5 Best Field Watches Under $200: The Everyday Timepiece

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

A field watch should be able to take a beating. But which ones are worth the money and which are clunkers?

We’ve sorted through the chaff and these are the best of the best. 

Best Solar
  • Eco-drive movement takes in light from the watch face for power
  • Slim 36mm design with 100m water resistance
  • Bright lume with easy to read dial
Best Military Inspired
  • Sapphire crystal for extra scratch resistance
  • S5 is 40mm in diameter, but S3 available with 36mm case
  • Multiple dial styles to choose from
Best Compass
  • Incredibly rugged and durable
  • Digital compass stays true regardless of conditions
  • 200m water resistance
Best Automatic
  • Automatic Seiko movement
  • Hardlex crystal is step up from mineral glass
  • Exhibition caseback so you can view the movement in action
Best Under $100
  • Excellent budget option (often under $50)
  • 50m water resistance
  • Indiglo lume is strong considering low price

For us guys, life isn’t always delicate. 

Sometimes you need to get in there and chop some wood, start the grill, fix the sink, mow the lawn—you know how long that list gets. 

When you’re getting down and dirty, a dress watch isn’t the smart choice. Sure, it’s nice for a Saturday night out, but what about your day to day? 

That’s where you need a field watch. 

After trying out several brands for myself and poring through pages and pages of research, I’ve put together the ultimate list of the five best field watches you can get at a reasonable price. 

5 Best Field Watches Under $200

Best Solar: Citizen Eco-Drive Chandler

Citizen Watches eco drive chandler dial closeup

Citizen has been making watches for over 100 years—they’re horological legends. They invented the quartz movement, the titanium watch case, and now the Eco-Drive solar movement. 

The Eco-Drive Chandler is my top field watch for a few reasons. First, it’s a compact piece, measuring in at 36mm. This is an excellent size for guys with smaller wrists, but it also looks at home for dudes with average to large wrists, too. 

The lume is powerful, which makes it easy to read throughout the night. And because the watch is solar powered, there’s no need to change the battery every few years. It just keeps ticking.

What I Like

  • If properly cared for, this watch can keep ticking for a decade or more. 

  • With 100m of water resistance and a nylon band, this timepiece is a nice fit for camping trips that include fishing or kayaking.

  • The lume usually stays readable until daybreak.

What I Don’t Like

  • The nylon watch band is quite stiff and takes several weeks to break in. 

What Other Reviewers Say

Reading through reviews for the Citizen Eco-Drive Chandler is a lot like reading through an episode list of “Dirty Jobs.”

Reviewers wear this rugged little field watch everywhere from the Police Academy, to overseas deployment, to a working day as an IT-guy. And the overwhelming majority of comments are positive.

The Verdict

The Citizen Eco-Drive Chandler is small but mighty. It requires very little care or maintenance, and it stays reliable for years and years. 

Because it runs on solar power, you’ll never need to change the battery. Once you break the nylon band in, it’s comfortable and able to withstand the most hectic camping trip adventures you’re willing to throw at it.

Best Solar
Citizen Chandler Eco-Drive

One of our favorite looking Citizen watches is also out to help the environment. The brand's Eco-Drive range removed over 100 million lithium batteries from dumps in the US alone.

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Best Military Inspired: VAER S5

vaer s5 in box with packaging

The VAER S5 boasts some great specs for a watch well under $200. But before I dive into that, I should also point out the S3, which has all the same specs, instead features a 36mm case rather than the S5’s 40mm case. So if you like a more compact watch, the S3 is a better route.

This watch has a nice balance of rugged durability and casual style. With khaki indices and bright white numerals, the S5 is reminiscent of military field watches from the 50s and 60s.

What I Like

  • The S5 comes with two quick release straps (which are great quality). 

  • Features a sapphire crystal, which is more scratch resistant than mineral or Hardlex. 

  • The S5 is 40mm, but the S3 is virtually the same in a 36mm package.

What I Don’t Like

  • The sapphire crystal is flat, and I prefer the domed sapphire in the C5, which is just over $200 at the time of writing. Otherwise, I would’ve included the C5 instead of the S5.

What Other Reviewers Say

Over 300 reviewers took to VAER’s site to give the S5 some feedback. And the word “functional” is mentioned often. One reviewer says this is their go-to timepiece while on patrol. Many others say they enjoy the low profile of the watch because it rarely snags or bashes into anything as they work.

The Verdict

I have to be honest. I love the VAER S5, but the VAER C5 is my favorite between the two. First, the C5 features a domed sapphire crystal (the S5 has a flat sapphire crystal, which is still great). And second, the C5 uses a custom USA-built quartz movement, rather than the Japanese quartz in the S5. 

But the C5 costs just over $200 at the time of writing, so it’s an automatic DQ. If you can spare the extra $50, I recommend the C5. 

Still, there are so many reasons why the VAER S5 belongs on this list of the best: with 100m of water resistance, two nylon quick release straps, sturdy build, handsome looks, and a scratch resistant sapphire crystal, it’s a fantastic all-around timepiece. 

