December 6, 2017
by David Bredan
A field watch may not enjoy the same celebrated status as dive watches in general, and I am yet to figure out why that is. Field watches or “infantry watches” are more often than not just as capable as their diver’s counterparts: they have the same impressive water resistance, the same focus on excellent legibility, and the same functionality with the frequent use of a rotating timing bezel, plus running seconds to confirm your watch is operational. However, they often do all this with less girth and at a more competitive price. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call field watches the ultimate tool watches for their utmost focus on function and lack of superfluous details. Last, but not least, they too can be as quirky as the quirkiest dive watches, if that’s your thing.
Here’s a selection of seven cool field watches that will make your dive watches put up a fight for more wrist time.
Timex – and with it, the Indiglo dial – is making a comeback, and it’s as awesome as it’s ever been. This model is humbly called a “Weekender” and with its “silver-tone case” and 30m water resistance, it really is more of a weekend-beater to wear when busying yourself with weekend activities than a do-it-all alternative to the purpose-built field watches we’ll feature below.
But hey, its awesome Indiglo dial that lights up from a quick press on the crown is as legible as it is charmingly retro (at least for those of us who were genuinely impressed by it ages ago). Meanwhile, its 38mm size stays in tune with its “weekender” capabilities. Good proportions, excellent legibility, quartz (though, to be fair, cheap quartz) accuracy, and a price that makes a Swatch feel like a luxury purchase make this Timex Weekender a cute little beater that may just get more wrist time than you’d first imagine.
By the way, apropos of the price, this is also one of those rare noteworthy watches that manage to cost less than it is wide: the Timex Weekender can be yours for just $30.55. This variant comes on a green woven strap but note that there are 18 different color variations available via that link.
What’s a list of field watches without a Seiko 5? Useless! This is the beefier Seiko 5 with proper 100m water resistance – you can also buy the 30m variant for about $60 less. The one we are looking at here comes in a 41mm wide stainless steel case that has been sand-blasted for a matte look that enforces the purpose-built “military vibe” – shiny, high-polished cases are a big no-no out in the field.
Lume on the hands and indices is excellent, as per usual from the lume overlord Seiko. Note that the dial on this variant is olive green, not grey – images may show it more charcoal grey than green but it is green, to go with the out-in-the-wild mood. The 22mm lug width will let you select from a virtually bottomless pool of strap options. This green variant is worth putting on a large block alligator strap in brown, in the off chance you have one laying around – you’ll be surprised how versatile this watch can be.
The automatic 7S36 movement is made in Japan by Seiko (the 7S26 in the 30m variant is made both in and outside Japan). It offers running seconds in the center and a day-date aperture at 3 o’clock. Bear in mind that at this price point you do have to live without hand-winding through the crown or hacking seconds – an annoyance outweighed by the purpose-looking matte case, excellent legibility, and Seiko reliability.
This variation of the Seiko is available with a range of dial and strap colors, including black, blue, sand and, again, this olive green.
Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology probably wasn’t (but it damn well could have been) invented with field watches in mind. In 1976, the Eco-Drive was the first light-powered analog quartz watch ever and it unsurprisingly remains among the most popular of its kind.
Here, the Japanese J810 quartz movement is wrapped around by a 45mm stainless steel case that’s water resistant to 100m, making it suitable for easy dives, swimming, snorkeling and what have you – though for those, you’re advised to install a NATO or Zulu style strap or one in rubber, an easy task with the 22mm-wide lugs.
The dark grey dial works nicely against the colored indices and hands and a massive, lumed minute hand and luminous double digit minute markers ensure excellent to-the-minute legibility. This one by Citizen clearly isn’t the purest field watch in our selection, but its refreshing dial design and light-powered Eco-Drive movement helped it make the list. Get it here.
If we had a Seiko 5, we better have something by Luminox as well. This 3051 EVO Navy SEAL, you could argue, is as much of a diver as it is a field watch and you’d be right, just like how Navy SEAL actually stands for Sea, Air, Land. Given the well-earned reputation of Luminox, you bet this watch will last longer than you will, irrespective of which field of use you decide to test it in.
At 44mm wide but equipped with unusually short lugs, the 3051 EVO should wear fine on smaller wrists, while its carbon-polyurethane case ensures a kind of lightness and durability hitherto impossible with steel. Legibility should be great whether you’re glancing at it in bright daylight or in the dark of the wilderness (…or something more casual like a movie theater), thanks to its tritium tubes on the indices and surrounding the dial. We have visited the only factory where all tritium tubes used in quality watches are produced. Check that manufacture visit here.
These tubes are mildly radioactive – produced and used under strictly controlled circumstances – and what they do is glow in the dark without any exposure to a light source. Given the 12.36 year half life of tritium, you have a few decades of glow-in-the-dark goodness on the hands and indices and also in the pip of the bezel – these little tubes are worth a look at under a loupe as well.
Priced at $183, this purpose-built, Navy SEAL-approved, go-anywhere watch is among the best value for money beaters out there. There is also a version on the full carbon-polyurethane bracelet for under $290, which I personally fancy even more, because I like a chunky bracelet on a relatively narrow case on a purpose-built, go-anywhere watch like this.