Time is gold!
In all your outdoor activities, you need a highly functional field watch that you can count on all the time.
When the going gets tough, a functional field watch can accurately tell the time with crystal clarity throughout the day.
And since being able to properly observe time is a critical factor in your every outdoor activity, it is imperative to find the best possible field watch that you can get your hands on.
We came up with this review to help both outdoor enthusiasts and wristwatch aficionados get the best value for their time and investment.
Wanna learn more? Keep on reading.
My Top Picks!
Can't wait to have an alfresco watch? Checkout my top picks.
What is a Field Watch?
A field watch is not your ordinary time telling machine.
It is a battle ready chronometer which originated way back since World War I or even before that.
Ancestors of today's field watches were first used by military officers in the battlefield to plan coordinated counterattacks and record various critical battle elements. The first field watches were in the form of pocket watches which later on evolved into the wrist types.
The practicality of a lightweight and durable watch strapped on the wearer's wrist paved way to the ticker's dramatic increase in popularity.
Nowadays, field watches are the ideal choice of men often engaged in various outdoor activities. This special breed of watches often come in straightforward designs, exceptional durability, and are super lightweight.
The main function of field watches is to deliver visible and clear time presentations from sunrise through sunset.
Although stainless steel are the most ideal material for its straps, field watches often sport leather or canvas made belts for easy, fast, and inexpensive replacements in case of damage.
Did You Know...?
Men in the mid-19th century were not really fond of wristwatches. They favored pocket watches and women were the only ones who wore watches securely strapped across their wrists. Military personnel were issued pocket watches. In World War I's trench warfare however, these pocket watches proved difficult to use which opted the men to go for wristwatches instead. And in the later part of 1914 field watches came with luminous hands so that officers and their troops can easily tell time even at night.
With the watches' practical use, Hamilton began producing field watches for men working in various fields of expertise such as civil engineering, aeronautics, and forestry.
Why Opt for Field Watch
In most days, we spend about 10 to 12 hours doing various activities outside the comforts of our home.
We go to work, hit the beach, conquer mountains through trekking, experience nature with camping, enjoy water sports, hit the dirt through desert jeep safaris, and a whole lot more.
And in these activities, we need a watch that we can count on for functionality and durability no matter how intense our outdoor activities get.
Field watches are practically medium to small in size for ease of use. Casings are either made of high grade stainless steel or titanium material and may sport PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coatings for unparalleled durability.
These watches are designed to be shock proof for continued functionality even under the most extreme conditions of use.
Another good thing about a field watch is its high contrast black dial paired with white numbering so that a wearer will never find it difficult to read the time even at night.
And in the day, its glare proof crystal top makes sure that you can effortlessly tell time without the need for changing your wrist's position for a dazzle-free angle.
A lot of men find it beneficial to go for automatic field watches. Otherwise known as self-winding watches, these chronometers are equipped with a mainspring that winds itself automatically as the wearer moves through the help of some gears. Mechanical watches on the other hand need to be wound at least once a day or every two days while a quartz works on a small battery which need to be replaced every now and then.
Since an automatic wristwatch directly depends on your movement to maintain its functionality, you will have to store it in a watch winder when not in use. Watch winders are low profile devices specially developed to keep automatic watches running when not in use. This particular tool moves in circular motion that mimics our hand's natural movements.
Although automatic watches cannot be over-wound unlike its mechanical counterparts, it is strongly advised to use a watch winder geared with timer based mechanism to ensure the device's longevity and optimal functionality.
Automatic vs Mechanical vs Quartz
Based on how they work/move, there are three major types of wrist watches.
And these are the automatic, mechanical, and the quartz. When looking for a reliable field watch, you might want to consider first choosing among the aforementioned three.
Quartz watches are probably the most widely used type of wrist watches. Accuracy of the watch is incomparable and the hardware is definitely the cheapest in the market, which is why a lot of us have been anointed with quartz. This particular type of watch relies on a small battery for power. The name of the watch was derived from this small quartz crystal, which works as the heart of the said device. Through power stored in battery, the crystal vibrates over 30,000 times every second which are converted into pulses through a specialized circuit. With the help of today's technology, modern quartz watches are able to acquire its needed power through light.
Contrary to an automatic and a mechanical, the second hand of a quartz moves in a broken pattern. In comparison to other types of watches, the quartz provides the most accurate time consistently. The only major maintenance that you'll have to worry about is changing its battery at least once a year. They are often sold as the cheapest without compromising its functionality and durability.
