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Tough, USA-Made, Solar-Powered Field Watch: Vaer C5 Tactical Review

Vaer's C5 Tactical has solar charging, durability, and a tasteful appearance that make it a great value for a watch meant to get down and dirty.

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I had just climbed to the top of the East Wall hike at Arapahoe Basin. I felt a bit behind schedule. My friends were waiting to meet me after my quick mission through some of Colorado’s toughest inbounds terrain.

I quickly pulled back my jacket cuff and checked the time on the Vaer C5 Tactical wristwatch. I had 20 minutes to descend the North Pole chute, hop a chairlift back to the top, and descend again to the lodge where they were grabbing drinks.

I needed to hustle, but thanks to the slim, comfortable, and durable field watch, I knew I could make it.

For the last 4 months, I’ve worn the Vaer C5 Tactical Solar through many of my outings to test it against some of the best field watches on the market. It stacks up well, even at a value price.

Vaer C5 Tactical Solar review
The Vaer C5 Tactical Solar has no problem with a little snow and cold; (photo/Sean McCoy)

In short: The Vaer C5 Tactical is a great value in a wristwatch. At $300, it packs in high-end features like solar charging, 10-atmosphere water resistance, excellent lume, two straps, sapphire crystal, and an accurate quartz movement. USA assembly and a lovely strap add to this nice watch that can dress up — or down — to match many occasions.

Shopping for field watches? Check out my guide to the best field watches here.

Vaer C5 Tactical


  • Reference number N/A
  • Case size 40mm
  • Lug size 20mm
  • Movement Quartz
  • Case material 316L stainless steel
  • Strap color Various (comes with two straps)
  • Water resistance 100 m


  • Solar charging means nearly infinite lifespan
  • Rugged
  • Very water resistant
  • Ships with two straps


  • Date window somewhat hard to read

Vaer C5 Tactical Review: Ideal Field Watch for Rough Use

I think it’s important to note that I’m probably not aligned with most of the watch enthusiast reviewers online, particularly when it comes to field watches. Sure, I think appearance, history, finish, and other horological complications can be fun conversation starters.

But when it comes down to brass tacks, a field watch needs to tell reliable time under difficult conditions and do so reliably even when dirty, wet, and abused. So, in my testing, I put much more emphasis on hard use than blingy appearance (although I appreciate a pretty watch). And here’s where the C5 thrives.

Vaer C5 Tactical Solar in slush snow
The Vear C5 Tactical Solar, buried in a little slush; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Over several months, I wore the C5 while hunting, skiing, hiking, and even through a productive day of tree pruning, high in a Siberian elm, while wearing climbing gear.

It has been in the Platte River while I placed decoys at -15 degrees. It’s even been ice fishing in western Wisconsin.

Through all of this, it shows nary a scratch. The band still looks brand new, and the case has not allowed any water ingress. (Although I did pick up a bit of fog in a test; more on this later.)

So, my short assessment is that the C5 Tactical is a watch that measures up to the requirements of a field watch. And it’s very, very easy to read in low light.

Vaer C5 Tactical Durability Testing

Vaer rates the C5 Tactical to 10 bars, or 100 m, of water resistance. While I don’t have access to a pressure chamber (and have never come close to diving that deep with my measly PADI recreational diver certification), I did make sure this watch can survive the bare minimum.

Beyond wearing it in tough-use situations, I also put it in a glass of water for a few hours. It showed no water incursion. Then, I took it right from the water and stuck it in the freezer for 2 hours. When I removed it, it showed no signs of extra fog or water inside the crystal.

It did, however, frost up and was very pretty in the afternoon sun.

Vaer C5 Tactical Solar lume
Water testing the Vear C5 Solar reveals the bright lume; (photo/Sean McCoy)

The only test that showed some vulnerability was leaving it in a slushy snowbank for a half hour. For some reason, when I removed it, a little fog appeared on the inside of the crystal. It quickly dissipated once the watch warmed a bit. But it did show that this watch has a touch of moisture in the internal air, unlike the $8,000 Mont Blanc I tested, which is filled with nitrogen.

But for nearly $8,000 less, I think I can let a bit of fog slide.

Fairly Priced

The C5 Tactical has a 40mm bezel and 20mm lug size. It is quite thin, at 10.4 mm. That means it sits nicely under shirt cuffs, even on relatively tight dress shirts or ski jackets.

It has a classic field watch face with bold, light green hour numerals. Small 24-hour markings sit slightly toward the center of the face. The face is easily legible and reads quickly. It also has incredible lume, glowing brightly in the dark even 10+ hours after turning the lights off for the day.

Thanks to solar charging, you should rarely, if ever, need to replace the battery. The brand notes that 1 hour of sunlight will power the watch for 6 months. I will update the story if I find I need to replace the battery in the future.

Vaer C5 Tactical Solar
Testing the Vaer C5 Tactical Solar; (photo/Sean McCoy)

The quartz version I tested has an obvious 1-second tick on the second hand. I haven’t seen the version with the automatic movement, which retails at a significantly higher price of $600. I imagine it has a nicer sweep, as most automatic movements are much smoother than this type of quartz.

However, for its intended purpose as a hard-use field watch, the Vaer C5 Tactical Solar is just about ideal. It’s among the best field watch choices for many people. If you’re in the market and intend to use your watch hard, this one is a great choice.

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Sean McCoy

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