And if you like the looks of the S5 but want a more compact 36mm case, check out the S3.

Best Military Inspired
VAER S5

The S5 is VAER's budget counterpart to the impressive C5. Featuring Miyota Quartz movement, a flat sapphire crystal, 100m water resistance, and a sturdy build, it offers impressive value for money.

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Best Compass: Casio G-Shock Mudman

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Remember that school experiment you had to do where you figured out how to wrap an egg so you can drop it off a building without the shell cracking? 

Well, the Casio G-Shock Mudman is the watch version of that experiment. 

The Mudman is a total tank of a watch and it’s loaded out with helpful and dynamic features that stand out in this all-star list of timepieces. 

This is the only digital watch we have on our list, and that allows for robust features like a digital compass and a moonphase calendar.

What I Like

  • This is the most durable piece on my list. It has a beefy (53mm) rubberized case with shock resistance and a sapphire crystal.

  • The Mudman runs on solar power. 

  • It has a fully functional compass in the upper left dial that stays calibrated off grid.  

What I Don’t Like

  • It’s huge. G-Shock’s are cool for outdoors, working, and adventures, but in no way are they a suave, stylish look. 

What Other Reviewers Say

The Casio G-Shock has an avid fan club because they’re so technically developed, rugged, and useful. One of the most helpful reviews I read that will give you an idea of what life with a Mudman is like goes something like this:

A plumber gave it five-stars because the Mudman stayed faithful through countless hours of conditions that would destroy most other timepieces. But a G-Shock can be a bit of a pain in tight quarters as it’s so bulky.

The Verdict

If aesthetics aren’t a priority and you just want a tank timepiece with added functions that can be a literal lifesaver on any outdoor adventure, check out the G-Shock Mudman

The Mudman features a digital compass, a solar powered movement that can last several days on one charge, and is not easy to destroy. 

Sure, the bulk and heft might be a deal breaker if you’re looking for style. But for pure function, the G-Shock Mudman is a fantastic choice.

Best Compass
Casio G-Shock Mudman G9300

A favorite among serious watch collectors, the G-Shock Mudman is as tough as it looks. It features a Twin Sensor, which includes highly effective direction and thermo sensors, making it ideal for sports and outdoor activities. As the older model, it has fewer features than the Rangeman.

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Best Automatic: Seiko 5 Automatic

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It’s rare to see any automatic watch under $200 (at least one worth buying), but if anyone can do it, it’s Seiko.

With their in-house movement, this watch can often be found under $100, and it has all the hallmark looks you’d expect from a classic field watch. 

Of all the watches on our list, the Seiko 5 is the least durable, but because it’s an automatic, it’ll keep ticking long after a quartz watch dies out.

What I Like

  • The Seiko 21-jewel self winding movement is one of a kind in that it’s fairly reliable, but still very low cost. 

  • The exhibition back is cool. 

  • The olive dial, soft canvas strap, and easy to read numerals make for a handsome and rugged style. 

What I Don’t Like

  • The Seiko 5 only has 30m of water resistance, so it’s not appropriate for swimming or even showers. 

What Other Reviewers Say

The word value came up time and time again through the reviews. Many say this is their go-to adventure watch, and I even read a few folks who did take their Seiko 5’s into the water (though I don’t recommend it). 

One issue that can occur is that the movement is far less shock resistant than other entries on this list, and a few reviewers say theirs stopped keeping correct time after a nasty accidental drop.

The Verdict

The Seiko 5 is an excellent choice if you’re in the market for a self winding automatic field watch. 

With only 30m of water resistance and less shock resistance than the other field watches on our list, the Seiko 5 is really all about that exhibition case back and for guys who love the complications of a mechanical watch. 

It’s also quite inexpensive and can regularly be found under $100. And it has the classic look of an old-school field watch. 

For me, I prioritize water resistance, durability, and long-term precision, with aesthetics second, and movement-type last, so I’d rather opt for the Citizen Eco-Drive Chandler or VAER S5, but if you only do automatics, you’ll love the Seiko 5.

Best Automatic
Seiko 5 SNK805

The Seiko 5 SNK805 is a popular field style watch that’s dependable, practical, and has a fun look that goes with any casual outfit or situation.

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Best Under $100: Timex Expedition Scout

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In my opinion, the Timex Expedition Scout is one of the most fun watches of all time. Why? 

It’s a fantastic beater watch that you can often find under $50, but it still looks great and functions well. 

Now, I should say a disclaimer: the Expedition Scout features a brass case (unlike the other options on this list, which all feature 316L stainless steel), a mineral crystal, and 50m of water resist. 

What that means is: eventually the case will corrode (like in 7-10 years), and the crystal will likely get quite scratched. And if you ever swim, at some point it’ll likely get fogged up. But for a sub-$50 watch, you can have some awesome adventures with it.

