A timepiece for your wrist is sure to grab some attention, but picking the right one is harder than it sounds. Anyone can slap on a Timex and call it a day, but if it’s the wrong Timex, you start looking like the wannabe cool kid who bought parachute pants in the 90s. Watches are an expression of personality, so it stands to reason that a $20 sports watch does not pair well with a three-piece suit. On the flipside, a sleek dress watch will not survive a single Reserve drill weekend without being babied every single moment.
When selecting the perfect watch for any given use, style and quality both matter, but a watch’s size, movement (the “motor”), and complications (the extras) are what make a man’s watch distinct rather than boyish. So, take some time to find the workhorse watch designed for deployments or the timeless timepiece you plan to pass along to the next generation.
The Seiko SNE329 is a modern field watch with plenty of classic style sure to add a touch of rugged sophistication to any casual look. The case measures 43 millimeters across, an ideal size for the average man, and the crystal consists of Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex mineral crystal to provide durability and scratch resistance. The stainless steel case pairs nicely with the blue face while the white hands and stenciled minute and hour markers create an impressive look. The quartz movement is powered by solar energy with a full-charge power reserve of 10 months, and the entire watch is water resistant down to 100 meters. To complete the look, the watch includes a blue nylon band and a day/date complication. Looking for something more subdued? Keep an eye out for the SNE331 and tan and black variant of the SNE3329.
To many, the only sports watch worth their money is the Timex Ironman Classic 30. Whether you need a timepiece for hitting the gym, shredding the pool, or simply hanging out with your bros, this Timex watch can handle it all. This watch’s nominal 38-millimeter diameter is great for most guys, even those with a smaller wrist size, and the plethora of available color combinations is sure to match any style. This very affordable watch features an LED display with a sturdy plastic case and an all-weather resin band. The watch can withstand submersion down to 100 meters (10 ATM) and includes Timex’s Indiglo backlight, a calendar with 15 occasion reminders, two time zones, a 24-hour time mode, and three separate alarms (daily, weekend, or weekday). Runners, swimmers, and other athletes will appreciate the chronograph with its 30-lap memory and the 24-hour timer as well.
Need a dress watch to spruce things up a bit? The Orient Bambino Open Heart is an excellent choice due to its upscale yet distinctive design. This watch’s case measures just 40.5 millimeters across, and a Japanese automatic mechanical movement keeps the time. The polished stainless steel case creates a sheen that pairs perfectly with the crocodile-style leather band. The watch comes in different color options for the band, face, and case, allowing you to find the perfect watch for any style or occasion. This Orient watch is water resistant down to 30 meters (3 ATM) and includes a scratch-resistant mineral crystal dial window, plenty adequate for any formal setting. The true gem of this timepiece is the open heart design which allows wearers and admirers alike to catch a glimpse of the parts of the movement powering it.
Few watches were designed to withstand the rigors of tactical use as well as the Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400. This tactical watch may be large at 53 millimeters across, but the thing is built like an Abrams with its shock resistance, SCUBA-ready water resistance rating of 200 meters (20 ATM), solar-powered quartz movement, and scratch-resistant mineral crystal display window. The LED display provides time, day, and date displays, and it includes five daily alarms, a timer, and a 1/10-second chronograph. To take things up a notch, this timepiece also boasts a digital compass, altimeter, barometer, and sunrise and sunset data, and it features large, texturized pushers for easy use with gloves. To round things out, the movement relies on Casio’s MultiBand 6 atomic timekeeping technology to make sure you stay on time and on target without fail.
Finding a reasonably priced dive watch that actually meets all dive watch expectations may seem impossible. That is, until you run across the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver BN0151-09L. This dive watch covers all the basics with easily legible, illuminated white markings on a black face and bezel, a unidirectional rotating bezel, screw down crown, and large hour and minute hands. The 48-millimeter stainless steel case is easy to find and read, while the blue molded polyurethane band and steel buckle closure keep things secured in place. This watch’s Japanese quartz movement is powered by Citizen’s solar-powered Eco-Drive technology for reliable timekeeping, and the entire watch is water resistant down to 200 meters (20 ATM). The date windows and the crown are located at the four o’clock position to streamline the design, and the band includes a printed time chart for safe diving the old-fashioned way.
