Best Digital Watches For Military Use (Under $200)
The military watch had a very clear and specific origin: to serve as tactical gear for soldiers on the ground. As with many new technologies that were developed on the back of military funding, the military watch has branched out to the broader public and now services a variety of audiences:
There’s a tonne of variety out there these days, and it can be difficult sorting the genuine article from the lemons.
I personally have trouble when the line between serious military watch and casual imitation gets blurred.
It’s no secret that you can find thousands of fake brand watches for under $200, but this post is here to review the best digital watches for military use (from recognized brands) on the market right now.
The Bottom Line
This post will review the top 3 digital military watches for serious use. From boots on the ground to security personnel; from extreme sportsmen to legitimate survivalists. These are the watches that have been made to withstand serious conditions. I’ll tell you which is best for each circumstance, what the strengths and weaknesses are, and which price category you can expect to find them in.
We spent several weeks reviewing and comparing the 31 of the top military watches on the market and ended up covering 3 of our favorite ones in this guide.
Lets begin with our top picks:
How We Picked?
This guide compares our top picks divided into 3 price-ranges for easy browsing (Here is the full list of the 31 products we tested). You can jump between price ranges using the menu below. Finally, there’s a useful buyer’s guide at the bottom of the page that helps explain what to look for when buying a digital military watch.
This buyer’s guide is suited to everyone from budget conscious buyers interested in learning which military watch to buy or what's good about them, what's missing from each and how best to choose them.
Choose Your Budget
WATER RESISTANT DEPTH
BEST TROOP WATCH
Since we are staying within a budget, my Best Overall choice takes into account the whole scope of buyer considerations. Price being one of these. Value for money, this model from Casio packs in all the best features you can find in a military watch, while maintaining standards of quality and durability.
Casio SGW-100 Review
The Casio SGW-100 has maintained an old popular line and amped things up with the latest technology in watchmaking. Powered by microchips and ideal instruments like altimeter and barometer for outdoor trekking, this is an apt winner of my Best Overall choice.
Who Should Buy
If you’re looking for a tool that can guide you through all forms of terrain, survive difficult conditions and provide useful feedback, the Casio SGW-100 is a great value option.
Full Casio SGW-100 Review:
The Casio range is almost overwhelming to browse through, but I’ve landed on one model that really stands out; in terms of overall value for your money and surviving serious conditions. The Casio SGW-100 is equipped with all the tactical instruments you could need: altimeter, compass, barometer, world time and even a thermometer.
Running on a quartz mechanism, the digital display is clear and keeps time reliably. This has been an issue for some Casio’s past--particularly G-shock models, with plenty of user complaints directed at the watchface’s unreadability in particular light setting. The SGW-100 from Casio is includes a display illumination feature which really lets you read the time comfortably in all environments.
The only user complaint I have found, beyond logistical errors in shipping (like receiving damaged goods) is that the set-up was slightly complicated to make use of all the features. This might be fair if you don’t have any experience working with the different instruments like altimeter and barometer readings, but if you’ve landed on this page: chances are you pretty much know what you’re doing.
Case Material: Plastic w/ acrylic display
Water Resistance: Up to 10 barometric pressure units
Special Features: Thermometer readings
As my budget option, you’re not going to find quite the same quality of components here. That being said, SNE have produced a surprising durable military watch for what you’ll pay. With water resistance up to 50m, alarm, 12/24hr readout options and digital stopwatch/timer, it’s about all you could ask for with a watch in this price range.
SNE Sports Digital Watch Review
The SNE Sports Digital Watch has stripped back on many extra features to give you the most affordable watch on my list. A clean, crisp design backed by Japanese-quartz movement gives us the best digital military watch you’ll find for the money.
Who Should Buy
This is ideal for more casual sports enthusiasts, outdoorsmen and joggers.
The large digital display gives an easy readout, and the SNE Sports model is apt to handle the sweat, light impact and movement of running and outdoor sports.
Full SNE Sports Digital Watch Review:
To be fair from the outset, the SNE OLA-SK1167B is a few substantial notches down from the other two watches on my list. But it wins my Budget Choice Award for packing some seriously neat features into a simple design, all at an incredibly affordable price; seriously, price is not an issue here.
This is watch is more suited to the sports enthusiast than on-ground soldiers. It has a large, clear display readout with a pleasant layout: displaying time, date and alarm options on the screen. It’s also quite thin in its casing, which lets you wear long sleeve gear comfortably without worrying about sliding it up over your watch face.
This watch claims a 50m water resistance depth, but realistically it’s only suited to swimming pools, showers and incidental splashing (from a sink or while out doing work in the garden). Pushing this watch too far with its water resistance capabilities will end up eating away at the screen (which isn’t really cut out for significant salt water exposure) and damage the internal components.
The last downside for this is that some users have noted it runs a little fast after a few weeks/months of use. Keep an eye on this as it isn’t true across the board, and may have simply been a bad batch that got out there. In many ways, you’ll get what you pay for with this budget option--but it’s the best thing you’ll find for under $20 in this category.
