What happens when a Tier 1 military watch manufacturer and a world class survival expert combine forces?

Unlike a professional diving watch, there is no minimum specification for a dedicated “outdoor/adventure” watch. Yet, in both these activities, a robust reliable watch is an essential piece of equipment. Had the purpose of this feature been to discuss ISO 6425 dive watches various brands and specific models would spring to mind. However, when asked to name their chosen outdoor/adventure watch, even the most diehard chrono-enthusiast may struggle, reinforcing the fact that there are very few dedicated models available.

The Rolex Explorer, commonly known as the ultimate 'outdoor' watch - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Some big brands have worked hard to capture this elusive market with clever model names such as the Rolex Explorer 1 and 2 but these are, in reality, stainless steel watches, all be it high-end, manufactured to similar specs as non-exploration models.

At the digital end of the scale, Casio offers the Pro-Trek range, very much aimed at exploration. These are capable watches with lots of features, but they do require daily recalibration. As a challenger to this mighty brand Sunnto came along in 1998 with hi-tech models such as the Vector which picked up on perceived technical deficiencies of other brands. For a while, there were en-vogue with outdoor enthusiasts and Spec Ops however harsh environments proved they were not impervious. (Two weeks in the Kalahari Desert caused mine to fail).

So, we are left with the question, are there any authentic, capable, dedicated, exploration watches? There was one for sure. 100% designed as an Arctic and Antarctic scientific exploration watch, it is the Citizen PMU56 Titanium Pro-Master Tough made from 1999-2007; colloquially known as the Ray Mears. By any standards, it is an amazing watch, monocoque and resistant to 16K Gauss, but the reality is that Ray had nothing to do with the design of this Citizen. He just wore one, and the legend grew.

Nevertheless, it does make one wonder what the technical result would be if a notable survival expert teamed up with a battle-proven military watch manufacturer to produce a range of timepieces aimed at those of us who like to explore the planet’s more hostile environments.

Luminox meets Bear Grylls

Luminox announced a collaboration with Bear Grylls in 2020. The resulting Survival Collection consists of four ranges of highly capable watches built to withstand every environment. As one would expect from Luminox all the models feature tritium technology, so the watch is visible in any lighting conditions. During preparation for this review, we had considerable communication with Luminox UK, and they were keen to point out that these watches are a true collaboration with many design features coming from Bear himself. Indeed, he tested all the watches during production and made design changes based on his experience with them. They are professional pieces of equipment, are not just a “branding” exercise.

Luminox Bear Grylls Sea Series - Image Credit: Luminox

The Sea Series comes in a 42mm CARBONOX case and is water-resistant to 200 meters. The bezel has a diving time mark highlighted in a different colour for legibility. The series comes with a waved black rubber strap, high grip crown and hands in colours easy to see underwater.

The ECO Series uses 100% recycled material to produce the case, bezel, and strap. At 45 mm the watch benefits from similar features to the SEA series but hails from a hugely different philosophy. Ocean waste from Thailand is registered, washed, shredded and turned into a granular material that can be injected. A portion of the sale price is donated to the protection of underwater environments.

Luminox Bear Grylls Master Series - Image Credit: Luminox

The Master Series features two 45mm chronographs in CARBONOX cases with orange details. The pushers are stainless steel, while the crown has the trademark orange easy grip feature. Water-resistant to 300 meters with anti-reflective sapphire and a survival compass assembled into the strap

Finally, The Land Series, which we have on test at WatchGecko, comes equipped with everything Bear Grylls deems necessary to survive a terrestrial adventure.

The Luminox Bear Grylls Survival Series 3780 - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

The 45mm CARBONOX case is water-resistant to 200 meters and all models have a special bezel scale for calculating walking speed. Dials are black or khaki-green and straps are made from rubber with map reading markings; or tightly knotted paracord survival material. The dials of both watches feature orange markings, and Bear’s “Never Give Up” slogan. As with the Sea, ECO and Master Series the crowns feature an inset rubber ring for easy grip.

Out on test - Bear Grylls Survival Series 3780 KM with Paracord

First sight of the 3780 package is the rugged polymer Peli-style case which is synonymous with Luminox. Once the watch is on your wrist you will always find a use for this box! Opening the lid reveals a large purposeful timepiece with your eyes being drawn to the Bear Grylls trademark orange accents, green dial which reflects the mossy tones of our terrain, and the chunky paracord strap.

Even before handling, the watch looks like a serious piece of outdoor equipment. A pouch in the side of the box also contains booklets on survival and Bear’s philosophy on life which all adds to the overall adventurous feel of the package. The quartz watch weighs 89g which is not particularly heavy for a 45mm chronograph. Luminox have manufactured the body from their propriety material CARBONOX which consists of compressed carbon powder. It is 6 times lighter than steel and 3 times lighter than titanium; non-metallic, anti-allergenic and anti-magnetic with strong chemical resistance. It does not get hot in warm temperatures or cold in extreme cold climates. It is the perfect material for a survival watch.

The two-piece 24mm strap is unique and worthy of scrutiny. Each half is formed by the joining of two distinct materials, a NATO-style fabric zone which connects at the buckle ends and a tightly wound paracord section which connects at the spring bar end. The NATO area feels like any high-quality G10 strap but the addition of the paracord element makes for a soft and flexible area on the side of the wrist. If you are not familiar with paracord it is a type of rope, specifically kernmantle rope, which consists of an inner core protected by a woven outer cover. It has exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and durability. First created during WW2 for military parachutes, it has today evolved into a material extensively used in camping, hiking and survival work.

