Exploring The Best Survival Watches

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: July 2, 2019
Exploring The Best Survival Watches

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While a survival watch may seem like a quaint idea, you need to think about how tough it actually might be out in the bush or during a SHTF situation. The best survival watches are not just about telling the time or setting an alarm. These devices have a lot of different functions that make them worth considering as part of your preps.


Survival watches are made from a variety of materials. Paracord is popular because it is lightweight and serves another purpose if you need some easy to get to cordage.

Timing Of Medications and Tourniquets

It can actually help you get the most out of your supplies if you have a timer. Cooking food for longer than you have to for example is a waste of cooking fuel and time. If you have a stove that takes fuel you may be surprised how much better you do in terms of consumption if you pay more attention to times.

If you need to take medications or use a timer for any medical related use then a survival watch can fill that role too. Tourniquets, for example, are only meant to be left in place for so long. It is important to know how long you have a tourniquet on. Medical professionals can better assist you if you get to them and have an idea of the time you applied it.

Remember that during a SHTF scenario or medical emergency you may not have the mental faculties to have a good sense of time. When you are not on a schedule and things are happening fast it may seem like 30 minutes have passed when it has really been 10.


You don’t want a watch that cannot take a significant downpour or be submerged for a bit. What if you have to swim or your boat capsizes. Maybe you have to ford a river? Even a major storm could put a lot of water stress on your watch even if you have rain gear on. The best survival watches are waterproof.

Digital Versus Hands

Younger people are used to all digital timepieces whereas a lot of us grew up with a combination of digital and hand faces. A digital piece means you can have a smaller display in most cases. Watches with hands on them have mechanisms that are tough but they usually take a battery just like any other watch. Digital is going to be easier to find but I am going to include a few non digital options too.

Glow In The Dark

Some watches have displays that are meant to be easily read in the dark. A lot of watches have a button that allows you to illuminate the dial when you need to. This is a nice touch because you don’t have something glowing all the time that might cause unwanted attention when trying to hide out or get from point A to point B.

Price Point

Watches are less expensive for what you get than they once were. The best survival watch is not going to be hundreds of dollars, but it may be as much as over $100 depending on what you get or add to it. There are plenty in the $20 range. So if you haven’t bought a quality watch in years don’t just assume that what is coming out now is garbage just because the price has gone down so much.

WuuYe Survival Watch
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This classic watch features a paracord wristband and a convenient clip in and out release. There is a lot hidden in this band. Not only do you get a compass that is easy to read yet small enough to be comfortable, you get a whistle, fire starter scraper and flint, a whistle, and a thermometer. In a survival situation, the band can be unraveled to allow for 3 meters of paracord. The face glows in the dark so no need for a backlight.

Some of the pictures indicate that there is an alcohol prep pad and fishing gear hidden in this one but I did not see it in the main description.

BlueStraw Digital Survival Sport Watch

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If you are looking for a watch that can mix it up a bit, this is the one for you. You get three different bands that you can switch out depending on the occasion. If you are out for your morning jog then maybe you don’t want the survival grenade band on your arm?

I am impressed with how many features are packed into this watch and it is water resistant down to 30m!

While you can enjoy a compass and easy to read watch, there is also a fishing kit that includes swivels, hooks, weights, and floats. That is way more inclusive than I would expect. Thank you for a kit that includes a swivel! If you have fished much without a swivel then you will understand how frustrating it can be. It can be done but that doesn’t mean it is fun!

A whistle, firestarter, scalpel blade, alcohol prep pad, and aluminum foil are also included so this watch offers a good mix of food procurement, fire starting, and medical supplies.

JN Store Camping Watch

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This is another budget-friendly survival watch with a decent fishing kit included considering it has to fit in such a compact space. This watch only has the paracord band so if you don’t really care about the multiple bands that the previous watch has, you can save some money with this option.

While this has all the typical paracord and time reading features of your typical survival watch it also has things like safety pins for holding stuff together. While there is a fire starter and scraper there is also some tinder to get you started. The whistle can help alert others to your location or scare off wildlife if needed.

  Fanmis Mens Military Digital LED Watch

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I like the blue lighted dial on this one. I know that doesn’t mean much in a survival situation but luckily the rest of this watch seems to be solid.

This is a basic sports watch. There are no hidden fishing kits or anything like that. However, for your money, you get a watch that is water resistant for 50 m, an easy to use stopwatch, quartz movement, and a dial light that you can turn off and on as needed. A calendar is built in to help you keep track of the days.

Alarm mode and a shock resistant design make this a tough watch that you can rely on during the wettest conditions. For those that like to keep it basic, this is a watch to consider.

This watch also has the advantage of being wearable for those that have small wrists. You can adjust this timepiece to fit wrists from 6.5-9.25 inches.

Ibreathtech Paracord Wrapped Survival Watch

This watch looks a little slicker than some that I have found. The paracord bracelet has a quick off and on clasp. With this design, you get a compass, blade, fire starter, and thermometer. Of course, the paracord band can be unraveled and the cordage used for a variety of needs. I was impressed that you get 12 feet of paracord instead of the 9 feet on other watches.

