Perhaps no watch better embodies ruggedness and simple style than the classic field watch. The term “field watch” gets thrown around a lot in the world of wristwatches, but what exactly is a field watch? And where did they come from?

Keep reading to learn more about what a field watch is and a little about their history.

Man wearing a Nixon Corporal Field Watch while driving a car

A Brief History of Field Watches

For a long time, wristwatches were considered a feminine accessory. Fancy and dainty, wristwatches typically weren't made to appeal to men who instead often opted for pocket watches.

Like so many aspects of life on our planet, that all changed with the events of World War I.

Two major aspects of WWI were the trenches and the use of artillery. With artillery lined up behind the front lines, synchronizing watches between troops was an essential strategy to minimize friendly fire.

But the trenches were dirty, cramped and dangerous, and WWI was frenetic and fast-paced. These were not ideal circumstances for the synchronizing and checking of pocket watches.

WWI was one of the first times that men, namely soldiers, began wearing watches on their wrists in large numbers. Soldiers called them "trench watches". These were the first field watches.

As the war progressed, men heading to the front line (for the first time or for another tour) equipped themselves with wristwatches in anticipation of the demands of this new form of war.

Quickly, watchmakers took notice of this shift and began advertising wristwatches to men for their functionality while militaries around the world began issuing wristwatches, specifically field watches, to their soldiers.

Check out some examples of the earliest traditional field watches here.

So, What is a Field Watch?

Essentially, a field watch is a durable, easy-to-read, and easy-to-use watch. Here are the basic criteria a watch must meet to be a legitimate field watch:

  • Durability: A field watch's straps can't break after only a few uses, and the movement must continue to work under the most extreme stress.

  • Easy to read: Keeping in mind that field watches were the first military watches, it makes sense that the time on a field watch shouldn't be hard to read.

  • Uncomplicated: The main purpose of a field watch is time synchronization, so complications like date windows, chronographs and the like are excessive and unnecessary.

For civilians, field watches are an excellent watch choice because they last a long time and pair well across different looks. A traditional field watch used a nylon strap. But today, field watches are made with every type of strap available including stainless steel, rubber and leather.

Whether you're dressing up for a job interview or hitting a local music venue, a quality field watch won't look out of place.

3 Examples of Nixon Field Watches

To help illustrate what a field watch is, here are two Nixon takes on the classic field watch in stainless steel and leather:

All Black Nixon Corporal

Nixon Corporal

Nixon Patrol Field Watch

Nixon Patrol

The third example of a Nixon field watch is a bit different than other traditional field watches, but we classify it as such because it was designed in direct collaboration with members of US Special Forces for use in the field.

Nixon Regulus Military Watch

Nixon Regulus

Field Watch FAQs

What is the point of a field watch?

The point of a field watch is to tell time easily and reliably. That means having a precise movement that accurately keeps time, a durable design that won't break down with rough use, and a clearly visible time display.

Why is it called a field watch?

Field watches get their name from their use. They are used in the field by military personnel.

What is the original field watch?

The original field watches were actually pocket watches that were converted to wristwatches by soldiers in WW1. They were nicknamed "trench watches."