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Lots of watches are called field watches. It’s a characterization bestowed upon styles that are simple, rugged and, perhaps most importantly, accurate. But the utility of a field watch shouldn’t be overshadowed by its heft or its price — as in, you should still be able to read your field watch in little or no light. It’s these kinds of functional basics that typically define the type of wristwatch worn in the field by adventurers.
The 11 Best New Watches of AugustFrom colorful chronographs to dive and tool watches
What Qualifies as a Field Watch?
You’ll notice that we’ve painted the field watch in broad strokes — this is because the breadth of the field watch catalog is, in a word, huge. Whereas the likes of aviator chronographs or dive watches demand a specific set of specs to deal with the job at hand, the field watch’s origin as a piece of military equipment (the modern use case for field watches dates back to the World Wars) calls for nothing more than a hearty exterior and an ability to tell time accurately and precisely.
In modernity, the field watch is typically denoted by a rugged case, knit or nylon strap, shatterproof face and slim build (field watches rarely exceed 40mm because of, in large part to the principles behind the square-cube law). They’re often water-resistant and should hold up in the office and the great outdoors alike.
The 10 Best Field WatchesWith their military origins, utilitarian design remit, and handsome looks, field watches are perhaps the ultimate everyday “tool watch.”
Whether you’re interested in the style or the functionality — or both — of a field watch, there are plenty of options on the market to satisfy your needs. To save you the trouble of finding the perfect utility watch, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to complete the quest for the best field watch and test eight different options across a variety of price points, from trusted names like Timex and Luminox to American-made timepieces from Vaer. All were solid, a few were exceptional, and each wears the mantle of field watch well. Below, here’s how the best field watches hold up.
When opening the Timex Expedition North watch box, a Users Guide directs you to a site where the actual guide resides. Timex could’ve used a sticker instead to further sustainability along with its solar cell to charge the battery and straps made of post-consumer plastics.
Exposing the watch to sunlight is preferable to artificial indoor lighting, and the exposure length bears this out. Fully charged, it will run for two months. At eight ounces, the Expedition is among the lightest and may cause you to forget you have it on. The accuracy was spot on, checked by setting it to an iPhone. It would be easier to tell time if the hour indicators were illuminated as the hands are. Overall, I liked the Expedition North’s simplicity, lightweight and ease of use.
5.11’s Field Watch has phosphorescent Super LumiNova hour and second hands, making it readable in the dark. There’s a date window, 22mm black Nato band, water resistance to 330 feet, and a scratch-resistant crystal. At 44 mm, the stainless steel case is slightly larger with a matte ion, dark grey finish that matches the numerals on the dial. The unidirectional ratcheting bezel is handy for timing even if you never take a dive.
The Japanese-made movement is solid, and it kept the Field Watch 2.0 right on time. The movement along with the case size and its composition gave the impression of a substantial watch that will take abuse when worn outdoors, and anywhere else you’d care to wear it. It’s easy to read, has worn well in our initial testing, and is suitable for wearing in the field.
Bertucci’s A-11T Americana was inspired by vintage U.S. Military issued watches, blending authentic details with a 42 mm titanium A-3T unibody case. Durability and comfort are the rationales behind Bertucci’s use of titanium, and a high-performance yet classic field watch design is the result.
The A-11T uses a 4 o’clock crown which doesn’t impinge upon wrist movement. A military spec nylon Active Comfort band offers a fold and tuck retention feature with a wide range of adjustments to ensure one size fits most, titanium lug bars and a stainless steel buckle with dual loop keepers. The hands and numbers are treated with Swiss Super Luminous material that glows for hours based on exposure to sunlight or indoor lighting, which won’t deplete the battery. My initial introduction to Bertucci was at the Summer 2021 Outdoor Retailer trade show, and I was impressed by their range of styles, and later their durability under test conditions.
The Citizen Chandler field watch uses a black ion-plated 43mm stainless steel case, black dial with luminous hands and markers, and a dark green Cordura nylon strap. Citizen’s mineral crystal is impact and shatter resistant, and the watch is water resistant to 100 meters or 330 feet.
