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Vero USDA Forest Service

An Actual Modern Field Watch

You must have experienced this before: you put on a watch for the very first time and your head gets filled up—almost instantly—with images of you doing something specific and/or new. For example, the first time I put on a proper dive watch, I saw myself going on week-long dive trips to the Caribbean. The first time I strapped on a good GMT, I pictured myself traveling the globe in all directions and for an unlimited amount of time. And I got a similar experience when I strapped today’s watch on my bony French wrist for the first time; I was taken aback by an overwhelming need to go on adventures, whether it be hiking the Amazon Forest or exploring a far-flung archeological site in China. That’s powerful and that’s what I—as a watch nerd—live for. 

Vero is a brand I’ve talked about before. I wrote a profile story on them a while back but never reviewed one of their models for Mainspring. (I did write about many of Vero’s models for other magazines, however.) And it doesn’t feel fortuitous to do so here for the first time with this particular model because that’s the Vero I’ve been secretly hoping and waiting for, for a very long time. The USDA Forest Service Field Watch is indeed an horological anomaly. It looks like nothing else I’ve seen before and it’s darn well built for the meager asking price of $475 USD. It’s the type of watch that comes with its own vibe, that’s built for real adventures, and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. 

In other words, it’s my paradise. 


The USDA Forest Service is built on the Workhorse platform which was Vero’s unique take on the multi-purpose adventure watch. While the Workhorse was a horological behemoth (its case measured 44.5mm in diameter,) the Forest Service comes with more modest proportions. Starting with a diameter of 39mm, a lug-to-lug of 45.2mm, a thickness of 12.9mm (including the crystal and bullhorns,) and a lug width of 18mm. Note that the strap has a width of 22mm and does not taper which is totally ok! And you’ll understand why that is later. On my French 16.5cm/6.50” wrist, the Forest Service wears like a dream. The underside of the case is flat and the lugs, which are thin and short, endow this model with a solid, however not overwhelming, wrist presence. 

In other words, I find it to be perfect.

Underneath a flat piece of sapphire crystal we find a multi-layered dial layout where clean Arabic numerals are printed on a recessed portion of the dial along with a functional framed date window at the 3 o’clock. The center section of the dial is raised whilst the bidirectional, inner-rotating bezel sits at its highest point. This makes reading all sorts of information something of a second nature, a process made even easier thanks to the prominence of matte and textured surfaces on the dial and hands. All hour markers, as well as the hour and minute hands, and all markings on the bezel are filled with BGW9 lume for nighttime legibility and operational readiness. (Who knows what I could find myself timing at night.) 

The unique (to me) spec of the Vero USDA Forest Service is the movement within. A kinetic Epson PX82A, in other words, a hybrid quartz automatic caliber that has the benefits of battery-powered movements (accuracy, ease of service) and the nerdy satisfaction of mechanical calibers that have a rotor—here to recharge the battery. I don’t know when these types of movements were created but I surely wish we could see more of them because they make total sense in—such—a proper tool watch. This kinetic movement has a 6-month battery reserve and a power indicator: the massive pusher at the 2 temporarily repurposes the seconds hand to indicate how much juice is left. If, for example, the seconds hand lines up to the one o'clock hour marker, then there is one day of battery left; if it lines up to the 2 o’clock marker, then there is one week, etc. 

Furthermore, the Vero USDA Forest Service watch comes with 120 meters of water resistance because the crowns at the 3 and 9 screw-down, so does the case-back. The crown at the 3 sets the date and time while the one at the 9 operates the inner rotating bezel. By the way, this second crown is actually usable unlike those found on many (whether cheap or expensive) compressor-style divers. Indeed, the crown is so massive (7.8mm as a matter of fact) that I can unscrew it, line up the “0” marker on the dial with the minute hand, and screw it back in by simply using two fingers with the watch sitting on my wrist. (I can do so using my right thumb and index fingers.

This is perhaps an ultra nerdy detail to share but it matters a lot to me because too often did I come across super-compressor divers with inner rotating bezels and second crowns at the 2 o’clock I could not use as intended even if my life depended on it. So Vero did a great job here by designing the crown and case in this fashion. 


