Marathon Watch Buyer's Guide

Watch lovers at heart, we know that Marathon watches are unparalleled, but it can be difficult to choose the right one. There are too many options to choose from, and cost doesn't always equal quality. We also believe that everyone deserves a good watch. That's why we made this guide - so that you end up with the right watch for you, at the right price.

Marathon's Swiss-made, military-grade timepieces serve a variety of functions. They're built to withstand harsh conditions underwater, in the air, and on land. The Marathon watch company delivers consistent, high-quality Diver, Navigator, and Pilot watches, as well as field and general purpose watches. Multiple movement options as well as digital and analog designs make Marathon one of the most versatile brands on the market.

TopSpecUS.com supplies the entire line of authentic, collectible, military-issue Marathon watches. These are the same watches that Marathon supplies to the U.S. and Canadian governments and military, now available online for your tactical and outdoor use. Not just “military style” watches, these timepieces are genuine government and military contract watches.

Marathon watches and chronographs look great, but you shouldn't focus on superficial characteristics when you choose your watch. Think about the kind of abuse it's going to take. Will you be wearing it in battle, in the board room, or while you shovel snow? Do you need a watch that can go with you on a dive, or one you can wear when you jump out of a plane?

What the heck is a chronograph?

It might sound like it, but chronograph isn't just another word for a watch. A chronograph is a timepiece that has an independent second sweep hand and can be used as a stopwatch. It's an extremely accurate device, more so than a normal watch. If you coach or participate in timed competitions, a chronograph is probably a good pick. Divers might also find these watches useful.

Some watches are built tough for daily wear. You can take them camping, hiking, or to work, but you wouldn't wear them out on the town. If you're looking for an everyday watch that know how to take a beating and handle a trip in the backwoods, the Marathon Army Field Watch is a great pick. Tritium vials make the dials make the hours and hands visible, regardless of lighting conditions, and the waterproof, dustproof, fibreshell case guarantees that this watch is ready for anything.

Marathon's line of general purpose and field watches range from $50-$300 in price, and come in digital and analog designs that are built for tactical use in the field. Cut grass, chop wood, go camping, and head into battle with these affordable and attractive general use and field watch designs.

Tritium v. Lume - What's the difference?

Tritium tubes are self-illuminating and deliver up to 12 years of consistent glow on your watch dial and hands. They contain a safe, radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Lume, on the other hand, reacts to light in order to provide illumination. Both are great options, and both have drawbacks, too.

Tritium tubes can dislodge over time, and may need to be put back in place. They can also be a headache to change when their 10 to 12-year lifespan ends. Lume, MaraGlo included, can lose its brilliance over time, and needs to get a little light from...the light...in order to glow. If you're planning on using your watch consistently in low light conditions (underwater, overnight ops), opt for the tritium. Otherwise, you'll probably do just fine with the lume.

Dive Watches

Every company has their area of expertise, and Marathon is a recognized leader in dive watches. The wide variety of face sizes and designs make them a great choice for most men's wrist sizes. Some of the company's larger designs, like the JDD, JSAR and CSAR may work better on men due to their size. The smaller models, like the Medium Diver, and medium sizes like the GSAR and TSAR, are smart picks for women, too. The company doesn't design with gender in mind - wear the watch you like!

If you're looking for something you can dress up easily for a night out, a black rubber or stainless steel band on the TSAR, JSAR, or GSAR are great choices. The case size and engineering is just right on these search and rescue dive watch designs - you won't feel like you're lugging around lead weights, but your watch won't be a forgotten accessory, either. The engineering is superb, and the links are solid.

Don't forget to pressure test dive watches after repairs or battery replacements. The last place you want to find out that the pressure rating of your watch was affected by repairs is in the water.

Marathon's SAR watches come in several styles, and the differences can be a little mind-boggling without a side-by-side photo to help you compare them.

SAR: The original SAR dive watch design from Marathon, the SAR is built like a tank. It has a relatively small face compared to many men's watches, but not so small that it won't be noticed. The SAR didn't have the tritium dials that make Marathon watch illumination unbeatably reliable, they used lume instead. It's the only Marathon watch design with a cyclops over the date (a real love/hate thing for most SAR owners), and no longer in production. Automatic 2824.

DSAR: No longer in production, the DSAR was a production error that affected roughly 200 Marathon watches. The face mistakenly said that the dials were tritium, but they weren't. This watch is a true collector's item if you can get your hands on it (but don't hold your breath…).

