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The Military watch: If your looking for a casual watch then a simple, rugged military watch is a safe bet as it is less subjugated to trend than other styles.
Known for durable simplicity and loved for their rich history, this category covers a diverse group of watch styles; divers, infantry, pilots, navigators and as of late wrist computers from Garmond and Sunto. 
 There has been recent interest in large military styled watches, particularly pilot and diver watches, as well as the simple WWII era infantry watches.  These massive watch faces originally came out of necessity, divers in the murky depths needed to quickly asses their bottom time and pilots couldnt take there eys of the sky long neough to find a 20mm watch face. But if your not in either of these professions your going to be stuck with an oversized watch well after this trend fades. Other companies like to sugar coat quarts movement and ridiculous price tags with tactical buzz words. I would caution you away from any brand that throws around the word “special forces”, “SEALs”, “Military Issue”, “Recon”, “tactical”.
  The fact of it is no one in the military, especially those actually doing the fighting, ever wear this crap. If your already wearing 75 pounds worth of plates, mags, and batteries, on top of a 12-20 pound gun, and a 75-120 pound ruck the last thing you want is a rapper sized hunk of metal on your wrist, especially if it has a built in flashlight. the last thing you need is a massive shoot me strobe on your arm, the place its most likely to be accidentally set off. Additionally the obscene price tag on these kinds of watches is way out of reach for your average grunt, something marketing for these companies really should figure out.  If you make 20k a year and trash everything you own your not dropping a grand on a watch. 99.99% of the military wears g-shocks, they get them for free, they don’t shine, they track multiple time zones and you don’t feel bad beating them up. 
 For higher tier communities some guys go for analog watches, Sunto’s and other such wrist computers a passing trend as they did not prove to be very durable. Analog watches do have several advantages, namely they can be used for navigation, tracking events, signaling, and if it really hits the fan, currency. The few I saw were mostly Seiko divers, bought as graduation presents for dive school, a few officers dabbled in Hamilton Khakis, and one swore by his omega seamaster that had served him well on three deployments (and no amount of pleading would get they guy to get it serviced). The only issued analog watches were from marathon, though reliable the tritium inserts came loose about 70% of the time. 
 In my short term I went through a few watches. G-shocks were out as the alarm seemed like a sure way to set yourself up for disaster (they called them squad killers for a reason..), batteries cant be replaced in country, they never fit my wrist well and to a lesser extent the backlight accidentally going off was a concern. My two Luminox’s did fine untill the pins failed (perfect example of branding over quality). Finally on my last deployment I picked up a MK II Seawarrior, as a sort of your-not-going-to-make-it-to-your-birthday present to myself. To me it came to embody the perfect military watch.
 Modeled after the Bund it has a large easy to read face with no extraneous numbers or markings. Its movement was silky smooth (especially for the price) and a long enough power reserve that I didn’t have to worry if I was stagnant for long periods of time. The uni directional bezel was important as well, clean and easy to read again, and useful for timing events, reminders, and keeping track of multiple time zones. The Saphiric crystal took abuse well, and the only downside was weight, which is reduced by using a nato band.
 The surviving luminox I had is fine, durable and the secondly time zone has it uses, however its a quarts movement and the face is over crowded. Still not bad for the 100$ .
 The best deal I have found, and the first watch I recommend to anyone, at any price point, is the county comms Maratac pilots watch. If it had a rotating bezel it would be the perfect watch for any military specialty. The display is simple and clear, the luminosity is visible at night but not screamingly bright. It has a self/hand winding automatic movement with a good power reserve and smoothness comparable to the MK II. Its saphiric crystal case is cut to be minimally reflective, and in true keeping with the men it was designed for, the case is completely sanitized. No big deal to you or me, but this really should be standard for anything issued. Three friends I have recommended it to have bought it, and if it weren’t for my MK II I would have one as well. For everyone but the biggest guys I would recommend the medium size over the large. The best part? 195$. I cant believe it either.
 One last note on straps. Love the nato strap, useful and a great way to diversify whats on your wrist without breaking the bank, if you can find them waterborne straps are what the cool guys use.

The Military watch: If your looking for a casual watch then a simple, rugged military watch is a safe bet as it is less subjugated to trend than other styles.

Known for durable simplicity and loved for their rich history, this category covers a diverse group of watch styles; divers, infantry, pilots, navigators and as of late wrist computers from Garmond and Sunto. 

There has been recent interest in large military styled watches, particularly pilot and diver watches, as well as the simple WWII era infantry watches.  These massive watch faces originally came out of necessity, divers in the murky depths needed to quickly asses their bottom time and pilots couldnt take there eys of the sky long neough to find a 20mm watch face. But if your not in either of these professions your going to be stuck with an oversized watch well after this trend fades. Other companies like to sugar coat quarts movement and ridiculous price tags with tactical buzz words. I would caution you away from any brand that throws around the word “special forces”, “SEALs”, “Military Issue”, “Recon”, “tactical”.

The fact of it is no one in the military, especially those actually doing the fighting, ever wear this crap. If your already wearing 75 pounds worth of plates, mags, and batteries, on top of a 12-20 pound gun, and a 75-120 pound ruck the last thing you want is a rapper sized hunk of metal on your wrist, especially if it has a built in flashlight. the last thing you need is a massive shoot me strobe on your arm, the place its most likely to be accidentally set off. Additionally the obscene price tag on these kinds of watches is way out of reach for your average grunt, something marketing for these companies really should figure out.  If you make 20k a year and trash everything you own your not dropping a grand on a watch. 99.99% of the military wears g-shocks, they get them for free, they don’t shine, they track multiple time zones and you don’t feel bad beating them up. 

