“War, huh, good god. What is it good for?” once asked Edwin Starr. Well, watches for a start, Edwin. Conflict has long been an accelerator of technology and timepieces are no different. The need to make watches more resilient, more water resistant and more convenient led to numerous leaps in development that arguably wouldn’t have happened in peace time. But what exactly makes a military watch?
“Most military men and women need a watch that is both tough and accurate,” explains retired Air Force Colonel Richard “Nemo” Sweeten who now works on Bremont’s military and special projects.
“It needs to be able to withstand extreme environments and rough treatment. It should be able to withstand shock and vibration, temperature and pressure extremes and not be susceptible to magnetic and electro-static forces. From a soldier in the field to a pilot in a fighter cockpit, the traditional wrist watch is still important. Even though technology and systems like GPS and smartphones put the exact time at our fingertips, a watch is always a useful back up, and it’s always with you.”
But, off the field, military watches are just plain cool, and can carry a kudos and simplicity of design that other watches lack. Even if the only battle you’ve fought is the supermarket checkout queue, a military watch is a desirable bit of kit that will improve your style credentials tenfold.
What Is A Military Watch?
Broadly speaking military watches are round, have large, legible superluminescent numerals, a 24-hour track for all-night operations and matte or bead-blasted cases because shiny surfaces reflect light and could give away your position. NATO or G10 watch straps – the fabric strap specially designed by the MoD to be easily adjustable and with a looping construction that would keep the watch on the wrist even if the spring bar broke – aren’t a must but they do add some extra authenticity.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical has a sand-blasted case to avoid reflecting the sun (which could give away position)
The styles are also divided into three categories – ‘field’, which are basic, usually cheap, three-handers; ‘pilots‘ which have more accurate movements, bigger dials and extra complications such as a chronograph or details such as tachymeter scales, and finally ‘diving watches‘. These are the most expensive and the most robust with all the elements you’d expect on a diving watch – unidirectional bezel, lume, possibly a helium escape valve and water resistance varying from 200m to 1000m+.
The Best Military Watches For Men
Traser P66 Automatic Pro
This is a brand born because of the armed forces. In 1989, the US military approached asked mb-microtec, the company founded by inventor Oskar Thüler in 1969, to create a mil-spec watch using trigalight – the self-illumination technology Thüler had invented.
Since then its rugged no-nonsense design has become popular with the British military and is one of the few brands servicemen and women buy for themselves. And it’s easy to see why. The case is robust, the dial is easy to read, is good to 300m and the trigalight technology means that it is luminescent 24 hours a day without the need for external light. Perfect for night ops.
Buy Now: £624.49
The military’s love of Bremont has never been a secret, but the pair have finally made it official with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recently announcing it as its luxury watch partner. Alongside the Broadsword for the Army and the Arrow for the RAF, there’s this gorgeous slice of retro diver cool for the Navy – the aptly named Argonaut.
Rather than a chunky outer bezel, it has an inner rotating one, which keeps its case more streamlined, while the black dial with custom Superluminova in a mint shade is straight out of the Dirty Dozen (the name given to a small battalion of watches commissioned by the British Army during World War II – not the Lee Marvin D-Day romp). Despite being a tool watch, this feels like a timepiece more for a gentleman than officer. Naval dress whites optional.
Buy Now: £2,795.00
Omega Seamaster 300
This might seem like a strange inclusion but, as well as being worn by everyone’s favourite double 0, the Omega Seamaster 300 has military provenance. The first generation – the ref.CK2913-1– was originally launched in two versions – date and no date.
The British armed forces took a shine to the former and, between 1967 and 1971 the Ministry of Defence took delivery of Seamasters that had been mil-specced with different hands and a screw-down crown and distributed them among the Royal Navy and the Army. So, strap on a Seamaster and imagine that whatever you do while wearing it is for Queen and country.
Buy Now: £7,280.00
Timex Expedition Ranger Solar
Although it tends to opt for the phrase “military inspired” in its descriptions, a quick Google search reveals that Timex was issued to the US Army back in the 1990s and even today the brand is seen on…