Military watches seem to be in big demand these days, with more and more people heading out on their own personal adventures and becoming more professional than ever at their particular skill. As such, watch brands are complying with demand and creating Swiss military watches and Swiss Army watches that offer all sorts of functions and features. However, it is important to understand that sometimes a military watch is one that is super clean in design and features.
Before taking a look at some of the best military watches to buy, it is important to understand what military watches actually are. Military timepieces generally represent the top tier of tool watches – offering extreme resilience and precision. Soldiers, SEALs, air and sea rescue teams, first responders, and a host of military personnel depend on these tactical wristwatches to hold up under the worst of circumstances.
This means that usually military watches are made of materials that are lightweight and highly durable – preferably, also, corrosion-resistant. The best materials for military watches include stainless steel, titanium, carbon fiber, and other alloys. Additionally, the watch should have some of the functions you need for your particular field. Perhaps you need an altimeter, a barometer, a compass, or an alarm.
Maybe night visibility is key in your Swiss military watch and you need tritium gas tubes, or, at the very least, Super-LumiNova coatings. Water resistance is also important – and a good military watch should be water resistant to at least 100 meters. Of course, if you are a Navy SEAL, you will want something capable of going deeper. Other things to consider are shock resistance, and – if you need it – a digital display.
Here we take a look at some of the best military watches designed to go the distance with you – whether that distance is underwater, in the sky, or somewhere in between.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Military Type – Price USD 3,800
Since its inception, Bell & Ross has been known as a pilot’s watch – the quintessential tactical watch designed with clean, highly legible dials. The brand’s BR 03-92 Military Type watch was inspired by the U.S. Air Force jackets from the 1950s. This watch is powered by a mechanical movement and is crafted in matte black ceramic so there is no glare. The Khaki colored dial has Super-LumiNova hands, markers, and numerals.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical – Price USD 1,245
Back during World War II, Hamilton Watch Company – then an American brand – slowed production of its watches for general consumer consumption so that it could focus on creating watches for the Allied forces. Now, the Swiss brand, offers tactical watches in its Khaki collection, with luminescent numerals and hands, NATO straps, and an otherwise clean-looking style. This classic military-style Khaki Field Mechanical watch measures 50mm in diameter and uses Super-LumiNova for lighting the hands and markers. It is rugged and robust.
Luminox Ice-Sar – Price USD 495
Originally founded in California by an America, Luminox watches are Swiss-made military pieces that are designed for the elite forces, including the US Navy Seals. In fact, early on in its lifetime, the brand became the supplier to the Navy SEALS, something it continues today. Its tritium gas tubes give it brighter and longer luminescence than any other substance on the market. Now Luminox also has become the Official Partner of the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue. It creates Ice-Sar watches that include this Arctic version whose 46mm case is made of Carbonox™. The watch is powered by a Swiss movement and is fitted with green light tubes.
Tutima M2 Pioneer – Price USD 6,700
German brand Tutima has been creating pilot watches since the 1930s and has created instruments for the German Army pilots since 1984. It has even built Flieger chronographs for the German Airforce Elite Fighter Training program (similar to the USA’s Top Gun ). Its M2 Pioneer line of titanium military watches are equipped with a soft inner iron case that renders them anti-magnetic. They are also fitted with either a Kevlar strap or a titanium bracelet and boast luminescent capsules for night reading.
As early as 1954, Rolex was creating its Submariner watch – a timepiece meant for the water. Over the years, it has regularly improved the water resistance of this watch, with off-shoots such as a special edition of the Sea-Dweller going to the depths of Mariana’s trench. Today’s Rolex Sea-Dweller and Submariner watches can be considered military grade. This new model introduced in 2020 features a black Cerachrom bezel with large luminescent markers. The Superlative Chronometer Certification attests to its passing even more stringent controls than the COSC.
Bremont MBII-BK Jet – Price USD 4,995
British Brand Bremont has been working with Martin Baker, which makes the ejection seats for most military fighter planes in the western world. While there is a version reserved for pilots who have actually had to eject from their planes, Bremont also makes the MBII for those who have not ejected but still want an incredible pilot watch. The Martin Baker series of watches has been tested on actual ejection seats. This Bremont MBII is crafted in steel and is chronometer-certified.
Omega Speedmaster Professional – Price USD 5,350
Omega has a long relationship with the military, as the brand was commissioned in 1940 to supply watches to the British armed forces and the allies. This forced the brand to move quickly with pioneering advances in the fields of water, magnetic, and shock resistance for its Seamaster lines and later for the Speedmaster. The Omega Speedmaster Professional referred to as the Moonwatch, was worn by American astronauts during the Apollo missions and was worn during the first U.S. spacewalk, It has even won the prestigious SNOOPY award for its role in the fated Apollo 13 mission.
IWC has been making pilot watches since the early 1930s, and, in fact, was the first to create an anti-magnetic watch thanks to a soft-iron inner case. The brand partners with the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program of the U.S. Navy, also known as the Top Gun school, and took cues from the pilots for the best watch. Its Top Gun watches are made from top-notch materials including ceramic and titanium and always feature anti-glare crystals and Super-LumiNova coatings. This Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Top Gun Ceratanium — a proprietary ceramic alloy material – boasts a soft-iron inner case to protect against magnetism. The 44mm watch with automatic winding offers a chronograph with a split-seconds hand.
Panerai Submersible Marina Militare Carbotech – Price USD 19,400
Panerai has specialized in creating mechanical watches that reach great depths for years; it was even the brand of choice for the Italian Navy. This professional 47mm Submersible Marina Militare special edition watch features a remarkable solid Carbotech™ case that is a high-tech performance material. The automatic mechanical movement consists of 200 pieces and is equipped with an Incabloc anti-shock device. It is water resistant to 300 meters.
Victorinox Swiss Army I.N.O.X. Carbon LE – Price USD 1,100
Long considered the consummate tool, the Swiss Army knife has been one of the most sought-after knives on the market. It makes sense, then, that Victorinox would also produce Swiss Army wristwatches. The 43mm I.N.O.X. Carbon Limited Edition military watch is designed for adventure. It features a Super-LumiNova dial that glows in the dark, as well as a camouflage paracord woven strap, and a case made of lightweight carbon composite. It is also sold with a NATO strap.
About the Author
Roberta Naas is a veteran watch and jewelry journalist who began her career in the early 1980’s, and was the first female watch journalist in the United States. She is the editor and founder of the authoritative watch blog, ATimelyPerspective, has written six books on watches, writes for numerous consumer publications (including Forbes and Elite Traveler) – and always brings forth in her work the essence of what makes watches tick. She tirelessly travels the world in search of watch news and stories that she turns into compelling and enlightening articles.