Top Five Tactical Watches

Tactical. The word is everywhere these days. Everything seems to be Tactical.

So when I was asked to write about the top five Tactical Watches, I had to stop and think about what makes a watch “tactical.”

The definition of Tactical is: “Relating to or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end. Done or for use in immediate support of military or naval operations.”

It seems the term has been applied a bit more broadly these days, as manufacturers seem quick to attach the “Tactical” term to any item(s) they want to sell quickly to the “Tacti-Cool” crowd.

In my career, I’ve been involved in a few tactical operations over the decades. I must admit, though, that these days, I’m not often found slithering into a sniper hide in support of hostage rescue operations. I’m more likely to be found shining a seat with my rather large behind while flying a desk and writing about people who engage in derring-do. But I digress.

What did I look for in a watch when I did cool guy stuff? Personally, the first thing I looked for in a watch was durability. It simply had to survive whatever it was subjected to. That ranged from being banged around in vehicles to rolling around on a concrete floor in a concrete cell that had concrete walls with a miscreant who was trying to slash my face open with a crudely made shiv.

I liked my watches to have some sort of elapsed time device on them, whether it was an electronic timer or rotating bezel, so I could time an event. As a sniper, we had to keep logs, and being able to time events was convenient. Plus, it was just a useful feature, in general.

Digital or analog?

I’ll come clean and admit that I’m somewhat of a watch junky. Which is to say, I have several watches that I really love and think the world of.

Five top pick dive watches in the wild.
On top is the Seiko dive watch. Left to right: the G-Shock Rangeman OD, Citizen’s Eco Zilla, G-Shock Frogman, and the G-Shock Rangeman Grey/Yellow. Photo: Jim Davis.

Is digital or analog better for tactical operations? I’m not sure there’s a clear-cut winner. However, a friend did mention that, in the medical field, an analog watch with a moving minute hand is far more practical for taking a patient’s pulse because you can easily track a 15-second time span while taking said patient’s pulse and then multiply by four to get their heart rate. Doing that with a digital watch is darn near impossible, but that minute hand makes it easy. So there’s that.

In the end, I’ve used both on operations and have been well-pleased in both departments.

The Picks

I’ll now go down my personal list of favorite watches and why I like them. Why am I using these specific watches? Because these are watches that I own and have used a lot and am familiar with. You might have other picks, and that’s perfectly okay. If you don’t see your favorite watch on my list, it’s probably not because it’s junk or I don’t like it, but rather because I only have so much room to store stuff and only so much money to spend on them.

Each watch listed here happens to be solar-powered. This is great if you don’t like to have to mess with batteries. Personally, I think it’s great not to have to worry about batteries dying.

I’ll start backward and count down to my favorite watch. In most cases, it’s difficult for me to rank one above the other because I love these watches! A few of these aren’t necessarily ranked in order of their preferences, but I had to put them into some sort of order, so here they are.

5. Seiko SUN065 Prospex PADI Special Edition

This Seiko dive watch has a stainless steel case that is 14.1mm thick and has a diameter of 47.5mm. The crystal is a durable sapphire crystal that is non-reflective. It features seven jewels and luminescent hands that glow for many hours. There is a small date window in the face of the watch.

A silicone band secures the watch to the wrist, and this is one of the best bands I’ve ever used. It’s very soft and pliable and does a superb job of securing the watch to the wearer’s wrist. It also features a metal keeper, so the tail of the band is always kept secure.

Seiko Prospex dive watch.
Seiko’s dive watch, the Prospex Special Edition. A tough watch that’s solid and also stylish. The strap is extremely soft and comfortable while being secure. Photo: Jim Davis.

The movement is kinetic, and there’s a small gyroscope-type device in the watch. You can feel it moving when the watch is in motion, and this is what charges the internal watch battery. It holds a charge for approximately six months without the watch being in motion.

The one-way rotating bezel allows the user to do elapsed time events. Finally, it is a diver’s watch, so it’s water resistant down to 200 meters, or 660 feet.

The bezel has small scallops cut into it so the user can easily turn it to use the elapsed time function. The face of the watch is dark blue and almost looks black in appearance. Overall, its appearance is striking, and the watch has proven to be extremely durable. I’ve worn it for several years, and it still looks almost brand new.

4. Citizen Eco Zilla

Citizen’s Promaster Diver, nicknamed “Eco Zilla” for its massive size and solar-powered technology, is an impressive watch. Its official model number is BJ8050-08E. With a case width of 48mm, this is not a small watch. It’s very thick, too.

The strap is polyurethane and secures the watch to your wrist so securely that your wrist is more likely to be ripped from your body before the watch comes off.

The case material is stainless steel, as is the bezel, which features cutouts to help you turn the unidirectional bezel when you use the elapsed time feature. The mineral crystal is shatter-resistant and has an anti-reflective coating.

The hands and markers are luminous and hold their glow for a long time.

Citizen Eco Zilla dive watch.
Citizen’s Promaster  “Eco Zilla” is a huge, heavy watch. If you run out of ammo, you can kill enemy soldiers or bears with this watch. It’s also rated water resistant to 300 meters. Photo: Jim Davis.

Make no mistake, this is a Professional Diver’s watch, which it clearly says on the top of the case. It is rated down to 300 meters, and this watch is no joke. It’s heavy enough that if you run out of ammunition, you can use the watch to kill the enemy.

The back of the case lists the movement numbers and has a very cool engraved symbol of an old-school diver’s helmet, and it states that the watch is for “saturation diving.”

