The concept of tool watches isn’t clearly defined: it can be a diver, it can be a chronograph, it can be a pilot’s watch. But what we’re looking at today are instrument pieces for adventure, watches that can perform under duress in most situations: on land, in the air or below the waves. Tools in their purest form. And you’ll see, for our latest buying guide, we have selected five recently launched tool watches that don’t necessarily come with expensive price tags.
Note: the following list is based on a consensus among the MONOCHROME redaction team. If you have other examples of recently launched tool watches, feel free to comment.
Seiko Prospex Automatic Field Compass
Seiko’s Prospex collection needs no introduction anymore and in recent years the brand has introduced an array of cool, robust, purpose-built watches that all perform superbly. The brand has 3 sub-collections (air, sea, land) and the latest addition falls into the latter – which doesn’t mean it won’t be appropriate in wet conditions. The Prospex Automatic Field Compass relies on a rare function, which is pretty much only used by Seiko: a compass. Thanks to the position of the sun and the hour hand, you can track your orientation on the rotating bezel. But there’s more to this SRPD31K1. It is robust (protected case and 200m water-resistance), it is powered by an automatic movement, it looks really cool and functional and it is downright accessible. A lot to love here.
Quick facts: 43mm diameter – stainless steel case – 200m water-resistant – Seiko calibre 4R36, automatic – hours, minutes, seconds, day-date – brown leather strap – ref. SRPD31K1 – EUR 429
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
Hamilton has a rich history, especially regarding its American past. Back in the days, the brand was a large provider of robust tool watches to military forces and the brand today capitalises on this heritage. The result was launched a couple of years ago, with the Khaki Field Mechanical; a great looking, well-proportioned, no-nonsense hand-wound watch with tool credentials and an unbeatable price for a Swiss Watch… And even more since 2019, as it now features an upgraded ETA movement with 80h power reserve and is available in multiple colours for the dials and coated cases. Water-resistance is 50m but that should be more than enough in 99% of the situations – and if not, it means you’re in a place where your watch should be the least of your problems.
Quick facts: 38mm diameter – stainless steel with matte finish or brown PVD – 50m water-resistant – calibre H50, hand-wound – hours, minutes, seconds – NATO strap in fabric or leather – from EUR 445
Vertex MP45 MonoPusher Chronograph
Vertex is the kind of brand that won’t ring a bell to a larger audience, however, military watch aficionados will know! Vertex, a British brand, was one of the 12 suppliers of watches to the Ministry of Defense – the so-called Dirty Dozen. Recently revived by the direct descendant of the founder, Vertex today proposes watches inspired by this past, with instrument-inspired designs, cool elements (those raised, luminous numerals…) and cool movements, such as this hand-wound, monopusher chronograph MP45. Solid, well-protected and ultra-legible, that’s the kind of watch that can follow you anywhere. It won’t even look out of place in the city. Also available with a blackened case.
Quick facts: 40mm diameter – brushed steel case – Sellita SW510 MonoPusher, choice of hand-wound or automatic – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph – leather strap – GBP 3,480
TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph
Despite the fact that it started life as a pilot’s/racing chronograph (AUTomibile-AVIAtion), TAG Heuer gave its Autavia a new look and positioning this year, by launching a non-chronograph, non-racing oriented model. Basically, it’s now an all-rounder tool watch. Heuer fans might be screaming, the result is actually pretty cool, with a nice case, good design and an innovative movement, based on a Sellita ébauche but highly reworked internally. This chronometer watch features a cutting-edge carbon composite hairspring manufactured internally by TAG Heuer – the Isograph. It combines a solid case, a rotating bezel and legible dials, for a toolish design. It has been presented in multiple variations, on strap or bracelet, in steel or in bronze.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter – stainless steel or bronze case – 100m water-resistant – Calibre 5, base Sellita SW 200 with in-house carbon composite hairspring, automatic – hours, minutes, seconds, date – leather strap or steel bracelet – from CHF 3,400
Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000 Black
If you want to talk tool watches made for adventures, you can’t beat the Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000… This watch is the true definition of an exploration watch. Not only because of its ultra-solid titanium case, of its overall instrument look, or its RECCO® reflector strap (a technology which helps find victims of avalanches)… No, it’s mainly because of its rare mechanical altimeter complication, which can measure altitudes up to 9,000 metres with precision – meaning everywhere on Earth, even on top of Mount Everest – and that’s unique in the watch industry. The movement is based on the Eterna Calibre 39 and has an altimeter module with an aneroid capsule (developed in-house by Favre-Leuba). The only drawback is a water-resistance of just 30m.
Quick facts: 48mm diameter – titanium case – 30m water-resistance – Eterna calibre 39 with altimeter module, automatic – hours, minutes, seconds, date, mechanical altimeter up to 9,000m – leather strap and RECCO® reflector strap – CHF 7,500