Best Survival Watch Reviews

Updated July 6, 2020

While the name suggests a zombie apocalypse type of scenario, a survival watch is nothing as dramatic. It’s only a sophisticated tactical tool that helps you navigate strange and unfamiliar terrains.

As such, if you’re the kind of person who likes to mix it up and escape the master wheel of the 9-to-5 jobs or the routine of the city, you will need the help and guidance of such a timepiece. These watches are solid, rugged, and resistant to the elements. So, come what may, you will always have a reliable assistant on your wrist!

Luckily, there are lots of cool designs on the market. However, given that it can be confusing to choose from the sea of options, materials, and high-end features we reviewed some of the best survival watches. We also created a useful buying guide, where we explain the most important features.

Best Survival Watches

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1 G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400 Survival Watch
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2 Timex - Expedition Gallatin Timex Expedition Gallatin Survival Watch
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3 Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver Survival Watch
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4 Suunto Traverse Alpha Survival Watch
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5 Luminox - Recon Pointman
Best Overall
Luminox Recon Pointman Survival Watch
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6 Suunto - Core All Black Suunto Core All Black Survival Watch
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7 Garmin Instinct Survival Watch
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8 Timex - Command Digital Timex Command Digital Survival Watch
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1. G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400 Survival Watch

Highlights

The Rangeman is one of the larger G-Shock models on the market and, if you add the classic case protection, it’s also one of the bulkiest. However, the large face accommodates a series of extremely useful features and has an integrated solar cell that keeps the watch going with regular exposure to everyday light. In fact, there is a battery status indicator right in the middle of the watch’s face (the L-M-H / Low-Medium-High bar). 

In addition, once you set the timezone, you don’t have to worry about setting the exact time. The watch communicates with the closest Worldwide Atomic Time transmitters in order to keep extremely accurate time. The GW-9400  is designed to communicate with six such transmitters all over the world. 

The watch features 11 modes, among which you have the regular timekeeping mode (with 12h and 24h formats), world time mode (timekeeping in a different time zone), stopwatch (it can go on for 1,000 hours), 24h countdown timer, alarm (5 of them), and more. 

Lastly, the watch comes with triple sensor technology with a built-in compass, thermometer, and barometer. It can also save some of the information so you can check it at a later date and it can be influenced by outside elements. The controls are easy to understand (each button on the side of the case has multiple functions), but it’s best to play with them until you learn how to make all the settings.

Specifications

Material:
Mineral Crystal Lens, Resin Band and Case
Size:
5.4cm
Weight:
5.93oz

Pros

  • Extremely durable build
  • Lots of features and modes
  • Solar-powered mechanism
  • Extremely accurate when it communicates with one of the pre-set transmitters
  • Large face that accommodates a series of information

Cons

  • It has a bit of a learning curve
  • It is rather bulky
  • The illumination could stay on longer

Why We Chose This

This is a true G Shock military watch that’s durable, easy to conceal in nature, and lightweight. It also has a ton of useful features for military applications, it’s highly accurate (as long as it can communicate with one of the six towers), and the information is not crowded. Overall, it does a fantastic job and can be used by a wide range of people whose job or hobby takes them in the outdoors.

2. Timex Expedition Gallatin Survival Watch

Highlights

The Gallatin is part of Timex’s famous collection for outdoor adventurers and explorers – the Timex Expedition. As such, it features a rugged build, with durable materials that withstand the elements and are resistant to shock, scratches, and more.

Equipped with a quartz analog movement, the watch is easy to set up and read. It has a raised stationary bezel and a tactical dial that provides useful information. The dial is black with white, light green, and yellow markers for the time. The markers are displayed in three concentric circles, with the inner circle marking a 24h format and the outer circle marking every five seconds in a minute.

The three-hand movement has two white and silver hands and a yellow second hand. These colors improve the overall visibility of the dial during the day and the INDIGLO® Night-Light (a feature that’s specific to Timex watches) keeps the visibility in low-light conditions.

Overall, the Timex Expedition Gallatin is a very resistant watch, at a very affordable price, with plenty of uses in a wide range of situations.

Specifications

Material:
Nylon Double Layer Slip-Thru Strap, Resin Case, Scratch-Resistant Acrylic Lens
Size:
44mm
Weight:
1.44 oz

Pros

  • Rugged build & shock-resistant materials
  • The dial is easy to read due to its design
  • Three hands Quartz movement
  • The strap is secured around the wrist with a buckle style closure
  • INDIGLO® Night-Light

Cons

  • The case can be too big for smaller wrists
  • The case is rather bulky

Why We Chose This

Timex Expedition is a series of survival watches highly appreciated by outdoor adventurers and people who work in environments exposed to the elements. It is a bit rugged but very durable and the nylon strap with buckle closure is easy to secure around the wrist (low risk of losing the watch in the woods or while taking a swim).

3. Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Diver Survival Watch

Highlights

This watch features Citizen’s proprietary Eco-Drive technology, which harnesses the power of light from any natural or artificial light source and converts it into energy. This energy is stored in a permanently rechargeable power cell, which means your watch will never need its battery replaced as it uses renewable energy to keep it running forever.

That function is a bonus in a dive watch, because the case will never be opened, helping your watch to maintain its factory seal and water resistance.

It’s water resistant to 200 meters or 660 feet, and it’s suitable to wear in the shower, in professional marine activities like swimming and snorkeling, for surface water sports, and for scuba diving.

The mineral crystal window is anti-reflective, protecting the date indicator and luminous hands while providing a crisp time display that’s easy to read. It has a three-hand display (hour, minute and second) with quartz movement and a date indicator over the 4 o’clock position.

Comes with the renowned Citizen name, a pioneer in watchmaking and innovative technology for decades.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel Case, Plastic Strap
Size:
4.9 x 4.6 x 4 inches
Weight:
10.6 ounces

Pros

  • The Eco-Drive technology means there’s no need to ever change batteries or wind the watch.
  • Citizen is renowned for making quality watches.
  • Anti-reflective window makes it easy to read.

Cons

  • Visibility of the watch face and hands may not be great at deeper dive depths.

Why We Chose This

The Citizen name is synonymous with quality watches, giving this product a step up on the competition before we even look at it. The Eco-Drive technology means you never have to change batteries, so the watch back is never taken off, and the water resistance should therefore be protected.

4. Suunto Traverse Alpha Survival Watch

Highlights

A stainless steel case, durable nylon textile strap that repels water, and a knurled stainless steel bezel are the main elements to suggest the Traverse Alpha is a watch designed for rough conditions. There’s also the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass that protects the intelligent mechanism and a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery.

The watch resists at about 100m in water and has the necessary features to become a valuable resource for outdoor adventurers, hikers, hunters, fishers, and more. First, the GPS/GLONASS navigation module is paired with hunting & fishing tech tools such as automatic shot detection (keeps track of your shots), moon phase calendar, automatic breadcrumb trail (to find your way back), sunrise alert, and weather trend alert. 

It also has a red backlight, so the dial is visible during nighttime without attracting attention. There’s also a built-in flashlight to illuminate surroundings and can connect with your smartphone via Bluetooth (to receive notifications). 

Lastly, this is a great accessory for when you’re moving in unknown territory as it provides access to topographic maps, altitude profiles, and has built-in barometric pressure.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel, Nylon Textile Strap, Sapphire Crystal Lens
Weight:
75g/2.65oz
Battery Life:
10h GPS Mode/14 days Time Mode

Pros

  • Super-durable build and scratch-resistant lens
  • It looks great on your wrist & is comfortable
  • Advanced GPS features
  • Lots of tools for outdoorsmen
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • GPS acquisition can be a bit slow
  • It doesn’t change the time zone automatically
  • The temperature sensor is placed on the back case

Why We Chose This

The reliable GPS feature and the various tools that cater to hunters and fishers make the Traverse Alpha the best GPS watch for hunting. Users will love its size and comfortable design and will appreciate the access to extremely useful information such as maps, navigation, and weather trends. In addition, you get to stay up to date with your phone without having to get it out of your pocket all the time!

5. Luminox Recon Pointman Survival Watch

Highlights
Best Overall
Luminox - Recon Pointman

The Pointman is part of the Recon NAV SPC series from Luminox and it’s a two-piece system designed for navigation and survival in unfamiliar terrains. The main piece is the watch, which is rugged and solid with a reinforced polycarbonate case and a ruler rubber strap that’s marked with inches and centimeters on one side and three common map scales on the other side. This way, you can use the strap to calculate your heading and distances using a map.

On the strap, you’ll find a buckle-style closure and an analog magnetic compass that can be removed. The compass has a bidirectional rotating bezel that helps you establish the headings.

The watch in itself is rather big and has a unidirectional bezel with an aluminum inner ring that can be used for time maneuvers and calculating your current position. At the center of the black dial, there’s a four-hands, quartz-powered movement, and in the 3 o’clock position, you’ll find a date complication. Everything is protected by an anti-reflective scratch-resistant sapphire crystal window.

The watch is useful in both sunlight and its absence (at night) as it uses Luminox’s Tritium illumination method. It comes in a specially-designed Luminox pouch with belt loops on the back (so you can wear it in the pouch, on a belt, or on the strap of a backpack). It’s also lightweight despite being quite large (46mm case) and it’s perfect for adventurers and explorers.

