Fashion Watches

21 of the Best Military Watches and Their Histories • Gear Patrol

21 of the Best Military Watches and Their Histories • Gear Patrol

Ahh, the rarefied world of army timepieces. Typically developed beneath contract stemming instantly from a rustic’s armed forces, these watches have been designed for timekeeping beneath notably hostile bodily circumstances, and sometimes included particular options that, over time, discovered their approach into watches meant for the civilian market. (We are saying “have been designed” as a result of immediately, authorities specs and contracts for watches are much less widespread, and even a particular operator is way extra more likely to be sporting an off-the-shelf G-Shock than a mil-spec Rolex Submariner).

Army watches are a seemingly infinite supply of fascination to civilian watch collectors, and for good purpose — these are timepieces that have been purpose-designed and constructed to adorn the wrists of squaddies and ladies, divers, explosive ordnance disposal personnel, particular operators and other people who recurrently put their lives in danger in fight. There are only a few extraneous design parts to a army wristwatch — what’s current is simply what’s completely essential to get the job achieved, and there’s a particular type of magnificence in such a product.

What are the required qualities that make a army wristwatch mission-ready? There isn’t essentially a codified listing of attributes, however the next traits make for a superb jumping-off level:

Toughness: Instances ought to be machined from a cloth that’s extremely immune to impression, corrosion, and harsh environmental circumstances. Earlier than the widespread use of chrome steel (or throughout wartime shortages), nickel-coated base metals and even sterling silver have been used, whereas as we speak, plastics are more and more widespread along with metal.

Luminosity: With out some kind of luminous compound on the dial (or a backlight), it will be nearly unimaginable to learn the time beneath low-light circumstances, so a army watch should have some sort of system for illumination. (Apparently, this is among the the reason why a watch worn within the army should typically be coated, to stop the enemy from recognizing a luminous dial from afar.)

Reliability: A army watch, whether or not it includes a mechanical or quartz motion, have to be dependable always. Actions should be capable of perform in chilly, warmth, and at excessive altitudes, and, if battery-powered, they need to function batteries which are extraordinarily long-lasting and environment friendly.

Serviceability: It must be comparatively easy for a watchmaker to service a army watch and to vary or improve elements as essential. Elements can (and do) break throughout use in hostile circumstances, and if a watch options, say, a motion that’s troublesome to work on, it will forestall the watch from shortly being put again into rotation.

Ease of Use: The timepiece must be straightforward to learn and function, and devoid of muddle and extraneous parts that impede its performance. A cluttered dial, for instance, makes the time troublesome to learn, and a particular dive bezel that doesn’t flip simply could make use underwater virtually unattainable.

The Watches

What follows is a choice of a number of the world’s most well-known army watches and a quick historical past and rationalization of every. The listing is under no circumstances definitive, however we’ve tried to incorporate examples from as many various militaries and nations as potential. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of data on the market on most of those, so do you have to really feel inclined to discover extra deeply, there’s loads of alternative to take action.

WWI Trench Watch

The Jewelry Editor

Although a really small variety of devoted wristwatches have been issued to the German navy within the late 19th century, it actually wasn’t till WWI that the lads’s wristwatch noticed in depth use. Pocket watches have been vital for coordinating costs and calculating artillery hearth, however needed to be put away when one wanted using each palms. Ultimately, troopers started soldering on wire lugs to their pocket watches and becoming them with leather-based straps, and shortly watch and jewellery corporations caught on. When troopers returned house from the Nice Struggle with their “trench watches,” the fad took maintain, and it lastly turned trendy for males to put on wristwatches, which have been beforehand thought distinctly female.

Weems Second-Setting Watch

Analog / Shift

Initially designed by American Lieutenant Commander Philip Van Horn Weems, the Second-Setting watch was a patented Weems invention to be used in celestial navigation. To be able to synch the watch with a sign emitted by way of radio that gave a pilot a exact time reference, Weems developed a movable bezel managed by way of a secondary crown. This manner, the consumer might monitor the margin of error between the watch’s timekeeping and that of the radio sign, thereby minimizing attainable navigational errors. This idea was later expanded upon by Charles Lindberg together with his Hour Angle watch.