GSAR: Tritium illumination and a stainless steel case make this watch one you can be proud to wear in all conditions. The case is standard-sized, and slightly smaller than many of Marathon's other designs, making it a great pick for small and average wrists. The GSAR is a U.S. Government contracted watch, and some models have U.S. Government insignia. Automatic 2824. Date only at 4:30pm.
USMC GSAR: A watch with a mission, the USMC GSAR supports Marine Corps activities, and is bedecked in USMC insignia. “Semper Fidelis” and “U.S. Marine Corps” are engraved on the watch. If you're a current or former U.S. Marine, start your watch search here. Automatic 2824. Date only at 4:30pm.
JSAR: Hard to find these days, the JSAR is the jumbo version of the SAR watch. MaraGlo illumination is used instead of tritium. It's a high-torque quartz watch with End-of-Life display that works best on larger wrist sizes (hence the “J” for Jumbo). Date only at 4:30pm.
Maple Leaf Limited Edition JSAR: A little pricier than the standard edition of the JSAR, this limited edition release includes high-torque ETA Quartz movement, the same jumbo size, and a larger date display. Only 1,000 were made, and watch freaks that we are, we may have a few in stock or we can order one for you. Date only at 4:30pm.
JDD: The automatic JSAR, or JDD, is a work-horse of a watch. Still in its first run of less than 200 serial numbers, it's a great item for collectors to grab, but also makes a fine wrist piece for the serious diver. It's one of Marathon's bilingual watches, available in French and English. Tritium and Maraglo illumination work together to keep the dial well lit. Great for larger wrists and men who like a big watch. Date only at 3pm.

 

MSAR: The Canadian government issue of the GSAR, this watch is a tough one to find. It makes a great collection piece if you can locate it, though.

TSAR: The TSAR is a handsome watch, and knows how to stand up to anything. Weighing in at a whopping 16 ounces with band, you can't forget you're wearing it. It's under contract with the U.S. Government, and has also been tested to meet Canadian government specs. The case is standard size, so despite the weight, it's a good pick for small and average wrists. Quartz movement, MaraGlo and tritium illumination. Date only at 4:30pm.

 

Other popular Marathon dive watch options include the CSAR and the Medium Military Dive Watch.

 

CSAR: The chronograph version of the SAR, the CSAR is one of the pricier Marathon watch designs, but it's worth every penny. Designed for use by pilots and divers alike, this watch can take a serious beating and still keep time perfectly. This watch looks best on bigger wrists, thanks to the jumbo case. Automatic 7750 Valjoux. Date and day at 3pm.
Medium Military Dive Watch: This watch is built to withstand tough dive conditions, with a screw-down crown, water resistance to 1,000 ft., and reliable high-torque quartz movement. Tritium and MaraGlo illumination work together to keep the dials visible on this smaller version of the TSAR. It's a perfect watch for small and medium wrists, and a good pick for women and men. Date only at 4:30pm.   

Marathon Watch Size Comparison:

Marathon Watch Size Comparison

 Marathon's Most Popular Dive Watches, Side-by-Side: TSAR vs. GSAR

The TSAR and GSAR are two of the best dive watches Marathon produces, and it's no wonder that they're our best-sellers from this renowned Swiss watch manufacturer. Visually similar, if you're new to Marathon watches it can be hard to tell the difference in the models. The details are important, however.

Both watches are manufactured to meet Canadian and American government specs, but the movement is different. The TSAR is a quartz watch, while the GSAR relies on automatic movement. The TSAR is also slightly lighter than the GSAR, with the watch itself weighing 3.9 ounces (16 ounces with the band). Fans of a heavier watch may prefer the GSAR, which weighs 4.1 ounces without the band, and as Top Spec U.S.'s Ron agrees, is built like a tank.

If you need to track seconds, not just minutes, the GSAR may be the better option. The face of this watch marks every minute/second, while the TSAR chapter marks occur in increments of five.

Not sure what dive watch to choose? Check out our full collection of Marathon dive watches for more detailed descriptions of each model.

Pilot's Watch

Although Marathon's dive watches number among the company's most famous and reliable timepieces, their pilot watches are equally noteworthy. There are several dive watches that can double as a pilot's watch, including the top-selling GSAR and TSAR, Marathon offers a line of watches that is a step above other pilot watches and deserves special mention here. Made to withstand extreme altitudes and pressures of up to 6 ATM, these watches include a movable bezel for navigation and timing, and are water resistant to 196 ft. They aren't just pilot's watches. They're Navigator watches.

Navigator Watches

Bells and whistles are great in an everyday watch, but if you're flying a plane you need something simple with an easy to read face and the ability to rapidly change time zones. A lightweight timepiece that doesn't feel (or look) like a tuna can on your wrist is another plus. Marathon's Navigator watches are perfect for serious pilots and anyone who prefers a lightweight, no-frills, no-nonsense watch.

