The 5 best field watches The 5 best field watches

The 5 best field watches

D.C. Hannay

What makes a field watch a field watch? Basically, it’s a simple, rugged watch with military roots (google the “Dirty Dozen” watches), with a no-nonsense look that pairs with almost anything…sort of a Levi’s 501 of the watch world. The archetypical field watch has a black dial with Arabic numerals, highly visible hands (ideally luminous), in a smallish round stainless case. These days, the definition of a field watch is much broader than it used to be. The Seiko Alpinist, Sinn 556, and even the Rolex Explorer 1 could all be considered field watches, even if they don’t adhere to that strict original formula. What follows are five of my picks from this versatile category.

BOLDR Venture Sandstorm

BOLDR Supply Co. is an insider’s pick among microbrand aficionados, with a winning formula of daring designs, great build quality, and sought-after specs, all at value-forward prices, and the Venture field watch is one of their best-loved models. It cuts a modernist profile when compared to more conventional-looking field watches, with angular lines and a hooded-lug look. It offers a 38mm titanium case that’s tough yet lightweight, a full 200 metres of water resistance, and a clean, graphical dial with broad hands, sharp san-serif Arabic numerals, no date window, and a hearty application of Japanese Superlume. Powered by the microbrand favourite Seiko NH35A automatic, it’s available in four colours, including the Sand Storm variant, a well-considered combination of black and aged lume against a pure white dial. A desert-tan nylon fabric strap with titanium hardware also comes standard. Pick up your own in the Time + Tide Shop right here. Price: A$490

Unimatic Modello Due U2 Classic – UC2

Italy’s Unimatic are renowned for their stark, minimalist interpretations of classic tool watch tropes, winning fans with their takes on ready-for-anything divers. But their Modello Due applies the aesthetic to the field watch concept, and it’s a winner. The 38.5mm case features a brushed finish, flat drilled lugs, and a beefy, grippable screwdown crown, offering 300 metres of water resistance. The matte black dial allows the wide lumed handset and oversized markers to really pop, rendering the whole exercise supremely legible. The thick, double-domed sapphire crystal is a nice vintage touch, and everything hums along thanks to the venerable Seiko NH35A movement ticking away inside. Price: €400

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze

If I were to draw a picture of the definitive field watch, it would probably look a lot like the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. With its 38mm rounded case, bold dial markings, antique lume, and handwound movement, it’s a callback to the historic look of the field watch’s origins, and this bronze variant is even field-ier, sporting an antique-look brown leather strap. The daily ritual of handwinding your watch’s H-50 movement can’t be overstated, and every time you do, it only adds to the warm, softly glowing patina that makes it yours and yours alone. Find yours in the T + T Shop right here. Price: A$1,450

Tudor Ranger

Released in July 2022 to mark the 70th anniversary of the British North Greenland Expedition, the modern Ranger is a welcome update from the discontinued 41mm model from 2014. With a versatile 39mm case and a COSC-certified manufacture movement, the Ranger is a pretty strong value play hovering just below US$3,000. Much like the vintage Ranger (and the original Rolex Explorer that provided much of its DNA), it’s a fantastic daily driver, with a fully satin brushed finish and 100 metres of water resistance. And if you crave a more authentic tool watch experience than the luxe Explorer of today, it’s a no-brainer. Price: US$2,825 on strap

IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire Bronze

IWC may call this Spitfire variant a pilot’s watch, but it’s also a stellar example of a dictionary-definition field watch. It features IWC’s typically peerless build quality, as well as the manufacture Calibre 32111 movement that boasts a class-leading 120 hours of power reserve. And this Spitfire’s all about the warm tones, with a handsome 39mm bronze alloy case featuring a screwdown crown and caseback, and a verdant green dial that emphasises the vintage vibe even further. And if you’re in the mood to change things up from the contrast-stitched brown calf strap, IWC makes it simple with their toolless EaseX-CHANGE system. Price: US$5,400