For higher tier communities some guys go for analog watches, Sunto’s and other such wrist computers a passing trend as they did not prove to be very durable. Analog watches do have several advantages, namely they can be used for navigation, tracking events, signaling, and if it really hits the fan, currency. The few I saw were mostly Seiko divers, bought as graduation presents for dive school, a few officers dabbled in Hamilton Khakis, and one swore by his omega seamaster that had served him well on three deployments (and no amount of pleading would get they guy to get it serviced). The only issued analog watches were from marathon, though reliable the tritium inserts came loose about 70% of the time. 

In my short term I went through a few watches. G-shocks were out as the alarm seemed like a sure way to set yourself up for disaster (they called them squad killers for a reason..), batteries cant be replaced in country, they never fit my wrist well and to a lesser extent the backlight accidentally going off was a concern. My two Luminox’s did fine untill the pins failed (perfect example of branding over quality). Finally on my last deployment I picked up a MK II Seawarrior, as a sort of your-not-going-to-make-it-to-your-birthday present to myself. To me it came to embody the perfect military watch.

Modeled after the Bund it has a large easy to read face with no extraneous numbers or markings. Its movement was silky smooth (especially for the price) and a long enough power reserve that I didn’t have to worry if I was stagnant for long periods of time. The uni directional bezel was important as well, clean and easy to read again, and useful for timing events, reminders, and keeping track of multiple time zones. The Saphiric crystal took abuse well, and the only downside was weight, which is reduced by using a nato band.

The surviving luminox I had is fine, durable and the secondly time zone has it uses, however its a quarts movement and the face is over crowded. Still not bad for the 100$ .

The best deal I have found, and the first watch I recommend to anyone, at any price point, is the county comms Maratac pilots watch. If it had a rotating bezel it would be the perfect watch for any military specialty. The display is simple and clear, the luminosity is visible at night but not screamingly bright. It has a self/hand winding automatic movement with a good power reserve and smoothness comparable to the MK II. Its saphiric crystal case is cut to be minimally reflective, and in true keeping with the men it was designed for, the case is completely sanitized. No big deal to you or me, but this really should be standard for anything issued. Three friends I have recommended it to have bought it, and if it weren’t for my MK II I would have one as well. For everyone but the biggest guys I would recommend the medium size over the large. The best part? 195$. I cant believe it either.

One last note on straps. Love the nato strap, useful and a great way to diversify whats on your wrist without breaking the bank, if you can find them waterborne straps are what the cool guys use.

Lately I have had quite a few people ask me for advice on watches below the 500$ mark. I would tell most to save your money and divert it to staples in the jacket and shoe department as those would do more for your wardrobe, but none the less here are my recommendations, in 5 parts over the next week.

Buying guideline:

Watches are fairly simple to evaluate, after deciding on style (rule of thumb, the bigger and more complicated the more casual, either way keep it simple, stupid) look to movement, manufacturing, materials and weight 

Movement: Anything that isn’t automatic is more or less a waist of money, but if you need a watch, don’t pay over 100$ or so for quarts movement. Its essentially a computer chip keeping time. So is your iPhone, and it does it better.

Look for something automatic/ self winding. There are a few Seiko’s and cheaper automatics that don’t have the ability to hand wind, this is only an inconvenience if your not wearing a watch consistently, or rotating watches constantly.

Most watches in this price bracket, if not all, are going to have some sort of ETA movement, there are several out there with good reputations for longevity and accuracy, make sure you google before you buy.

Also know what the power reserve is for the movement, the longer the better as it will reduce the amount of times you have to hand wind your watch, and reduce wear on the crown.

Manufacturing: Where is it made? This is a more complicated question than it seems. Its not uncommon to have a company get their movement from one country, parts from another, and assemble in still a third. In this price range movements should come from japan, sweden or germany, and assembly in any of these and America. Some swear buy it but china and russia are still to much of a gamble for me.

Materials: Beyond just the jewels in the movement (17 at a bare minimum) what is the face, case, and bracelet made of? The first one to look for is the face, as a beautiful watch with a mineral crystal, plastic composite, or vintage glass face can be easily ruined by scratches. Sapphiric crystal is the best out there, the really good stuff can stand up to a knife. If your looking for a military watch this is a must, and also look into the cut of the crystal to find something that reduces glare. The case is going to be largely up to your preference, silver or gold for versatility, a smooth or shiny finish for formality, and a brushed or subdued finish for casual and wear resistance.

Weight: this is easy, the watch should have the right feel in your hand, if its a slim dress watch it should still feel solid, and if it is a more robust casual watch the rotation of the movement should be noticeable and smooth, and the weight equivalent to the size. Dont be fooled into buying a watch solely on heft, many cheaper manufactures add weight in the case for this effect. The key word here is proportion. Bracelets are also a personal thing, im not a fan of heavy metal bracelets because of their tendency to loosen over time and scratch. Quality leather ones can be had from 90$ at Jurgens to 110-190$ at Corvus, and will age beautifully. If your in the military, are especially active or just like the look the, NATO watchband is versatile and secure, probably the only worthwhile endeavor of its namesake. More from a military perspective later

A note on style: in my opinion simpler is better, take complications (additions to the display, such as date, day, moon-phase, ext) you use, and leave all the extra to the masses. Keep in mind watches are possibly the worst thing to by solely on “trend”. A good watch can last you a lifetime, don’t let it be one of regret because you bought a massive neon orange dive watch with depth alarms to commemorate learning the doggie paddle. Size is important here more than anything else, even if your buying online try a few on in person to get a feel for what case size works for your wrist, and the shirts and jackets you usually wear.