EMTs and Paramedics have super demanding jobs and need a tough watch to match. Now, there are two schools of thought on what makes the best EMT watch:
Either way, we've got something for you in our EMT watch picks below. We also have a buyers guide at the end to help you decide which EMT watch is best for you.
Note: This guide focuses on EMTs, but our recommendations are also suitable for paramedics and EMS in general. We've also covered our favorite watches for nurses here.
G-Shocks are clear favorites amongst EMTs because they are super practical. Renowned for being extremely tough, and packed with great features at an affordable price.
They are easy to read, water resistant (200m) and the silicon band is simple to clean with minimal risk of patient contamination.
We like the GWM5610 G-Shock because it's relatively small (compared to other G-Shocks), has an EL backlight powered auto-light feature so you can turn it on and still keep your hands free. And is solar powered so there's no risk of the battery dying when you need it most.
Add in the atomic timekeeping function that automatically syncs the time every night and you've got yourself a super reliable set and forget watch.
The retro square design is not exactly loved by everyone. But we don't really mind as the practical benefits of this watch make up for its rather bland design.
If you're a deep sleeper, we'd recommend using a different alarm such as a cell phone or alarm clock as the alarm on the G-Shock GWM5610 may not be loud enough to wake you.
Sometimes you just need a watch to be just that; a watch. Easily read the time, a few functions (including 24hr time) and you're set.
This basic Timex watch is just that. The cheapest watch in this list, it's ideal for those that just need a basic watch whilst on duty.
At this pricepoint, the Timex Marathon is considered a 'throw away' watch. With such a small investment, you don't really need to think about the purchase. You can buy one and if it doesn't live up to expectations, you can buy another one after a month or two of usage and give this one to your kid brother or relative.
The durability is good, but it is not a G-Shock. Its plastic case does protrude and offers protection from bumps and scratches, but don't be surprised if a solid knock causes damage to it.
With supersized numbers, readability at a quick glance is great. This includes easy-to-read seconds.
If you need a cheap watch that just functions well as a watch, there's little risk in trying a Timex Marathon as your first EMT watch.
The numerous nooks and crannies in the Marathon can trap organic matter more than some other watches in this list. So, you'll need to take a little more care cleaning and washing this watch.
Some buyers haven't been impressed with the size of the band. Suggesting it's on the skinny side if you're an adult male.
We are big fans of the Luminox 3051 as it’s easily one of the best tactical watches for LEOs. We’ve previously written about this watch specifically for police officers and whilst it is the most expensive in our list, it is still an affordable option for most.
The readability of this watch under ALL conditions, including darkness and underwater is what really makes this watch stand out (pun intended) from the rest. The tritium in the hands and markers is made from a radioactive isotope that slowly decays over time. This is different from most other watches that use phosphorescent inserts that need to be recharged by an external light source. The Navy Seal pedigree means this watch has top, reliable water resistance too.
We’ve feature the black out version here to complete the tactical, military watch feel. But you could easily opt for the regular/non-black out model (we’ve featured it in our Best Watches for EMTs & Paramedics guide). The case is made from stainless steel with a Carbonox coating which increases durability and provides the nice black matte finish.
This watch clearly isn’t for all LEOs. And we accept that. We’ve included it here as a good tactical option or those that value luminosity above everything else.
Seiko 5’s have a fantastic reputation for packing higher-end features into an affordable, durable and classicaly designed watch.
There are numerous Seiko 5’s to choose from, but we’ve gone with the SNK809 model because of its easy to read color scheme, mainstream appeal and affordability.
The military inspired Seiko 5 SNK809 is born from the Seiko 5 range that first hit shelves in 1963. The “5” references the 5 features that were introduced for this series, which are still relevant today.
They’ve had a lot of time to make alterations and improvements since they launched, which has allowed them to continue to increase quality, whilst advancements in Japanese mass production efficiencies have allowed them to keep costs very affordable.
The 37mm size suits a wide variety of tastes and doesn’t pose any issue to wear underneath jackets or other work clothes. The luminosity is provided by Seiko’s own Lumibrite and displays luminous dots every five minutes for easy reading.
One of the reasons we like this watch is that it’s hard to find real faults with it. This is especially true considering its sub $100 price point and Seiko automatic movement. If we were being super hard to please, we’d push for slightly more functionality from the automatic movement such as hand winding and hacking (so we can re-sync the time easier).
Whilst the strap is durable, we’d probably opt for a non-canvas option to help avoid nasty pathogens from accumulating.
Finally, the simple and flat design is not to everyone’s taste -- but we think the understated, flat design looks great and is super practical for EMTs.
The second G-Shock in our list of best EMT watches is the DW 9052. I consider it the entry-level G-Shock for EMTs. You can find slightly cheaper G-Shocks, but this comes at an unacceptable performance trade-off.
