Field watches have come a long way from the time when they were used for trench warfare for soldiers’ use in World War I. In the present day, they’re worn for your hikes, for your workouts and also as a nice looking watch for work.
And the most exemplary field watches in the modern times have assumed the robustness and reliability of those iconic wartime timekeeping devices worn by those brave men. They’re great purchases for anyone who wants to make an investment on a durable and long lasting timepiece that looks good on the wrist, is functional and has a bit of history in it too.
When you think about it, field watches are steeped in colorful military history. For sure they are designed to withstand extreme battle scenarios as well as our present day struggles, such as when hailing a taxi, suddenly being trapped in the middle of a wet downpour, or enduring the heat while walking several blocks.
Are Field Watches Good Additions to My Collection?
Definitely. Aside from being wartime memorabilia, they have evolved with the times. Although their constant character will always be their being rugged and reliable, a good field watch today will typically have a stainless steel case, a leather or canvas band, and finally, premium movement.
They should be easy to read (remember, in wartime, there’s a lot of smoke from the gunfire and the grenades), with a glare proof crystal, a dial that’s high contrast, hands that are luminous in the dark, and extra large numbers.
With regards to size, the original ones had handwound movements with 36 mm cases. But the modern field watches range from 38 to 44 mm in case size and they either have quartz or automatic movements.
If you are in the market for a field watch like I am, here are some topnotch picks:
1) Timex Camper Mk 1
Timex made this for military use in 1982, but it was reactivated to replicate this much loved Camper. It has a quartz movement on a 40 mm steel case which is an improvement over the plastic original. The old plastic was meant to be replaced (not repaired) when it was damaged. It is water resistant only up to 30 m, but it performs well. Its field watch appeal is decorated with chic dial highlights, a black embossed case, and a pleasant grosgrain strap.
2) Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
It harks back to the vintage Hamilton US military watches of the mid 20th century. Its present day black case offers a serious and elegant touch, even though any of the variant colors and finishes will feel good on your wrist. The internal movement is the conservative hand cranker – just like how your grandpa wound it up. It’s part of the Swatch group’s latest resurrections and it comes with a power reserve of 80 hours.
3) Rolex Explorer
It was the first watch (together with the Smiths) that reached all the way up to the topmost peak of Mt. Everest. This truthful fact, plus its being a Rolex, makes it worthy to be your field watch of choice. It has an automatic movement coupled with the famous Rolex chronometer accuracy. It’s even guaranteed to be more accurate than the conventional COSC approved timepiece. It also features the brand’s signature Chromalight lume which exudes a sharp blue glow in the dark. Perhaps it’s the field watch you’re going to hold on to, for a long time.
4) CWC T20 General Service Watch
It is made by the Cabot Watch Company or CWC. It is famous for manufacturing the watches of the British military for much of the later part of the 20th century. The edition now is based on the 1970s issue based on the W10 design before the quartz G10 was launched. The new issue has a quartz movement which replaces the hand winding movement of the original timepiece, but it looks pretty much like the original.
5) Seiko Alpinist
It is often known as the first sport watch of Seiko. It was designed primarily for the use of Japanese men who like to venture into the mountains. It was a sleeper model, just waiting for its big break in the Seiko vaults, until it was revived in late 2019. Once resurrected, it had updates and new features to make it a worthy adoptee of the Prospex category. Its 6R35 automatic movement is upgraded and has 70 hours power reserve. It has a rotating inner bezel, a sapphire crystal and a size of 39.5 mm.
6) Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Military
A traditionally styled field watch, it’s a French brand which excels in extra accurate cockpit and instrument based watches. Its design is very bare – a simple black dial, the basic essentials of the seconds, minutes and the hours hands. Its date function is discreetly located between the 4 and 5 o’clock. One exceptional feature is that the numerals which go with the hour markers are as a 60 minute timer instead of a usual 12 hour design. It is water resistant up to 100 m and has a power reserve of 38 hours.
7) Farer Exmoor
Farer wants to bring back the glory days of the field watch through the launch of a new field watch collection. One favorite in this set is the Farer Exmoor which is an olive green dialed timepiece. It is inspired by the Devon and Somerset National Park. To appeal to the senses of the modern crowd, it has a lot of colors and numeral features, pip sizing and designs which are inextricably linked to the energy of Farer. But it still retains the spirit of the most bare knuckled field watches, which is quite an accomplishment. It has a 38.5 mm stainless steel case and a Sellita SW221-1 movement which results in a well proportioned technical field watch with a touch of vintage history. It is water resistant up to 200 m with a power reserve of 38 hours.
The field watch has come of age and has found a sustainable niche with the EDC timepiece crowd. I for one lack a quality field watch in my collection so have been conducting quite a bit of research on the matter. The above selection are my current field watch considerations.