The 10 Best Field Watches Under $500

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A lot of great things came out of World War II. Something you may not realize is how much of that era is expressed in men’s style even today. Field watches, like trench coats and chukka boots, were born out of military needs. And since these needs are ever-practical, these timeless timepieces are some of the most honest, no-nonsense workhorses in the watch world. They’re also a style essential. So, we’ve rounded up the 10 best field watches, all under $500 to represent a range of priorities.

While dive watches and GMTs require complications or added functions, a field watch is, at its core, a timekeeper. The only requirements are that it be accurate, durable, and legible. You don’t have to be a soldier to reap the benefits of a soldier’s watch. Plus, the simplicity makes them exceedingly versatile.

Hamilton Khaki 38mm Field Mechanical Watch

Hamilton Khaki 38mm Field Mechanical Watch

A straightforward yet sophisticated timepiece, the design of this 38mm Khaki Field comes straight from Hamilton’s famed archives. Based on their original 1960s military watch, all of the staples are there, from the legibly outlined sword hands to the time-honored font of the indices that date even further back to WWI watches. One of many subtle-but-important details is that the bezel is just a tad smaller than the case. This creates a beautiful frame for the dial face, and allows for a smooth silhouette since the top lugs sweep down to the bottom lugs, unbroken. 

All of this is topped off by a durable woven strap with handsome leather accents, and a mechanical movement. The H-50 is based on a high-frequency Swiss ETA, which also gives the watch a fun tactility factor. 

  • Price: $495
  • Diameter: 38mm
  • Movement: Caliber H-50 Hand-winding
Bulova VW1 Special Edition Hack Watch

Bulova VW1 Special Edition Hack Watch

Once a truly American watch brand, Bulova still has the benefit of being able to source from their many important heritage models. The VW1 Special Edition of their Hack Watch is rooted in the very same WWII wristwatches developed in the US, by Bulova, that locked down the quintessential field watch template as we know it. The exquisitely-designed hands, that look like a cross between undeveloped Mercedes hands and simplified cathedral hands, add a stately touch that’s still appropriately uncomplicated enough.

Other cool features include a double-domed crystal to prevent distortion at every angle, and a reliable automatic movement. The best part? Ten percent of the watch’s proceeds go to a special initiative that teaches disabled war veterans the skill of watchmaking.

  • Price: $340
  • Diameter: 38mm
  • Movement: Miyota 8S20-43A Automatic
Seiko 5 Sports SRPG35 Watch

Seiko 5 Sports SRPG35 Watch

Seiko continues to be a jack of all trades with their SRPG35 Watch, dressing up the field watch template with texture and variety. This charmer also comes from their Seiko 5 subline, which is arguably one of the best resources for entry-level mechanicals. The in-house caliber that the SRPG35 runs on is the always-dependable 4R36, a 24-jewel automatic that you can see through the screwdown exhibition caseback—Seiko’s always entertaining the horologically curious. Visually, the dial’s grainy texture matches the body of the second hand, while the slightly raised beige indices match its arrowhead (and the other two hands), providing both legibility and good looks.

  • Price: $275
  • Diameter: 39.4mm
  • Movement: Seiko 4R36 Automatic
Vaer C5 Field Watch

Vaer C5 Field Watch

Stark and minimalist, the Vaer C5 stands on the shoulders of giants to achieve a collection of tool watch best practices. There’s nothing on it that isn’t necessary, and all of the elements on the watch are effectively designed, which also adds to the style factor. The black dial, open-faced outer track, and large cardinal indices are reminiscent of the original Explorer I, though Vaer’s easy strap-change system allows you to readily remix this look. Functionally, you’ve got a scratch resistant sapphire, 100 meters of water resistance, and a special US-made quartz movement that self-adjusts at the top of the minute for topnotch accuracy.

