Not too long ago, we shared a video review of a Marathon watch. Although not that particular model, Marathon routinely boasts that it is the current U.S. military issue wristwatch. And this is true, so it should be odd that out of the thousands of service members I have had contact with over the past two decades, Iâ€™ve only ever seen less than half a dozen service members wearing Marathon watches.
So what do people in the U.S. Military really wear? Overwhelmingly, Casio G-Shocks of every stripe, followed by Timex Ironman series and electronic compass models. Pilots seem to like Citizen and Seiko chronographs with the sliderule. Young Special Forces guys often go with Omegas, while the older guys lean towards Rolex. But lately, the cool kids in the Army have been sporting Suunto Vectors.
The Suunto Vector has an electronic compass, barometer, altimeter, and thermometer, as well as all the usual digital functions like timer, alarm, stopwatch, etc. Itâ€™s a little on the bulky side, but in the ACUs, the camouflage uniform, especially with all the kit soldiers have to carry in the field, this is trivial. A nice feature is that it is designed to be user maintained, and Suuntoâ€™s battery replacement kit includes a fresh o-ring. I’m indifferent to the thermometer and altimeter. The thermometer is not accurate while worn as the sensor is too close to the skin, and the altimeter has to be calibrated daily to be accurate. The barometer is not relevant to my needs, as my arthritis tells me when storms are coming but is accurate and kind of neat. The compass is accurate, and has a bubble to help the user level it for use, and can be calibrated for declination (either you understand and appreciate the utility of this last point, or you don’t need to worry about it). Best of all, the alarm is way loud for a watch, and makes up for everything else. (You may be a soldier if… You sleep through thunder storms, but wake up for a wristwatch alarm.)
Overall, the Suunto Vector is kind of bulky, but well suited to what a soldier needs. One caveat; a Suunto Vector with ‘business casual’ is as much a dead giveaway as the khaki trousers and blue blazer. If a soldier (or retired soldier) has to dress like a civilian, invest in an appropriate watch; a ninety dollar mens’ dress Seiko will prevent a loss of face.