From Issue Five of Gear Patrol Magazine.
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Tool watches, like chronographs, divers and GMTs, have clear-cut definitions and requirements. But field watches? They’re a bit more nebulous. After all, couldn’t any watch work out in the field? For guidance, refer to the military-issued watches of the 20th century, such as the American A-11 or British Smiths W10, which were tough and dead simple, with clear dials and large numerals coated in lume for extra visibility. Today’s best examples aren’t built for battle, but they follow the same formula of ruggedness and legibility. Find a favorite and you’ll quickly learn it’s not just a great companion outside; a good field watch is right at home under the cuff of a blazer, too.
Timex Expedition Mid-Size Scout
Timex built its reputation on affordable, simple and durable watches. Those aspects converge in the Expedition Mid-Size Scout — a stylish $60 watch with a quartz movement and a legible dial lit up by an electronic backlight. At only 36mm in diameter, it fulfils its purpose without looking like an oversized dinner plate on your wrist.
Movement: Timex Quartz Analog
Water Resistance: 50m
Seiko Prospex SRPA95
In the realm of mechanical tool watches, you’ll find no better value than what’s in Seiko’s Prospex collection. The SRPA95, for example, is outfitted with Seiko’s proven 4R35 automatic movement. It also features an inner rotating compass bezel that, when properly synched with the position of the sun, can be used to navigate the backcountry.
Movement: Seiko 4R35 Automatic
Water Resistance: 100m
CWC Navigator Automatic GS 1970s
Founded in 1972, Cabot Watch Company has supplied chronographs, divers and field watches to the British Military for decades. This Navigator is a re-creation of the general service watch issued in the ’70s, before the introduction of the quartz G10 in 1980, with an upgrade in the form of an automatic movement from Swiss maker ETA.
Movement: ETA 2824 Automatic
Water Resistance: 50m
Sinn 856 B-Uhr
Sinn makes some of the most absurdly rugged mechanical watches around. Though the 856 is ostensibly a pilot’s watch, it’s well suited for life outdoors, too. Its hardened stainless steel case is filled with inert gas to protect its internals from moisture (which also keeps the watch crystal from fogging up). Water-resistant to 200 meters and antimagnetic to 80,000 A/m, the 856 is poised to tackle any environment you throw its way.
Movement: Sellita SW300-1 Automatic
Water Resistance: 200m
Tudor Heritage Ranger
When launched in the 1960s, the Tudor Oyster Prince Ranger was an adventure-ready variant of the already robust Oyster Prince. The main difference? It boasts a dial with larger, luminous hands and big painted Arabic numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Today’s Ranger is admittedly much bigger than the original Oyster Prince, but that handsome, legible dial remains fully intact.
Movement: Tudor-modified ETA 2824 Automatic
Water Resistance: 150m
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Railmaster
The Railmaster, perhaps one of Omega’s most overlooked timepieces, first debuted in 1957 alongside the iconic Seamaster and Speedmaster as a tough, legible and antimagnetic watch for professionals working near strong electromagnetic fields. Half a century later, the Railmaster remains incredibly rugged and antimagnetic thanks to Omega’s Co-Axial movement. While you likely won’t encounter any magnetic fields in the wild, the over-engineered nature of the Railmaster should keep it protected from any hard knocks endured out on the trail.