What are the regulations to look for when buying military or special ops watches?

What are the regulations to look for when buying military or special ops watches?

The American military and special forces are amongst some of the most exceptionally trained and bravest men and women on the planet and will have to ensure that they represent their squad with pride and precision at all times. As you would expect from such a well-oiled machine as the American military, there are plenty of regulations in place that dictate the sort of timepieces (and, indeed, other accessories) that they can possess when heading into the field. But what are these regulations and which do you need to be aware of when purchasing a new special ops watch?


Well, that’s where we come in. At MTM, we’re one of the biggest and most well-regarded American watchmakers for those in active service and we pride ourselves on offering the sort of timepieces that excel in any and every environmental condition, terrain or battle scenario. Our watches can be found on the wrists of everything from firefighters through to elite special forces operatives and this is testament to the quality of our wares. We’re only too aware that the military have a strict set of guidelines which those who enlist are expected to adhere to when wearing a watch in battle and knowing what these are will help you in deciding which is the right military watch for you.




There is a certain section of the army’s code of standards, namely section AR 670-1 to be precise, which lays out what is expected of their soldiers with regard to watches and jewellery in general. This paragraph states, “Soldiers may wear a wristwatch, a wrist religious or identification bracelet, and a total of two rings (a wedding set is considered one ring) with Army uniforms, unless prohibited by the commander for safety or health reasons. Soldiers may also wear one activity tracker, pedometer, or heart rate monitor. Any jewelry or monitors Soldiers wear while in uniform or civilian clothes on duty must be conservative. Bracelets are limited to medical alert bracelets, missing in action, prisoner of war, killed in action (black or silver color only), and religious bracelets similar in size and appearance to identification bracelets. Soldiers are authorized to wear only one item on each wrist while in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty. In addition to the one item (watch or identification bracelet) authorized to be worn on each wrist, Soldiers may wear an activity tracker, pedometer, or heart rate monitor.


Whilst the above does explicitly explain what is acceptable for today’s military in terms of what they can wear during active service, it doesn’t quite delve into the intricacies of watches and what is generally considered acceptable for battle. Essentially, wristwatches are allowed when in one’s uniform (unless prohibited by the commander for health/safety reasons) and, if your commanding officer does not permit wrist watches for any reason other than health/safety, then they are still not allowed.


When picking a military watch, it is implied that you should pick something that is more on the conservative / understated side because it is in keeping with the more conservative nature of the military as a whole. The guidelines found in AR 670-1 have this to say about soldiers adopting a conservative approach:


A vital ingredient of the Army’s strength and military effectiveness is the pride and self-discipline that American Soldiers bring to their Service through a conservative military image. It is the responsibility of commanders to ensure that military personnel under their command present a neat and soldierly appearance. Therefore, in the absence of specific procedures or guidelines, commanders must determine a Soldier’s compliance with standards in this regulation.


So, put simply, you need to make sure that any commanding officer is likely to approve of your choice of special ops / military watch and, in doing so, it’s wise to opt for robust, understated timepieces that don’t have any superfluous additions to their design and focus purely on delivering an unwavering performance out in the field.



What About Size & Color?


It goes without saying that watches come in all sizes and colorways but, in order to be approved by military personnel, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution in both these design details. As a general rule of thumb (for men) in the military forces, you should actively avoid wearing watches that are either too large (larger than 50mm) because that’s frankly pretty ostentatious and will draw plenty of unwanted attention or too small (smaller than 33mm) because, at this size, they’re not really fit for purpose of being easily legible in the heat of a battle.


So far as color is concerned, it is pretty obvious that those carried out special forces missions are going to need to avoid vibrantly colored timepieces because this will catch the eye in all the wrong sorts of ways. There are no official stipulations about what color watches are acceptable for battle but there is one general assumption; namely, if it blends in GOOD, if it stands out BAD. You can use your common sense here when picking a special ops watch because you know black, grey or dark colored dials are much more likely to blend in their surroundings than a bright orange one and that’s something you should definitely think about before committing to a purchase.


Which Watch Brand?


Well, of course, we’re going to say that our special ops watches are the best fit for military personnel and they are extremely popular with armed forces the world over but we understand that those in the army have a lot of different brands to choose from when it comes to adorning their wrist for battle. Generally, some of the safest bets for military watches in terms of both aesthetics and performance are the likes of G-Shocks, Casio and Timex watches. But these are not your only choices and if you prefer to be a shepherd rather than a sheep, you’ll find plenty of great options in our lineup of military-inspired timepieces.

Whichever watch you choose when heading into the field of battle, you’ll just want to make sure that it offers reliability under pressure, a precise performance day in, day out and looks just as good on your wrist in formation as it does in the bar back home and we can safely say that all our special ops watches do exactly that here at MTM.