When it comes to finding a true aviator’s watch without dropping over a grand, the Citizen Promaster Skyhawk A-T JY8078-52L is hard to beat. While not cheap, this stainless steel aviator has all the essentials and a few extra bonuses. Like any good pilot’s watch, this solar-powered quartz timepiece includes a 1/100-second chronograph, a rotating slide rule bezel, and a UTC display, yet its dual time display allows wearers to effectively monitor three time zones at once. The stainless 46-millimeter case comes topped with an anti-reflective sapphire crystal for ultimate scratch resistance, and the black face includes high-contrast white and red markings in addition to two small LED displays. The atomic timekeeping function for 43 cities worldwide ensures ideal accuracy and precision, and the watch includes more common complications, such as a perpetual calendar, alarms, a countdown timer, and backlight illumination. Aim high, and carry on.
Grunts needing a smartwatch to keep them rolling ought to take a close look at the Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical. This solar-powered tactical smartwatch comes in black and moss green, but unlike many tactical watches, this one comes with a sleek design and a manageable size. The 24-hour and Zulu time displays create a tactical look, while the MIL-STD-810 rating ensures it can withstand a combat environment. The watch’s navigation aids include a built-in three-axis compass, an altimeter, and GPS system compatible with GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo. A few tactical extras stand out, including waypoint projection, jumpmaster mode, dual-position GPS format, night vision compatibility, and stealth mode which severs all wireless comms and data sharing. When it’s time to go home or hit the gym, this watch transforms into a top-of-the-line sports watch capable of tracking a variety of aerobic and anaerobic activities while also monitoring your body’s performance.
Why should you trust us
I’ve been wearing watches for decades, using and abusing them while simultaneously learning what makes them tick, both literally and figuratively. I’ve subjected my watches to endless hours in and around chlorinated pools, explored the Rocky Mountains with them on my wrist, and traveled across countless time zones through the air and on the ground. I’ve also written my fair share about watches, covering aviation watches and dive watches.
Popular types of watches for men
The classic field watch is the granddaddy of all wristwatches, first appearing on the battlefields of World War I when soldiers began jury-rigging bands to their pocket watches. In short order, the purpose-built field watch was born and came into its own during World War II. The classic field watch design features a small face (usually 36 to 38 millimeters) with three hands, bold white numbers, a water- and glare-resistant body and crystal, and a canvas band. Today’s versions tend to be a little larger and usually include plenty of extras, such as day/date complications and illuminated hands.
The dress watch is the natural evolution of the original field watch, dressing things up for a night on the town. These watches tend to use sophisticated Roman numerals or tick marks in places of the field watch’s bold numbering, and they usually include only the basics: three hands, low-level water resistance, and a leather band. This minimalistic, low-profile design slides quickly and easily underneath buttoned shirt sleeve cuffs, yet the fine leather band and polished metal body are sure to grab attention. Understandably, a true dress watch eschews all forms of electricity, relying instead on a classy mechanical movement.
The sport watch is the next great leap in the world of timepieces. This (often) inexpensive design relies on precise, electric-powered quartz timekeeping and tough exteriors to take a licking while it keeps on ticking. This design usually enlists resin or similar materials to create durable, lightweight, and impressively water-resistant designs that range from sleek to bulky, depending on how many extras get crammed inside. Chronographs, timers, and alarms are common extras, although the options are virtually endless. While we may think of this design as a “digital” watch, plenty of analog sport watch designs also exist on today’s market.
The tactical watch sounds pretty high-speed, and despite the hype that surrounds that descriptor, the reputation is not entirely unwarranted. In short, the tactical watch is essentially a sport watch decked out with everything an operator might need (or at least thinks he needs). This beefy design can withstand the elements impressively well, often earning a water-resistance rating of 20 ATM, and can border on smartwatch capabilities with built-in compasses, altimeters, barometers, thermometers, and a whole host of other goodies. Of course, to fit everything inside, these guys tend to be a bit bigger than the competition.
The dive watch is an incredibly precise variation of the field watch that uses an analog metal watch face and is secured in place by a metal or silicone band. In addition to its large, illuminated hands and numbers, this design is impressively water-resistant (usually down to 20 ATM or more) and features a screw-down crown, a unidirectional rotating bezel with crisp minute/second markings and bold five- and fifteen-minute/second markings. Date and day/date windows, chronographs, and other watch complications are also common, and not surprisingly, this design tends to be a little large, although not as large as a tactical watch.
