January 30, 2017 at 1:08 pm #109140
“Being at the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform,” is a common maxim taught by NCOs the world over. One tool that aids us with ‘at the right time’ is a wristwatch. Since I have an interest in watches, I thought I could share with you some details about wrist watch types, construction and throw out some of my opinions on options to look into. Guys also with an interest in watches chime in.
In general you can split up the world of watches into two categories- quartz and mechanical.
-first commercially available in 1969
-uses electricity sent through quartz
-generally more accurate than mechanical
-can be more resistant to shock and magnetism
-generally less expensive
-uses stored mechanical energy in a mainspring
-automatics (most common) use a weight that will add tension to the mainspring as you wear it
-More susceptible to damage
-Greater water resistance availability (largely a moot point)
-NEVER DIES (batteries burn out)
Max and 1SG always recommend an automatic watch for our uses and this is mainly, I presume, because you don’t have to worry about a battery. By design a quartz watch will die, while a well cared for automatic will not suffer the same fate. Most of quartz’s advantages can be matched with the right auto watch with the exception of really two things- shock resistance and easy timing. In my opinion shock resistance is over emphasized. The leading cause for damaging an automatic is dropping it during donning and doffing. In general though, if it’s on your wrist it isn’t going to experience an impact enough to damage it. Listening to someone ask 1SG, who wears a Seiko, he’s taken it on countless jumps with no damage. My one caution here is if operating vibrating equipment- don’t wear a mechanical watch if you’re operating a jackhammer! Plenty of people have done so without any harm to their automatic watch but it’s not recommended. The second feature, easy timing, can’t really be matched in an automatic compared to a digital watch. Automatics are available with a chronograph that can measure minutes/seconds pretty precisely but I wouldn’t say they’re easy to read- just my personal opinion.
One of the most misunderstood features of watches is water resistance. Many people commonly misunderstand that a watch’s rating means that it’s how deep a watch can go, which isn’t the case. It’s usually measured in meters, here’s a description:
-10m: splashproof, not much more
-30m: splashproof and brief emersion resistant, not suitable for swimming
-50m: suitable for light swimming
-100m: suitable for swimming/snorkeling but not SCUBA or watersports like jet skiing
-200m: suitable for diving up to depths not requiring helium and water sports
-300m : if you aren’t a diver, I don’t know that you get any real benefit.
For me personally, I love dive watches, which are 200m and usually robustly constructed.
Some other features to be cognizant of:
-Material of the glass: plastic (digital watches), mineral crystal or sapphire crystal. Mineral crystal is more resistant to impact than sapphire but sapphire is more resistant to scratches.
-Bezel: the bezel is what surrounds the watch face, for non-digital dive watches, some have rotating bezels marked with numbers that can be used to measure elapsed minutes. It’s a nice feature to have. Some designs lean more towards usability than others, some are just aesthetic and don’t rotate or have markings that suck.
-Strap/Bracelet: steel bracelets are the most wear resistant but sometimes aren’t very comfortable, leather can be comfortable but probably the least durable, my personal favorite is the nato strap.It’s made of nylon and is designed so that if one of the two spring bars holding it on the watch fails, the watch will remain on your wrist. If you plan on using your watch in salt water, a silicone strap or steel bracelet might work better but otherwise I’d consider the nato strap. An option I haven’t personally tried but that some people love is a shark mesh bracelet. It’s supposed to be the most comfortable style that still uses robust stainless steel. There is also the zulu strap, which is like the nato but made from thicker nylon with bigger buckles.
-Power reserve (auto) or Battery Life (quartz): Different automatics have different power reserves, this is something to keep in mind so that if/when you take off the watch, you don’t have to reset the time. For digital watches, bluntly, battery life is a crap shoot.
