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Whether you’re a military or law enforcement personnel, a tactical smartwatch can definitely make your job easier. Tactical smartwatches have location, training, connectivity, and stealth features that make them a must-have for anyone who works in the military or police. Not to mention, they’re more durable than consumer-grade smartwatches.
Throughout my 15 years worth of experience in the tactical smartwatch industry, I have tried and tested a wide range of models from dozens of popular and less-known brands. In my humble opinion, the Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical is a pretty solid pick for most users. It’s durable, packed with advanced location and wireless features, supports night goggles visibility, and is solar-powered.
However, as authentic as the Garmin Instinct is, it may not align with everyone’s preferences. That’s why I’ve catered a list of the best tactical smartwatches so you can decide which one suits your needs better.
Related Article: 32 Best Military Watches in 2022
Here Are the Best Tactical Smartwatch (Our Picks)
Let’s explore the ins and outs of 7 of the most top rated smartwatches so you can make an informed purchasing decision:
1. Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical – Best Overall Pick
The Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical is where all the magic happens. It’s designed according to strict U.S. military standard 810 for shock and thermal resistance. It’s also water-resistant down to 100 meters and charges with solar power.
It features a stealth mode that lets you disable data sharing and wireless communication, ensuring that your location isn’t compromised. What’s more, it’s equipped with a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter for easy navigation and location identification. It also features GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo for accurate location info.
On top of all that, the Instinct Solar smartwatch can track your activities, making it a good companion in training sessions. It can track swimming, strength training, cycling, running, and many more activities. It also keeps track of your health with Pulse Ox and health monitoring.
Additionally, the smartwatch is packed with unique tactical features. These include Jumpmaster mode that computes high-altitude release points based on military guidelines so you can find your way to the target after jumping and a dual-position format that lets you sync your location with others.
It’s also worth noting that the Instinct Solar is night-vision compatible, meaning that you can read it with night vision goggles on.
Plus, you get a versatile power management feature that allows you to view how everything you do with the smartwatch impacts its battery life.
However, despite having lots of impressive features, the Instinct Solar Tactical can be hard to use at first. It’s also worth mentioning that the buttons are easy to press accidentally.
With solar charging capabilities, a rugged design, tactical capabilities, and night vision compatibility, the Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical leaves nothing to be desired. This is a great all-around choice for police enforcement, special ops, and military use.
2. Amazfit T-Rex Smartwatch – Runner Up Choice
The Amazfit T-Rex smartwatch is yet another tactical smartwatch that ticks all the boxes. It flaunts a military-grade design for the ultimate temperature, shock, and water resistance.
As for battery life, the T-Rex can last up to 20 days on a single charge with normal use and up to 24 hours with GPS continuously turned on, which is quite impressive.
Moreover, the T-Rex smartwatch integrates a 1.3-inch AMOLED display that offers excellent sunlight readability.
Location tracking is another area where the Amazfit T-Rex shines. It’s equipped with a premium Sony GPS chip that uses an advanced dual-satellite positioning system for the most accurate location identification.
In addition, the T-Rex comes with all the features you’d expect out of a fitness smartwatch. It can track up to 14 different activities. Not to mention, it’s equipped with a self-developed BioTracker PPG Bio-Tracking Optical Sensor, which is basically an always-on heart-rate monitor.
My only complaint is that the UI isn’t very user-friendly. It’d have been nice if the touchscreen accepted glove input.
The Amazfit T-Rex is an excellent tactical smartwatch that combines endurance with strength and advanced software features. It works great as a hybrid tactical and fitness smartwatch for operations and sports.
3. SUUNTO Core – Best Budget Pick
The SUUNTO Core features a durable stealthy design that makes it an excellent choice for tactical missions. This was once the official watch for the U.S. Navy SEAL, which speaks volumes of what it’s capable of.
It boasts a composite construction that combines durability with style and comfort. The mono display is very easy to read in all lighting conditions, too
Further, the Suunto Core takes weather tracking to the next level by incorporating a storm alarm that tells you when a storm is expected to come, in addition to a barometer, an altimeter, and a compass.