The tough case can withstand everything thrown at an EMT (and then some). The lugs are also designed with durability and comfort in mind, as the straps can move freely inside the lugs. This allows the straps to better hug the wrist and provides a more comfortable wearing experience.
No, you won't get the same functions like solar power or atomic timekeeping that you'll get with the GWM5610 G-Shock, but you'll also pay about half the price. Making this a very affordable watch, perfect for those that aren't looking for a lot of additional functions.
Water resistance of 200m is a great addition at this price point. You don't need to worry about the elements or other liquids your day.
The dial layout is easy to read, with two separate displays for the time and the date, separate by the middle section that counts every 10 seconds.
Whilst the dial readability is good, I don't really like the middle section that allows the keeping track of 10s increments. I find it of limited use and this space could have been used to make the time and date displays bigger. The middle 10s count display also makes the watch look a little busy.
Like all G-Shocks the DW 9052 is a bulky watch at 47mm in diameter and 15mm thick. Whilst the thickness is great for absorbing shocks, it becomes an issue for catching on things and if you need to wear it underneath a jacket in winter.
The mineral crystal display offers substantial scratch resistance, but it will get scratched over time. The scratch resistance could be improved with a sapphire crystal but that would certainly increase the price.
We’ve consulted with some paramedic friends and scoured the watch and EMT forums to determine the features that matter for EMTs. Naturally, some of these factors will be more important to you than others.
Any watch worn by an EMT is going to need to be cleaned. A lot. An unavoidable part of being an EMT is that you are going to get all sorts of bodily fluids splattered across your wrists and hands. Don’t just think about the face, but the rear casing, band, buttons and even the bezel (if it has one) will need to be routinely washed with soap and/or alcohol.
Internal watch components hate water, soap, alcohol (rubbing and EtOH) and other fluids, so a watch that has good water resistance (please don’t say waterproof -- there is no such thing) should be high on your list of must-haves.
Either a digital watch that displays seconds or an analog with a second hand will generally be required for taking a patient’s pulse etc. Some work environments may even stipulate specific requirements such as an analog with a second hand MUST be worn. Obviously you need to adopt this guide to your own circumstances.
Dial readability in an instant is a must. A dark background with contrasting hands is a great option. Black dials are very popular amongst EMT’s for this reason.
This is particularly critical for night shift duties. Standard practice is to use a non-radioactive photoluminescent material to provide the luminosity. However, this means that the watch needs to be exposed to a light source to “recharge”, which may not be possible on a long night shift with the end result being a watch with poor luminosity and difficult to read at night.
If luminosity is important to you, then your best bet is to get a watch with tritium gas inserts or a back-lit LED. An auto light feature is the next best option which automatically turns on the light if the watch is tilted towards you to read it. The lights up if you turn your wrist.
The band needs to be easily washable as it should really be washed whenever you wash your hands. It should also be easily replaceable as chances are you’ll go through a few.
Band material is also an important consideration as it can be a hotbed for bacteria and other threats to patients. Metal links can trap a whole range of nasties, while leather and nylon can also absorb hazardous pathogens. So, the best choice is a plastic/silicone band.
Wondering whether your watch is going to be able to withstand all the small bumps, scrapes, dings and scratches that it will inevitably receive whilst on EMT duty is not really something you want to be worrying about. A watch with a proven track history of absorbing shocks and abuse should be an important consideration if you're thinking of the watch as anything more than a throw away investment.
Whilst watch size generally comes down to personal preference, there are a couple of additional points an EMT needs to factor in which may lead to a smaller size being preferred. The first is a bulky watch is more difficult to wear underneath a sweater or jacket. Secondly, a larger watch may impede your wrist movement during important procedures such as giving CPR.
If you have any doubt, start with a smaller watch.
Price is clearly going to be a factor. We’ve left it last because there are two different schools of thought when it comes to how much an EMT should spend on a watch.
The first says that just use a very basic watch that fulfills most of the above criteria and replace the watch whenever it breaks or gets too dirty. This is also a great strategy for those that are a little unsure about what watch they should be wearing on duty as a paramedic, especially new recruits.
The second school of thought suggests that it’s worthwhile going for something a little more expensive that you shouldn’t have to replace as often. This will give you a watch that has more features and should fulfill all of your requirements.
Whatever path you decide to go down, leave room in your budget for some replacement bands as these will most likely get pretty gross quickly.
Popular culture has caught onto the fact that G-Shock is the unofficial choice of EMTs, with numerous shows featuring G-Shocks on the wrist of characters employed as EMTs.
My favorite is Shameless, where several G-Shocks can be spotted such as this one:
If you're looking for a watch that will help you 'fit in', then G-Shocks are an obvious choice.
Don’t overthink the decision to find the best watch for your job as an EMT.
Do you just want something to get the job done with a minimum of fuss? If this is you, then go for the cheapest option in our list, the Marathon by Timex.
If you are after something that quenches your thirst for features without breaking the bank, the G-Shock Tough Solar is best for you