Overall, this watch has a striking appearance and you’ll get comments when you wear it. The durability factor is off the charts, too; you’ll not have to fret about breaking this one.

3. G-Shock Mudman G9300-1

G-Shock’s Mudman is another favorite. It’s 18.2mm thick and 53mm long, making it a sizeable watch. The case and bezel are made from aluminum and resin, and the watch is extremely shock-resistant, as we’ve come to expect from G-Shock. This one is specially made to be mud-resistant. It’s also solar-powered, so we never have to worry about batteries.

Casio has packed tons of features into this watch, including a compass, thermometer, alarms, stopwatch, world time, a light, countdown timer, calendar, and all the other usual features that they do. There are too many to list here in this short review.

G-Shock Mudman watch.
Casio’s G-Shock Mudman is an ultra-durable selection in their lineup and a perfect choice for hostile environments. Photo: Jim Davis.

There is a mineral glass crystal, which resists shattering very well and is durable. In fact, the durability factor of this watch overall is insane.

It’s a great-looking watch that will serve almost any conceivable need that you’d expect a watch to do…and a few more.

As this is written, it can be purchased on GunMag Warehouse for $220.00.

2. G-Shock Rangeman GW9400Y-1

The Rangeman is one of G-Shock’s all-star watches. It’s large and in charge, and the dark grey (almost black) case with yellow highlights is a fetching color scheme. Case measurements are 55.2 x 53.5 x 18.2mm. It’s not huge, but it’s far from tiny.

The Rangeman features an altimeter, thermometer/barometer, and compass, among other functions. Like other G-Shocks, it’s loaded with features, including a stopwatch, alarms, countdown timer, date/date/time, a light, and tons of other stuff.

It has Atomic World Time, and automatically receives a signal that updates the time so it’s constantly being updated.

Two G-Shock Rangeman watches.
Here are two examples of the G-Shock Rangeman: the first is dark grey (it looks black) with yellow highlights, which is a very cool color combination. The next is OD Green with yellow highlights. A compass, thermometer, and altimeter make these very capable watches for the outdoors. They’re also tough as nails. Photo: Jim Davis.

The metal buttons have checkering knurled into them, which is a nice detail that makes them durable and easy to use. The button for the light is in the center, right under the display window, so it’s very easy to find in the dark and push. It uses an LED light that’s really effective.

Because it’s solar-powered, you’ll never have to mess with a battery, which I like a lot.

The case and band are both made of resin and are very durable. The band is worth extra praise, as it has a double row of holes that the clasp locks into. It’s an extremely comfortable and secure band, and it elevates this watch a bit higher in the quality department because of it. The keeper is metal, so it won’t break.

The Rangeman is water resistant down to 200 meters, so it’s good enough to use for diving. As with other G-Shocks, it’s extremely shock-resistant, making it a top choice for military and law enforcement, as well as other adventurous pursuits.

In addition to the grey/yellow color combo, the Rangeman also comes in black with red highlights, as well as Olive Drab green with small yellow highlights and a negative screen.

At the time of this writing, it’s available on GunMage Warehouse for $299.99.

This watch is one of my favorites, coming in just slightly behind the next and final watch on the list. This leads us to…

1. The Frogman

I just can’t seem to take this watch off my wrist. The cool factor is way off the charts. This is a large watch, measuring 58.3 x 52.8 x 18mm. Being that large, it gets noticed quite a bit. Despite its large size, it’s not overly heavy and it wears well on the wrist.

As with the other watches on my list, this one is solar and when fully charged, it can go eight months without being exposed to sunlight.

It is equipped with Atomic World Time, so the watch receives signals that update the time so it stays very current and accurate. In addition, there are a couple dozen other features, including a tide graph, moon data, 31 time zones, dive time and diving logs, a stopwatch, a countdown timer, five alarms, a calendar, an LED light, and a pile of other features including a partridge in a pear tree. This watch has more functions than I even know what to do with.

The G-Shock Frogman.
The ultimate in hugeness and coolness is the G-Shock Frogman. Super durable, and loaded with more features than you’ll know what to do with. Photo: Jim Davis.

Aside from the usual amazing G-Shock shock resistance, this watch is water resistant down to 200 meters, so you really can use it for diving.

The band has two sets of holes and the buckle has a double clasp to fit them. The keeper, unfortunately, is resin (I’d prefer that it was made of metal for durability).

Made of metal, the buttons are large and easy to use, which adds to the functionality of this watch.

Despite the Frogman being marketed as a “Dive Watch”, let’s face it: serious deep divers are going to use a dive computer, not a watch, for vital diving functions.

This watch has good everyday functions (and lots of them). Overall, I just love it for its looks and durability. I don’t use half the functions on this watch, or any others listed here.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I like these watches first and foremost for two reasons: their looks and their durability. I do use some of the features, but honestly, many of them are lost on me.

But as far as durability goes, each one listed here has exceeded my expectations. I’ve worn all of them on duty at one time or another, and some of them have received more than their fair share of abuse. And to me, that’s what it’s all about.

As far as their appearances, watches, to me, are functional jewelry. I like them to look rugged and interesting, as I don’t wear other jewelry. Again, each one of these pieces fits the bill for me.

They’re not all inexpensive, but I subscribe to the adage, “Buy once, cry once.” Quality costs money. But when you think of how many years of enjoyment and service you’ll get from these timepieces, it doesn’t hurt quite as badly.

Check ’em out. I think you’ll enjoy them!

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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