The battery is user-replaceable, with an average lifespan of 12 months.
The SUUNTO Core also has dual-time and date displays, along with sunrise and sunset predicted times, an alarm, and a 30-feet depth meter.
However, the SUUNTO Core is pretty basic as it lacks connectivity and GPS functionalities, but that just might be exactly what you need.
If you’re on a tight budget, the SUUNTO Core covers the basics at a very attractive price point. It’s for minimalists who don’t need fancy connectivity and location features.
4. Suunto Travers Alpha – Best Durable
The Suunto Travers Alpha sports a rugged, ultra durable design, with elements like the water repellent nylon strap, scratch resistant sapphire crystal glass, and knurled stainless steel bezel.
Since the Travers Alpha is compliant with the military standard (MIL-STD-810G), rest assured that it’s rigorously tested through the development phase.
What’s more, this smartwatch is water-resistant down to 100 meters, making it a solid choice for divers.
In addition, the Travers Alpha informs you of the most suitable fishing and hunting times by tracking moonrise and moonset times with a moon phase calendar.
The battery can last you up to 14 days with regular use or 100 hours in GPS mode.
Plus, the Travers Alpha is GPS/GLONASS enabled, ensuring accurate location pinpointing and navigation. There’s a breadcrumb trail, which basically makes it easier for you to find your way back when you’re lost. You can use it along with the free Suunto Movescount app that’s available on Android and iOS.
On a side note, keep in mind that GPS functions on this smartwatch are somewhat slow. Also, the Travers Alpha doesn’t change time zones automatically, so that’s something to keep in mind in cross-state missions.
If you’re looking for a durable smartwatch that can also function as a GPS or moon-phase device, the Suunto Travers Alpha won’t disappoint you.
5. G-Shock GPR B1000 Rangeman – Best Premium Pick
The G-Shock GPR B1000 Rangeman smartwatch is feature-packed. It integrates a triple sensor that measures pressure, altitude, compass bearing, and temperature.
What’s more, this smartwatch works with solar and wireless charging systems, making it an excellent choice for those who don’t like relying on cables.
The G-Shock GPR B1000 is equipped with a GPS chip, and with a powerful battery, you can use the smartwatch for up to 33 hours with GPS enabled all the time.
The GPS function isn’t just for location identification and navigation, you can use this smartwatch to save track and point data that include altitude, longitude/latitude, and temperature. You can also save routes using the G-Shock smartphone app.
It’s also worth noting that the G-Shock GPR B1000 will always display the time using solar power, even if it ran out of charge.
Moving on to the design, the GPR B1000 takes things seriously with a tough dust and mud-resistant construction.
The biggest disadvantage of the GPR B1000 is, of course, its hefty price tag. It also feels heavy on the wrist.
The G-Shock GPR B1000 is a high-end tactical smartwatch that has advanced GPS functions, wireless and solar charging support, and a heavy-duty design.
6. Garmin Tactix Delta – Best Premium Alternative
The Garmin Tactix Delta features a rugged yet stylish design that can definitely resist the elements. It’s water-resistant down to 100-meters, making water damage a very distant possibility.
Additionally, it’s equipped with a 1.4” always-on display that can be controlled with the black DLC-coated bezel.
Similar to other tactical smartwatches from Garmin, the Tactix Delta is jam-packed with all the tactical features you need to carry out the mission, including Jumpmaster mode, dual-position format, waypoint projection, and preloaded tactical activity.
With stealth mode, you can use the Tactix Delta at night, even when wearing night vision goggles.
Moreover, the Delta makes navigation an easy task with an altimeter for elevation data, 3-axis compass for directioning, and barometer for weather monitoring. Not to mention, it comes preloaded with TOPO maps, ski maps, and a public land map.
Battery life is very good, and you can further extend it with the customizable battery modes that help you get the most out of the battery. Another good feature is the kill switch, which basically lets you wipe everything on the smartwatch with the tap of a button for security purposes.
