As some of the toughest and most durable timepieces out there, field watches make a lot of sense in the day to day life, especially for those who work in demanding and harsh environments or for outdoor enthusiasts who need these qualities in a watch.
The most impressive watches are often the most expensive as well, which makes it a lot harder for those on a budget to get their hands on a high quality timepiece. Fortunately, field watches, at least most of them, fall into the more affordable category, including some very good pieces.
Before we take a look at our favorites, let’s better understand where do field watches come from.
What are Field Watches?
As their name implies, field watches are timepieces made to be worn out in the field. Most of the times, the design and aesthetic comes from military watches of the past, because that’s where it all started.
Initially called trench watches, they were originally developed during the First World War, with the purpose of serving soldiers on the battlefield, who were in need of a durable, tough, and robust timepiece to rely on when conducting time synced attacks, and one they could easily read in all conditions.
That sums up all the characteristics a field watch should have – ruggedness, robustness, durability, reliability, and legibility.
But the military category is a broader one, so let’s see what are the differences between the field watch and a military watch in general.
Differences Between Field and Military Watches
A field watch is above all, a military watch. Or at least it’s inspired by vintage military watches. The military watch can have a wider range of characteristics and functions, but the core ones are pretty much the same with its old field brother.
Military watches are a broader type that includes pilot watches, tactical watches, divers, and other variations.
The pilot watches are a category apart, with their own set of characteristics and specific functions. Though not very useful anymore, pilot watches used to be important for the pilots of the past.
Then there are the modern tactical watches, most of them digital, with various functions such as compass, barometer, altimeter, and GPS tracking, that would help soldiers fulfill their duties on the modern battlefield. They are usually big, bulky, and rugged, and they’re what most people think about when referring to military watches.
Field watches on the other hand, only tell time. They have to do that in the most accurate and reliable manner possible, and they usually come without any other functions, most of them even without a date complication.
They usually come with mechanical movements, because that was the only one available in the past, but quartz movements are available as well.
Let’s have a look at the affordable field watches that stand out from the crowd.
20. Victorinox Swiss Army Heritage
The world knows Victorinox well for their Swiss Army Knife, but their Swiss Army watch is often neglected. It’s a field watch in the true sense, but one with a contemporary and interesting design.
The 40mm case is made from resin and protects a quality and reliable Swiss quartz movement, with a water resistance rating of 100 meters, or 330 feet.
The dial features a faux-wood aesthetic, with cutouts for hour indices. There’s a nice date window at 6 o’clock, and the hour and minute hands come with lume, so that they can easily be seen in the dark.
The blend of modern design with the traditional field watch aesthetic makes this one a very good choice for casual everyday wear.
19. Luminox Atacama Field Day 1925
Luminox is well known for their military themed watches, and the Atacama Field Day 1925 is a bold take on the traditional field watch. It’s got a huge 45mm case, so it won’t be a good fit for smaller wrists.
Inspired by the field watches of the 1920s, the Atacama goes further into modern territory with a good looking gunmetal PVD coated case.
The big brown markers and hands make an interesting contrast with the black dial and case, and paired with that brown leather strap, it makes the watch look gorgeous and modern.
18. Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon
The Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon leans more towards survival enthusiasts, with its super light 43 mm carbon case and paracord for a strap. The watch is extremely durable as a result.
The dial is straightforward and easily readable, with big white Arabic numerals, and a date window in between the 4 and 5 o’clock positions.
A great feature of this watch is the Super-LumiNova coating that makes it extremely easy to read in the dark. The cost might be a little bit high, but still affordable enough, at less than $1,000.
17. Vaer C3 Korean Field USA Quartz
The Vaer C3 Korean Field USA Quartz is based on field watches used during the Korean War. The dial looks nice and clean, with an interesting sleek external ring for minutes.
The watch comes with a 36mm stainless steel case and bracelet, sapphire crystal protecting the black dial, a quartz movement assembled in the United States, and a decent price of $289.
16. Seiko 5 Sports Desert Military Automatic
The Seiko 5 series is already famous, and this iteration, the 5 Sports Desert Military Automatic doesn’t disappoint. The case is larger than usual, with 42mm, but comes with an interesting desert themed dial, with both 12 and 24 hour Arabic numerals.
The beige fabric strap is nice match to the overall design of the watch. And at less than $200 it’s quite a bargain.
Though its name says something about naval officers, this is actually a good example of a field watch. The Timex X Nigel Cabourn Naval Officers watch is among the simplest and most straightforward field watches out there.
It’s got a 36mm stainless steel case with black leather strap, a white dial with black Arabic numerals for the main 12 hour ring, and smaller red numerals for the inner 24 hour ring.
The hands are luminescent, the movement is quartz, and the price of $195 is very good.
14. Vario 1918 Trench 37mm
Coming straight from Singapore, the Vario 1918 Trench 37mm watch impresses with its old school aesthetic, with vibrant colors, and simple, minimalistic styling.
This timepiece also features big bold Arabic numerals, and a double domed sapphire crystal on top of the dial, all of them offering a very faithful representation of the original trench watch.
13. Baltany W10
Baltany is a Chinese micro
, but if you go beyond the usual stereotypes, you’ll find some fine gems in their lineup. Their W10 is one of those very interesting timepieces, inspired by the “Dirty Dozen” watches of the British Army.
The design of the Baltany W10 is a very good reproduction of that old aesthetic. There’s a wide range of colors to choose from, movements as well, including an automatic one.