6B/159 Navigator Watch

MWR Discussion board Consumer Candle00

These watches date to WWII and have been produced by Omega, Longines and JLC to be used by RAF navigators. They acquired the Mk 7A (6B/159) designation and comply with a spec calling for a watch with a white dial, black Arabic numerals, central seconds, non-luminous, blue steeled palms and a chrome or chrome steel case. Regardless of seeing wartime motion and lots of examples receiving alternative dials through the years, many of those timepieces nonetheless exist available on the market in respectable situation. (That they have been fitted with wonderful actions, such because the venerable hand-wound Omega 12.68N, definitely helps.) The fashionable Longines Heritage Army recollects the design of the unique.


Omega Boards Consumer agee

Produced by Elgin, Waltham and Bulova, this 30-32mm watch was made in a number of totally different iterations to a normal referred to as for by the U.S. army (although variations have been additionally issued to different Allied forces beneath the “6B” designation). A easy, time-only watch with a black dial (although rarer white variations exist), white Arabic numerals and arms and 60-minute graduations, so many A-11s have been produced that the watch is usually known as “the watch that gained the Warfare.” Mk II provides a contemporary, up to date model referred to as the Cruxible for $649.

The Soiled Dozen

Analog / Shift

This cinematic moniker describes a gaggle of watches from 12 totally different Swiss manufacturers produced underneath contract to the British MoD and delivered in 1945. Although every firm’s mannequin differed barely, the watches featured 35-38mm instances in both chrome steel or plated base metallic, black dials with radium lume, mechanical actions regulated to chronometer grade, screw-down case backs (excluding the IWC mannequin) and army markings. In complete, about 150,00zero items have been produced, so it’s nonetheless potential to nab a Soiled Dozen look ahead to a couple of thousand dollars.



Maybe probably the most iconic of all pilot’s watch designs, the Beobachtungs-uhren (“statement watch”) was developed within the late 1930s as an instrument for German bomber crews, who have been then getting ready for struggle. A specification was put forth by the Luftfahrtministerium (air ministry) and answered by 5 corporations (IWC, A. Lange & Söhne, Wempe, Lacher & Firm/Durowe (Laco), and Walter Storz (Stowa), which produced the watches beneath similar specs. Two varieties have been specified, the A and B, which had barely totally different dial layouts, however every featured a hand-winding motion in an outsized 55mm case that was meant to suit over a flight jacket (or, supposedly, to be strapped to the pilot’s or navigator’s leg for hands-free use).

Seikosha “Kamikaze” Watch

Matthew Bain Inc.

Seikosha, a department of the famed Seiko firm, initially produced clocks, watches and different units, certainly one of which is usually known as the “Kamikaze watch.” Whereas the Seikosha division produced quite a few watches through the 1930s and 1940s for the Japanese army, the “Kamikaze” watch is notable for having supposedly been issued to Kamikaze pilots throughout their final, fateful flights, which accounts for why there are so few of them nonetheless in existence. Whether or not the watches have been truly utilized on this particular capability or not is troublesome to verify, however they’re fascinating for his or her outsized instances, very similar to these utilized by the German B-Uhren of the identical time interval.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms


Designed from the ground-up in 1952, the Fifty Fathoms was born from the thoughts of French secret service agent Captain Bob Maloubier, MBE, who labored with the Particular Operations Government throughout WWII. Tasked together with Lt. Claude Riffaud of the French Navy with formulating a brand new, secret dive unit, Maloubier sketched his best dive watch and introduced the design to a number of corporations. Blancpain bit, and the Fifty Fathoms has since turned probably the most well-known army divers within the watch world. The corporate nonetheless makes trendy variations.

