Six Wristwatches for Survivalists, by Pat Cascio

I’ve always been a real stickler for being on-time, for everything – and I’ve been wearing a watch since I was a child. I believe I can count on one hand, the number of times I’ve ever been late for work, and at that, there was usually a good reason for being late. At that, my tardiness was only a few minutes being late from my scheduled starting time, with one exception. Back in 1976, I was briefly driving a dump truck for a living. The prior evening, some buddies and I went out drinking – I stopped drinking shortly after this and haven’t touched a drop since then. Anyway, we tied on a good one and I overslept, and it wasn’t until my boss called and woke me up – I was late that morning by more than an hour.

With reference to the above, I became a born again Christian, on August 17, 1977, and I stopped drinking immediately that very day – and never looked back. I didn’t have to go through any rehab programs or anything like that – it was simply the power of the Lord, that gave me the strength to stop drinking. My short testimony, if you will.

I couldn’t tell you the number of different watches I’ve owned over the years. However some were cheap models, and some – some of my current watches – are more expensive versions. Back in the say, I often wore a Timex – the old television commercials would say: “They take a lickin’ and keep on tickin…” And, to be sure, there were and still are decent watches.

If you’ll look at the photo at the top of this article, you will six different watches pictured. They are: Casio (no relation and spelled differently than my family name) a Pro Trek, followed by a Luminox, Seiko, another Casio, Swiss Army and lastly, an old no-name military-style watch. Prices range from $400 down to $10 – depends on what your bank account can handle and your needs.

Casio Pro Trek

Starting with the Pro Trek, this one is made by Casio, and it has all the bells and whistles you’ll ever need and more. Of course, it tells time, however you can have it with a 12-hour civilian time showing or the 24-hour military time. It is “water-resistant” down to 200-feet – no one any longer claims that their watches are “waterproof”. This watch also gives you the day and month – but it can also show the year if you desire that. It also will give you the ambient air temperature – however, you need to remove it from your wrist for a brief period of time, so it doesn’t give you body temperature. It has a digital compass, that works quite well, too. There is a stopwatch, plus a barometric pressure function. And an altimeter to let you know your elevation. You can tell sun-up and sun-down times, for your area. A countdown timer that could be handy on military operations. An alarm – however, it is high pitched and out of my hearing range. I can also call up the time in different time zones around the world. It comes with a military green tough polymer wrist band to keep the watch fastened to your wrist. It also has illumination so when it is dark, you can see the time. Lastly, it is driven by a solar battery.

Casio claims that the Pro Trek’s battery will hold a charge for approximately seven months. But of course that depends on how often you use some of the functions, especially the backlight. What I do is, when I take this watch off, is place it under the lamp on my end table, and it keeps the watch fully charged.

I can’t remember all the functions that this watch has, and I’ve only memorized the ones I’ll use most often – but there are times, when I forget how to access a particular function  — so it is back to the thick owner’s manual. So, this is a bit of a negative in some respects. If I were back in the military, doing different types of operations, this would be my watch of choice. It’s important to know things like direction you are traveling and this watch seems to be dead-on when used next to a military compass. And with the elevation function, it could help determine if you are where you need to be, when compared to a topographical map. The alarm setting – won’t work in my case, however, it will work for most users, if you have to wake-up at a certain time, or use the count down feature, if you have to rendezvous at a certain time or launch an op at a certain time.

This watch cost me close to $400 and worth every penny of it – and as I stated, it does more things than I would really have a use for. Plus, it is a big watch, and its easy to read the face of it without my reading glasses.


Next up is the Luminox watch, and this one has been very popular with US Navy SEALs as well as many other SpecOps units, plus many FBI agents and other federal law enforcement personnel love it. My model has a black face, but the numerals are blue, and the numbers on the bezel face are blue. You can have this one with an orange face and numerals. There are small “hash” marks around each number and on the watch hands – yes, it has hands instead of being digital. These hash marks don’t exactly “glow” per se, however, in the lowest light you can see them. They use tiny vials filled with tritium gas. The half-life of tritium is 11.2 years, so these markings are rated to still be useful after 25 years. (Still about one-quarter of their original brightness.) This watch is made in Switzerland – known for high quality timepieces. The watchband is a tough black polymer and should last for many years. Now, there is nothing “fancy” at all about this watch – it only tells time and give you the day of the month – and you have to manually change this with months that have less than 31-days in them. Not a deal-breaker at all. Plus, it is water-resistant down to 200-feet. For everyday wear, in civilian or military life, this would be my first choice to have on my wrist. It is super accurate thus far, and I’ve had it a year. Battery life is about four years.