Aesthetically-wise, the USDA Forest Service is as utilitarian as they come and the brand did a spectacular job in this department. Not only is this model ultra legible—and I’ll talk more about this in a little bit—but it also comes with its own unique flair. It’s no secret that I love tool watches—especially those which I describe as being “utilitarian”—and here Vero designed something that looks like nothing I’ve seen before (with the exception, perhaps, of the combination of the massive case and tiny lugs we find on certain Seiko’s Turtles) and that’s decidedly meant for all sorts of adventures. It’s functional, as in it has good water resistance, a date complication, and a count-up inner rotating bezel. And it’s also very well built. 

What makes the Vero USDA Forest Service so darn legible is the elegant combination of Arabic numerals for the hour markers (printed with a modern font,) which contrast superbly with the matte dials, and which pair particularly nicely with the baton-style hour and minute hands—the latter having a little bit of a IWC Pilot Mark-something-flair to them. Reading the time is a breeze, so it is to check the day of the month (and kudos to Vero for perfectly aligning the date wheel inside the date aperture) and to time an event up to 60 minutes. The bezel insert indeed shows a sensical alternation of hash marks and numerals to highlight the 5 and 10-minute increments, whilst a circle indicates the 12 o’clock position. 

The case is equally well thought-out and appropriately resized from the larger Workhorse frame. It has what appears to be a monobloc construction, except for the case-back, and functional indents at the bottom of the case (near the crowns) and around the bullhorns. The bullhorns, by the way, guarantee the watch head structural integrity and act as an extra barrier of safety against shocks and drops. Whichever color variant you may go for (there are four of them,) each case is finished with an almost polished sand-blasted surface treatment. (The Forest Service, just like the Workhorse, is endowed with a military-grade cerakote treatment which had more of a sandy texture on the latter.) Here the case finishing is ultra soft to the touch and matte enough to make this model look like a proper tool watch. 

The Heart of the Matter

At the heart of the matter here is the fact that Vero created an all-round superb tool watch. Yes, I’m very excited about this release as I’m a nerd for this type of horological device. Every aspect of the USDA Forest Service is well thought-out and executed, from the legible dial to the practical crown at the 9, and from the scratch resistant sapphire crystal to the shock-resistant cerakote treatment on the case. Let’s not forget the fabric strap and its ingenuous construction: a massive velcro makes it possible to size it to any wrist, and the pieces of fabric that wrap around the spring bars are also velcroed, so that removing the strap is easy. And each version of the USDA Forest Service comes with a color-matched strap. 

Speaking of which, there exist indeed four versions of this model: the Ranger (presented here) which color scheme echoes that of the forest green pants and khaki shirts that make up the Forest Service Rangers uniforms; the Hotshot with its bright yellow and blue-green color accents which pay tribute to those, amongst the Forest Service, who are experts in wildfires; the Airtanker that comes with a bright orange dial that echoes the color of the burnt red fire retardants the air tankers drop on wildfires; and, last but not least, the Service Green version whose accent color mimics that found one the utility trucks from the USDA Forest Service. 

I do have a favorite, the Ranger, which is why I was happy to get my hands on this particular model. 


You know what? I got tired of reading about Rolexes as being “professional” tool watches that cost $10,000, or the exquisite German-made SeaQ divers from Glasshütte that retail for the same amount of cash. Or a Seiko with an accurate movement and aligned bezel that retails for $1,000+, and, of course, the myriad of other expensive tool watches made all around the world. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t spend several thousands of dollars on a proper tool watch—because more often than not, you do get what you paid for—but there is a point at which the extra dollar signs don’t add any real intrinsic value to such objects. So much so that you will rarely see someone wearing a Rolex to go on an actual adventure.

These people, and us normal watch enthusiasts, therefore count on micro and independent brands like Vero to make it possible for us to acquire a good tool watch at a good price. Because yes, the USDA Forest Service is well-priced at $475 USD. That’s not a lot of money for such a good movement, a unique design, a superb construction, and an ultra-functional tool watch which you, I, and everybody else are comfortable taking on…actual…adventures. So if you like what you see here know that the Vero USDA Forest Service is available for immediate purchase starting today 9am PST/12pm EST. 

You can learn more about this model by visiting the brand’s website here

Thanks for reading. 


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