12. Timex Expedition North Mechanical
The Timex Expedition North Mechanical is very similar to the very famous Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, though it lacks a little bit in the elegance department.
But that’s not all, as this watch features a water resistance of 100 meters, as opposed to Hamilton’s 50 m, a well built stainless steel case, hacking mechanical movement, and a very good leather band, that makes wearing it super comfortable.
But one of the biggest advantages over Hamilton’s Khaki Field is its price. It costs only $229. The drawback may be that the movement may not be as high quality as that on the Hamilton.
11. BOLDR Venture
A hidden gem, the impressive BOLDR Venture is a very good option. Built with durability in mind, with a full titanium construction, powered by a Seiko automatic movement, and with a 200 meter water resistance rating for the case, this is a true field watch.
It comes in a wide range of colors and variants, for the modern man who wants something more lively on his writs.
The case is quite thick at 12mm, so keep that in mind, especially when worn with a NATO strap, which ups the thickness to a whooping 16.5mm. The case diameter on the other hand is good, measuring 38mm.
10. Marathon General Purpose Mechanical 39mm Steel Reissue
The Marathon General Purpose Mechanical 39mm Steel Reissue is a wonderful option, coming with a slightly bigger case than the standard GPM at 34mm, improved water resistance of 50 m, and an overall excellent design.
Priced at $660, it might be a lot more expensive than other watches in this list, but it looks very elegant for a field watch.
9. Timex Archive 36mm Mk1 Mechanical
The Timex Archive 36mm Mk1 Mechanical is a rare timepiece that looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s comfortable, stays true to the vintage field watch aesthetic, but it only comes with an acrylic crystal, which isn’t scratch resistant.
Also, it’s only available in green. If you can get past these small issues, it’s going to be a nice alternative to the more expensive watches on this list.
8. Bulova Hack
Another very similar watch to the legendary Hamilton Khaki Field, the Bulova Hack comes out as more affordable at only $248. Their similarities are obvious, but that’s because both share some ties with the US military.
The Bulova is inspired by the original “Hack” watch that was issued to the armed forces back in the 1940s. Today’s version comes with some improvements, especially the automatic movement, whilst keeping the hacking function of the original.
The dial is simple, with a creamy color and retro styled numerals and hands, and a heavily domed crystal above. It’s a watch that offers a great value for the money.
7. Seiko 5 Automatic
Another option that’s very popular, the Seiko 5 Automatic, is also among the most affordable field watches around.
It comes with a nice 37mm sand-blasted case, a green military inspired dial, with external minute ring inspired by pilot watches, and a reliable automatic movement.
6. Bertucci A-2T Vintage Watch
The Bertucci A-2T Vintage Watch is among the more casual field watches on the market, with a vintage look, and a solid and lightweight titanium case with satin finish. The overall aesthetic gives out the tool oriented nature of this timepiece, and the field is really where it belongs.
The movement is a Swiss quartz, so you should expect no troubles with it. The dial is a green matte color with contrasting white Arabic numerals.
5. Orient Defender
Orient are known for offering great value for affordable prices. Although they’re usually focused on making dress watches, their Defender watch breaks this pattern a little bit with its military roots.
The military style stops at the asymmetrical sub dials on the watch’s face, which betray its unique personality and the dress watch orientation of the company.
Overall, the Orient Defender is a versatile timepiece, which caters to both field duty and more formal events.
4. Timex Expedition Scout 40mm
The Timex Expedition Scout is a nice blend of the classic, traditional military inspired field watch and a sporty design.
The watch comes in a good size, with a 40mm case, features the Timex Indiglo light-up dial, luminous hands, and a black dial with large Arabic numerals in white, with both 12 hour and 24 hour numerals for time indication.
3. Citizen Eco-Drive Chandler Field Watch
As both one of the most popular field watches around and one of the most affordable on the market, the Citizen Eco-Drive Chandler Field watch is our number 3 pick.
The quality is high, the dial design is nice and simple, with big white Arabic numerals on a black face, the 37mm stainless steel case has a good size, and with its solar powered movement, this watch is very convenient and comfortable.
It sells for $200, which is a good price for the value it offers.
2. Marathon General Purpose Mechanical 34mm
Marathon is one of the greatest field watch manufacturers available today, especially for their rich military heritage and experience in crafting high quality field watches for a long time.
Their famous General Purpose Mechanical comes in probably the smallest case we’ve seen so far, a 34mm, made from composite, with a stainless steel case back, and paired with a standard nylon strap.
The black dial is both true to the military style and beautiful, with contrasting Arabic numerals, luminous indices and hands, and 24 hour time display.
1. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
The king of the field watches is none other but the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. It inherits the rich history of Hamilton, a company that made watches for different militaries during the second world war.
The Khaki Field Mechanical continues that tradition with a simple, classic and high quality design. The watch comes with a 38mm sand-blasted stainless steel case. It’s robust, durable, reliable, and features an easy to read dial with contrasting Arabic numerals, both for 24 hour and 12 hour time display, protected by a sapphire crystal glass.
The shape of the hands is what you’d find on an old school field watch from the second world war period.
Inside, the watch hides a high quality Swiss made mechanical movement with an impressive 80 hour power reserve. The price rises to around $500, depending on the variant, but it’s well worth it.
Field watches are making a big comeback nowadays, especially among the outdoor enthusiasts, who look for exactly the same things soldiers sought in a watch since the wristwatch was invented.
These are our favorite picks, the ones which tick all the right boxes of what a true field watch should be like.