Next up is my Seiko, and this one is made in Japan. I can’t remember which model this one is, because Seiko makes so many different models, but this one cost me $325. It came with a leather watchband, but slick leather on the underside. However, this caused this watch to slide around my wrist even when it was tight on my wrist. Once again, we have a watch that tells time – accurately – as well as giving you the day of the month, that once again, you must manually change on months that have less than 31-days. There is also an alarm feature – that I can’t hear. And, we have a stopwatch timer. This watch is water-resistant down to 200-feet as well. Another outstanding choice in a good watch if you ask me. I keep the large second hand in the “stop” position, so it doesn’t use up valuable battery life – once again, this one is solar-powered, and on a full charge, will last about 6-months. On this particular watch it started losing time – didn’t know what the problem was. It wasn’t getting enough sunlight  darn it! A local jeweler told me to place it under a lamp for 7-days and it would fully charge up again. And, when I’m not wearing this watch it is next to the Pro Trek on my end table under a lamp – getting and staying charged.

Lower-End Casio

Next, we are looking at my older Casio. – the battery is presently running down – and there are no local jewelry stores open tocan replace the battery. So, this watch is losing time – I don’t wear it. It takes a special “press” to replace the back on the watch when you have the battery replaced. There is a rubber seal on the watch, and this is what keeps the watches water-resistant. This watch keeps time and gives you the day and date at a glance. There is also an alarm feature – once again, of no use to me – it is out of my hearing range. I paid $100 for this model, and I’ve had it more than 20 years. The battery life is about 6-7 years, then it needs replacing. I’m waiting for jewelry stores to re-open so I can replace the battery.

Swiss Army

My Swiss Army watch is next – and I’ve had this one for more than 20 years, as well. There are two companies that officially make Swiss Army knives and watches and I don’t know which one made this model.  Nothing fancy here, just tells time and gives you the date – again, change the date if the month has less than 31-days in it. It was water-resistant down to 200-feet. I like the black face – military looking, and the phosphorescent numerals and hands glow at night, if you expose them to a light source. This is my second watch band on it – and this one is Nylon/leather and is strong – just a great everyday watch…this one cost me $140 and was worth it, too. I’m waiting for jewelry stores to open once again, so they can replace the battery – it is stone cold dead.

No Name and Bare Bones

The last pictured is my cheapest watch, and it only tells time – nothing more. I paid $10 for it – and I’ve owned it more than 20 years. If you want a bare-bones timepiece, it’s hard to beat this one. However, it is not water-resistant. Secondly, it takes a very tiny battery – that you can replace yourself – because it is not water-resistant in the least. And, the watchband – is cheap – but the darn thing has been keeping time for a lot of years. The battery only lasts about 5-6 months – so that’s something to think about if you don’t want to replace it frequently. Batteries are about $4 each – and the watch was only ten bucks.


To me, in my senior years, I enjoy fine timepieces, so I can usually be seen with one of my more expensive watches on my wrist and people ask about them all the time – like what do they do and how much did they cost me. It just depends on your budget, and what features you are looking for in a wristwatch. Of course, these days, many people depend on their cell phones to know what time it is, But as for me, I’m old fashioned and just watch to look at my watch to know what time it is. And I usually know the date so I rarely look at my watches for this feature.


  1. Timex T42571, bombproof, tells time, date, indiglo, 50m resistant, analog for direction finding, battery has lasted a decade, and highlights my eyes. $30

    ($400 for a watch or $330 for a Ruger American 30-06 at CDNN Sports?)

    1. A wristwatch on your wrist can never be lost out of the pocket. A quality wristwatch like the Garmin Tactix series or Rolex last and last. In the case of Rolex, for generations.

