The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Survival Watch Buyer’s Guide

Editor’s Note: The following article was originally published by our friends at OFFGRID. It appears here in its entirety with their permission.


We Review 10 of the Latest Watches. See if One Has a Place in Your EDC Gear Loadout.

Photos by Jorge Nuñez and Freddy Osuna

One century has passed since we started wearing watches on our wrists, and it appears that the wrist-mounted timepiece has yet to become obsolete. Companies continue to create a variety of features beyond simply telling time that adapt to the ever-changing needs of the tech-savvy consumer. This also raises an important question — why do you need a wristwatch when you can just look at your phone? The key question that you should ask is what kind of watch will serve your lifestyle best in the absence of a cell phone? Is it an analog automatic watch, serving the very simple task of keeping time accurately? Is a multi-function watch for work and play the way to go? How about a Bluetooth-compatible watch that’ll let you access your smartphone features at a glance?

Having an accurate, dependable timepiece has served me well on missions and in the classes I teach. Not only do they provide the ability to monitor this most precious commodity, time, but certain makes and models can also measure ambient temperature, barometric pressure, compass direction, and altitude. So what does this data translate to in austere circumstances or tactical situations? By having environmental info like temperature, you can better monitor your team’s diagnostics (gotta keep them horses watered). Temperature, barometric pressure, and altitude are factored into ballistic calculations for long-range shooting. Barometric pressure can alert you to unexpected weather, which could affect things like line-of-sight visibility.

You might think that an altimeter may only be relevant to pilots and mountain climbers — think again. In 2010, while navigating with GPS in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I had a power failure and interference that rendered the device as useful as a paperweight. I was alone and eight miles into my trek, trying to locate a designated landing zone. Since I’d mainly been following the GPS, I pulled out a map from my cargo pocket to do some terrain association. As I stopped for a map check, the GPS died. I was at 8,000 feet, it was 30 degrees F, and it was getting dark. Orienting my map to north, I looked around and tried to associate my position with visible landmarks in order to get an idea of where I was.

With my compass, I shot two azimuths, or lines of direction, in order to triangulate a resection — a method used to locate your own position on a map. In this terrain, it was very important to determine my exact location on the map because false peaks could be the difference between spending the night in the bush in very cold conditions or in my hotel. By having a general idea of where I was, I used the altimeter on my watch and matched that up with the contour lines (elevation indicators) on the map to get my exact location. This saved my bacon, and could save yours one day too.

An analog watch face can be used as an improvised compass in a pinch.

Do a web search for EDC gear. You’ll probably see a watch in almost every photo. Time keeping, orientation, coordination, and distance calculation may be the most common uses for wristwatches, but did you know there’s a hell of a lot more ways a watch can serve you?

  • In a SHTF scenario, it’s important to keep a chronological journal of even the most mundane activities. An accurate sense of time and date provides orientation and can keep the looming depression monster at bay.
  • By using an analog watch, you can approximate cardinal north and south — see this previous web article or refer to “No Compass, No GPS, No Problem” in RECOIL OFFGRID Issue 2.
  • Those unsightly, ginormous watch faces are useful as a data board in a pinch. I often write reminders or other info I may not be able to recall later on my watch faces. You can use a Staedtler felt pen (map pen) or fine-point Sharpie.
  • A watch can be used for barter.
  • You can strop your knife on a leather watchband.
  • I used to have an older watch that had a sliver of space in the battery compartment. I kept a microSD card in there with important documents on it. Key fobs work great for this as well.
  • Pop the face off and work it to an edge to use as a cutting tool in an escape scenario.

Here we take a look at 10 of the latest watches on the market, with functions that go from simple to complex. See which watch has a place in your EDC.

Brazen Sports Military Tactical Chronograph

Movement
Swiss ETA 251.274
Case
44mm stainless steel
Glass
Anti-reflective sapphire
Band
24mm vulcanized nitrile NBR rubber

Weight
4.6 ounces
Price
$850
URL
brazensports.com

Notes
The triple chrono features a 60-second, 30-minute, and one-hour dashboard. Also handy is a tachymeter with which you can estimate speed, distance, and other metrics. The “non-luminous for black ops” specification was a bit amusing. It has great, large hands with a contrasting background, plus you can use the large face as a mini data board to write on. Water-resistant to 100 meters, with a two-year limited warranty. The design of the watch body is inspired by a centerfire cartridge, with its underside mimicking the look of brass with a primer. The bullet-case design on the backplate is a nice tribute to shooting sports and 2nd Amendment rights. The details in the markings and jewels are very appealing to classy watch folks. It’s a little heavy and bulky, but that also seems to be the trend. Six-year battery life.