If color matters then you will be glad to know that this comes in 4 different color combinations.

An emergency whistle is another bonus.

Don’t Be Tempted To Put A Survival Band On An Expensive Watch

During the course of my research, I noticed that there are a lot of survival bands for sale that claims to fit the Apple Watch or iWatch.  Okay, I know that everyone reading this may not live out in the sticks and they may have an iWatch but why would you want to take such a sensitive instrument out during a survival situation? I guess if you got caught out and had a survival band it would be better than nothing but I say that you should get a reasonably priced survival watch and leave the expensive high tech every day one in a safe place.

Adjusting Watch Size

A lot of these watches are made with a paracord band. You can undo some of the paracord and use a lighter to seal the end after reattaching the clasp end. If you don’t want to reduce the amount of paracord you have at your disposal you can always just attach the watch to your pack.

Most watches are made to fit wrists in the 7″-9″ range unless otherwise specified.

Be realistic about what any survival gadget can do.

While a watch is nice to have when other timepieces fail, the results you get from all these watches with special features and gear also depends on you. If you have never got a fire going with a good firestarter than you are probably going to have an even harder time with a basic starter like those on the watch bands.

If you really want to be confident with any piece of survival equipment then nothing is going to compare to real practice. If you really want to be able to get the most out of your survival watch then I would recommend getting two and using one for practice.

Basically, all the watches I mentioned are under $20. It is better to spend more and practice than to find yourself in a dire situation with something that you can’t really use.

Do you have any suggestions for a great survival watch? Have you ever made your own? After seeing the various types of watches available it almost seems like making your own would be a neat project and be fairly inexpensive to do.

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16 Responses to “Exploring The Best Survival Watches”

  1. the point of this article was inexpensive watches. you folks complaining that wind-ups or self winders are better, missed the point. wind-up watches are not common anymore, as they have priced themselves out of the market. as to batteries wearing out, many watches, especially the digital, can last 5 years or more on a single battery. and are you telling me you dont stockpile batteries for your flashlights? no matter how hard core the prepper, there are usually a couple flashlights on the kit. how about a battery or two for your watch? a couple could last a decade. ok, rant over

  2. To set the tone for my comment: I am respectfully disagreeing with you on your choices.

    I have worn a watch of some type for 40 years and I am an amateur horologist. Meaning I collect and have even repaired my own (mechanical) watches. I am also a prepper, military officer, marksmanship instructor, backpacker, kayaker….. et. al.

    None of the watches that are recommended are of high quality. They have decent Amazon reviews and for the money, most likely will give good service. The issue being is that from a statistics perspective, they are more likely to fail than a Casio, Seiko, Citizen, even a Timex.

    Water resistance: This is not necessarily an actual measurement. What it means is that the watch is resistant to water equal to a pressure at the stated measurement (maybe, in the case of the cheaper watches). Keeping in mind that water from from a shower will easily exceed a 50m water resistance.

    In my opinion, the minimum necessary is 100m to be useful in an emergency situation. Preferably 200m ISO certified, keeping in mind that through the years this may deteriorate.

    Band: Most watches have the band held on by two spring bars. Ultimately, this is the weakest link in most circumstances whether the band is rubber, metal, canvas. Some of the watches previously mentioned have paracord with plastic buckles. While I have not seen these watches, usually cheap buckles break easily. ITW Nexus makes the buckles for military gear and they will last.

    Rubber or plastic bands are usually the first to wear out. Metal bands tend to last longer (of quality ones) the only caveat I would add is that the buckle should be double clasped for security.
    Keeping in mind that the spring bar is the weakest link: NATO type straps have a strap that goes through both spring bars and if one breaks the other will hold it. Plus if the band or watch gets caught on something, the force is applied to the strap and NOT the spring bars. If you go the NATO route, go with the thick strap as the thin ones wear out quickly. Currently BLUSHARK is making good bands, but you will have to do your own research as the manufacturers change from time to time.

    Crystal: Back when Rolex was actually used as a dive watch, they used acrylic in their crystals. You could hit it against something and it wouldn’t break easily. It would scratch. So they changed it to sapphire in the 1980s when people were using Rolexes as dress watches. That being said, I prefer a high quality plastic for a hard use watch like Seiko’s Hardlex. IF the sapphire crystal is suitably thick, it is not a bad option either, but thin sapphire and any type of glass crystals are considered by me to be unsuitable.

    There is very little subjective data on this subject. No random controlled trials or retrospective studies done. So it boils down to experience and expert opinion. You mileage may vary and Mission Dictates Equipment.

    Mechanical or Quartz?: All depends on whether you believe in an EMP or not. I choose quartz.

    Mechanical: Boils down to Swiss or Japan made movements. Swiss movements MAY be able to be fine tuned better than less expensive Japanese movements, but even the less expensive JN movements seems to last longer between services. Either way, mechanical watches have more of a shelf life than quartz. Many will need servicing (oil, parts replacement) at 5 years. Some MAY go up to 15 w/o needing servicing. (Seiko movements are reported to). Either way, you cannot stick a mechanical in a drawer, pick up 5 years later and expect it to work. It needs to be operating on a regular basis to keep the parts lubed and the oil fluid. They are also more fragile than a quartz. You risk messing something up by dropping one.