Paracord has hundreds of uses and is a great resource. Luminox informed us that its inclusion was at the instance of Bear himself, however, in the interest of public service we offer a word of warning. Before you are tempted to unravel it, make sure you know how to tie it back together. The Luminox 3780 strap comes with 0.8m of paracord professionally tied which has a weight-bearing limit of 250kg.

The watch itself sits well on the wrist and does not feel oversized. Clarity is good and orange highlights in important zones enhance legibility. That said, as Luminox chronographs go, it is not the typical milspec stark black and white we are accustomed to from the brand. There is a subtlety and sophistication to this dial where different colours of moss green, slate grey and matt white and metallic merge well, all reflecting different elements of the environment. The dial itself is a textured grid pattern reminiscent of map meridians and parallels.

Navigation is at the very heart of the watch. The fixed outer bezel has a scale similar to a Tachymeter, calibrated in miles or kilometres, designed to measure your walking speed. The Km scale we had on test is based on a record of steps taken over 50m. First, you need to calculate your stride length. (Mine was 0.67m, therefore, it takes me approximately 74 steps to cover 50m.) Push the top chronograph button to start the sweep hand and count 74 steps (i.e. 50m). Stop the chronograph and take a reading. My leisurely speed was 3.2 km/h.

Using basic maths of speed x time = distance extends this calculation to several hours of walking on a fixed compass bearing and you can work out how far you have travelled on a map. This skill is particularly useful on a map where there are very few landmarks.

The orange rubber inset on the crown is excellent and makes it easy to unscrew and adjust, especially when wearing thick outdoor gloves. The pushers have a reassuring click and the iconic Luminox logo at the 12 marker lets you know that the watch is unlikely to fail.

The case back is highly embellished with Bear Grylls “Never Give Up” mantra and technical details of the watch including the important radiation reading for the tritium vials. Unlike most Luminox models this particular 3780 does not have a tritium tube at all the indices. Instead it has only 4 vials at the cardinal points of the dial. 3,6 and 9 are green and 12 and the hands are orange. It is a very minimal display at night, perhaps not the light show we are accustomed to with Luminox, but it is nevertheless highly effective and legible in the dark.

In summary, the Bear Grylls Luminox 3780 is an impressive watch and shows the value of focused professional collaboration. If you are not a fan of watches derived from US military-spec then Luminox is a name you may have overlooked, however, the Bear Grylls range is a wholly different direction for this brand and smartly tackles the need for dedicated outdoor and adventure watches. Luminox has set a high bar, perhaps a defining one, with this exciting range of watches.

Specifications of the Luminox Bear Grylls 3780 Kilometre model

Lume: Always Visible Tritium Constant glow for up to 25 years (T25 rated)
Case diameter: 45 mm
Functions: Chronograph & Date
Water resistance (meters, feet, ATM): 200 / 660 / 20
Movement: Swiss Quartz
Case material: CARBONOX
Bezel: Fixed with walking speed calculator (in Miles or Km)
Case back: 316L Stainless steel screw-in
Crystal glass material: Hardened mineral crystal (550-650 Vickers)
Crown: Screw in, double security gasket, crown protected
Strap / bracelet: Textile / Nylon
Lug width: 24 mm
Case height: 14 mm
Weight: 89 g
Price: £585 from Luminox UK

Strap Suggestions for the Luminox 3780 Bear Grylls

We have already established that the 3780 comes on an innovative strap but let us assume that you have had to unravel your paracord strap to tie logs together to make a raft, so it would be handy to have a spare strap in your rucksack. At 24mm the choice is more limited, and to include high-end leather makes no sense, so the following suggestions are in keeping with the design ethos of the watch.

Seaford Sailcloth Water-Resistant Leather Watch Strap

The Luminox Bear Grylls Survival Series 3780 on the Seaford Sailcloth in Army Green - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

In Army Green, the Seaford could be the perfect back-up strap. The leather used for this strap has been through a patented finishing process during tanning to make it water-resistant. It is textured which will match the 3780 dial and the soft lining is stamped with the Geckota logo for reassurance of quality. Tear-proof material sandwiched between the construction layers makes it a highly durable strap.

Genuine Vintage Bond NATO

The Luminox Bear Grylls Survival Series 3780 on the Vintage Bond NATO - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

This would look best with the black PVD metalwork. Based on the classic G10 military strap this NATO requires no introduction. Manufactured to the highest standard in the colours of the original strap worn by 007 in the movies this will be a fine accompaniment to the adventure-ready 3780.

Some final thoughts

I was clear with Luminox UK from day one that this would be a proper test of the watch rather than a sedate desk analysis. They were absolutely fine with this and the 3780 did not disappoint. It was a real treat for me to wear a watch designed to enhance a great passion of mine, hiking in the outdoors, through hostile terrain and inclement weather. On its final day with me the watch was out in the Dales in -2°C, strapped over my fleece, and it felt totally at home.

Professionally it is interesting to spend time with a watch that is a big divergence for a well-known brand. Luminox would be first to admit that their watches have a strong commonality in design, but the Bear Grylls series moves away from the military look and creates a fascinating new element to their portfolio.

The Luminox Bear Grylls Survival Series 3780 is now available for £585 via Luminox UK. To find out more, click here.