The only noticeable downside is that the heart-rate monitor isn’t very accurate. It’s also a bit on the heavy side, which may not suit everyone.
The Garmin Tactix Delta is a great tactical smartwatch that’s durable, has a kill switch, and packs a wide range of useful tactical features.
7. Casio PRT-B50 – Best Value Choice
The Casio PRT-B50 integrates a quad sensor setup that encompasses a step counter, termometer, digital compass, altimeter, and barometer. Additionally, you can connect them to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
The PRT-B50 features a mineral glass dial window, coupled with a resin case and a polycarbonate band for maximum durability. I also like that it’s rated at 100 meters for water-resistance, so it can definitely withstand deep dives.
There’s a very handy feature, which Casio calls the “Hand Retraction Function”. It basically retracts the hour and minute hands when a hand overlaps the LCD. This ensures the best possible LCD visibility.
Further, the PRT-B50 has an auto sensor sleep state entry that automatically shuts off unnecessary functions after a long period of non-activity to conserve battery life.
Other features include a countdown time, 5 alarms, 1/100-second stopwatch, auto-calendar, and hourly time signal.
However, bear in mind that this smartwatch may not be very comfortable for those who have small wrists.
The Casio PRT-B50 has a lot to offer at a reasonable price tag, with highlights including a robust design, quad sensor setup, 100-meter water resistance, and a hand-retraction function.
Buying Guide: What Should You Look for in a Tactical Smartwatch?
Here are some of the factors that you need to consider when shopping for a tactical smartwatch:
Design and Durability
Tactical smartwatches should be durable enough to withstand the toughest conditions. As a police officer or military personnel, you never know what you’ll face in your missions.
Many tactical smartwatch models are built in compliance with U.S. military standards to ensure the best possible durability.
Since you’ll be wearing the smartwatch during your duty, you need to ensure that it fits well on your wrist. There’s a size guide for each manufacturer, so make sure that you check it out before making a purchase.
A dial that’s too big for your wrist will be uncomfortable and won’t even look nice.
Smartwatches that are specifically designed for tactical use often incorporate a number of features that will help you in tricky situations.
For example, some models have a Jumpmaster mode that calculates high-altitude release points so you can navigate to your objective right after jumping off the plane.
Another common functionality is the dual-position format that automatically syncs your location with other people using the military grid reference system (MGRS) and universal transverse mercator (UTM).
Projected waypoints save your previous location so you can go back easily, and stealth mode lets you disable all wireless communications and location services.
It’s also recommended that you get a tactical smartwatch that has a kill switch. These are much more secure than other smartwatches since you can quickly wipe everything on its memory when you have to.
Battery life is one of the most vital aspects of a tactical smartwatch. There’s no point in wearing a smartwatch with all the sensors in the world if it’ll die within a couple of hours.
So, before deciding on a tactical smartwatch, make sure that its battery life is reliable. In regular mode, it should last at least 2 weeks, and a minimum of 24 hours in GPS mode.
Many tactical smartwatches come with sensors that help you find your way, create routes, and identify your current location. A GPS sensor is a good starting point, but for the most accurate location tracking, opt for a smartwatch that also supports GLONASS and Galileo.
Also Read: 20 Best Hiking GPS (Handheld) in 2022
Fitness and Health Features
Just because a smartwatch is intended for tactical use doesn’t mean that a couple of fitness and health tracking features won’t come in handy. In fact, they can be quite useful in training sessions.
Choose a tactical smartwatch that can track different activities. It’s also important that you get a smartwatch with a heart-rate monitor and a sleep tracker.
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A tactical smartwatch’s band shouldn’t be overlooked. Ideally, the band should resist scratches and dents while also being comfortable.
Silicone or resin straps often work best for tactical smartwatches. On the other hand, leather straps would be too soft for tactical use, while metal straps would scratch easily.
The water resistance rating of a tactical smartphone is essential for its longevity, especially if you have to swim or dive with the smartwatch on your wrist.
Ideally, your tactical smartwatch should have a 100-meter depth rating, but a 50-meter rating is acceptable, too.
