Tactical Watches You Can Depend On

up close photo of a black colored tactical watch

You may be familiar with tactical clothing and footwear, but a wide range of tactical accessories are available, and perhaps none more important than a tactical watch. 

What is a tactical watch? 

A tactical watch is not only a timepiece, but also a durable tool that can be depended on to remain functional and accurate in the face of harsh environments and damage such as scratches and blunt impact. Tactical watches are built with strong materials and can often withstand great depth ratings when underwater. Some tactical watches are designed to do much more than just tell time and include extra functionality. 

Let’s look at what elements make a tactical watch, as well as what attributes to look for in the ideal watch for you. 

Tactical Watch Materials 

Because tactical watches must withstand harsh conditions, the materials and construction of the watch matter. The best tactical watches are made from high-end materials so that they can be trusted to withstand even the harshest wear and tear. 

Watch Casing 

The casing is the part of the watch that houses the display and coinciding information such as time, date, and other tactical watch functions. As one of the more delicate parts of the watch, it needs to be constructed of highly durable materials such as stainless steel or carbon. 

Carbon provides a tough, yet lightweight housing material. The main advantage of carbon is the lighter weight which allows users to comfortably move their wrist and arm without the burden of a heavy timepiece. 

Stainless steel is heavier than carbon and the preferred option for many who wear a tactical watch. Although they have more weight than the carbon option, stainless steel does offer superior protection from scratches and hard impacts the watch might take in less-than-optimal conditions. 

Watch Crystal 

Crystal is the transparent piece of the tactical watch that lets you clearly view the display panel. A wide range of materials can be used for a watch crystal, but once again, when it comes to tactical watches, we need something that will be durable and tough enough to stand up to harsh conditions. Two crystal materials stand out for tactical watches: mineral glass and sapphire. 

Mineral glass offers the required hardness we want in a crystal. Not only does it do a terrific job at resisting scratches, but it also can handle impacts without shattering, perfect for long days spent in the wilderness or on a challenging tactical mission. 

Would you believe that sapphire is second only to diamond as the hardest watch face material? Many believe that sapphire is the best choice for a tactical watch because it doesn’t scratch, crack, shatter, or break when receiving extremely savage impacts. 

Watch Strap 

The third and perhaps most neglected component of a tactical watch is the strap. You laugh, but the strap is a vital component and must not be overlooked. Prefer a nice, classic leather strap for your watch? Think again. Leather will wear faster over time and may incur water damage if worn outside in the elements. Better strap options for a tactical watch include rubber, silicone, nylon, and polyurethane. 

Rubber provides excellent water resistance, plus it’s lightweight and flexible. Rubber also helps conduct heat and cold away to help keep you comfortable in most conditions. Silicone is another fantastic option and offers many of the same traits as rubber. Polyurethane and nylon feature in many other tactical items so they’re a no-brainer choice for tactical watches, providing unparalleled durability and versatility. 

Tactical Watch Features to Consider 

How does a tactical watch differ from an everyday watch? The answer lies within many of the functions available in tactical watches. Here are the key attributes to consider when choosing the best tactical watches. 


It should go without saying that accuracy is critical for any watch, but even more so for a tactical watch. In tactical situations, coordinating with your team and others is vital to the success and safety of the mission, so your watch must be as accurate as possible. 

Mechanical vs Quartz 

Many of the fashionable watches you see today on celebrities or in magazines are mechanical watches. This means that they use a clockwork mechanism to measure time. Conversely, a quartz watch uses vibration modes of a piezoelectric quartz tuning fork. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? 

The main point you need to know is that quartz watches offer better accuracy than mechanical watches. According to the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (which certifies accuracy and precision of watches in Switzerland), a mechanical watch is ‘precise’ if it does not drift by more than six seconds per day. Quartz watches can drift by no more than .07 seconds per day to be deemed ‘precise.’ 

Quartz watches are also less sensitive to heat, cold, shocks, and other elements than their mechanical counterparts. 

Watch Hands – Digital vs Luminescent 

You may be tempted to choose a digital watch because it’s easier to read the time quickly. In fact, you may be used to wearing a digital watch, but is that the right option for a tactical watch? 

Tactical operations happen at all times of day and night, meaning you need to be able to easily read your watch’s display in both light and dark. The problem comes when you need to tell time and your hands are full carrying objects or performing other tasks, making it difficult if not impossible to use a free hand to click a backlight so you can read the time. Luminescent hands that give off a mild, yet continuous glow will make it much easier to perform your duties in any environment. 

Tactical Watch Timekeeping Functions 

Tactical watches offer so much more than just the ability to tell time accurately using hours and seconds. Many allow you to see precise measurements in everything from milliseconds to months and years. Other functions include a stopwatch, countdown timer, calendar display, alarm capability, and time zones. They also offer the capacity to tell time in both standard and military time. 

5.11 Tactical’s Collection of Tactical Watches 

As we’ve discussed, a great tactical watch can be your new best friend. It should be water-, shock-, and magnet-resistant. A wide range of both timekeeping functions, as well as advanced functions, are available to meet your specific needs. 

5.11’s collection of the best tactical watches on the market will meet and even exceed your expectations. 

One of our most popular choices is the Pathfinder watch. Inspired by the military, the Pathfinder features a stainless-steel casing with a scratch- and chip-resistant crystal display. Low-light readability is afforded thanks to phosphorescent quarter luminous markers. It is water resistant up to 330 feet. Discretion and a classic look are provided by the durable nylon band that comes in three color options – black camo, black, and kangaroo. 

You can count on 5.11 to ensure that you’ll Always Be Ready no matter what time it is! 


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