The Marathon Navigator In Steel

I have a soft spot for asymmetrical cases. Whether it’s my trusty Speedmaster or my own personal resin-cased Marathon Navigator, something about the offset case shape just hits different. Today, I’m excited to take a look at one of Marathon’s newest offerings — the Navigator in stainless steel. Upon trying it on for the first time, it just immediately clicked. This watch feels like it was made to be rendered in the matte stainless steel. This Canadian-designed and Swiss-manufactured watch is part of a solid lineup of MIL SPEC watches that are built to withstand the toughest conditions. Originally designed for paratroopers, pilots, and law enforcement, the Navigator is a no-frills watch that’s built like a tank. One of the best parts about it is how it wears, it wears deceptively small for its measured size due to the handsome asymmetrical case. Let’s take a closer look at this tough offering from Marathon that I believe makes an excellent everyday watch. We’ll also be making some comparisons between the stainless steel version and the original resin case. 

But first, let’s get a brief history lesson on this MIL SPEC watch and how it came to be. The military specification “MIL-W-46374” is used by the US military to address their specific needs for wrist watches. Originally developed in 1964 during the Vietnam War, this spec has undergone several different revisions, currently sitting at Rev. G, which it’s remained at since 1999. The original spec lacked the rotating bezel, which was added into the spec in 1991. If you look up the code, you’ll be taken to the actual spec sheet that calls out the features of the watch, which currently lives on the US Nuclear Regulatory Committee’s website. This style of case and dial may look familiar, since typically military jobs go out to the lowest bidder. Other makers like Benrus, Hamilton, and even Timex have made military spec watches. Marathon has been in the business for over 80 years, with military watch experience dating back to the start of World War II. MIL SPEC design has a heavy focus on durability and reliability, making the ideal candidates for us civilians as well.


The Marathon Navigator In Steel

Stainless Steel
ETA F06.412 High-Torque Quartz
Matte Black
Tritium gas tubes
Flat Sapphire
Black Nylon Ballistic
Water Resistance
Lug Width
Screw Down


At its widest, the Navigator measures in at 41mm. Due to the shape of the case, it doesn’t look or feel nearly as big. It’s definitely more like a 39mm watch on the wrist. At 11mm thick, it wears pretty slim too. The entire watch is rendered in a matte finish, which has a distinct glow to it when it hits the light. I don’t find myself missing any brushing or polishing here, the matte finish makes a lot of sense on a watch designed for military applications. On the back of the case, you’ll find several lines of text containing various military specifications and classification numbers, along with a convenient slotted battery cover for quick and easy battery swaps. A 3mm thick flat sapphire crystal protects the dial underneath while remaining clear and durable. Up top, a bi-directional rotating 12-hour bezel is ideal for tracking elapsed hours or a second time zone.

I find a 12 hour bezel to be extremely useful in daily applications. For me, it’s more often that I track hours as opposed to minutes and having the ability to display the second time zone at a glance is easier to read for me than a standalone GMT hand. The case geometry adds to the wearability of the watch. A thin mid-case allows the case back to sit nicely on the wrist, while a gentle angle up to the bezel eliminates any serious thick slab-like surfaces. 

Originally offered with a high-impact fiber reinforced resin case, the Navigator has undergone a few key changes when making the switch to stainless steel. In addition to having a more satisfying heft (while not feeling heavy), the case now has a screw down crown. This addition bumps the water resistance from 60M to 100M, making the Navigator more capable than ever. The resin case was very light, and for me not the most durable. I managed to take a nice chunk out of the bezel, probably during an unfortunate encounter between my wrist and a door knob. The steel version has a much more premium feel to it, including the operation of the bezel. The resin version always felt a little loose, and I appreciate the much more solid experience on its steel counterpart.

Dial + Hands

The Navigator’s matte black dial is a very straightforward experience. It’s a mix of field and pilot style dials, with a dual 12- and 24-hour time scale. Simple white hash marks are present at each minute, while a small tube of tritium gas is inset at each hour. The marker at 12 glows orange, while the rest glow green. The orange tube at 12 helps orient the watch when it’s dark, which makes you able to read the time quickly and easily in day or night. Syringe hands are present for the hours and minutes, while the red-tipped seconds hand ticks around the dial. A text-based Marathon logo at 12 is the only branding on the dial of the watch. At 3, there’s a small radioactive symbol (you know, because this watch is full of radioactive gas) and at 9 there’s an “H3” marking that officially marks the presence of radiation in the eyes of the military. The tritium tubes are a great addition that I’ve found convenient during the night. 

They glow without requiring exposure to light thanks to the constant shedding of electrons, courtesy of the small-scale (and safe) radioactive decay taking place in your watch. 