Monopusher Chronographs

Analog / Shift

Monopushers chronographs, which function a single button to regulate begin, cease and reset features, have been first produced beneath contract for the British MoD starting within the late 1940s or 1950s by Lemania, Breitling, and Rodania. These watches, which have been issued to RAF pilots as properly sailors and submariners within the Royal Navy, function 38.5mm chrome steel instances, 17-jewel Lemania cal. 15 CHT actions and radium dials. One other monopusher, the Lemania 6BB, featured a 40mm uneven case and the manually-wound Lemania 2220 motion.

MIL-W-46384 and GG-W-113

Analog / Shift

The MIL-W-46374 and the GG-W-113 are two watches developed to be used by (principally) American army personnel starting within the 1960s, and have turn out to be well-known because the timepieces typically issued to G.I.s through the Vietnam Conflict. Myriad iterations of those fashions have been created within the many years since their debut, to the extant that a easy eBay perusal yield watches with metal or plastic instances, 7-jewel or 17-jewel mechanical actions, and even quartz variants. Fortunately, as of this writing, due to their relative plentifulness, you possibly can decide up a MIL-W-46374 or GG-W-113 from corporations like Benrus, Hamilton and Marathon for lower than $200. For those who’d choose a contemporary homage, Army Watch Firm makes a tribute to the GG-W-113.

Omega Seamaster 300

Analog / Shift

Although developed in 1957, it wasn’t till 1967 that the British MoD started utilizing the Semaster 300M, which changed for a time the Rolex Submariner as its main dive watch. With a depth score of 300 meters, twisted lugs, a caliber 552 self-winding motion, fastened spring bars and a bezel with hash marks for each minute, the 300M is an iconic army diver on par wit the Milsub. When one with real army markings comes up on the market that was utilized by a member of the elite Particular Boat Squadron, the watch is nearly assured to fetch 5 figures. Omega makes a contemporary model.

Smiths W10

Analog / Shift

Developed by famed British clock- and watchmaker Smiths, the W10 was constructed from the late 1960s via the early 1970s and is exclusive as a army look ahead to having been manufactured in England, with an in-house, English-made motion, as well. The W10 is roughly 35mm in diameter and encompasses a hand-wound motion with built-in anti-magnetic mud cowl, a tritium-illuminated black dial and palms, fastened spring bars and a outstanding “broad arrow,” marking it as Crown property. Variations have been made for each the Military and the Royal Air Drive, that are marked “6B” on the case again.

Benrus Sort I and II

Analog / Shift

Constructed by American watchmaker Benrus within the 1970s, the Sort I and II happened from a specification calling for a purpose-built dive look ahead to the U.S. army, water resistant to just about 1,200 ft. Two varieties have been produced: the Sort I with lumed markers at every hour, and the Sort II, with a 24-hour dial and lumed triangular indices. Apparently, a particular non-lumed model of the Sort II was produced for personnel who have been working in environments through which the tritium used on the watch may set off delicate devices (assume: nuclear submarines). Mk II makes a contemporary model, referred to as the Paradive, and Marathon has lengthy produced a plastic-cased Navigator watch with an identical, uneven profile.

“Bund” Flyback Chronographs

Analog / Shift

These chronographs, produced by the likes of Heuer, Leonidas, Zenith and others within the 1960s and 1970s, have been meant to be used by German (therefore “bund” for “bundeswehr,” the German army) and Italian army pilots. Although quite a few iterations of those watches have been produced by totally different manufacturers, all have been dual-register chronographs outfitted with Valjoux flyback actions and rotatable timing bezels. Apparently, Sinn was the model that had an early contract to service many of those watches, and alternative Sinn service dial-equipped Bund watches can nonetheless be discovered floating across the classic market. Moreover, Bund chronos initially shipped on the long-lasting 2-piece leather-based strap that now bears the “Bund” identify as a generic moniker. Guinand makes a number of trendy variations.