-Illumination: Considering roughly half of the day it’s dark out, being able to tell time in darkness is pretty important. Digital watches have a backlight, which for tactical purposes can be accidentally pressed or be too bright. For other watches there are two main kinds of lume, painted lume (glow in the dark) and tritium. With painted lume there are varying degrees of both brightness and length it stays glowing. For painted lume Seiko, some Citizen, and boutique brand Armida generally have the brightest lume. A third method of illumination is tritium. Some companies produce watches with tiny tritium tubes in them that glow all the time. I think the half life for them is 12 years, so over time the brightness degrades. Some popular tritium watch brands are Traser/Luminox, Deep Blue, Marathon and Ball.
-Hacking (autos): this is a feature that stops the second hand when setting the time, it allows for precision syncing
-Day/Date: for everyday life, it’s a pretty useful feature to have. Some watches have both day and date, some just date and some have neither.
-Crown: this is the little pin you use to adjust the time. For more water resistant watches they screw down. Some crowns are easier than others to screw down, sometimes being an annoyance- it’s something to research before purchasing a watch.
I really want to talk automatics but will touch on two popular quartz watches:
The premier digital watch with more models than any other watch in the world, purpose built for durability. Look for the features that most appeal to you, of note though is that different models have batteries of varying life- a result of what features it has, some soak up more energy, and it’s date of manufacture. In general they have what’s considered a “10 year battery” but I think it’s very variable. Users have reported everything from 2 years to 15 years. My personal choice is the GD-350-1B, mainly because it has a world time feature for easy time zone transitions, a countdown timer for timed HIIT workouts, and vibration alarm option. I use it for exercise, travel and for my job, when I need to do timing where other options aren’t practical or permitted. Its illumination is like a flashlight. I have literally used it as a flashlight at night! For that reason specifically, I don’t like using it as a tactical watch.
Citizen Eco Drive Watches:
Eco drives are pretty plentiful as well and use solar power. Some people mistakenly believe these don’t have a battery, but they a special titanium lithium battery. The battery is usually good for 15 years, Citizen will replace it for free. They store approximately 10 months of energy and so don’t need much charging. In general they are more expensive than the G-Shocks. If this is something that interests you, make sure you pay attention to water resistance, the non-diver eco drives have low water resistance ratings. They have a few dive watches, the one I happen to have is the BN0000-04H. It’s low profile and has excellent illumination.
The number of options are extreme here. Obviously aesthetics, personal style and budget play a role. Things that I would be looking for in a watch for tactical use are 200m water resistance and good lume. Nice to haves are a hacking movement and date. There are a ton of great options but I would recommend looking into these watches:
-Seiko SKX007: ubiquitous, robust, inexpensive dive watch with great lume and the most customizable watch around. It’s very popular because it generally blows anything else in its price range out of the water. It’s 200m water resistant, has day/date, rotating bezel, mineral crystal glass, but has a non-hacking movement. It’s crown is tricky to screw back in.
-Seiko SBDCseries nicknamed the Sumo, a slightly larger, more refined dive watch. It substitutes the day/date of the 007 for just a date but it has a hacking movement and can be wound. Considerably more expensive than the 007 though.
-Orient Mako: a dressier looking dive watch that competes with the 007 price range with similar features. Worse lume than the 007, but still pretty good. The newer ones have a hacking movement.
-Deep Blue Watches: they have a ton of different options but are robustly built, with some watches having 1000m water resistance, some have tritium tubes. They are good value in my opinion. Their regular painted lume watches aren’t very bright. These are good if you want something a little more unique. They sell both quartz and autos, so make sure you get an auto. They have a mailing list that pretty regularly puts out coupon codes.
Choosing a watch is a personal thing but I wanted to give those of you looking to get a watch some things to keep in mind and some inexpensive options. Other forum members with other good recommendations chime in.
January 30, 2017 at 2:45 pm #109141SeanTKeymaster
I have worn a Wenger 38mm ‘Officer Suisse’ for 30 years and finally replaced it in December. I don’t like large watches and rather liked the Wenger for size. The lume pretty much would only glow for a couple minutes so that wasn’t so useful anymore.
