Tactical smartwatches are modern timepieces especially designed for the use of military men and women in extreme conditions.
Because they are tough and dependable, tactical smartwatches are also popular with extreme sports enthusiasts and anyone who needs a reliable watch that can stand up to considerable physical abuse.
You will probably want a tactical smartwatch that has been MIL-STD-810 certified. This certification means that the smartwatch has been tested by the Military Testing Lab and found to be field-ready.
Smartwatches with MIL-STD-810 certification have been shown to be rugged enough to stand up to battlefield conditions of heat, cold, vibration, dust, sand, and shock.
The Military Testing Lab puts smartwatches through 28 tests to make sure they are dependable for use in combat. And if they are suitable for use under field conditions, they will stand up in just about any non-military situation, too.
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Garmin Tactix Delta Solar with Ballistics Calculator
When you are deployed to the field, you can’t afford for your smartwatch battery to go out. The Garmin Tactix Delta Solar tactical smartwatch comes with solar charging that extends its battery life.
And it passes and surpasses its MIL-STD-810 certification with a range of advanced features:
- Preset ballistic calculations for over 1200 different bullets.
- Stealth mode, temporarily disabling GPS and wireless connectivity.
- Jump mode, for use when parachuting.
- Kill switch that allows the user to delete all data.
- Night vision mode, keeping the watch visible when the user is wearing night vision goggles.
If you are going into a hot zone, the Garmin Tactix Delta Solar smartwatch with ballistics calculator is a great watch to take with you. Its only drawback is the price, generally $1299 to $1599.
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar – Tactical Edition
Like the Garmin Tactix Delta Solar, but can’t quite go for the $1599 price? The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar – Tactical Edition has a lot of the same features, including stealth mode, night vision, tactical activity, jumpmaster, and a user-activated kill switch.
Compared to the more expensive model, however, this Garmin smartwatch has one glaring deficiency: It is not military-certified. What it lacks in durability it makes up for in a great array of sports-related utilities designed to work with its body monitor.
Amazfit T-Rex Pro
At the other end of the price range for MIL-STD-810 certified smartwatches, you will find the Amazfit T-Rex Pro, which sometimes goes on sale for under $100. It doesn’t do ballistics calculations and it doesn’t have night vision mode, but if you are looking for a rugged sportswatch, this model is for you.
The Amazfit T-Rex Pro has 100+ sports modes. It has sleep, heart rate, and PulsOx monitors. It sometimes has a spotty Bluetooth connection, but it can take a beating and if you are into active sports, you can use it every day.
Casio G-Shock GPR B1000-1 Rangeman
If you use your smartwatch for navigation, the Casio G-Shock GPR B1000-1 Rangeman is a great choice.
The Casio G-Shock GPR B1000-1 Rangeman has a bezel that doubles as a GPS antenna.It can also sync with your phone for GPS, keeping a record of where you have been to get to where you are.
It can keep you apprised of weather conditions. It’s your thermometer, altimeter, and barometer, all rolled up into one.
This Casio smartwatch can recharge wirelessly or on solar power. It is rugged in field conditions. But it is not stylish for indoor wear, and it’s expensive— usually $2099 to $2599.
Garmin D2 Delta PX
The Garmin D2 Delta PX is designed for pilots and other aviators.
It has a 1.2-inch (30 mm) color display that shows high resolution NEXRAD weather reports and terminal forecast info when it is paired with a compatible smartphone.
It has an embedded pulsOx sensor, fly-to mapping, and storage for up to 500 tracks of music. But it is not cheap, usually about $1250.
Suunto Core Alpha
This MIL-STD-810 certified tactical smartwatch doesn’t have smartphone or Bluetooth connectivity, but it has sturdy construction and all the “core” functionality you are likely to be looking for:
- Storm alarm
- Sunrise/sunset times
- Depth meter for snorkeling
- Battery you can replace yourself
- Night-vision goggle compatible display to keep you unnoticed when hunting
One major issue: When you change the battery, you need to change the gaskets, too. Otherwise your watch will cease to be waterproof.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is not military certified, and it does not stand up to extreme conditions, but it can stand in for a more expensive tactical smartwatch in a pinch.
This smartwatch has an accelerometer, barometer, geomagnetic sensor, gyro sensor, and heart rate monitor. Its GPS functions work with A-GPS, Beidou, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite systems, basically anywhere with a good GPS signal. It’s not designed for heavy use, but it can be invaluable for navigation.
What Do You Need to Consider When Buying a Tactical Smartwatch?
Every tactical smartwatch needs to be durable, preferably with a MIL-STD-810 certification. All other things being equal, you are more likely to get good durability from a well-known brand than from a brand you have never heard of.
The main advantage of a tactical smartwatch over its mechanical cousins is its usefulness in navigation. You may not need GPS and Bluetooth connectivity, but if you are working from an old-fashioned map, you will still need the altimeter, barometer, and digital compass.
Battery life is another critical consideration. Solar charging is great in a pinch, but your best bet could be with a battery you replace once a year.
Finally, don’t forget to make sure you can get your smartwatch to a repair and service center without international shipping. Consider how easily you can get your smartwatch repaired or get replacement parts for it.
These are our seven recommendations for the best tactical smartwatches on the market, with choices for every budget and a range of uses. If you don’t see the watch you need on this list, consider our other lists of great smartwatches.