The aviator watch is a larger, more capable variation of the field watch. Like the dive watch, this design uses large, illuminated numbers and hands, although the band tends to be either leather or metal. Often, a bold arrow will replace the “12” on the face. Some aviator designs use the B-Uhr face layout with the five-minute number markings along the outside edge and the hour numbers positioned inside. The aviator design is incredibly accurate and precise and resists impacts, vibrations, and magnetic interference. Common watch complications include chronographs, secondary GMT watches, and slide rules for on-the-fly calculations and conversions.
The smartwatch is the latest innovation in wristwatch evolution. This design relies on technology to provide precise and accurate time, weather and environmental data, navigation aids (including GPS), and tons of extras (including integration with your smartphone). The smartwatch comes in a ton of different sizes and form factors, allowing users to emulate virtually any classic or modern watch aesthetic. On the flip side, some versions can be incredibly durable, capable of competing with (and sometimes beating out) some sport watches in terms of water-resistance. That said, glass touch screens still can handle the rigors most watch crystals can endure.
Features to look for in watches for men
Proper sizing should never be overlooked when selecting a watch. Watches are most commonly measured based on the diameter of the case in millimeters while excluding the lugs, crown(s), and buttons along the case’s edge. While there are other measurements worth considering, case size is the easiest to navigate. Men’s watches usually range in size between 38 and 46 millimeters with smaller watches matching smaller wrists and larger timepieces matching larger one.
A watch’s movement is simply its timekeeping mechanism, kind of like the engine on a car. Prior to the mid 20th century, watches relied on mechanical movements that either needed to be wound manually or relied on “automatic” winding mechanisms. Both battery- and solar-powered quartz movements are very accurate and precise but lack charm and interest. Of course, smartwatches replace an actual movement with technological wizardry powered by either solar-power or a rechargeable battery.
Every man needs a watch built to last, so skip the cheap kiddie plastic and rely on steel, aluminum, brass, or resin instead. A tough, durable case will also be water-resistant with at least 10 ATM (one ATM equals 10 meters of water resistance), and the best scratch-resistant crystals are made with sapphire with mineral glass coming in second place.
Complications are not complicated anymore. Simply put, a complication is any additional feature a watch possesses beyond its mere timekeeping capabilities. On mechanical watches, these add-ons require extra space and parts, thus earning the name. Today, common complications include the date or day/date functions and the chronograph, while more unique add-ons include barometers, altimeters, and compasses.
Benefits of watches for men
The right watch can go quite a ways in improving your life both on and off base. They are great tools for establishing and building discipline so you can avoid being like that one dude you knew in high school who was late to his shift and made you late for that much-anticipated first date, and since watches are permitted virtually everywhere, you never have to worry about breaking.
Watches also allow you to express yourself in almost any setting. Whether you need something sleek for a black tie event or you want something more rough-and-tumble for more casual settings, wearing the right watch in the right situation lets the world know who the top dog is without you ever saying a word. It gives you instant street cred and can have virtually the same effect as a shot of pure testosterone.
Pricing ranges for watches for men
If you want a quality watch of any kind, you need to prepare to drop a little cash. If your budget is only $50, skip the aviator clones and cheap smartwatches, and pick up a decent quality quartz field or sports watch instead. Or, you could exercise a little patience and save up something better. Most decent watches start at $100 to $150, whether they be field, dress, or dive watches, regardless of whether they use quartz or mechanical movements. Decent smartwatches tend to start out around $150, but to get one with a decent level of capability, do not be surprised to find yourself shelling out even more dough. For a true aviators watch or a quality tactical watch, plan to spend around $300 or more, since these watches have more complications. That said, don’t be surprised to find yourself spending a good bit more just to get into the game.
How we chose our top picks
When reviewing new gear, we much prefer to go the hands-on route, but sometimes, a lack of resources may thwart our attempts to get our mitts on some cool gear. When that happens, we listen to those who have firsthand experience. We comb through reviews on Amazon, enthusiast blogs, professional publications, and more to bring you the best, most comprehensive information we can. We sift through it all, keeping the gold and tossing the rest.
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