The 17 Best Military Watches

A military watch that has developed under contract with the military.
This special specification, designed to ensure accurate timekeeping even under harsh conditions, spread over time to the general market.
Government specifications and government contract manufacturing of watches are rare these days, and even military special operations personnel prefer to wear off-the-shelf G-Shocks rather than Rolex Submariners.
However, military watches' functional designs and their history of adorning the wrists of infantrymen, divers, explosive ordnance disposal crews, special operations personnel and others who risk their lives every day continue to fascinate watch collectors today.
There is a special beauty in a design that is packed with only the essentials necessary to fulfill the necessary functions.

Characteristics of Military Watches

Military Watches

1. Durability

Military watch cases need to be robust enough to withstand shocks, corrosion and other harsh environments.
When the use of stainless steel was difficult due to material shortages during the war, nickel-coated metals and silver used to make coins were used instead.
Nowadays, plastic is being used more than steel.

2. Illumination

To be able to tell the time in the dark, the dial must be backlit or illuminated in some way.
Therefore, military watches had some sort of luminous function.
However, luminous dials posed the risk of revealing the time to enemy forces, so many military watches of the time were covered.

3. Reliability

Whether manual winding or quartz, a military watch must always be reliable.
The movement needs to function properly whether the battlefield is cold, hot or at high altitude.
If the watch is battery-powered, the battery must be designed to last an extremely long time.

4. Usefulness

A military watch must be simple in design so that its specifications can be changed or improved as needed.
In harsh environments, parts often break.
In such cases, if the movement, for example, is very complicated, it may not be possible to resume use immediately.

5. Ease of use

In order to design a watch to be easy to read and operate, any elements that might impede its functionality must be eliminated.
For example, if the dial design is too complicated, the watch will be difficult to read.
Also, if the bezel of a diver's watch is difficult to turn, it will be very inconvenient to use underwater.

Introducing the watch

Here we will introduce some of the world's most famous military watches and a brief history of them.
While this list may not be definitive, we have tried to include military watches from as many countries and types as possible.

WWI Trench Watch

Trench Watch

In the late 19th century, few dedicated wristwatches were produced in Germany, and they first came into use around the time of the start of World War I.
Until then, pocket watches were used to calculate the time to issue commands or fire a cannon, and they had to be put down somewhere when working with both hands.
So soldiers began soldering wire to their pocket watches and attaching leather straps to them, and the design began to catch the attention of watch and jewellery stores.
When soldiers returned from war wearing "trench watches," the watches became popular, and it became fashionable for men to wear wristwatches, which had previously been considered feminine.

Weems Second Setting

Weems Second Setting Watch

This watch, designed by Philip Van Horn Weems, a major in the U.S. Army, was a patented product invented by Weems for use in celestial navigation.
To synchronize the watch with a radio signal to give the pilot the exact time, Weems designed it so that the bezel could be adjusted with a second crown.
This allowed the pilot to check the difference between the time shown on his watch and the time shown by the radio signal, minimizing navigational errors.
This design was later used in the Hour Angle, designed by Charles Lindbergh.


6B/159 Military Watch

Designated "Mk 7A (6B/159)", these watches were made by Omega, Longines and Jaeger-LeCoultre during World War II and were used by Royal Navy navigators.
The regulations stipulated that the dial must be white with black Arabic numerals, the seconds hand must be placed in the center of the dial, no luminescent paint must be used, the hands must be made of blued steel, and the case must be made of chrome or stainless steel.
They were used during the war, and some have had their dials replaced over the years, but many remain in good condition today.
One of the reasons for this is that they used very high quality movements, such as the hand-wound Omega 12.68N.
The design used here is also used in the Heritage Military series currently being developed by Longines.


A-11 Military Watch

Made by Elgin, Waltham and Bulova, these watches came in sizes between 30mm and 32mm and were produced in various iterations to standards set by the US military, with some even being issued to other allied forces under the name "6B".
It features a simple design made solely for telling time: a black dial (in fact, there are a few with white dials), white Arabic numerals, and only 60-minute markers on the clock hands.
This model was produced in such large quantities during the war that it is also known as the "Victory Watch."
MkII has released an updated version of this watch called the Cruxible (approximately 67,000 yen).

The Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen Military Watch

The watch takes its name from the film and refers to a series of models produced by 12 Swiss manufacturers under contract to the British Ministry of Defence in 1945.
While models vary slightly depending on the manufacturer, all watches feature a 35-38mm diameter stainless steel or plated base metal case, a black dial with radium luminescent paint, a chronometer-grade hand-wound movement, a screw-down case back (except for IWC models), and military markings.
About 150,000 of this watch were produced in total, and they can still be purchased today for around several hundred thousand yen.