Simple and legible are the two things that come to mind when looking at the dial of the Navigator. It’s not particularly exciting, but I really appreciate the functional and stark design of the dial and watch overall. I’m not a huge fan of the 4:30 date window application here, only because it’s made of a white date wheel with black text. Again, it’s very legible, but I would have liked to see a dial-matched date wheel just to keep the date display a little bit more low-key. 


Powering the Navigator is an ETA F06.412 High-Torque Quartz movement. The movement features a 5+ year battery life and a high degree of accuracy. The F06 is accurate to -0.3/+0.5 seconds per day, an impressive and convenient choice. At the end of battery life, the watch will only tick once every four seconds, reminding you to change the battery. The movement is a high-torque movement with HeavyDrive and PreciDrive technologies. HeavyDrive is a technology that counters imbalances in hand weight. I’m speculating here, but this should help with the added weight from the tritium tubes on the hands. 

A new integrated circuit inside the movement is capable of detecting shocks and providing a counter-impulse that offsets the initial impact. Basically, it’s a robust anti-shock system that’s built right into the movement. PreciDrive refers to the integral thermo-compensation that allows for a wider range of operating temperatures while still maintaining COSC chronometer specs. 

It’s easy to say “yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s got a quartz movement — who cares?” But there’s a lot of cool tech in there that results in a more robust watch that is able to withstand shocks, bumps, and knocks while maintaining an impressive degree of precision and reliability without the need to change batteries more than once in half a decade.

Strap + Wearability

If there’s one thing about the Navigator I don’t really like, it’s the included strap. It’s so close to being great, but the quirky hardware design leaves me wanting to swap straps rather than stick with the original. The included nylon strap features matte finished steel hardware with a squared off signed buckle. What I don’t particularly enjoy is the design of the hardware. In addition to the sharp edges, the keepers don’t allow for enough clearance to fold the strap over the way I like to. There’s only enough room to fold the strap back over the closest keeper to the case and then tucked into the second. This results in a bulkier strap wearing experience that falls out of line with the rest of the watch. A simple increase in height of the first keeper would allow for the strap to fold back on itself through both keepers with a more secure and less bulky fit. 

There is some good news though…this watch is very strap friendly. I popped it on a Crown and Buckle Matte Supreme strap in “Uniform” — which is a dark shade of olive that fits the military vibe very well. A Phoenix nato also worked out great. Really, any strap you could think of would work on this watch. The lug width is listed at 20mm, but I’ve found that some straps are a tight fit. You could easily rock a 19mm strap here or maybe do a little squeezing for the 20mm. Either way, this watch just begs to be worn on a variety of straps that fit your MIL SPEC tactical needs (or just whatever you feel like wearing to the office that day). 

I hinted at it earlier, but the Navigator wears really well on my modestly-sized 6.75” wrist. The 41mm case wears smaller than its measured size, with the asymmetrical case playing a big part in how it wears. At 11mm in height it’s not too thick and not too thin, hitting that nice balance between super slim and flimsy and thick and unwieldy. The stainless steel case adds a nice bit of heft over the resin case, but never feels overbearing. I appreciate the extra sense of sturdiness and found myself gravitating towards the steel version.



I was a fan of the original resin-cased Navigator, but upon trying out the steel version, I can say I’m a convert. The extra sturdy feeling, added water resistance, and cool matte finished case that adds just enough heft all make this watch a better version of its former self. The steel case is not a replacement, but an addition to the lineup and I do believe there’s room for both. It’s hard to argue against the super lightweight experience with the resin case, but it does lack durability compared to the steel version, which is evident to me every time I take a look down at my cracked bezel. I’m strongly considering swapping out the resin for the steel in my own personal collection, and I think that many will feel the same. 

The watch is handsome, rugged, and functional. I love how it is at home on nearly any strap, and the grab-and-go element is very convenient. Inside, the ETA quartz movement packs in a lot of tech-forward features that largely go unnoticed, but that’s the point — it just plain works, day-in, day-out. Marathon’s Navigator in Steel is $800 on ballistic nylon or an additional $30 for the DEFSTAN strap. I would say skip the more expensive strap unless you’re okay with the way it folds over, since you’ll likely be swapping this thing around on the straps you already have in your collection. Marathon took an existing watch, and added more functional features to it. In the case of the Navigator in Steel, that was exactly the right move. Marathon

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Ed is a Long Island-based writer and photographer with an affinity for watches, fountain pens, EDC gear, and a great cup of coffee. He’s always looking for the best gear for the job—whether it be new watch, pen, flashlight, knife, or wallet. Ed enjoys writing because it’s an awesome (and fulfilling) way to interact with those who share the same interests.