Citizen’s Eco-Drive powers the Chandler continuously with any light source, thus eliminating battery replacement. The Chandler includes analog day, date, and 24-hour indicators that are an ideal size to read without interfering with other watch functions. The Citizen Chandler is ideal for everyday wear, a balance between style and design coupled with surprising toughness in the field. If you like it, shop around as prices vary by seller.
Started in Dallas, Texas in 2015, Jack Mason combines Swiss design with an American attitude. The Overland Solar has a cast recycled 42 mm stainless steel 316L case, tested for water resistance up to 100 meters. There’s a sapphire crystal above the perforated dial, and an Epson VS42 solar-powered movement below it that can run for six months on a full charge.
The dial has Swiss Super Luminova markings for high legibility. A tan Italian leather strap is fitted with quick-release pins that will allow any of their 20mm straps to change the watch’s appearance. The Overland Solar also features an internal rotating compass bezel.
I like that the company stands behind its products. Every Jack Mason watch includes a lifetime warranty from the date of purchase. Their limited warranty covers any defects in material or workmanship under normal use, conditions in the field I would consider normal. The Overland Solar is currently out of stock, but keep your eyes peeled for new drops from the Texan watchmakers.
The rugged cousin of Vaer’s IH-recommended A5 Design White USA Automatic, the Tactical Field has SuperLuminova illuminated hour and minute hands against a black dial. Its 40mm 316L steel case, Japanese Miyota 9015 automatic movement, single domed 11mm sapphire crystal and lined waffle strap weigh 78 grams in total.
Water resistant to 330 meters, the Vaer comes with a 24-month warranty. Vaer was founded in 2016 in Venice, California by Ryan Torres and Reagan Cook when they couldn’t afford watches they liked, and didn’t like the watches they could afford. Using their life savings to create an affordable everyday watch, Vaer blends design aesthetic with durability and functionality.
When the duo moved their watch assembly to the U.S., the cost wasn’t the biggest challenge for the scrappy, independent company. It was in creating their own watch assembly team, a task they felt compelled to do. In the spring of 2018, Vaer released their first American-assembled watch, the most affordable U.S.-assembled watch on the market. There’s still a place for simple, well-built analog watches that can withstand the rigors of overland travel.
Named after the world’s driest desert, Chile’s Atacama Desert, this timepiece combines a new design with Luminox ruggedness, a go-anywhere watch. The 44mm 316L stainless steel watch has a Swiss automatic movement, sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating, and it uses Luminox Lighting Technology, which guarantees night vision for up to 25 years through the use of tritium tubes.
Water resistant to 200 meters, the watch has a day date function, and it comes with a blue textile strap and stainless steel brushed buckle to match the blue dial. The Atacama field automatic watch weighs in at 115 grams. As I found with other watches, it pays to shop online retailers and other resellers for the best price on Luminox.
The Rover came packaged in an aluminum cylinder and a leather roll that contained the watch. The presentation is what you might expect at this watch’s lofty price point. Fitting the stainless steel band required a jeweler to remove the pins. However, without Loctite on the pins, you could lose not only the pins but the watch itself. This being a sample we had to return to Seaholm, I couldn’t glue them in, and tightening the pins almost daily was a real pain.
Automatic and self-winding are Rover attributes, yet even when wearing it on consecutive days manual winding was required. The Seaholm was a tick or two slow, off about a minute each day. While not a big complaint, it could be annoying over the long run.
Weight is another factor in field watch selection. The Seaholm is hefty, and I worried about it dragging on the desk. If it’s yours this might not make a difference, but I didn’t wear it while writing to avoid scuffing or scratching the band.
Being a diver’s watch may not be fully appreciated since it may never be submerged. During the installation of a new Garmin Tread XL all-terrain navigator in my rig, placing the Rover in a cup holder to avoid any chance it might get scratched was an action that sums up why it wouldn’t be my choice for a field watch.
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