Casio / G Shock Master of G GG1035A-1A

Movement
Quartz – Module #5476
Case
56.2mm
Glass
Mineral glass
Band
28mm resin textured band

Weight
3.3 ounces
Price
$370
URL
www.gshock.com

Notes
Features include a digital and hand display compass that measures and displays magnetic north, 16 direction points, and bearing memory. This watch also features an altimeter for navigation tasks and barometer for predicting weather and long-range marksmanship. It has an LED backlight with neo-brite luminous hands and markers. It has world time with 31 time zones. It’s water-resistant to 200 meters and mud resistant as well. The auto compass north feature is great, and I found myself engaging compass mode just for the fun of it. For the price, this is an excellent tool for land navigation short of getting a GPS. However, its bulk is a little obtrusive, and the strap is very stiff. Despite its size, it weighs only 3.3 ounces. Battery life is approximately two years, and its warranty is three years.


Dakota Steel Angler

Movement
Analog
Case
40mm stainless steel
Glass
Mineral glass crystal
Band
22mm silicone

Weight
2.5 ounces
Price
$75
URL
www.dakotawatch.com

Notes
Oversized analog numerals with a moonglow electroluminescent function. Large hands and a contrasting background make it easy to read day and night. Rated at 5 ATM (165 feet) of water resistance. Analog watches have always served me well as an instructor for monitoring timed events. The soft band was very comfortable. Overall the Dakota brand is a cost-effective choice, available at many large department stores. In fact, it’s one of the only watch brands I’ve seen in the Walmart hunting/sports section. Its simplicity, durability, and price point under $100 make it a great everyday watch choice. With so many other watches boasting features beyond time keeping, the Dakota may not meet all the needs of a serious outdoorsman who has other options at a comparable price point. It has a two-year warranty, and battery life is one to three years.


Isobrite Valor Series ISO304

Movement
Swiss Ronda quartz (battery)
Case
47mm carbon fiber reinforced polycarbonate
Glass
Scratch-resistant sapphire
Band
22mm silicone

Weight
3 ounces
Price
$499
URL
www.armourlite.com

Notes
Isobrite is known for making the first tritium dial-lighted watches. This model has tritium vials at every hour marker, with two at the 12 o’clock position. The bezel has tacky contours with positive “clicks” and contains tritium vials at the 12 and 3 o’clock marks. The crown is nice and big with a smooth three-position function — my favorite turning crown of all the watches. The polycarbonate case is lightweight and strong. It comes with a matching silicone band, which I found to be thick and uncomfortable, or you can opt for a nylon NATO-style version. The watch is deceptively rugged and water-resistant (rated to 200 meters). The tritium vials (jewels) are amazingly bright — hence the name. Large positive clicking dials make for easy adjustment, even with sausage fingers. The tan desert color, although a low contrast color that may be a good choice for sneaking around in the bush, can make this watch look cheap or toyish to those who’d prefer other colors. Its lithium battery should last 10 years.


Luminox Master Carbon SEAL – 3813

Movement
Multi jewel Swiss quartz movement
Case
46mm Carbonox
Glass
Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
Band
24mm rubber oil-resistant strap

Weight
2.8 ounces
Price
$690
URL
luminox-usa.com

Notes
The “Carbonox” construction was very light. The company claims it’s six times lighter than steel and three times lighter than titanium. It was the lightest watch we reviewed at 80 grams. A huge, positive clicking single dial does everything. Tritium vials perform as advertised, and the single distinctive orange jewel at 12 o’clock was helpful for orientation. The watch has smooth contours with a low profile, easily accessed with long-sleeve uniforms or dress shirts. There are large bright numbers on the bezel, along with a tritium jewel at the zero mark. The strap is oil resistant, lightweight, and very comfortable — you forget you’re wearing it. It has a two-year limited warranty and 10-year warranty for the tritium tubes. It’s water-resistant to 300 meters and features an eight- to 10-year battery life.


