Field watches are popular today for good reason. Their defining military look draws directly on the A-11 watches issued to soldiers in WWII, giving them a genuinely utilitarian feel and an interesting backstory. This origin helps define a field watch as basic but rugged, and many find the typically smaller diameter offers a unique look on the modern wrist. Best of all, however, their simplicity helps make them some of the most affordable watches out there, and the easiest to recommend for beginners and collectors alike. Here are some of our favorites that retail for under $500.
MVMT Field AT
MVMT has a very modern take on the field watch. Its dial strays from the traditional designs and incorporates contemporary elements, but still feels convincingly like it's intended for "the field." It's also one of the few watches of this type that offers a larger diameter for those who want a bolder wearing experience than many field watches tend to offer.
Movement: Quartz (unspecified)
Seiko 5 SNK Series
As if any list of affordable, awesome field watches would skip over the celebrated Seiko 5 SNK series field watch. As if! We've discussed it many times, but in case you need a refresher: this is a shockingly solid automatic watch with a cool design that can usually be found for around $100 or so. Even if you're simply curious: just get it, throw it on a new strap and you'll see what everyone's talking about.
Movement: Seiko 7S26 automatic
Bertucci's entire lineup essentially consists of variations on the field watch theme. This particular example is one of the strongest values, offering the simplicity and durability a field watch should deliver but with the added value of a lightweight titanium case. This is just the kind of field watch that seems built to live out its purpose.
Movement: Japanese quartz
Timex MkI Mechanical
The modern version of a Timex watch actually built for the military in the 1980s, the Mk1 has long been a cool, affordable watch in its quartz version. The new Mk1 Mechanical with its hand-wound movement, however, adds a whole other level of interest that we find irresistible, all for a very approachable price.
Movement: Hand-wound mechanical
A more sophisticated and playful take on the typically brutish field watch comes from French brand Merci. The LMM-01 has an undeniably elegant design but remains tastefully unfussy, and it's available in a quartz version (as well as a mechanical one that's just over the $500 line).
Movement: Ronda-513 quartz
The Boldr Venture stands out as an authentic field watch feel with an automatic movement and titanium case. It's also a little different from its competitors due to the brand's signature case shape which, along with some vivid colors, lends the Venture a fresh, contemporary feel.
Movement: Seiko SII NH35A automatic
Bulova Hack Watch
Bulova, one of the companies that made the original MIL-W-3818A spec field watches for the US military in the '50s and '60, brought back back its famous "Hack" watch in a new Military collection. Though the brand is now owned by Japanese conglomerate Citizen, it's hard to argue with the cool factor of a military watch of historical significance from the very brand that originally made it.
Movement: Miyota 82S0 automatic
Marathon General Purpose Mechanical
Marathon is a Canadian company that's known for making watches actually used by militaries today as well as for its use of tritium gas tubes for dial illumination. Its General Purpose Mechanical basically does what the name says: it's an all-around rugged watch with an automatic movement. (It comes in several versions, including quartz, for less money.) This one has a plastic-composite case with a "sage green" color and a diameter of only 34mm.
Vaer watches, which are assembled in the US, include the A5, a classical field watch design here with an unusual white face. It features sapphire crystal over the dial as well as a transparent case back window to display the solid Japanese an automatic movement inside.
Movement: Miyota 9015 automatic
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
Sliding in right under the wire at $495 is the king of affordable modern field watches: the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. Though basic in its finishing (as a true field watch should be), watch enthusiasts are endlessly enthusiastic (as we at Gear Patrol are) about the value Hamilton offers here. It's equipped with a manually wound Swiss mechanical movement, sapphire crystal and an overall classic character.
Movement: Hamilton H50 mechanical