The Nixon Regulus – a seriously beefy and utilitarian watch from a brand – Nixon – I typically associate with more fashion-oriented pieces. I stormed around the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado with this special-forces designed digital tool on my wrist for a few weeks. After a fair bit of use and abuse, it’s certainly no worse for the wear functionally.
Designed with input from current and former U.S. Special Operations personnel, a high-function, purpose-built, and element-proof watch that’s all requirement, no excess.
The Regulus is delivered in a typical metal can/foam liner that most Nixon, and other mid-range fashion-y watches are. It’s completely adequate packaging, but certainly a throw away once the watch has been removed.
Initial impression of the Regulus is this thing is beefy.. and definitely military styled. The version I received is the tan color, and that color – very reminiscent of military gear or camoflauge, coupled with the square, bulky styling definitely makes a statement when wearing it. And that statement, to me, is either “I’m in the military on a mission” OR “I want to act like I’m in the military on a mission”. So, wearing this watch around town in Boulder, Colorado I certainly feel like a bit of a “poser”, to an extent. However, once getting up to the mountains to go camping and climbing, the utility takes over, and it no longer really feels out of place.
Buttons are nice and big, screen is clear and legible, and although it’s a rubber/resin strap, with the lug attachments to the watch case, the whole thing feels substantial and reliably on my wrist – fighting through the brush, swimming in waves at the beach, or running a race – this watch is not coming off.
Fit and Finish
As a mass-market watch built by a well known brand, fit and finish of the Regulus is more or less perfect. The plastic case has a trace amount of flashing from molding, but overall, everything comes together nicely. The band attachment is strong and secure with lugs, the plastic crystal over the screen is very clear and scratch free, and the printing and logos are all perfect.
Of note, it appeared that the strap is a very slightly different color from the case. Not something you’d immediately notice, but after inspecting the watch closely in the sunlight, those two pieces are certainly different colors. With long term wear, I fear that the colors would diverge even more – leading to either more character, or a weird mismatch.
Buttons are big and easy to press, with great relief and labeling. I love the inset molded labels, and the grippy rails around the buttons.
On the Wrist
On the wrist, the Regulus is built and beefy – but not uncomfortable in the least. It certainly makes a statement, and the strap is stiff initially – but all surfaces are smooth, and since it’s a plastic watch, the weight on the wrist isn’t that much. Once getting used to the button layout, I quickly appreciated that huge display with big numbers, easy to push buttons, and overall user-friendly vibe. After a bit of use, I feel that if looks weren’t an issue at all for me, this would be an easy go-to for a purely functional, no bullshit watch – it tells the time in a glance, isn’t going to break, has a few other easy to use functions, and won’t fall off.
The features of the watch are simple – timers and time, essentially. It’s made specifically for field use and “tactical operations”, with a distinct military flare. However, there are a few key features I feel are missing, which for me, would prevent it from truly becoming a do-everything field watch for me. Although I’m not in the military (but do have the highest respect and support for our troops – thank you for your service), I have done a bit of remote field work in fairly harsh conditions. I worked in Antarctica for two seasons, working on a variety of field machinery, while living at a remote field camp in -40F temperatures, sleeping in a tent on solid ice, wearing polar expedition gear every day, and operating around tractors and other heavy machinery. It was an environment where my one watch absolutely had to work no matter what, and I needed to be able to rely it on the field.
For my Antarctic work, I wore a Suunto Core All Black. This watch was great for a few reasons (including the triple sensor, which I won’t cover here), some shared by the Regulus, some not so much. It had a huge digital display, with an easily glanceable time – share by Regulus. It was tough plastic, with a protected screens and big easy to push buttons – shared by the Regulus. It had a reliable backlight – shared by the Regulus. It had a field replaceable battery, and used a super common CR2032 battery, AND had a battery door that could be opened/closed with a coin or big fat screwdriver, and didn’t require any special tools or jewelers skills to service the battery – NOT shared by the Regulus.
