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Guides - Top Field Watches to Buy Under $500

Updated: Oct 15, 2023


Man with backpack in a forest
The modern explorer

When it comes to field watches, there's something undeniably appealing about their rugged charm and utilitarian design. These timepieces have a long history of being reliable companions in the great outdoors, but even if you are far from an adventurer, we still think you will like the watches we picked.


Before diving into this guide, we recommend you click here and read our post covering the history of field watches. However, if you are a veteran enthusiast, you can skip the lesson and get started.


What Makes a Good Field Watch

It's important to know some key factors to evaluate when looking for a high-quality field watch:

  1. Reliable Movement: To avoid unpleasant surprises in the middle of your adventures, your watch needs to be equipped with a movement that has been tried and tested for years, as you want to be confident of its durability and accuracy under stress. Whether you choose automatic or quartz movements, it is better to focus on companies that have proven reliability, like ETA, Citizen, or Seiko.

  2. Durable Construction: Field watches should be built to withstand the rigors of outdoor activities. Look for options with sturdy cases, strong materials, and water resistance of at least 50m to ensure they can handle exposure to the elements, shocks, and vibrations. Stainless steel or titanium cases tend to be more durable and resistant, making them good choices.

  3. High Legibility: In the great outdoors, being able to quickly and easily read the time is important. A great field watch should have clear and well-contrasted dials, highly visible markers, and hands with luminous coatings for low-light conditions.


Recommended Field Watches Under $500


1. Seiko SRPG27

Seiko's entry level field watch
Seiko's entry level field watch
  • Movement: Automatic - Seiko 4R36

  • Materials: Stainless steel case and bracelet, Hardlex crystal

  • Water Resistance: 100 meters

  • Dimensions: Case 39mm, Thickness 13mm, Lug width 20mm, Lug-to-lug 48mm

  • Average Price: USD 295



Why it's great:

The SRPG27 is the latest version of the renowned Seiko's entry-level field line. It was released a few years ago with a design upgrade and a new movement replacing the outdated 4R35. With this price, it is undeniably one of the best available options.


Where to buy:

You can also look for retailers near you on Seiko's website.


2. Hamilton Khaki Field H68201963 or H68201993

Hamilton watch H68201963
What is left of Hamilton under $500
  • Movement: Quartz - ETA F06.111

  • Materials: Stainless steel case, canvas strap, sapphire crystal

  • Water Resistance: 100 meters

  • Dimensions: Case 38mm, Thickness 9mm, Lug width 20mm

  • Average Price: USD 425




Why it's great:

The dial color and the strap might not be for everyone, but after the latest price hikes, we don't have many options left from Hamilton under $500. You can still find alternatives below this price in several retailers, but they shouldn't last long.


Even though the two recommended models are not the most popular produced by Hamilton, they still offer decent specs and a respected Swiss brand name with a long history dating back to 1892.


Where to buy:

You can also look for retailers near you on Hamilton's website.


3. Bulova Hack Watch VWI Special Edition - 96A259

Bulova field watch
One of the few good looking Bulovas
  • Movement: Automatic - Miyota 8S20-43A

  • Materials: Stainless steel case, nylon strap, double domed mineral crystal

  • Water Resistance: 30 meters

  • Dimensions: Case 38mm, Thickness 13mm, Lug width 18mm, Lug-to-lug 47mm

  • Average Price: USD 290


Why it's great:

This special edition not only celebrates Bulova’s military heritage, it also supports the Veteran’s Watchmaker Initiative. This means that when you buy those you are helping a nonprofit organization whose focus is to teach war veterans the art of watchmaking. How cool is that?


Yes, the water resistance is ridiculous and it doesn't have a sapphire crystal, but it still has a lot to offer for the price.


Where to buy:


4. Marathon General Purpose - WW194003BK

Marathon WW194003BK
Marathon is 100% performance focused
  • Movement: Automatic - Seiko NH35A

  • Materials: High-Impact Composite Fibreshell case, nylon strap, sapphire crystal

  • Water Resistance: 30 meters

  • Dimensions: Case 34mm, Thickness 11mm, Lug width 16mm

  • Average Price: USD 390



Why it's great:

Marathon watches are made to strict military standards, which is why they use materials like Tritium gas tubes and Fibreshell. This means you can expect them to be quite resistant and durable, despite the oddly minimal 30m water resistance.


Even though they are on the smaller side, their appearance is rugged and the nato strap gives them more presence, so they actually have good proportions on the wrist. It is a fit option for those looking for a proper tool watch to face the outdoors (we still can't understand just 30m of water resistance though...).


Where to buy:


5. Citizen Garrison BM8180-03E

Citizen BM8180-03E
A great beater option
  • Movement: Solar Eco-Drive - E101

  • Materials: Stainless steel case, nylon strap, mineral crystal

  • Water Resistance: 100 meters

  • Dimensions: Case 37mm, Thickness 9mm, Lug width 18mm

  • Average Price: USD 110




Why it's great:

When talking about Citizen's field watches we could easily recommend the Super Titanium BM8560-53. However, we like the design, dimensions, and price of the Garrison BM8180-03E better. For around $100 it delivers a reliable solar movement, a rugged case, and a classic military look.


Where to buy:


Digital Bonus - Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW9400-1

G-Shock GW9400
This one is a big boy
  • Movement: Solar Casio - 3410

  • Materials: Resin case and strap, mineral crystal

  • Water Resistance: 200 meters

  • Dimensions: Case 53mm, Thickness 18mm, Lug width 22mm

  • Average Price: USD 300




Why it's great:

If you don't mind going digital, this watch has everything you can possibly need. And more. It actually offers so many features that we can't fit all of them here. It might sound like this is overkill, but you never know when you will need altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, and direction readings at your fingertips.


Where to buy:

 

If you want to learn more about the history of field watches, take a look at this post.

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