      1. I just bought the Garmin Tactix Delta Solar. It’s was pricey but oh boy what a watch! This will last a lifetime and combined with a small portable solar charger and battery (Goal Zero Nomad), I can literally go forever; unless an EMP interrupts that. Lol

    2. Yeah Seth, I always enjoy watching a new firefighter with the department try to take blood pressure and heart rate with a digital watch. It’s nearly impossible. I can do both with a chronograph. A watch that has hands on it. Respiration too. I blame the education system.

    3. A watch or clock is needed for measuring interval time, if the power grid goes down. For instance: it’s easier to cook with a time piece around. People should have a pressure cooker from an advertiser here at SurvivalBlog. [It will pay for itself currently during good times]

      It’s impossible to open a pressure cooker for a quick look to see how the food is cooking. There’s other uses for clock. Much easier than 1001, 1002, 1003 … keep counting for as long as needed.

  2. Bought a Rolex GMT at the Camp Casey,Korea PX in 1977.$450 on lay a way. Ate ramen noodles and kimchi for months to pay it off. Been on my wrist everyday since, except for several cleanings. Called and adjusted artillery in first Gulf War with it. No batteries, uses wrist movements to stay wound.

    1. Glyn…
      Got a kick the first time I saw Kimchi being served with bacon/eggs/hashbrowns at breakfast (every meal for that matter). Still have some ROK freeze dried rations and Kimchi is in every meal.
      I eat Ramen and Kimchi on a regular basis. (add some canned chicken or tuna, some frozen peas, some diced onions and soy sauce broth… Love’it)

        1. I get my Kimchi at just about any supermarket (Walmart in my town). It’s in produce dept. where they have the chilled salad dressings and salsas and such. Not as good as ROK but still mighty tasty. (look for it in jars)

  3. There are wind up watches out there, I got tired of the battery going dead while I was trying keep up with the shipping schedule at work. Not being dependent on batteries could be very important in a grid down scenario.

  4. The G-Shock is a very popular field watch because its tough and waterproof. I had a Triple Pathfinder years ago that sounds like your Pro Trek. The altimeter, temperature, and compass functions never worked properly, couldn’t zero them. Too bad.
    I wear a Seiko dive watch everyday now, about 250$. Solid, waterproof, good lumes.

  5. I have several solar powered watches, a couple battery operated ones, but phasing out the later for automatic ones. Senior citizens aren’t working as hard as I did in the past, but enough to keep the automatics going, 71 years young.

  6. I too hate being late! I instilled in my children, from an early age, “it’s better to be an hour early than a minute late”.
    Have been wearing Timex “Expedition Indiglos” for 20 plus years now, maybe longer. I think I’ve had 3 in that time. The price has gone up since then from $29 to $40. No doubt they’re made west of Japan. They tell time accurately enough for me. Have owned several Casio’s (G-Shocks), good watch (and I do like the self winding / solar feature very much) but more functions than I needed and they didn’t have the ‘Indiglo’ or any backlighting function that I remember. The Indiglo is/was great for signalling to other team members, especially after crossing a danger area (road/trail). Still wear one every day (and the only danger area I cross now is the road in front of my house to go the mailbox and get the paper…lol)

    Went on a mission to Thailand about a lifetime ago, made a deal with the DW that I was going to go to Venus Jewlers in Bangkok (after the mission) and buy a Rolex Submariner and I’d do dishes for a year or something like that… but once there, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on a $4000 watch (probably a discount of $2k+-, but still…) so I bought several gold (BAHT) chains instead. Gold was around $300 oz. then (if my feeble memory serves me well). Still have the chains and gold is around what… pushing $2k oz? (I will admit though that a Submariner is probably around $26K now, yes, that’s right, twenty six thousand USdollars….Whew!)
    Both the gold and the Rolex are good investments but in hard times the gold is easier to sell / barter with.

    I’ll stick with my Timex, BAHT chain(s) and more Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids from the money I saved. (I think I still did the dishes for a year…)

  7. Digital Watches with analog hands (stepper motors) can be disabled by magnetic fields (EMP, Carrington Event) unless they are shielded by a copper ring a la the old Cabot watch of the British military. Cell phones are similarly vulnerable to EMP due to their antennas.

    Watches with LCD displays are not vulnerable unless they have a digital compass (antenna to pick up magnetic fields) like the Protrek.

    For this reason, I prefer the basic Casio G-Shock (roughly $50-60 at Walmart, Target).

