Not a week goes goes by when I don't get a private message regarding my opinion on "tactical watches" and what to choose when looking for one. Now I want to start by saying that this entire thread is purely based on my own opinion as a soldier and somebody who has had to use a watch in certain types of situations that fit into that category.
Firstly, I will say that in the armed forces of the USA, as mentioned many many times before, Suuntos, Timexes, and G-Shocks make up 95% of the watches worn by soldiers. Its a simple fact. However, a lot of people here want a more.......interesting (for lack of a better word) option. That's perfectly alright. It is their preference and one I understand. Albeit not very well, but that's irrelevant to this conversation. So I will focus on pieces outside those brands.
So what makes a watch "tactical"? I have no idea as such a concept is all but alien to me. It seems as though that word is used to categorize equipment that as a whole, fits a soldier's needs. What most civilians don't understand (and have no reason to), is that each piece of equipment a soldier carries serves a specific purpose. Therefore, depending on the task of the day, week, month, or even year, that equipment changes. That happens to include watches sometimes. In this thread, I will focus on watches that fit into most of those changes and serving said purposes.
1. Marathon TSAR
I have owned and used this watch for years on deployments across the world and climates. For me, this fills most of the requirements for a soldier. It's tritium tubes glow all day and night brightly enough to be seen at a glance, without being brightly enough to be seen by people who shouldn't. By using a sewn together cloth or velcro piece slipped through the band I use for my watch (es), it blocks the glare of moon/sun light from being seen and potentially compromising a position. This is the watch I choose when I'm in uniform if I don't want to use my G or Suunto.
2. Omega SMP (Quartz).
When out of uniform, but still working, I choose my SMP. Its been slightly modified to have a less flashy profile (brushed a bit), and because it has the old Tritium paint for markers, and newly lumed Superluminova for hands, it keeps the lume at a minimum. I use Quartz for the most part because of its shock resistance, accurate timekeeping, and low maintenance. The quick-set hour has also been a godsend when I switch timezones as my team and I sync our watches at various points and the least amount of times that has to be done, the better. It also doesn't overtly say "soldier", which is obviously a must in most plain clothes situations. When even less flashiness is needed, I put it on a rubber strap.
Notice how both of the above have a "date" function. I usually need that when on long shifts in both of the above situations. Especially after long flights that mess with your brain (jet lag).
3. Seiko Monster (SKX preferably). Yes. An Automatic. I'm a quartz guy at heart, BUT sometimes, an auto is needed for certain reasons. Those reasons are irrelevant at this time for the purposes of this thread. The day and date function also comes in handy a lot more often than you think. I have only one Monster, which has been modified with a Cerakote finish to dull the otherwised polished steel. For those unfamiliar with Cerakote, it is a commonly used application of ceramic coating on firearms to better blend them into environments. I have two watches with this application, the Monster and.......
4. Dievas Vortex. Now, I have one of the earlier ones that feature a Fricker case. Thats more of a plus of ownership than a necessity of daily wear. My Vortex is made of titanium, which is very light compared to steel, the dial is very large and legible, especially with the modified lume I had done. Even stock, this watch is extremely accurate, has a high magnetic rating, can take as much abuse as the Monster, and can be read at a glance. Also, the rubber strap and deployment clasp is an exact 1:1 double of the ever popular Sinn rubber and full size deployment, making it extremely comfortable for long term wear. The steel deployment makes it balance quite well with the watch head itself further adding to the comfort level. Alternatively, I have seen some soldiers wearing a Kobold SMG which shares a case with the Vortex.
In addition both the Monster and Vortex have 4 o'clock crowns, which make sure it doesn't dig into the back of my hand, which I quite like.
I hope this clears things up for those looking for "tactical watches".
Thanks for reading,