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The Casio G-Shock is the Toyota Hilux or AK-47 of tactical watches. It’s simple, it’s practical, and it keeps ticking in a sandstorm or after being submerged in mud or water — all qualities that make it a must-have accessory for the modern warfighter. It’s also affordable. The GA100-1A1 runs about $100 and will survive through at least your first four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Anything pricier than that was probably designed to only look like it should be worn into battle. Expensive tactical watches are for posers and POGs.
The Regulus by Nixon might be an exception. First and foremost, it looks the part — just the right level of badass without verging on flashy or ridiculous. On a scale of John Wick (deceptively understated human-killing machine) to, say, Jared Kushner, the Regulus falls somewhere in the vicinity of Bradley Cooper in American Sniper. That’s the sweet spot. The watch comes in three perfectly mundane colors: black, gray, and sand — the palette of the War on Terror. The price is $150. The question isn’t whether the Regulus is worth it — because it is — but rather, are you?
The Regulus was “Team-designed and custom-built in collaboration with U.S. Special Operations,” according to the copywriter who was paid to write that sentence on a Nixon brochure. The marketing literature also states that the watch is intended for “Maritime Special Operations,” and that it can function at up to 100 meters below the sea surface.
Reading this, my mind started racing. Nixon had clearly enlisted the help of someone with firsthand knowledge of what gear-fetishes bridge the Great Civilian-Military Divide, but who? And what are they doing designing watches while there’s still a War on Terror to be won?
Turns out Nixon’s main U.S. Special Operations collaborator is a former SEAL named Mitch Hall. I’d never heard of the guy so I fired up Google. According to the website for Hall’s consulting firm, Trident Focus, he spent 21 years in the service, completed nine combat deployments, and is the recipient of a Silver Star. For those of you not fluent in DD-214, allow me to translate: The man is “operator as fuck,” a colloquial term used to describe elite commandos who have done and seen things that would make your pupils explode. But what does he know about tactical horology?
Quite a bit, apparently. The Regulus is a solid watch. I mean that literally. It’s like wearing a little plate carrier around your wrist. All of the components are melded together so seamlessly that from a certain distance it appears to have been carved out of a single block of fiber-reinforced polycarbonate. It’s hard to imagine a molecule small enough to penetrate through. Nothing jiggles or rattles or slips around. The thick, corrugated rubber strap has a kung fu grip as firm and reassuring as a wizened sensei’s. All of this stuff may seem superfluous to the uninitiated, but it’s paramount when you’re sneaking around the mountains slitting Taliban throats.
Even the digital module — encased in a shock-absorbing jacket (for epic explosions, presumably) — smacks of a SEAL’s menacing touch. The interface is streamlined for maximum stealth and efficiency. One of the buttons — there are four in all — is labeled LIGHT. The brightness can be toggled. There are three levels. The lowest is the obvious choice for night raids and deep covert ops. You only get three seconds of light. That’s just long enough to ensure it’s killing time before neutralizing your unsuspecting target. And, no, you don’t have to worry about a beep compromising your position — unless, of course, you forgot to set the watch to SILENT. That’s on you.
MODE is another button. There are four modes: time mode, timer mode, chronograph mode, and alarm mode, which the brochure says is “to get you up when you need it.” Fuck that. You didn’t become an elite commando for nap time and sippy cups. The only alarm you need is the incoming mortar siren, a.k.a. the dinner bell: With all the POGs hugging their knees in the bunkers, there will be no line at the chow hall. Hopefully they didn’t already consume the day’s supply of vanilla soft serve. Chocolate just isn’t as good.
It’s the small things that count — in life and tactical wristwatches. The Regulus stands up under scrutiny, and I’m sure under fire, as well. It’s an expertly crafted and ruggedly handsome piece of machinery. My girlfriend noticed me wearing it the other day and asked if it contained a fitness tracker. She’s been bugging me to shed the weight I’ve put on since leaving the Army. I told her no, because Fitbits are for nerds and also terrible for OPSEC, and then I began to school her on the benefits of SILENT mode. She didn’t seem to understand the value of this feature.
That night, I awoke with a hankering for leftover chicken pad thai. I hit the LIGHT button on my Regulus and humped it to the kitchen, quiet as a church mouse. If only she knew.
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