Playing the Field

These Are the 10 Best Field Watches of 2019


April 11, 2019 Watches By

For most tool watches, the requirements are pretty clear-cut. A dive watch needs to survive meters of water pressure. A racer’s chronograph needs to have the ability to record time. A pilot’s GMT should keep a second time zone. But a field watch? There are no real clear-cut rules — many watches can handle an outdoor excursion, but few are made specifically for the job.

So what should you look for in an ideal field watch? The same attributes the military found in classic general issue watches like the American A-11 or British W10 — that is, simplicity, durability and legibility. Dials should have big, contrasting markers and little else adorning them. Cases should protect movements from hard knocks. There should be lume aplenty.

And that’s pretty much it. The good news is that because they’re less complex than other tool watches, even the best generally come pretty cheap (though you can treat yourself to a $6,500 Rolex Explorer, if you wish). These ten are our favorites — take them camping, hunting, overlanding or simply to your next happy hour, and know that they’re ready for whatever you have to throw at them.

Bertucci A2-T

With a much better strength-to-weight ratio than stainless steel (and hypoallergenic, to boot), titanium is a fantastic material for making durable watches. Typically, the price of titanium watches reflects this, but watchmaker Bertucci makes well-priced titanium filed watches for under $200. The A2-T combines that titanium case with a Swiss-made quartz movement, as well as a vintage-inspired dial, made plenty legible thanks to big Arabic numerals, a healthy smattering of lume, and a 24-hour layout.

Movement: Quartz
Size: 42mm
Water resistance: 100m

Marathon General Purpose Quartz

Military-issued field watches aren’t really a thing anymore — most service people tend to prefer buying their own watches — but the tradition of mil-spec timepieces continues. Marathon’s General Purpose which is, thus, made to those specifications, and what you get is a stupidly simple watch with the classic military dial layout (though complete with tritium gas lume!) and a quartz movement housed in a modest 34mm case.

Movement: ETA F06 quartz
Size: 34mm
Water resistance: 30m

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

Hamilton’s 2018 update to the venerable Field Khaki is one of our favorite overall introductions this year, both for its affordable price and its convincing vintage aesthetic that harkens back to the old Hamilton-made US military watches of the mid 20th century. What’s more, the movement inside is a decidedly old-school hand-cranker, adding to those vintage vibes.

Movement: ETA 2801-2 hand-winding
Size: 38mm
Water resistance: 50m

CWC W10

Cabot Watch Company (CWC) is known in the watch world for making many of the British military’s watches in the latter part of the 20th century. The watch here is based on the W10 design issued in the 1970s before the introduction of the quartz G10. This version uses an automatic in place of the original’s hand-winder, but it’s still close to the original.

Movement: ETA 2824 automatic
Size: 38mm
Water resistance: 50m

Luminox Atacama Field

Luminox’s lineup mostly consists of bold, chunky and quartz-regulated timepieces, but the brand’s Atacama Field is a decidedly more classic timepiece. The dial lacks the Arabic numerals you’d normally see at each hour but makes up for it with the use of tritium gas tubes that consistently provide crisp, clear luminescence without the need to “charge up” with UV light, as SuperLuminova does.

Movement: Sellita SW220-1 automatic
Size: 44m
Water resistance: 200m

Lum-Tec Combat Field X2

Lum-Tec is based in Ohio, where the company designs and assembles a range of tool watches that feature its own proprietary luminescent material on the dial. The Combat Field X2 is a reinterpretation of vintage filed watch design and, as such, features details like a domed crystal and a coin-edge bezel. It rocks a chunky 44mm case with a titanium carbide coating (to reduce vulnerability to scracthes) and is powered by an automatic movement from Swiss manufacturer Sellita.

Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic
Size: 44mm
Water resistance: 100m

Sinn 856

Sinn is known for making over-engineered, tough watches, and the relatively basic 856 is no different. On the surface, it’s a legible time-and-date stainless steel watch, but note that said stainless steel has undergone a hardening process leaving the case surface particularly scratch-resistant. What’s more, the brand claims the use of a copper-sulfate capsule that absorbs and diffuses any internal moisture that could enter, preventing the crystal from fogging up and the degredation of the internal lubricants.

Movement: Sellita SW300-1 movement
Size: 40m
Water resistance: 200m

Tudor Ranger

As Tudor has revamped most of its heritage lineup — especially its Black Bay diver — the Ranger has remained mostly unchanged since its introduction, but it remains a favorite today. Why? Its undeniably handsome dial, an archetypal field watch design if there ever were one, is based on a sought-after (and oft-faked) Tudor of old, and its relatively low price and un-fussy ETA-based movement make it an easy proposition to own.

Movement: ETA 2824 automatic
Size: 41mm
Water resistance: 150m

Omega Railmaster

An oft-forgotten tool watch in the Omega lineup, the Railmaster’s legacy is some 60 years old. In its current guise (which debuted last year) the watch features the brand’s Master Chronometer-certified co-axial movement, meaning it has both chronometer-grade accuracy and resistance to magnetism. It’s the dial, though, that stands out most — thick plots of vintage-hued lume surround it, creating a legible, but handsome, time teller.

Movement: Omega 8806 automatic
Size: 40mm
Water resistance: 150m

Rolex Explorer

Watch nerds know the Explorer as the first watch up to the peak of Everest (though a Smiths came along for the ride as well) and this fact, to many, makes it infallible. (Being a Rolex probably helps, too.) This reference is the most recent and boasts an automatic movement with the brand’s superaltive chronometer accuracy (as in it’s guaranteed more accurate than your standard COSC-approved watch), and features the brand’s proprietary Chromalight lume that glows a sharp blue in the darkness.

Movement: Rolex 3132 automatic
Size: 39mm
Water resistance: 100m
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A pilot’s watch from on a mountaineering-inspired lineup that existed thanks to a dive watch. Read the Story

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