t well frankly they don’t deserve the title. Field watches are designed for active men who regularly go outdoors. Most of them are resistant to water up to 100m depths.
- Future-Proof. A timeless accessory. They say time is money but we think this should only be uttered by watch wearers. Humans keeping track of time is something that’s never going to go away now that we have it. A field watch is a versatile way to efficiently stay on schedule.
- Style Points. Watches are part and parcel of our daily wear. That is why they fall under the category of everyday carry. They aren’t just meant to update us on the time and date, they compliment our look. It makes sense to spend time finding one that matches your personal preferences, especially if you plan on wearing it frequently.
Field Watch Talk
Truth be told, the fashion world has rapidly expanded the consumer’s choice. It is not so much that new companies continue to enter the space, it’s that current brands are doing everything they can to make themselves stand out. A lot of the factors like distribution and quality components are commonplace, so brands must diversify their product lines, employ creative marketing, cater to the customer’s specific lifestyle (or desired lifestyle), and offer the customer top notch customization.
You see the likes of Carhartt and other premium brands doing extremely well. These outdoor first and activity first brands have found a niche that is working quite well for them. Watches are no different, whatever your particular inclination or desire, you can find a watch that meets or exceeds your preferences (as long as money isn’t a concern). Field watches fit in with this outdoor movement and they are designed to take a beating and keep ticking as well as being scratch resistant and extremely durable.
The Factors to Consider When Buying a Field Watch
There are certain features that define a quality watch in addition to those that define a field watch. If you are looking for a field watch, then take note of the following factors.
- Readability. Any field watch must be functional for outdoor exploration and quick information relay. This means that everything pertinent should be captured at a glance. In a nutshell, a good field watch must have a clear and readable face no matter the time of day or weather conditions. The display should be large with bold markers.
- Craftsmanship. This is more of a general consideration that any watch enthusiast, irrespective of the category, must always consider before spending a single penny. A good field watch should be functional, accurate, and durable.
- Ruggedness. We think this is the essence that defines the field watch category. A watch that scratches or frays easily doesn’t deserve the field watch title. It can be simple and beautiful, but it must be hardy and wear well.
- Traditional. Being traditional is part and parcel of field watches. That doesn’t necessary mean that it has to be outdated, however. A field watch should generally reflect the military tradition. For example, most field watches have bands made of leather or canvas.
- Water Resistance. You may be living a very active outdoor life and thus, require a watch that does not need to be hassled with and removed before jumping in a pool for instance. Even though the International Organization for Standardization clearly indicates that no watch should be marked “waterproof” some field watches are very water resistant. They can protect the inner watch elements up to some few meters up to a 100 to 150 meters, in most cases. You should check the maximum depth and wear it accordingly.
- Band. Bands are made of different materials. Some can be made from leather, rubber, canvas, or metal. What is most pertinent with a field watch is to pick the band that feels comfortable on your wrist. Every band type has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, metal bands are durable but can scratch easy and be heavy.
- Luminosity. A night button or manually activated light is a nice feature to have during the evening hours and in low light conditions.