Specifications

Material:
Rubber Strap, Reinforced Polycarbonate Case, Anti-Reflective Scratch-Resistant Sapphire Crystal Lens
Size:
46mm

Pros

  • Durable build, with lightweight materials
  • It comes with an attached compass
  • The strap can be used to chart a path on the map
  • It is powered by a reliable quartz movement
  • It has lots of features for navigation and establishing position

Cons

  • It is a bit bulky, especially for smaller wrists
  • It’s not easily accessible for explorers on a budget

Why We Chose This

Despite being big and loaded with features, the Pointman from Luminox is a reliable travel companion. It can be used for navigation using a map and has lots of settings for timing your progress. Furthermore, it is easy to read in the dark, and can resist underwater for up to 200m!

6. Suunto Core All Black Survival Watch

Highlights

The Suunto Core is an outdoor watch with features that make it a great fit for military use. It is equipped with an altimeter, barometer, and a digital compass – the three sensors that let you know about changes in air pressure and help with navigation (which comes in handy in unfamiliar terrain).

The data collected by the sensors are also used in creating a weather trend graph and delivering reliable storm alerts. The storm alert is activated by a sudden drop in air pressure over a three-hour period, which means you’ll know about it while the sky is still blue. The alarm has both sound and flashing lights, so it’s difficult to miss.

The watch also has preset sunrise/sunset times for over 400 locations and tracks changes in elevation (within 30,000 feet accuracy). This data can be useful when you’re monitoring progress (it can store up to 7 days of data in the local memory). In addition, the altimeter is extremely useful in finding your position using a topographic map.

Watches in the Suunto Core collection have a very useful feature – the start-from-zero function that eliminates the need of entering a reference altitude. You just press a button and the altimeter will start doing its job.

The watch supports several alarms (with snooze), has a digital thermometer, stopwatch, countdown timer, and other features that come handy for people who work outdoors. On the surface, the design is rugged and durable, just what you’d expect from an outdoor watch.

The black silicone band and black carbon reinforced case don’t distract the eye from the main attention – the digital dial. The face of the watch is large and easy to read, and there are side buttons to change the modes and make adjustments.

Lastly, the watch has a discreet backlighting system, meaning you can still read it in low light conditions without pointing to your location.

Specifications

Material:
Silicone Band, Aluminum Bezel, Carbon Fiber Case, Mineral Lens
Size:
49mm
Weight:
2.26 oz

Pros

  • Lightweight & durable case and strap
  • Lots of useful tactical functions
  • Equipped with altimeter, barometer, and digital compass
  • The bezel (with compass markings) can be rotated
  • It has Storm Alarm function

Cons

  • It is rather big for small wrists
  • There is a learning curve

Why We Chose This

While the Suunto Core is not promoted as a series of police watches, it fits the needs of many law enforcement agencies. It has tactical features that allow for better orientation in unknown terrain, and it doesn’t depend on a connection with the phone to do its job. It’s also lightweight, durable, and easy to read. Lastly, it can be used while wearing gloves since the communication with the interface is done via side buttons.

7. Garmin Instinct Survival Watch

Highlights

Whether you want it to keep track of your outdoor training routine or you’re looking for a rugged GPS smartwatch that can withstand tough conditions, the Instinct from Garmin is a great option.  Built according to U.S. Military Standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance, this watch comes with tactical specific features. 

The Instinct is equipped with a built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter and supports several global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo). It also has a heart rate monitor and pre-set activity profiles for fitness training. 

If you want to explore new routes on unknown terrain, the TrackBack feature provides a safe way of return to the starting point. The watch can also connect with various Garmin apps and the Garmin community to keep you up to date and to help you plan. 

Lastly, the watch has a Stealth feature that allows you to become untraceable by disabling wireless connections and hiding your GPS position. 

Overall, the Garmin Instinct is a reliable and durable timepiece equipped with a scratch-resistant display that’s visible in direct sunlight but can also be checked during nighttime due to the ‘night vision’ mode (reduced backlight).

Specifications

Material:
Fiber-reinforced Polymer Case, Scratch-resistant Display, Silicone Band
Size:
45mm
Weight:
52g
Battery Life:
16h GPS Mode/14 days Time Mode

Pros

  • Reliable GPS features
  • Lots of features geared towards outdoor activities
  • Rugged design that’s resistant to harsh environments
  • Comfortable to wear for a long period of time
  • Amazing value for the money

Cons

  • Low-resolution display
  • It can look huge on smaller wrists
  • It only works with Garmin apps

Why We Chose This

While Garmin promotes it as an adventure watch, Instinct is a model with lots of versatility. Its reliable GPS features and the possibility to pair with Garmin-provided apps make it useful for more specific activities (such as hunting, sailing, fishing) as well. We also love its endurance and features that make it useful during the day and night.