The mechanical watch on the other hand, takes its power from a metal wire often called as "mainspring" which is coiled to secure a sort of energy reserve for the device and keep it going. Typically, the length of the mainspring is somewhere around 9 to 13 inches. Although there's no need for battery to power up your time telling device, the watch needs to be wound at least once a day or every two days. If you look into the watch's interior you'll be amazed at the device's labyrinth of sophisticated watch making craftsmanship.
A mechanical watch however, is not as accurate as the quartz and require regular winding. But because of the level of work done on the device, a mechanical watch is worth at least $500. Nonetheless, your appreciation on the intricate craftsmanship will eventually outweigh its expensiveness. Just remember to keep it away from magnets, moisture, dirt, and shock.
An automatic wrist watch works and looks much like the mechanical. The gears and craftsmanship are all the same except for some particular additions. The only significant difference between an automatic and a mechanical watch is that the former is designed to be self-winding. Instead of having to wind your time telling apparatus regularly, the automatic watch is equipped with a rotor which flexes the mainspring through your arm's movements. A slipping clutch is in place as a safety feature to prevent the watch from getting over-wound.
Same with a mechanical, you will have to take your watch to a jeweler and have the gears tuned up. You will also have to put the device into a watch winder at times when you don't use it to make sure that you're still on the right track when you decide to wear it again.
Watch this video to better understand the differences between automatic and quartz watches:
How to Shop for Your First Field Watch
There are basically hundreds if not thousands of different types and styles of field watches to choose from in today's market.
Whether you are buying online or from a local watch shop, it is imperative to carefully consider critical factors before you become firm with the purchasing decision and avoid the so called "buyer's regret".
- Don't go too pricey. If it is your first time to buy a field watch, keep in mind to keep well within or better yet, below your planned budget. There's a ton of economical field watches to choose from that don't fall short on functionality and durability.
- Simple is best. Field watches that have fancy intricate details on them can be pretty much tempting. However, they also come with a heavy price. It can be fair to say that the chronographs are considered to belong in the extravagant group. But frankly speaking, all you could ever need once you're out with nature is a good watch that tells the time and date.
- Secure a good and comfortable fit. Whenever you're trekking or camping, you wouldn't want your watch to constantly slide around your wrist. If you are shopping in an actual watch store, it would be wise to test fit the watch you are considering. Raise your arm parallel to the ground and mildly shake it for a couple of times. If the watch doesn't slide back and forth, then you have yourself a keeper.
Now that I've covered some of the basics, let's get into some of my favorite products.
This quartz type field watch is a stylish classic. The BM8180-03E has a military inspired design with black dial and white Arabic numbers. Luminous hands make it even easier to tell time even in the darkest night. Textured crown makes time and date adjustment a breeze.
Straight from one of the most popular makers of wrist watches, the Expedition Scout 40 is everything you could ever need from a field watch for all your outdoor escapades. Its design is simple yet charming topped with a durable 40mm case window. Wearing it makes you feel like a true military personnel through its Indiglo nightlight feature and 24 hour inner dial display.
Another watch brand that you can count on, Seiko takes the game to a whole new level with SNK809 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch.With this field watch, time telling can't go wrong through its black dial embellished with white Arabic hour and minute numbers. Skeleton case back makes sure you get to appreciate the level of craftsmanship embedded in your timepiece.
The Timex Expedition T44921 is a quartz movement field watch that projects versatile styling. Its silver toned case and brown leather strap offers a rugged but elegant look that you can use on both casual and semi-formal occasions. It boasts an Indiglo nightlight feature and a water resistant band.
This aviator watch by Stuhrling Original offers quite a unique layout compared to others in this list. Week day indicator is displayed vertically and the hands, markers, and numbers are all luminous. It has a fine textured leather band with stitches and stainless rivets for added charm.
The Final Word
Whatever you and wherever your feet may take you, it is important to have a functional field watch that you can count on for both functionality and durability.
Of the five watches mentioned above, my best bet would be the BM8180-03E Eco Watch by Citizen. It's quite simple in design but projects a powerful manly charm. It has that classic black dial and white Arabic numbering combo and even boasts a 100M water resistance capability.
Written by Robert Ordway
Raised in the small mill town of Lake Station, Indiana, Robert’s blue collar upbringing exposed him to little if any of the clothing industry. Robert has been following the menswear industry for over a decade and has been significantly influenced by the book, Dressing the Man by Alan Flusser. From 2009-2012, he worked in retail sales at both Brooks Brothers and JCrew. In 2015, Robert received the Custom Clothier certification from the Custom Tailor and Designers Association (CTDA), the oldest continuously operating trade organization in the United States. He is the former owner of Rusted Oak, a men’s retail clothing store in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Today, Robert's mission is to teach men of all shapes and sizes about grooming care, general life style tips, and of course male fashion stemming from his deep career in the fashion industry.