I loved this feature of the Suunto Core – and it actually came in handy when my battery got low in the field. I could just get a new battery out of my field kit, sit down in my tent with actually the new replacement battery – which is coin shaped, and easily open the battery door, replace the battery, and seal it back up. However, with the Regulus, this is not the case. The Regulus has a square case back, which must be removed by taking out four tiny jewelry screws (using a special tiny phillips jewelry screwdriver. Then you must replace a few super tiny LR44 batteries, then replace the square case back in the correct orientation, find those four tiny little screws, and screw them back in. Not ideal. And although Nixon touts that the battery should last up to five years, the user manual warns “Replace the battery at least every two years.”. So, if I’ve lost track of when I last replaced the batteries in my Regulus, and run out of juice on a mission, I’m basically SOL. However with my trusty Suunto Core, a dead battery means simply using a single coin shaped replacement battery (or coin, or flat screwdriver, or knife edge etc to quickly twist off the back, swap batteries, and twist the back on again. Easy.
To me, no matter how cool the features of the watch are, this battery quick change detail is a real clincher for me. Or, not a fan of replacing batteries at all? My other go-to field watch is the Casio G-Shock GW-M5610-1BJF.. solar powered (among other cool features), so no batteries to mess with every.. but that’s a completely separate post.
12/24 hour, big display
Able to time two events at once – like mission time, and another event.
Timer (7 Presets)
Countdown timer, with 7 preset intervals and one custom
Get dinged three times a day
Adjust from Low/Med/High brightness
Silence all sounds
The color. That sand color is just not for me. It’s creams “military”, and it’s my feeling that unless you’re in the military, doing military things, it’s not the coolest to wear military or military inspired gear. That said, if I had the black version, I could see this as a general sports watch, or a good one to wear while climbing 14ers, etc. Additionally, the mismatched colors of the band/case are a bit of an oversight. It seems like the black is a safer bet.
Non field replaceable battery – to me, this is a big deal killer. For a watch meant to go deep into the field, I think an easily replaceable battery, or solar/kinetic charging is a must. With a few timers, bright backlight, and constant use toughness, this watch should be able to take constant use without the fear of running out of power.
Should You Buy It?
Looking for a chunky military inspired watch that has great utility for one-off trips? Then yep, this would be a great piece. But stay away if you’re looking for street cred (the black would solve this) or long duration/high reliability field work – that difficult to service 2 year battery is a deal killer.
The Nixon Regulus is a badass, military looking digital field watch with hardcore engineered guts and aspirations at greatness. However, a few key design and style nuances prevent it from a permanent spot in either my everyday street wear cabinet or remote field use bag. Make it black, with a field replaceable (or solar charing) battery, and it would be my new go-to.
- Brand & Model: Nixon Regulus
- Price: USD$150
- Who we think it might be for: Field operator wannabes and camping field fashion onlookers.
- If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: Make the battery field serviceable or solar charging.
- What spoke to me the most about this watch: Big highly readable display, adjustable backlight, super easy buttons and operations.
- MOVEMENT: Custom digital LCD module encased in a protective PU jacket and Poron foam padding for super tough shock absorption and durability. Functions include dual time, time of day (12 or 24 hour), day/date, auto calendar through 2099, dual chronographs with 1/100 second resolution visible from all mode screens, count down timer, 3 independent alarms, adjustable LED backlight, and silent mode.
- DIAL: Custom high contrast LCD
- CASE: 46mm, 100 meter/10 ATM custom injection molded TR90 case, with polycarbonate pushers located at 6 and 9 o’clock, hardened mineral crystal, stainless steel bezel, solid stainless steel screw on case back and screw pin lugs.
- BAND: 29mm to 24mm tapered custom injection molded free-swing TPU 80 band with water flow texture on bottom side, patented locking looper, and stainless steel buckle with stainless steel screw bar.
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