Five rugged, yet refined utility watches

Bearing a number of similarities to pilot’s watches, these are defined by both their utilitarian design and rugged construction.

By Justin Mastine-frost 01/08/2017

Of the many classifications of watches, the field watch category remains the most fluid. Bearing a number of similarities to pilot’s watches, the modern field watch is defined by both its utilitarian design and rugged construction. This inherent simplicity — devoid of precious metals or elaborate complication — means it isn’t a category we cover with great frequency.

That said, they’re a welcome change of pace for those heading out into the great outdoors and who don’t want the heft of a chunky dive watch on their wrist. Of the many more entry-level offerings available, here is a selection of rugged field watches that don’t sacrifice fit and finish or attention and detail simply for the sake of utility.

Tudor Heritage Ranger

Based on a classic Tudor Oyster Prince Ranger from the late ‘60s, the Heritage Ranger (above, from $US2825 or $A3540) is a faithful reinterpretation of modern proportion. Measuring 41mm across, the self-winding Ranger is powered by a Tudor-modified ETA 2824 calibre, and is available on a straight-lug metal bracelet, leather strap, or the leather Bund strap seen here. With each configuration comes an additional fabric strap.

Montblanc 1858 Automatic

Unveiled earlier this year, Montblanc’s entrant in the category ($US3475 or $A4350) draws inspiration from WWII officers’ watches. This new piece features period-correct cathedral-style watch hands. Unembellished numerals, coated in light bronze luminescent material, almost appear patinated from age. At 44mm in diameter, it’s a touch on the large size for the category, though it’s also one of a few that’s dressy enough for office duty.

Bremont Airco Mach 1

Bremont centres itself around pilot’s watches above all else, though their new Airco Mach 1 ($US3895 or $A4875) happens to have all the characteristics of a solid field watch. Clear and legible Arabic numerals on a deep black dial ensure it’s easy to read at a cursory glance, and its patented Trip-Tick case in hardened steel (with a brushed finish) ensures that it can take a punch and keep on ticking.

Monta Triumph

The sophomore release from recent St Louis watch startup Monta Watches received a warm reception during its first showing at Baselworld earlier this year, and the brand is just about to open up pre-orders on the Triumph (from $US1265 or $A1580 in pre-order) by early August. Available in five different dial colours — black, silver, blue, green, and cream — the Triumph uses Sellita’s higher-grade SW300 automatic calibre, which Monta selected for its balance of reliability and ease of servicing (again, key elements of the field watch category).

Rolex Explorer

If you aren’t familiar with this particular history lesson, it would be easy to overlook the Explorer ($US6550 or $A8200) in the field watch category. Long the go-to of adventurers around the globe, the watch that came to be known as the Explorer accompanied none other than Tenzing Norgay to the summit of Mt Everest in 1953 — then in prototype form. From that excursion its fate was sealed, and that adventurist DNA lives on through to the current model seen here. Cased in extra durable 904L stainless steel, the Explorer (much like most of Rolex’s repertoire) is one of the more seriously bulletproof timekeepers on the market.

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