I debated between an auto and quartz and decided that I was going to go with the quartz because the watch I finally decided to buy was just too expensive in the auto configuration. The quartz was expensive enough but if I get another 30 years out of it, I’m good.
What I chose was a Marathon TSAR medium. I really wanted the tritium and so far love the watch. I don’t like the SS bracelets so I am still wearing the rubber strap it came with and like it. I have thought about the zulu too but am going to give the rubber one a fair try.The second hand and the bezel have lume paint but the hands and the hour markers are tritium. The 12 is orange and the others are greenish. It has a sapphire crystal, not mineral.
January 30, 2017 at 3:20 pm #109142
Price wise I have used the Seiko automatic. If cost were not an issue I would check out a Resco. These are made by a former Navy Seal and look to be very high quality. They run about two grand.
January 30, 2017 at 10:32 pm #109143First SergeantModerator
Good review. This is one piece of equipment that most overlook.
I still use the Seiko for the reasons you mentioned and I also use the Zulu Strap. The Zulu is more comfortable and will last a long time. I have had the rubber ones come apart.
Signal Out, Can You Identify
Je ne regrette rien
In Orbe Terrum Non Visi
January 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm #109144dnbParticipant
Thanks for overview. Have a little seiko that my wallet wears in the fold. It runs fast. Hate having a watch on my wrist, plus they also get caught on something or hit if I am working and eventually break. Hence never will pay 200 bucks for the diver.
January 31, 2017 at 8:17 am #109145
1SG, I hate the rubber straps personally because they are so uncomfortable on my small wrist. They are really mission specific for salt water diving. You might want to look into the MiLTAT Thick Zulu strap, it’s one of my favorite straps and is extra thick.
Hey dnb, you might be a mechanic or something where it’s not practical or safe to wear a watch when putting your hands in tight spaces all day, but I have a couple things for you. One of the easiest ways to reduce the watch getting banged on things is to have a low profile watch. The Citizen diver I mentioned is pretty small and very flat for a 300m dive watch. Another thing you can do is wear it with the face on the palm side of your wrist, doing so will reduce the chance of it hitting something. Wearing it palm side also puts the watch in the ideal spot to check the time while holding a rifle . It’s not my thing but lots of guys do it. Also, I’ve hit watch faces off quite a few door knobs and they’ve all survived, the mineral crystal ones have scratched, the sapphire crystal ones haven’t. Although I haven’t touched one, the Seiko SKA371 is said to be ultra durable (and affordable). Here is someone professing their love for it with a link in it to some nasty torture tests. Seiko SKA371
January 31, 2017 at 10:47 am #109146
This is a strap I made based on a style from the seventies. I know it’s big and bulky, but I think it will last years.
January 31, 2017 at 11:32 am #109147
Is that a weightlifting belt or watch strap? Hahaha, just kidding- I hope it serves you well.
I’m currently rocking an Armida A1 42mm as my everyday watch on a zulu strap. I love it’s simple retro-ish matte dial and bezel and its amazing lume. I do miss having a date for practical purposes though. It uses the Seiko NH34A movement.
January 31, 2017 at 12:42 pm #109148Brian from GeorgiaParticipant
Seiko 5 Automatic is decent. It is available with OD green face and NATO band and comes in under $60.
January 31, 2017 at 9:18 pm #109149
January 31, 2017 at 10:13 pm #109150CorvetteParticipant
I wore a Timex Camper Quartz on one of those wrist bands with the cover you could get at the PX the eight years I was in the Army. The battery lasted 12 years. I cracked the case on it somehow after 15 years. Replaced it with another and still have it, although I retired it and wear a Casio Forester now. It has held up well too.
January 31, 2017 at 10:28 pm #109151SeanTKeymaster
These are the ones that I use and have used for years.
Agreed on the rubber ones. That happened a long time ago before I knew better.
The watch in that pic is one in the Marathon SAR series. That one looks like it might be marked Govt. or Canada on the face.