This “anti-watch” comes with a basic nylon band - something many new Navigator owners are initially skeptical about. The durable, easy-to-clean, and lightweight nature of the nylon band is a true bonus, however. The basic Navigator watch's total weight is under 50 grams, but don't let the light weight fool you. Even if you bang this pilot's watch on a door jam, fall on it, or accidentally step on the face, it's likely to survive thanks to the Hesalite crystal face and fibreshell case.

At Top Spec U.S., we carry five Marathon Navigator watches. The differences can be a little difficult to see at first glance, so we're detailing them here.

Navigator with Date: With ETA-F04 high-torque quartz movement, this tough timepiece can take a beating. Tritium tube illumination is reliable in low to no light is reliable for 12 years or more. This is the most popular Marathon Navigator watch, and with good reason. Date only at 4:30pm. Bi-directional bezel. 42 gram weight.
USMC Pilot Navigator: This isn't a tacticool watch, it's the real deal: a military issue pilots' watch for high altitude use. A bi-directional time zone ring, 12 and 24 hour time markings, and tritium tube illumination make this watch easy to read in all conditions and time zones. USMC logo on the watch face. Quartz movement. Date only at 4:30pm. Bi-directional bezel. 42 gram weight.
Duvdevan Navigator: Made for the elite Duvdevan unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, this watch has a high altitude rating of 35,000 ft., a fibreshell case, tritium illumination, easy-set date function, and a bi-directional bezel. It's desert tan color is perfect for the outdoors. Duvdevan logo on the watch face. Quartz movement. Date only at 4:30pm. Bi-directional bezel. 42 gram weight.
Navigator without Date: Unlike the other analog Navigator watches on this list, this model has no date cluttering up the face. It's the perfect choice for pilots who want a quick to read date and no fuss, as well as anyone who finds the date setting a waste of space. Tritium illumination. Quartz movement. Bi-directional bezel. 42 gram weight.

 

Navigators are an elite class of watches for aviation and high-altitude use, but if you're looking for a pilot's watch you can use for dress occasions, this might not be the right choice. View all Marathon Pilot Watches for a larger selection of watches that tackle altitude with ease.

You don't have to break the bank to get a good pilot's watch - several options exist under the $200 price point, even with Swiss movement. If you're in the mood for functional wrist jewelry that costs a little extra, however, check out the Marathon CSAR. It's a great-looking Marathon watch with plenty of function to match its stylish form.

Everyday Use

Not everyone wants deep water or high altitude function for their daily use, beater watch. Although many of the watches we mentioned earlier are perfect for daily wear and tear, Marathon offers numerous options for daily use. The general purpose mechanical and quartz watches are the most basic options, but for a more vintage look, check out the limited edition Benrus mechanical field watch.

Digital watch fans will love the simple, straightforward, and durable Marathon General Purpose (GPD) digital watch. Rock-solid durability with all the standard features you Casio G-Shock lovers expect.

Marathon's GPM and GPQ are two more solid picks in this lineup. These actual military field watches are issued to enlisted personnel, but available for civilian purchase, too. They're built to take tough environments, and can withstand a serious beating. Take them 100 ft. under water and they'll resurface like nothing happened. 

Know Your Marathon Watch Options

Marathon watches come with a wide range of features. Browse carefully to find the right watch for your needs - one that has the crystal, case, and details you want, as well as the functional features you require. After all, a good watch lasts a lifetime, and Marathon makes a great watch.

Crystal

The crystal of a watch is the material that you look through to see the dials. There are lots of options, but glass isn't one. Most watches worth buying use Hesalite, sapphire, or plastic crystals for their durability, clarity, and scratch resistance.

Hesalite Crystal

One of the most economic options for a watch crystal, Hesalite is an acrylic optic material, and the choice of NASA thanks to the fact that it doesn't fracture into tiny fragments on impact. It's extremely durable, offers good impact resistance, high tensile strength and resistance, and is easy to clean. Scratches on Hesalite can be easily removed with Polywatch, and we've even heard some watch lovers swear by toothpaste as a scratch remover for Hesalite.

Sapphire Crystal

The premium material for high-end watches is sapphire crystal, and with good reason. It's one of the most durable watch cover materials available, and is three times more durable than mineral glass covers, which are the next step down the pricing ladder for watch crystals (but is not available on the Marathon watches we stock). Sapphire crystals are made of a shatterproof and scratch resistant man-made material.

Case

Your watch case protects the machinery that keeps you punctual, but also determines the final look of the watch and its weight.