Uneven Chronographs


Following on the heels of the monopusher chronographs, the British MoD utilized asymmetric-cased chronographs produced by 4 corporations: Hamilton, CWC, Newmark, and Precista. These have been issued within the late 1970s/early 1980s and featured dual-button chronographs based mostly on the Valjoux 7733 motion, metal instances, black tritium dials and army marking indicating which service they have been issued to (RN, RAF or Royal Australian Navy). CWC makes a good-looking trendy reissue of its unique model.

Eterna Kon-Tiki Tremendous

Analog / Shift

Although Eterna’s Kon-Tiki Tremendous was not designed after a army specification, its robustness, extremely legible dial and ultra-rugged Eterna-Matic motion made it the right wrist companion for operators of Israel’s elite Shayetet 13, the IDF’s clandestine naval particular warfare unit. As a result of civilian variations of this 44mm watch are primarily the identical because the army model, it’s actually solely the difficulty quantity and Hebrew letter tzadi (for “Tzahal,” or I.D.F.) on the case again that mark these watches as having been issued to a few of the greatest particular operators on the earth. Eterna makes a number of trendy variations of the Kon-Tiki Tremendous.

Rolex Mil-Sub


Although quite a few Rolex Submariners (starting with the primary Sub reference in 1954) have been provided to the British Ministry of Protection for testing and situation, it’s the modified civilian reference 5513, the “double-reference” transitional 5513/5517, and the devoted army reference 5517 which might be maybe collectively the best-known army watch mannequin on the planet. These particular “Milsubs” have been fitted with a circled “T” on the dial to point the presence of tritium lume; fully-marked dive bezels for correct timing underwater; sword arms; and glued spring bars. Anticipate to pay six figures for an unique (just one,200 or so have been made), however some corporations, similar to Steinhart, make tributes.

Tudor MN “Snowflake” Sub

Bulang & Sons

Starting within the 1950s, Tudor started supplying a number of of the world’s navies with its Submariner dive watches. Although a number of totally different iterations of the Sub have been used, most well-known might be the 7016/zero, the so-called “Snowflake” Submariner. It’s extensively understood that the French Marine Nationale requested a particular hand design that was extra seen underwater, and the resultant palms and indices have been put into manufacturing (they later trickled down into civilian manufacturing of the watch, which noticed a second reference debut within the type of the 9401). When a Snowflake Submariner with confirmable army provenance might be discovered, it instructions an unlimited premium over the civilian variant. Trendy variations could possibly be stated to reside on in Tudor’s Black Bay line.

Marathon Navigator


In line with Marathon, its Navigator was first developed in 1986 in reply to a request by Kelley Air Pressure Base for a watch that might be utilized by pilots and paratroopers. The Navigator is manufactured to authorities specs (the overall form could also be acquainted from the Benrus Sort I and II and metal ADANAC navigators) and contains a fibershell case, quartz motion, tritium illumination tubes and an acrylic crystal. These watches are tremendous light-weight, correct and hard-wearing, and have evidently been utilized by American and different army personnel for the previous thirty years. A more moderen model with sapphire crystal and metal crown was just lately launched.

G-10 Area Watch

Mr Jones

The G-10 is a subject watch produced principally by Cabot Watch Firm from 1980 by means of the early 2000s. It encompasses a 36mm metal case with battery hatch, matte-black dial with tritium lume, fastened spring bars to be used with a NATO strap and an acrylic crystal, and is notable for having been produced in monumental portions for the British MoD. These are neat, rugged little watches with slim case profiles (excluding the earliest fashions, that are thicker and nicknamed “Fatboys”), and may simply be present in good situation on eBay for a pair hundred bucks. CWC additionally produces a contemporary model.

Marathon TSAR/GSAR

Hunter D. Kelley

Produced in accordance with U.S. and Canadian authorities requirement and ISO requirements, the Search and Rescue line of timepieces has been featured on the wrists of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and, most particularly, on the wrists of fight divers — this can be a critical trendy army fight dive watch if there ever was one. Obtainable in each quartz and automated variants, on metal bracelets or rubber straps, and with numerous dials, the SAR line has been receiving accolades for years for its no-nonsense, robust man aesthetics and have set.