January 31, 2017 at 11:45 pm #109152BrigandActualParticipant
My favorite watch is a Hamilton King Khaki Auto that my wife got me several years ago. It has a very clean vintage military vibe to it. Over time, the leather strap has begun to break down, and the watch itself is in need of a tune up.
My day to day watch, and what I have on my wrist for “hard use” is a G-Shock Tough Solar that has both a standard battery and a solar battery that charges under normal lighting conditions. It also sets itself every morning (around 0300) when in the proximity of the atomic clock radio signal stations.
I have a preference for analog faces, no doubt.
February 17, 2017 at 4:38 pm #109153DuaneHParticipant
My citizen eco drive is 16 and after a month in a paper bag and dark cabinet it shows no sign of low battery. Originally rated for 6 months.
I will definitely say that more expensive does not equal better. I impacted one of my Rolexes with the dirt and had to take it in for repair and one of my other high end watches has been in the shop so often I am starting to call it Harley Davidson.
Whereas my Seiko 5 with the 7S26 movement has been beat to shit and still only loses 10 seconds a day.
I would spend an extra 100 or 200 and upgrade to the 4Rxx Seiko movement if you are going to buy a Seiko Auto as it hacks and hand winds. I have two of these movements. (one in a Seiko and one in a Deep Blue) and they both were COSC spec out of the box.
I don’t own one, but Seikos with a 6Rxx movement are reported to be even nicer with more accuracy.
In 2010 Miyota (Citizen) introduced the 9015 as a direct competitor to the ETA 2824 movements. It is a 8 BPS whereas most Seikos less than the 8Rxx movements are 6 Beats Per Second which some say is why they last so long.
Four your consideration:
Casio G-Shock now comes in metal, solar and atomic timekeeping all wrapped into one package. It is a massive piece of metal on the wrist, but very functional.
Deep Blue watches give you the most bang for your buck on automatics, but wait for a 40% off sale. I have two of their tritiums and they are the nicest ones on the market now.
Tissot T-Touch Solar Expert is a very user friendly watch with compass, barometer and all other digital features. It is the original smart watch and has a touch screen. I have no idea how long the solar charged battery lasts.
February 12, 2018 at 8:19 am #109154
Deep Blue currently has a sale: 40% off with coupon code DEEP
February 12, 2018 at 8:50 am #109155wesmcParticipant
This is a strap I made based on a style from the seventies. I know it’s big and bulky, but I think it will last years.
That’s a cool watch band.
February 12, 2018 at 10:29 am #109156AnonymousInactive
Our “standard issue” watches, if you will, were called Gasio (yes, I spelled that correctly) and appeared to be ripoffs of 1980s-era Casio watches. The pins retaining the straps tended to pop out and the hardware tended to fail quite frequently.
Will have to invest in a proper watch sooner or later, thanks for the heads-up.
February 15, 2018 at 3:55 pm #109157DanielParticipant
Looked long and hard at this last year and decided on an Orient Ray II automatic. Love it after swapping the stainless hair remover band for a Barton NATO strap.
Since then learned about Vostok’s Amphibian Classic line of autodivers for half the price of Orient, which means less tears if it gets blown up.
I got a 110916 with a NATO strap and wear it every day as my beater tool watch. Shipping is included and it takes about a month to travel from central Russia to the US.
Meranom.com is the Vostok factory store and all are tested before shipment to cut down on duds. If you don’t mind windups the Komandirskie Classic line is pretty nifty looking and very extensive.
February 15, 2018 at 11:52 pm #109158hellokittyParticipant
Something that most don’t appreciate until after you hit 45yo is can you read the watch without glasses? I used Casio G Force for years. They are great but the numbers are too small for me now. So I have gone back to a watch with hands that have tritium. I can read it day or night. Tracer Commander.
HEAT 1(CTT) X 3
HEAT 2 (CP) X1
February 16, 2018 at 9:35 am #109159
Analog watches are also good for finding direction using the sun. It’s a little trick using the hour hand and the twelve o’clock position.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.