    Seiko dominates the JN world, but Miyota also makes a good movement too. The Seiko 7S series movements are the workhorse. I prefer the 4R and 6R movements and have found them to keep better time. (BTW, mechanical watches will lose or gain seconds per day, quartz seconds per month or year.) The much more expensive 8 and 9 series Seiko movements are reported to be better than most Swiss movements.

    Interestingly, Seiko automatic mechanical (self winding via a pendulum) watches have a cult following and even a 30 year old non functional one has some residual value. In this category, I would choose a Seiko 200m dive watch.

    Swiss is dominated by ETA. A newcomer is Sellita. Most of these watches will be at least 300$ whereas Seikos start at 75$. Even a SW watch that claims its own name brand usually has a rebranded ETA or Sellita movement in it. True in house movements like Rolex cost much more. Not my first choice for survival mechanical movements.

    Quartz: Many different brands out there. The brands I would recommend for quality and durability are Seiko, Citizen, Casio.
    Citizen introduced the Eco-Drive about 20 years ago. It seems that their solar powered tech is more mature than other brands. Eco drives are reported to go 15+ years w/o changing the cell. Mine is 17 years old. However, CZ recommends cell changes at 10 years. Seiko also produces a solar and so does Casio.
    Casio G-Shock has more or less set the standard for tough use watches (and is a good choice). The non solar versions come with a cell that advertises 10 years w/o a change. This means that some will need a change in 5 years, some in 15. I had one of the first gen G Shock Solars and it failed me at 6 months. Although I do have another one now that is a year old. Still recommends a cell change at 10 years though.
    I would also consider a Citizen Eco-Drive dive watch in this category.

    There are cheaper options than the ones I mentioned, but plan to spend at least 100$ on a quality watch.

  3. Many sports watches use gps to measure distance which would be a very valuable in a survival situation. For example, if you had to walk to water 20 km away, knowing how far you’ve gone / got to go could be life saving. In my opinion, a proper survival watch should have gps. None of those recommended measure up. You can even get watches with mapping now – even better.

  4. are your reviews based on personal experience/usage or on a review of what the manufacturer says about the item? about the wuu ye survival watch you mention that an alcohol prep pad and fishing gear were not mentioned in the description; you said something like that in the article about crank flashlights too. that makes me think that you haven’t used or even seen these items in person, and if that’s the case you need to include a disclaimer in your reviews to that effect. we all know how reliable a manufacturer’s claims are! i await your reply.

  5. Having had lots of in-field experience I suggest to dump the paracord in favor of a very secure, non reflective band. Also solar powered watch with altimeter/ barometer which can record progress for later review. A good set of function buttons which can be used with numb fingers or gloves. An on demand dial light. Get a real compass instead of one of those stupid button ones. A watch with a thermometer is nice but has to taken off the wrist an given time to indicate ambient temperature. Of course a tough lense. Avoid “toy” like watches and spend what it takes for one that is a useful, reliable tool.

  6. I know it is pricey, but I have a Casio Tough Solar Pathfinder. Band is titanium, and it has compass, altimeter and barometer functions. Probably had it 15 years or more. The compass can be adjusted for magnetic deviation, and setting either barometer or altitude updates the other one. It is solar; the only time it seems to run-down is if you set the light to go off automatically when you lift your arm. It does have a display for battery condition, and if it gets down to one bar, you set it in the sun an hour or so and it will fully recharge. I don’t swim more than about 12 feet with it on, but it has not suffered any harm. It is a key part of my EDC.

  7. IT looks to me like all these watches are a fanny pack with a watch attached, kind of useless after you take it apart. How about a watch that gives useful info, like altitude, Barometric pressure, temperature, direction, and one that you don’t have to worry about batteries. All the stuff in the watch band belongs in you bugout bag. I use the Casio Protrek. It has all that and it is solar powered so batteries are not an issue, it will run without sunlight for 6 months so the charge feature is not a negative, and it is tough. Just my two cents.

  8. Looks like all shown are battery operated. Batteries go dead. I like to wear a kinetic (self winder) divers watch.

    • Nonsense. A quality mechanical watch will work for a good 40 years or more before it needs to be serviced, and a dive watch is at least 200m water resistant. When I served overseas I purposely bought a mechanical watch to get away from batteries.

  9. The problem with all these watches is the fact that they are battery powered. What are you going to do if the battery dies during a survival situation. Are you carrying a spare battery? Do you even know how to change the battery if you do have a spare? What if there is an EMP? The circuitry will probably be fried.

    Personally, I will stick to either a manual wind-up watch or an automatic watch. My GHB and BOB have all the other “enhancements”.

    • os little round batteries can be recharged by touching the CENTER portion to the negative pole and the sides or large top to the positive, and giving it about 10 seconds. Not a long lasting solution, but will work for a large part of the day! at least in a hearing aid!!!

    • Karl…exactly what I was thinking! Battery ‘anything’ isn’t a very good choice in a grid/down situation.
      Thanks for mentioning this.

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