    If you don’t use the alarms and display light every day the Casio Gshocks can go for years on a battery. Their lithium batteries now have a shelf life of 10 years and are easy to replace (you have to reboot the watch by pressing a pin into a small hole).

    15 years after a TEOTWAWKI event, digital watches would probably be dead but most mechanical watches are too inaccurate to use for celestial navigation on land or sea. A possible exception might be chronometer watches mounted on springs in a metal box (to shield against magnetism). Note that you would need tools to dismantle, clean and oil a mechanical watch roughly every 5 years and chronometer watches are no where near as accurate/precise as actual marine chronometers. Every 4 second error in timekeeping gives a 1 nautical mile error in location at the equator, possibly less (1/2 nautical mile?) at middle latitudes.

    1. There’s a reason Navy captains carried 2 chronometer. Knowing that both would be a little off, the took the average of the 2 readings.

      Solar tables work for calibration, “syncronize your watches, and after TEOTWAWKI, millisecond precision will likely be guilding the lily.

  8. The Seiko 5, which is an automatic, seems to hold great time for about one to two years. After that they seem to get a little sluggish and start to loose time a very little bit. I general can milk about 3 to 5 years out of them. The ones I get have a canvas band and used to run about $90. I guess they are now up to about $110 now. I am on my 4th one I think now. For me the lack of battery or electronics is a plus. I never have to do anything to them, and just use them until their loss of time become too noticeable before replacing them.

  9. PS note that mechanical watches can be disabled by magnetic fields also (EMP, CME, electronic gear like cell phones,etc). Usually their springs can be demagnetized by watch repairers but all the demagnetizers I’ve seen work off of AC power outlets.

  10. Consider whether you want to include a full mechanical watch or a self-winding mechanical watch in your personal wristwatch collection.

    On a daily wear basis I favor the mechanicals from Country Comm as they are decent price-point watches if you watch for their sales, and largely unbranded. Yet these watches are built on good mechanisms.

    On self-winders, be careful as some are electro-mechanical self-winders, generating power for an internal battery or super-capacitor. If your preparedness includes EMP awareness, these types of self-winders might not be what you want.

    On mechanical self-winders you do have to have have enough motion to effect a useful wind. Hunkered down in a gilly-suit on watch duty for a double shift, then taking your watch off setting it aside when you do your daily exercises won’t keep it powered up.

    Don’t forget about pocket watches. Among my timekeeping stash is a 1800’s railroad watch from my Great-Grandfather which I had fully serviced and regulated. I also keep a few inexpensive battery pocket watches in my stash.

    If you budget allows there are no-intervention-needed mantel timepieces, like the Atmos, but while admiring these I do not have one.

    If precise timekeeping is important, the GPS reference time and WWV radio signal time are useful, provided both systems are up.

    For relative time (time measured against device start) perhaps a Rubidium Reference unit, like some cell towers once had, could be useful. That is if you have power for it.

  11. I bought a Seiko automatic (we used to call them “self-winding”) around 2 years ago. I too am older, so I appreciate the large face that I can read without my glasses. The dial is luminous, so I can see it in the dark interior of my deer blind and other dark places.

    I make my own paracord watchbands. I started when I lived in the desert southwest, because metal watchbands were just too warm. I use 440 paracord and strip the inner strands from the cord. This allows the cord to flatten and fit under the watch pins. With this large watch I make a “King Cobra” style band, but my previous watch was smaller and was fine with a single “Cobra” band. I like these bands because they’re cool on my wrist, they’re lightweight, they’re inexpensive, and I can change the colors seasonally. You can find instructions for making them on YouTube (of course).

  12. As a reminder you often can replace watch batteries yourself.

    Simply hobbyist grade tools are available, as are batteries. Ditto for the special O-rings for backs and the grease used for watches.

    Stored a refrigerator temperatures you can put a lot of the gradual decay from storage off until you lose the ability to refrigerate.

    For those watches with military straps, and for your absolute favorites, you might want to set aside a spare band or two, and some of the pins that hold the bands.

    Being able to adjust a link-type band is another useful skill to have. Likely you will need to pull out extra length from a band if you start losing weight in changing situations. Otherwise you can build up part of the band with cloth or cord, basically filling in for the reduced wrist circumference from your weight loss.