8. Timex Command Digital Survival Watch

Highlights

This is a digital watch between casual and tactical, with several interesting features for outdoor adventurers. It has several modes (there’s a mode button on the bottom-left corner of the case) and supports three alarms.

The negative display is easy to read, even in low light, and the time and date are displayed using large numbers. Furthermore, Timex used their Indiglo technology to illuminate the screen in the dark without increasing the brightness. This is very easy on the eyes and comes in handy when you want to read the time without being seen.

The general face of the watch hints towards a standard G-Shock design, which is nice especially if you’re used to tactical watches. Also, the rectangular resin case with stainless steel back is solid and very well-built. In addition, the silicone strap is comfortable and resists well in time. However, it can be a bit too stiff and it doesn’t allow the skin to breathe if the watch is fixed on the wrist.

Lastly, the interface is simple and easy to understand, even if you’re a beginner with this type of watch. While the watch is indeed a bit on the bulky and large side, it is still very lightweight and quite comfortable to wear so it won’t hinder your movements in any way. However, the buttons are easy to press by accidents during workouts, if you lift weights or practice another sport where your wrists bend.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel Case, Silicone Strap, Crystal Lens
Size:
23mm
Weight:
2.6 oz

Pros

  • Solid, rugged build
  • Silicone strap that’s comfortable and secure
  • The interface is simple and easy to understand
  • Timex Indiglo backlight
  • Lots of cool functions and modes

Cons

  • It is rather big and bulky
  • The buttons are easy to press by accident

Why We Chose This

The Command Digital is a rugged survival watch that’s affordable for most adventurers out there (even those on a tighter budget). It is lightweight and reliable and offers several basic functions like alarms, timer, date & time, and more. While it’s not the most advanced or visually appealing watch, it does a fantastic job outdoors and holds its own in front of the elements.

Survival Watch Buying Guide

Design

In a survival wrist watch, the design is not the most important feature. After all, when you’re lost in the wilderness, you don’t care if your watch fits the outfit or it has an elegant vibe to it. 

But, in this case, the design makes reference to the overall ruggedness of the watch and its build. While anyone with a bit of imagination and field experience can use an analog watch to navigate by the position of the sun, only someone with a survival watch can use it to chart detailed courses using a map. 

As such, your timepiece should be resistant to the elements, various shocks, scratches, and needs to provide an easy to understand interface.  

Materials

Most watches designed for tactical use and outdoor adventures are made from element-resistant materials. This usually means a reinforced polycarbonate case, stainless steel back, and a rubber or silicone strap. 

Also, the lens must be scratch-resistant, with an anti-reflective coating, to allow the best view of the dial, even in direct sunlight. 

Furthermore, a survivalist watch needs to have several protection systems in place, to keep the water from entering the mechanism inside, even if the watch is fully submerged in water. 

Water Resistance

As you can see from our reviews, all survival watches are resistant to water (up to a certain depth). This means you can wear them while working out or participating in highly strenuous activities. In addition, these timepieces hold their own if you’re caught by rain, take a swim, or forget to remove them while showering. 

If you love being outdoors most of the time or you work in an environment that’s constantly exposed to humidity, we recommend looking for a watch that’s resistant for up to 100m / 330ft or more.

Other Features

Good design and durability are some of the most important features in a survival watch. But, if you’re looking for a bit more, there are some other features to consider:

Multifunction Watches

By definition, a survival wrist watch is a multifunction timepiece. Its main purpose is to help you understand the world around by providing useful information on position, time, and navigation. Now, depending on the model, features, and cost, these functions could be straightforward (like a GPS module) or could require additional knowledge and tools (like a map and charting knowledge). 

To take things a bit further, some survival watches come equipped with fire starters or small LED flashlights that provide some guidance in the dark. Other such timepieces may even have a built-in warning system that lets the user flash a light signal, asking for help.  

In summary, all survival watches are multifunction watches as they must be equipped with various tools that facilitate surviving, orientation in the wilderness, and keeping bearings. 

Survival Watch With Compass

A compass is the best tool to have when you’re stranded in unfamiliar terrain, without clear markings or direction. As such, the compass is one of the must-have features of a survival watch. 

It can be a digital compass (as a built-in feature), or it can be a physical analog compass that’s attached to the watch (like it’s the case with our winner model). The advantage of a separate, analog compass is that it will keep working even if the watch gets damaged or remains without battery. 

GPS Survival Watch

GPS is a great function in a survival watch, but it’s not a must-have one. As you can see from our reviews, the budget options don’t come with a GPS module, and analog ones don’t implement it. 

Still, if you really want a GPS survival watch, we recommend one with onboard GPS/GLONASS capabilities. These versions are more accurate and reliable, regardless of your position on the planet. If you’re a passionate explorer, it also helps to have a timepiece with full-color topographical maps.

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