Many tactical smartwatches have a backlight to make the screen readable in dark environments. It’s also important for the watch to have luminescent dials.
In addition, a few models are designed to be used with night goggles, so you don’t have to worry about readability with the goggles on.
Navigation sensors are very useful in rural areas. With an altimeter, you’ll be able to get data on elevation, which can be pretty handy when climbing or hiking.
A compass would also be nice to have just in case GPS wasn’t working properly in the area you are in. In addition, make sure that your tactical smartwatch has a barometer to get data on air pressure variations and storm alerts.
Some tactical smartwatches rely on li-ion batteries for charging, while others use regular watch batteries. Advanced tactical smartwatches integrate a hybrid solar and electric charging system for longer battery life and fewer charging cycles.
In addition, there are smartwatches that ditch the conventional USB cables in favor of wireless charging.
Tactical smartwatches come in 2 varieties: phone-connected smartwatches and non-phone-connected smartwatches.
Whether you need to connect your smartwatch to your smartphone or not totally depends on your needs. For example, if you want to be able to get your notifications on the watch, a phone-connected model would work best for you.
On the other hand, if you want to operate your tactical smartwatch independently from your phone, you’re better off going for other models.
Basic models that don’t support phone connectivity actually have several advantages, like better battery life and extra security. However, they’re not as functional as phone-connected models.
Some smartwatch models come with companion apps that offer extra functionalities like route creation. So, for these features to work, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity is a must.
You should also keep in mind that smartwatches that don’t accept sim cards won’t connect to the internet without a Wi-Fi hotspot. In other words, you’ll be able to use your smartphone’s data plan to connect your smartwatch to the internet only if there’s some sort of connection between the 2 devices.
Before deciding on a tactical smartwatch, make sure that you’re comfortable with its weight. Since most tactical smartwatches are rugged, they tend to be on the heavier side.
Still, some high-end models can be lightweight even when built with rugged materials.
G-shock, Suunto, and Casio are all popular smartwatch choices for military personnel. However, there’s no particular smartwatch brand or model that the army uses exclusively.
The Garmin Instinct Solar is probably the toughest smartwatch around. It’s designed according to the U.S. Military standard 810G for shock, thermal and water resistance (rated at a depth of 100 meters).
Yes, you’re allowed to have a smartwatch in the military as long as it’s not mentioned otherwise. In some cases, having a smartwatch in the military is illegal, particularly on operations or missions where your location shouldn’t be compromised.
It depends on whether the smartwatch has a microphone or not. Smartwatches equipped with microphones can record audio, and there are dedicated apps that help you with just that.
Most tactical smartwatches are waterproof. Since tactical smartwatches are designed for heavy-duty use, many of them are waterproof, to some extent at least. You can learn whether a particular smartwatch is waterproof or not by checking its IP rating.
As a general rule of thumb, a smartwatch’s battery can last anywhere from 2 to 3 years, depending on how often you use your smartwatch and what you do with it.
Nevertheless, a typical rechargeable li-ion battery has a lifespan of 300-500 charging cycles. So, even if you owned the smartwatch for more than 3 years and you still haven’t hit the 2-3 year mark, your battery may still perform pretty well as long as it hasn’t gone through many charge cycles.
Yes. Whether you have a regular or tactical smartwatch, you can connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
Some smartwatches are also Wi-Fi enabled, allowing you to connect it to your smartphone and access the internet without requiring a dedicated data plan.
To recap, the Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical is considered one of the best tactical smartwatches in the world. Its rugged design and extra long battery life are more than enough reasons to crown it as the top choice for most users.
The smartwatch also has a set of very useful tactical features like dual-position format, Jumpmaster mode, and stealth mode, giving it the upper edge over other basic models.
It also has a very powerful power management system that preserves battery life, which, combined with its solar charging capabilities, provides it with exceptional battery life.
Compared to other smartwatches on the market, the Instinct Solar makes no compromises. It has lots of features without sacrificing battery life, and the design is durable but not ugly.