Fibreshell

Fibreshell is a carbon fiber material that's made to withstand almost anything. It's durable, reliable, doesn't feel cold or hot on your wrist. On the downside, fibreshell can look like plastic, which isn't the high-end metal feel some watch owners want.

Stainless Steel

Ideal for anyone who doesn't want to forget they're wearing a watch, stainless steel cases can be heavy. They do a great job of protecting the watch mechanism, but can scratch on impact and transfer heat and cold easily.

Personalization

A watch is a personal item. It's something you have to choose carefully to match your style and needs. Marathon watches come with a variety of insignia options for the US military, Duvdevan IDF, and Canadian military. Some designs include extra space for engraving, as well.

Movement

Quartz

Looking for a great watch with quartz movement? The reliability of quartz movement is excellent, affordable, and requires less adjustment than mechanical watches. Battery life is usually 1.5 years or longer for quartz watches, which is a big plus for anyone who hates changing watch batteries (we do - and we suggest passing that job to the local jeweler when the time comes...). Another plus? Quartz movement results in the loss of a few seconds per month, amounting to a minute or less of adjustment each year.

Many Marathon watches contain a 100% Swiss-made ETA F06 3 jewel high-torque quartz movement that is extremely accurate and is used in many high-end timepieces. Top Spec U.S. carries the following Marathon watches with quartz movement:

Diver's Watches

JSAR Quartz Divers Watch
TSAR Military Divers Watch
Maple Leaf JSAR Canadian Divers Watch
Military Medium Divers Watch

Pilot's Watches

Navigator without Date
Navigator with Date
USMC Pilot Navigator with Date
Duvdevan Navigator

General Purpose Watches

General Purpose Watch with Tritium
General Purpose Watch with Date
General Purpose with MaraGlo
General Purpose Digital Adanac

Automatic

Automatic watches don't require frequent manual winding, and they offer numerous advantages. Most importantly, their built carefully, with attention to detail. They can also take a serious beating and still work perfectly. Our automatic Marathon watch selection includes the following models:

Diver's Watches

GSAR Automatic Military Diver's Watch
USMC Automatic Dive Watch (GSAR)
JDD Large Automatic Diver's Watch with Day and Date

Pilot's Watches

CSAR Chronograph Automatic Pilot Watch

Mechanical

A choice for the true watch connoisseur, mechanical Marathon watches are painstakingly crafted with a keen eye to detail in Switzerland. Designed to last for generations, these are watches you can use for decades. They can lose a few minutes each month and may require regular winding, but they're a classic choice for collectors, and they look great.

General Purpose Watches

General Purpose Mechanical Watch
Mechanical Field Watch (Limited Benrus Edition, Discontinued)

Repairs

It's easy to get your Marathon watch serviced and repaired, although it's built to hack the worst, so you most likely won't need to. Call Marathon warranty repair (ask your retailer or look the contact info up online). Marathon watches have a 2-year manufacturer's warranty. When the warranty ends, the company will still repair your watch for a reasonable cost. Watchmakers and jewelers with watch repair experience can handle minor repairs, adjustments, and battery replacement.

Straps

Most Marathon watches come with either a vulcanized natural rubber strap or a stainless steel bracelet. If you've got a NATO strap, canvas, leather, or sailcloth strap you'd prefer to use, just make sure it's the right size for the watch you choose. It's easy to swap watch straps, and a skill you'll want to use when it's time to take your watch from the outdoors to the office or vice versa.

The standard straps on Marathon watch models are comfortable, rugged, and ready to perform. They won't leave a funky smell on your wrist or lose their finish and look dull. Curious what the difference between the rubber and steel straps is? Keep reading.

What is the general consensus on the bracelet vs. rubber strap?

Choosing a stainless steel bracelet or rubber strap really comes down to personal preference. Most people consider the bracelet more dressy and the rubber more sporty or suitable for “every day” use. The bracelet is much heavier due to its solid stainless steel construction. Both options work well for diving or other water sports.

How does the rubber strap hold up?

The marathon rubber straps are vulcanized natural rubber, and they have a slight (very pleasant) vanilla fragrance to them when new. This helps keep bad odors to a minimum. Because of the natural rubber, the straps are very pliable and comfortable. They're also less prone to drying out and cracking.

Depending on use, the rubber straps should provide years of service and only need to be replaced if they show signs of cracking, deterioration, or damage. Be sure to check the ends of the straps where the buckles and spring bars attach, as these areas tend to be more prone to damage and signs of wear.

Now that you've got the info you need to find the perfect Marathon watch, check out our full selection of Marathon watches and accessories.

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