The venerable field watch deserves your respect. It was, essentially, the first bona fide wristwatch for men, one that was born out of necessity on the battlefields of WWI and WWII. Prior to this, most men who could afford a watch used a pocket watch. But pulling one out of your military jacket while Nazi Mauser rifle rounds whiz past your skull wasn’t exactly a life-preserving move. The trench watch (aka, field watch) was specifically built for military duties because it could be worn on the wrist and was built to withstand punishment. It was also singular in purpose to tell the time, and it was built to withstand the elements and field conditions.
While officers wore them in WWI, it wasn’t until 1942 that they became standard issue for Allied military forces. Features like corrosion resistance, water resistance, hacking seconds hand-wound movement for synchronization, large white Arabic numerals against a black dial for legibility, a 10-minute chapter ring, and a nylon strap were just some of the requirements for the A-11 military specification. The field watch wasn’t retired when the war ended but carried over into men’s style vernacular and into the modern age.
Modern field watches are no longer just for military use, and they have evolved from their chromium-plated brass cases to stainless steel and even titanium. While case shapes stick with the classic round dial and numeral/marker designs and strap/bracelet types have changed with the times for greater versatility and style preferences. We’ve chosen the best field watches you can buy right now. And not a single one will break the bank.
Best Field Watches
The Italian microbrand is firing on all cylinders, and they’ve taken their famous Modello Uno dive watch platform to create a fresh take on the field watch. The U4-A has a thick but manageable 40mm diameter case with a stunning fixed bezel and highly legible Super-LumiNova C3 pale green hands and markers. The flat sapphire crystal has an anti-reflective coating, and the Seiko NH35A automatic movement has hacking seconds and a 41-hour power reserve. It’s mated to a thick Nato strap for that proper field look. Drilled lugs make strap changes a cinch, too. Even the caseback has engraved “Ground-to-Air Signals” for that extra coolness factor. While this version recently sold out, Unimatic just replaced it with the almost identical UC-4.
LÜM-TEC Combat B46
As it was released last year, this American-assembled B46 might not be the newest kid on the block. But it’s easily one of our field watch favorites thanks to its robust titanium carbide PVD-coated case, curved AR-coated sapphire, excellent lume, anti-shock mounted Swiss Ronda Quartz movement. The 200-meter depth rating means you can take in the drink without worry, and the Viton gaskets resist high temps and chemicals. The B46’s khaki numerals contrast perfectly with the matte black dial, and the two provided Zulu straps have case-matching hardware. We love the curved lugs that make the 43mm case truly wearable all day long.
Seiko Sports SRPG31
Seiko recently redesigned its Sports field watch but kept the good stuff. The classic 39mm stainless steel case remains right-sized for most wrists, and it still has the orange second hand and the display back that shows off the hacking seconds automatic movement. This time around, the Arabic numerals are larger, and the date window gets a popping white background for improved legibility. The black two-piece Nato strap is as handsome as it is comfortable, but you can swap it out with an aftermarket strap to dress things up a bit.
The C5 is a new take on the field watch without deviating too far off the beaten path. In 36 or 40mm diameter versions, the C5 is built to last with an American FTS Ameriquartz movement (40-month battery life), sapphire glass, and 100-meter water resistance. The mix of Arabic numerals and arrowhead markers is handsome, along with the 7 Layer Old Radium Super-LumiNova that provides great nighttime contrast. Every C5 comes with a rubber dive strap and your choice of leather or nylon Nato straps, or even a handsome stainless steel bracelet for a tad extra. Plus, they’re all quick-release so changeouts are a cinch. The best part is the truly affordable price for what looks and feels like a premium field watch.
American-based Raven Watches is one of the best microbrands around. And they regularly sell out of all of their models. Thankfully, there’s a pre-order for their new field watch, the Airfield. The 40mm stainless steel case can be chosen with a white, black, or (our favorite) green dial, and all models are powered by a reliable Japanese automatic movement. Superluminova X1 blue provides superb low-light visibility, and the AR-coated sapphire crystal is tough and field-ready. The polished sides of the case and the solid-link stainless steel bracelet mean you can wear this field watch with more office-friendly attire, too.
Bertucci A-2TR Field Pro
Bertucci might be a small watchmaker based out of Illinois, but they make some of the best, most robust field watches around for what seems like a pittance. The A-2TR Field Pro boasts full titanium construction for resilience and lightweight wear that reduces fatigue. The A-2TR even comes with a gold-plated Swiss quartz movement that keeps excellent time and doesn’t require a battery swap for 5 years. The screw-down crown, unidirectional time bezel, sapphire glass, and 200-meter water resistance give it tremendous field toughness, and the reinforced Active Comfort Zulu strap is almost as rugged as the watch, itself.
Todd Snyder x Timex MK1 Field Scout
While we probably wouldn’t put the MK1 Field Scout through intense field rigors, we would totally rock it for office casual fare with its retro ethos and bi-color dial. Created for Todd Snyder’s 10th-anniversary collaborations, the MK1 Field Scout is inspired by military horological style. The vintage-style domed acrylic crystal contrasts with the cool blue hue of the INDIGO backlight. The dual-pass buckled Zulu strap provides security, and the extra longitudinal stitching caps off the awesome style quotient.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
If you can get your hands on one of these, we suggest you jump on it now. The olive-colored, brown-dialed version of Hamilton’s famed Field Mechanical is vintage field watch style at its best. The 38mm olive stainless steel case and brown dial mate well with the old radium lume and green Nato leather strap. Inside is a hand-wound mechanical movement with a whopping 80 hours of power reserve. It’s easily one of the most fetching field watches made today.
Oris Okavango Air Rescue Limited Edition
This half-pilot, half-field watch is a true head-turner due to its popping green textured dial and matching Erika’s Originals strap. Based on Oris’s popular Big Crown Pilot, the Okavango Air Rescue has a dial inspired by the richly hued grasses in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The 41mm case gets a modified coin-edge fixed bezel, and the large screw-down crown balances the size of the watch well. It’s powered by a Swiss Sellita SW 220-1 based automatic movement with hacking seconds and a 38-hour power reserve. The visually stunning dial makes it the style king of this set. Only 2,011 of them will be made.
Forstner Bracelet Options
We love swapping out watch straps and bracelets. When it comes to casual field watches, adding a stainless steel bracelet can be a game-changer for versatile wear. A nylon or rubber strapped field watch that looks great with shorts or khakis can easily transition to slacks and a blazer when a solid-linked stainless steel bracelet jumps into the mix. Some of our favorites come from Forstner bands, namely the ladder-style Klip or the sporty Rivet. They’re comfy, super-handsome, and they come in widths ranging from 18mm all the way to 22mm, so they’ll fit just about any field watch out there.