    For many quality repairable watches you can buy spares, like an extra crystal and winding stem, though doing the repairs might be what you are up to doing.

    Having the spares, including replacement bands/pins, might make a difference in a longer term situation between your $300-400 self-winder being a maintainable tool or just another throw away if damaged.

  13. CItizen Eco-Drive watches never need batteries: they recharge themselves. List prices start around $200, but they are often available at a discount. My wife and I have used them exclusively for years with complete satisfaction.

      1. Nailed it! I’ve been wearing my Citizen Eco-Drive solar powered watch for 5 years straight EVERYDAY with no need to charge. It’s keeping accurate time and I swim with it in fresh water (not the ocean) down to 15-20 feet with NO PROBLEMS – EVER.

    1. The question is –how long with the power storage cell in the Eco-Drive last?

      Supposedly Citizen used to say 20-40 years but I can’t find that statement on their web site.

      Their warranty is for only 5 years and the power cell is EXCLUDED from that warranty.

      Watch forum posts suggest 15-20 years — and one owner said his was working after 14 years — but I haven’t seen hard data.

  14. The “bare bones” models used to actually be property book items in the Army. I remember as a young company commander (I had the privilege to serve over 25 years as a commissioned officer in a Reserve Component of the US Army) having to inventory the things (over 150 of them, enough to issue to every Soldier in the company) and the joy I felt when we we able to turn them in.

    My personal favorite is the Timex Ironman Expedition. It lasts several years, has all the features I need, is a reasonable price, and can take some punishment.

    As to EMP, there’s a significant question on whether small items like watches would even be affected by an EMP, considering that they lack any lengthy antennas or wiring to facilitate the propagation of such a pulse. The only direct effects we’re reasonably certain of is that it would, at a minimum, significantly degrade the power distribution and telecommunication systems. Of course, this would create a lot of secondary and tertiary effects, but that’s another discussion. To my knowledge, there’s been little consistent research on the effect that an EMP or GMD would have on small electronics that are not connected to the grid.

    1. I think that the vulnerability of watches to EMP is due to strong magnetic fields arising in nearby conductors — power lines etc — not to direct induction in the watch itself (except possibly to those with antenna to pick up time signals — the Atomic timekeeping feature — and maybe those with digital compasses built in.)

      The vulnerability of watches to magnetism has been long known for over 150 years. (scroll to bottom)

    2. I think the EMP scenario in relation to watches is pretty interesting.

      If an EMP happens and it impacts my watch, I know what time it is. It’s TEOTWAWKI TIME!

  15. Swiss Army is down to one manufacturer now, that being Victorinox. They purchased their competitor Wenger (knife & watches both, too) a few years back. Now they integrate both knife and watch designs into hybrids of both while still doing the old reliable models. I do own about 10 Citizen Eco Drives and a few solar powered Seikos. In my estimation the Japanese watches are far better in reliability, durability and overall longevity over the Swiss counterparts. Its kind of like touting Harley Davidson as being high quality motorcycles, where I say they are junk compared to Japanese who actually perfect a true V twin engine. Maybe I am wrong.

  16. It is a tech watch but I recently purchased the Garmin Fenix 5plus. I like the built in topo maps. It has to be charged and any USB style charging device will work. EMP might be a threat but if that happens I don’t think my watch will be the biggest concern.

  17. I have a Casio analog watch that I love but when the band broke the company refused to tell me how to change it, they said it was “confidential proprietary information” and I’d have to send it in! To change the band?! I had a clerk at the jewelry counter at Kohl’s take a look at it and they couldn’t figure it out either. I ended up buying a cheaper Casio at Wal Mart, digital with other features I don’t use. One day my wife and I were in a store and an older lady asked me what time it was, I looked at my watch and told her and she said, “it’s nice to see a man wearing a watch and not having to look at his phone for the time!”

    I’ve always wanted to get a pocket watch but don’t know if I can get anymore cr*p into my pockets!

  18. Bought a Rolex GMTMaster at age 22. Cleaned and regulated one time. I am 70 now. What a bargain and totally EMP resistant.

    I now wear a Garmin Charlie Tactix for exercise monitoring and the Rolex is in the safe. The Tactic is a marvelous timepiece with many apps available.