  • Price: $279
  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Movement: FTS Ameriquartz 6130 HT Quartz
Boldr Venture Watch

Boldr Venture Watch

Somehow, the Boldr Venture Watch successfully marries utilitarian aesthetics with sleek and modern ones. First off, the titanium case, other than being as strong as steel but half as light, has that lugless shape often associated with deep-sea divers. Combined with the four o’clock crown, the silhouette almost looks industrial. However, the crown’s two stories and the fact that the front of the case breaks off into visible side angles adds a classy complexity that isn’t too intricate for its quintessential field watch dial face. This durable and athletic timepiece also runs on the Seiko NH35A movement, an automatic known for keeping its accuracy without a whole lot of servicing, though it’s easy to service if the need arises. 

  • Price: $299
  • Diameter: 38mm
  • Movement: Seiko NH35A automatic
Centric Instruments Field Watch MkIII

Centric Instruments Field Watch MkIII

Despite being a classically composed field watch, the Centric Instruments MkIII sure does have a lot of personality. On the practical front, the darker outer track highlights the second markers, while also making clearer where the second hand’s syringe is pointing. Style-wise, it adds dimension and variety to the dial face. Similarly, the onion crown is both super graspable for easy operation, as well as elegant and unexpected. Another feather in the MkIII’s cap is its movement, a solar-quartz from Seiko that can be powered by any light source and almost never needs its battery changed.

  • Price: $225
  • Diameter: 39.5mm
  • Movement: Seiko Solar-Quartz
Marathon General Purpose Quartz Watch

Marathon General Purpose Quartz Watch

This General Purpose Quartz Watch from long-time military-spec purveyors Marathon is what I’d describe as unassumingly attractive. Its small build and practical, forthright arrangement is dotted with fun qualities like the date window between the four and five, and the fact the indices are tonal with the hand accents.

The functions are similar in that they’re effectively simple, with an added cool factor. The ETA F06 is a high-torque quartz movement, accurate to -0.3/+0.5 seconds daily and lets you know if it needs a battery change via the EOL indicator. Meanwhile, the tritium tube lume always glows in the dark, and doesn’t need recharging like typical lumes do.

  • Price: $330
  • Diameter: 34mm
  • Movement: ETA F06 Quartz
Merci LMM-01 Field Watch

Merci LMM-01 Field Watch

If you combined the explicitness of a vintage field watch with the illustrative aesthetic of a classic railroad watch, then you’d get the Merci LMM-01 Field Watch. At least, the LMM-01 is a modernized version of what that partnership would look like, with thoughtful negative space on the dial and long dignified lugs, which are perfectly brushed for a stunning satin effect. The overall light-hued palette is accompanied by bold, black outlines, making the watch extra easy to read—though the double-domed mineral glass helps with that as well. 

Another distinct feature that’s easier to see because of this well thought-out color scheme? The sweeping second. Even though this watch is quartz-powered, Seiko’s VH31 movement was specially developed with a mechanical-like second hand action.

  • Price: $250
  • Diameter: 38mm
  • Movement: Seiko VH31 Mecaquartz
Big Idea Design Ti x RZE Watches Field Watch

Big Idea Design Ti x RZE Watches Field Watch

Judging by the materials it’s constructed with alone, the Big Idea Design Ti and RZE collaboration Field Watch is undeniably premium. On top of that, it has a truly artistic quality, almost sculptural, with its flawless applications and cement-textured dial. It basically takes the textbook field watch and completely innovates upon it, without dishonoring the tried-and-trues, of course.

The case is grade 2 titanium, which is extra strong and extra corrosion resistant, not to mention easy to wear because of its lightness in weight. Brilliantly, what looks like a static bezel is a discreet timer. It’s like a trap door, adding function without interrupting the aesthetic. Did we mention the lifetime warranty?

  • Price: $499
  • Diameter: 40.5mm
  • Movement: Seiko NH36A Automatic
MVMT Field Watch

MVMT Field Watch

At 41mm, the MVMT Field Watch is a bit larger than the average classic military timepiece, large cases being a signature of the brand. In the case of this model though, it really works since the contemporary design is well worth the wrist real estate. From the bezel to where the crystal connects, to the outer dial track, there’s a dose of dimension to an otherwise clean watch face. The green indices and hand outlines, a lively shade that’s a mix of military green and lime green, are complemented by red accents, as is the brushed steel construction by the canvas strap. It may be bigger, but this watch is all about balance.

  • Price: $108
  • Diameter: 41mm
  • Movement: Quartz

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