MTM Black Predator 2

Movement
Chronograph Swiss Ronda 5040.D
Case
44.5mm stainless steel or titanium
Glass
Anti-reflective, scratch-resistant sapphire
Band
24mm stainless or titanium

Weight
9.5 ounces (stainless steel); 6.6 ounces (titanium)
Price
$1,020
URL
www.specialopswatch.com

Notes
The MTM’s three-dial chronograph can measure down to 1/10th seconds. Features include tritium glow hands, bright tritium jewels, and a unidirectional ratcheting bezel. This is a man’s watch that says “business tactical” and looks like something John Wick would wear. You can bash someone’s face in with this timepiece due to its heft, but that weight may be a turnoff for some people. MTM offers many options for finishes, as well as band, case, hand, and dial color. The size of the band is easily adjusted with an Allen key rather than the typical swear-inducing, spring-loaded pins, and you can also select from numerous nonmetallic band options. The watch is water-resistant to 200 meters and has a three-year limited, nontransferable warranty. It comes in a watertight tactical box that’d rival many gun cases for durability. Four-year battery life.


One Eleven Master SW1 Solar 3-Hand Black Nylon Strap

Movement
Solar powered
Case
42mm stainless steel
Glass
Hardened mineral crystal
Band
22mm woven nylon field strap

Weight
1.4 ounces
Price
$125
URL
www.111watches.com

Notes
This watch design looks like a wrist compass and can be used in that manner like all analog watches. You could wear this watch with a business suit during the week and in the bush on weekends. The strap has a unique spring release switch to remove and clean it; it’s also very comfortable and easy to adjust. The crystal allows for image refraction that gives it an appealing look. It’s water-resistant to 10 ATM. The large solar cell watch face ensures great light collection in order to keep it ticking. The compass-like face not only provides cool compass nostalgia, but also makes it easily interpretable as a field expedient compass. Nice crystal glass gives this watch a great look, and in a pinch could be used as a cutting implement. The markings are a little small, and the hook and loop strap keeper will wear out with time. The watch has a two-year limited warranty, and the battery is rechargeable.


Resco Instruments GMT PVD Green

Movement
Swiss quartz battery
Case
44mm 316 L Stainless Steel, PVD Black Finish
Glass
Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
Band
22mm NATO nylon

Weight
3.3 ounces
Price
$1,205
URL
rescoinstruments.com

Notes
The Resco has a matte black dial with C3 SuperLuminova luminous markings; C3 refers to its yellowish color. It has a unique internal rotating bezel, operated by the upper rotating crown. The NATO nylon strap, while functional, seems like a cheap feature for a watch at this price point, but other options are available. Overall, though, it has very nice aesthetics. It’s water-resistant to 200 meters and has a one-year warranty. A great feature is the internal bezel that can be used to mark time elapsed or a direction for navigation. A unique service provided by Resco is factory conversion of an automatic watch to a quartz battery movement for many of their models. They also donate 20 watches per year to programs that support wounded service members; it’s great to see companies that support our nation’s heroes. Three-year battery life.


Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro Stealth

Movement
Firmware software
Case
50mm glass fibre reinforced polyamide
Glass
Mineral crystal
Band
24mm silicone

Weight
2.6 ounces
Price
$549
URL
www.suunto.com

Notes
This watch has it all. The weather barometer is excellent for reading environmental conditions. Bluetooth functionality with your smartphone is simple and intuitive, and the GPS navigation feature easily pairs with Suunto’s iOS or Android app, so you can track your progress and health diagnostics. The touch screen is responsive. Along with the amazing spectrum of features offered, you can monitor the last incoming text message while avoiding the distractions of trying to catch a glimpse of the peripherals of your smartphone. The battery life is a big con, ranging from 10 hours to 14 days, depending on which functions you’re using. And don’t forget your charge cable, because you can’t use just any USB cable. With a stainless steel bezel, it’s still very light and water-resistant to 100 meters. For a large smart watch, its contours are very unobtrusive with no sharp edges. The time face is adjustable for layout and color. Two-year limited warranty.


Traser Watches P49 Red Alert T100

Movement
Swiss Ronda 715 quartz
Case
44mm black PVD stainless steel
Glass
Anti-reflective sapphire
Band
NATO style

Price
$550
URL
www.traser.com

Notes
Known for their illuminated watches, Traser offers a proprietary “Trigalight” technology, using tritium gas in miniature tubes that light up at night. This is the same type of technology seen in self-illuminating night sights for guns. The markers are very bright, and the hands are easily picked up at the first hint of dusk. The bezel is excellent for marking time elapsed. The Traser has an overall masculine look and feel to it, and the strap is easy to remove for cleaning. The main issue that users may wish to consider is that it has a high profile and edges that may catch or snag on gear or equipment. It’s water-resistant rated to 200 meters with a two-year warranty.


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