  19. I’ve always had a problem with battery wristwatches, the batteries die very quickly – must be my magnetic personality. I’ve had better luck with fob watches you hang on your belt loop, but they are cheap and for the last few years I haven’t been able to find one. Last year I bought a Casio solar analog watch on clearance at wally world for $25. It has been working just fine for me so far.

  20. I sometimes get asked what time it is by a complete stranger. Since I wear a watch I check it and avoid using both hands to fumble with a smart phone. I always thought it best to keep my non watch hand close to my firearm in case this was a ruse to get both hands out of the way. My dinosaur watch looks good on the dinosaur that wears it. Thanks for the great article.

  21. My Seiko Automatic Diver has the best illumination of any watch I’ve owned, bar none, that includes my 1st gen Indiglo Timex. Don’t forget, analog is easier to read at a glance, from odd angles, bad lighting, etc. T’s why I gave up digitalis long ago. I too tried the Casio Triple Sensor, noticed the compass was always wrong, quit wearing it, as the light was archaic, display was digital, and I can predict weather without a barometer.

    My Citizen Eco Drive atomic works, but the display is kinda busy. Accuracy is excellent despite lousy reception on WWV. Some of which is due to my working nights in a machine shop. The watch checks wwv in the wee hours, while I’m inside a sheet steel and reinforced concrete box.

  22. I suggest this: Timex Men’s T49851 Expedition Vibrating Alarm Black Resin Strap Watch. It has a vibrating alarm, which is useful for (a) no sound to alert others and (b) folks with a hearing deficit.

    Had one 3 years with no issues.

    100-hour chronograph; 24-hour countdown timer; 3 vibrating & audible daily alarms
    24-hour military time mode; 3 time zones; occasion reminders; hydration timer; calendar
    Black 43 millimeter resin case with acrylic lens; gray digital display; Indiglo light-up watch dial
    Water-resistant to 100 meter (330 feet): In general, suitable for snorkeling, as well as swimming, but not diving

  23. I used to buy the cheapies, until I got tired of replacing them. I bought a Wenger Titanium Swiss Army, that set me back a few hundred dollars. Though I had something that would last. Nope, battery died within the year and before I could get the battery replaced the number 3 fell off. Supposedly Swiss made, but when I got the back off it said made in China inside of the back. Looks like I got a counterfeit.

    I then bought a Citizen Echo Drive. Plain old Stainless model and like one of Pat’s you have to adjust the day of the month manually at a new month. It was $250 or so and Citizen has even fancier Echo Drives. It is a battery driven analog watch, but it has a solar panel that keeps it charged even in inside ambient light. I wanted analog to be able to navigate by the sun if necessary and it good in the water to 100 Meters and not have to screw with batteries. I considered the self winding type watches that wind with wrist movement, but I don’t wear it every day. I work from home and don’t go out every day, in fact I stay in for days at a time, so it can sit on the dresser for extended periods.

    Anyhow my 2 cents.

  24. I break a wristwatch every few months. Doesn’t matter whether its a good watch, a bad watch, a cheap one, an expensive one. I wear them. I break them. I -try- not to abuse them, but I wear them doing drudge work, so they always end up in harm’s way. So I now invest in a $10 cheap watch every six months because I got sick of replacing $300 Seiko’s.

    Always get a watch with HANDS, including one which counts the seconds. Not only can you use it to take a pulse, but if you ever get lost in the woods, it makes a crude compass.

  25. Totally agree with Randy, John & others, if you want a watch to work without having to change a battery buy the Citizen Eco-drive. Mine is about 10 years old and still works, changed the band a few times… Loved Muddykid’s reply..LOL

  26. This is not necessarily a recommendation, because Manufacturing contracts are always changing. At the lower end, brand-name means little. However, I found a Fossil watch on the side of the road in 1997. After posting a “found” ad in my neighborhood, with no response, I decided to keep it. Been wearing it daily since. Now on my 3rd battery. About 10 years ago, I sent it back to Fossil for a battery, and they replaced the scratched crystal! It’s my best watch ever (except maybe my first watch, a Timex, that was given to me by my dad when I was 6!

  27. I applaud you being sober and a Christian. I have been too since 2002 and am very grateful for escaping. People reading this think sober Christians are weird or cultish but it is the most freeing thing you can do, and you can do it!
    Good Luck.

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