The way I use my field watches, my guess is that I’d get two or three solid years of use from the Timex Expedition Scout before one of the three issues above took hold. For the price, I definitely think that’s worthwhile—to have a watch that looks cool, but you’re not worried about babying: that’s freedom.

What I Like

  • The Timex Expedition Scout is very affordable.

  • It has a classic military styling that looks handsome, plus there are a ton of different case and dial combos. 

  • Indiglo backlighting is decent and helps with night reading. 

What I Don’t Like

  • I don’t think the Expedition Scout can last much longer than 2-3 years before giving out under semi-rugged (every few weekends) conditions. 

What Other Reviewers Say

There are tens of thousands of reviews for the Timex Expedition Scout to scour through on the web. This watch attracts folks from all walks of life—those looking for a bargain, those looking for an inexpensive watch to thrash at their jobs, and some just looking for a manly style. 

Every so often, these ship with QC issues, but if you shop through a retailer like Amazon, you’ll notice the defect within days and can return your watch. But those experiences seem to be few and far between. 

Mostly, people are rewarded with a very affordable timepiece that they don’t have to worry about babying too much and can take on the rigors of life with.

The Verdict

The Timex Expedition Scout is a fun watch. Because of its lower price, there’s less pressure to keep it pristine. 

I used to do a lot of home brewing with an Expedition Scout on my wrist. Yes, the crystal got quite scratched and the brass case started to pit and corrode in certain areas. Eventually water from washing the huge boiler kettle seeped into the crystal and my Timex was kaput. 

But did I get my money’s worth? Heck yes.

Best Under $100
Timex Expedition Scout

This solar watch is perfect for the casual outdoor enthusiast who wants an attractive watch that can take a little wear and tear. The case is 40mm in diameter which will fit all but the smallest wrists and is made of brass, which should age nicely. 

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3 Essential Characteristics of a Wrist-Worthy Field Watch

Durability

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A good field watch needs to be durable. There’s no other way around it. Let’s just take a simple family camping trip for example:

If you’re the man of the house, there’s a good chance you’ll be chopping the wood, dealing with all sorts of mallets and zippers, hiking through the forest, potentially saving your loved ones from falling off rocks, and whatever else comes at you while out in the wilderness.

Even a simple laid back family vacation can be tough on a watch. Field watches are meant to be rugged and durable. I know aesthetics are important (because who doesn’t want to have a cool looking watch on the campground), but I’d never sacrifice durability for looks. That’s what dress watches are for. 

Vaer d5 dive watch next to river

The size of your watch can actually determine a lot about the long term durability. I actually prefer smaller watches like the Citizen Eco-Drive Chandler because the 36mm diameter means I’m smashing my watch into fewer things. That helps a lot. 

It also helps to have a scratch resistant crystal like sapphire, and the movement should have some shock resistance, too. You don’t want to drop your timepiece and find it’s no longer keeping time well. 

Best Solar
Citizen Chandler Eco-Drive

One of our favorite looking Citizen watches is also out to help the environment. The brand's Eco-Drive range removed over 100 million lithium batteries from dumps in the US alone.

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Water Resistance

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Water resistance is an under-rated factor for many guys I speak with when looking through field watches. Maybe they think because they’re getting a field watch for camping or hiking, they won’t be needing it in the water. 

But for me, if I’m ever hiking near a river, I’m just waiting to find the perfect swimming hole to jump into. And the best camping trips always include a good day of kayaking. 

You never know when you’re going to want to jump in the water, or when you might need to submerge your hands to grab something. 

To me, the best field watches have at least 100m of water resistance. That’s enough protection to where I never need to worry about fogging up the glass, and I can wear my timepiece with confidence. 

X-Factor

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Each field watch on this list has something unique about it. The Citizen has a solar movement that keeps chugging. The VAER S5 has a durable sapphire crystal and several case sizes. The Mudman is a total tank with a compass. The Seiko 5 is automatic. And the Timex is dirt-cheap.

There’s a use-case for all of these different functions, and that’s what makes each of these timepieces unique. 

All too often, I find field watches that mimic other popular models, or just have basic functions. 

Because your field watch will see a lot of use (probably of the most fun variety, too), it should have a certain x-factor. And that little je ne sais quoi should be defined by your lifestyle. 

Vaer c3 denim aesthetic

Want a solid watch that requires virtually no upkeep? Get the Citizen Eco-Drive. 

Want a handsome timepiece that you can bang up but still depend on for years and years? Get the VAER S5. 

You get the point. 

Into the Field

The most fun thing about buying a field watch is actually getting to use it. 

So what are you going to use your field watch for? Can I make a suggestion?

Camping trip, kayak, hot dogs over the campfire. 

FAQs

What are field watches for?

Field watches are made for rugged use. Often, they feature lume for nighttime readability and plenty of water resistance for water activities. Field watches are ideal for fishing, camping, tough working conditions like construction, and any other activity where durability is important.

Why do Marines wear their watch backwards?

Marines wear their watches facing inward because the watch crystal can sometimes create a sun-flair and give their position away.

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