Case Material: Plastic
Water Resistance: 50m
Special Features: EL light display mode option
SUUNTO Core Military Watch Review
The Suunto Core will be your new best friend in the outdoors. This is a tool that will get you through rugged terrain, help you track and orient your way through mountains and keep you alert to changes in weather. No matter your experience in the outdoors, the Suunto Core gives you vital information about your surroundings and conditions.
Who Should Buy
This is a serious watch for survivalists, troops and anyone who will be out in the elements and needs an accurate tool they can rely on.
Full SUUNTO Core Military Watch Review:
Say you’re looking to set up camp for the night, and the sky is clear to the horizon. With the Suunto Core, you can rest well knowing that its Storm Alarm is constantly tracking the weather in your area, and will let you know if there’s anything nasty on its way. It also features a rotating bezel compass, with an option to lock and follow a single bearing. Add to this Suunto’s pressure gauge to track your movement, alternating between altimeter and barometer while you’re on the go. Barometer features include: Storm Alarm, Weather Trend Indicator and Weather Graph. Altimeter will tell you your Difference Measurement, Logbook and includes an Automatic mode option.
Lastly, when it comes to style, I personally love the Suunto Core’s sleek black design. Made with a durable composite case and mineral crystal display, it’s also made to survive serious conditions and challenges. There are just two things holding this watch back from the upper echelons of military grade greatness: 1) It doesn’t connect to satellites for perfect, year-round timekeeping; and 2) It doesn’t have a great water resistance rating, mostly intended to survive general weather conditions and freediving up to 10 meters. If you’re not actually into deep diving, then this is no issue--it’s pretty rare that your adventures will take you any deeper unless you plan on it!
All in all, a top quality watch and great value for money.
Case Material: Composite w/ Mineral Crystal
Water Resistance: 30m
Special Features: Huge Range of Barometer and Altimeter features
How to choose a digital watch for military grade activity
For how to discern the best military style watches out there, you’ll want to read my previous article, here. The guidelines for this post will differ slightly, and get a little more into the technical specifications. It’s one thing to choose a digital military watch that looks good--it’s another to find one that will hold up under pressure (within a reasonable budget).
There are three things you’ll want to look out for:
Backed by quartz or other reliable clockwork mechanism;
Quality of components (like crystal display); and
Military grade resistance figures (shock, ATM rating, and magnetic)..
Let’s get into a little more detail on each.
Quart, quartz and more quartz
Keeping reliable is essential, and isn’t easy in high intensity situations. If you’ll be jumping out of planes, taking heavy hits or diving deep, each of these activities will take a toll on your watch’s internal mechanism. This is both the easiest and most difficult way to tell quality from quasi-junk status: if it can’t hack the conditions, it’s probably junk. This is easy to spot when it happens; the tough part is making sure you never make the mistake in the first place.
When it comes to spotting a reliable timekeeper, quartz is a great starting place. For more modern and advanced military grade watches, you’ll see GPS and satellite connection to keep precise, up-to-the-nanosecond timekeeping. However, over the past few decades recent watchmaking, quartz movement has been the key player.
Understanding how the mechanism actually works can get a bit technical… we’re mostly talking about vibrating crystals and very precise oscillation rates. What you need to know is that when quartz clockwork came to the market at scale in the 1980s, it demolished the traditional watchmaking industry (putting a lot of Swiss people out of business). From now on, if your digital watch isn’t running on quartz movement, you may be sitting on a lemon.
Quality of components
Here, you’ll want to look out for mineral crystal displays, and in high end products you may find solid, indestructible stainless steel cases. The alternatives aren’t necessarily bad, though. For example, while acrylic displays tend to be more susceptible to damage, with a good casing and design, these vulnerabilities can be greatly reduced. Other components like the quality of your wristband (cheap fibres or plastics, for example) can really determine how long a watch stays on your wrist. While wristbands can normally be replaced: it’s a hassle most people just don’t want to go through.
Military grade resistance figures
Unfortunately, meeting all these figures can put you in a pretty steep price range. For example, some top-end military watches will offer water resistance up to 1,000 feet; stainless steel cases that are practically indestructible; entirely force resistant moving pieces; and completely magnet resistance. If you are going to be doing some serious groundwork, need an indestructible watch, and don’t mind spending large, I suggest trusted brands like Breitling and MTM.
However, for the purposes of this post, you want to find products that go above and beyond the minimum. My Budget Choice, for example, offers water resistance up to 50 meters, though it won’t hold up to significant shock. There it’s a bit of a trade-off on price. On the other hand, the Suunto Core is very magnetically resistant, shock resistant and can withstand freediving up to 10m.
The best military watches should be able to withstand whatever you throw at them, while guiding you with valuable information and readings. They should feel like an extension of your body; not a hassle that you always need to recharge, reset or fiddle with while you’re out in the action. Finding a watch that will serve your purpose can be a little time-consuming, which is why I’ve put together this guide. It should offer you a reasonable choice in each price range, giving you a reliable companion for your next adventure.
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