B-Uhrens Military Watch

In the late 1930s, Beobachtungs-uhren (German for "observation watches") were produced as wristwatches to issue to bomber crews.
The specifications were set by the German Ministry of Aviation and these watches were produced by five companies: IWC, A. Lange & Söhne, Wempe, Laco, and Stowa. These watches have a typical pilot's watch design.
There are two types of B-Uhrens, Type A and Type B, each with a different dial layout, but both are equipped with a hand-wound movement in a slightly larger 55mm case.
These watches were apparently made large so that they wouldn't be hidden by flight jackets, but it is also said that they needed to be large because pilots and navigators wore them around their legs so they could keep their hands free.

Seiko "Kamikaze"

Kamikaze Seiko Military Watch

One of the watches manufactured by Seiko is the one now known as the "Kamikaze."
Seiko produced a variety of watches for the Japanese military in the 1930s and 1940s, but this "Kamikaze" became famous as the watch issued to the Kamikaze Special Attack Forces just before the end of the war.
Therefore, the current population is known to be very small.
It is unclear whether this watch was actually used by kamikaze pilots, but this watch also has a large case design, which shows a mysterious similarity to the B-Uhren, which was manufactured around the same time.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

Fifty Fathoms was born in 1952 during World War II from the idea of ​​Bob Maloubier, an agent for the French Special Operations Executive.
While working secretly with Claude Riffaut of the French Navy to create a new diving unit, Maloubier drew up sketches of his ideal diver's watch and took them to several companies.
Blancpain was contracted to manufacture the watch, and the Fifty Fathoms has since become the watch community's most famous diver's watch.
Blancpain still produces new versions of its diver's watches today.

Monopusher Chronograph

Monopusher chronograph military watch

Monopusher chronographs are wristwatches produced by Lemania, Breitling, and Rodania under contract to the British Ministry of Defence in the 1940s and late 1950s.
Featuring buttons with start, stop and reset functions, this watch was issued to pilots of the Royal Air Force as well as the Royal Navy.
It has a 38.5mm stainless steel case, 17 jewel Lemania caliber 15 CHT movement and a radium-plated dial.
Another monopusher model, the Lemania 6BB, comes in a 40 mm asymmetrical case and is powered by the hand-wound Lemania 2220 movement.

MIL-W-46384, GG-W-113

Monopusher chronograph military watch

These two models were first used by the US military in the 1960s and are famous as the watches issued to US soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Since production began, many different variations have been created, and on online auction sites you can find watches with steel or plastic cases, 7 or 17 jewels, hand-wound movements, and even quartz movements.
Due to the large quantities produced, it is still possible to purchase one from Benrus, Hamilton, Marathon, etc. for around 20,000 yen.
If you're looking for a modern remake, we also recommend the GG-W-113 sold by the Military Watch Company.

Omega Seamaster 300

Omega Seamaster 300

This watch was manufactured in 1957, but it wasn't used until 10 years later.
In 1967, the British Ministry of Defence decided to replace their Rolex Submariners with the Omega Seamaster 300.
The 300 in the product name refers to a depth of 300m.
Featuring twisted lugs, a self-winding caliber 522 movement, and a bezel with minute markings, the Seamaster 300 is one of the most iconic diver's watches, along with the MilSub.
If it has military markings, like those used by members of the Special Boat Unit, it would be worth at least 1 million yen.
Omega also offers modern remakes.

Smith W10

Smith W10

The W10 is a rare domestically produced military watch made by a famous British watch manufacturer from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.
It is approximately 35mm in diameter, the manual winding movement is covered by an anti-magnetic dust cover, and the black dial and hands are made with tritium.
Another feature is that the spring bars are fixed.
The Broad Arrow mark on the dial denotes British ownership.
Different versions were produced for the Army and Navy, but both have the "6B" engraved on the case back.

Benrus Type 1 Type 2

Benrus Type 1 Type 2 Military Watch

The Type 1 and Type 2 watches, created by Benrus in the 1970s to meet the specifications of diver's watches required by the US military, could withstand depths of up to 366 meters.
Type 1 has luminous markers around the indices, while Type 2 has a luminous triangle on the 24-hour dial.
For the Type 2, a special non-luminous model was also produced so that it could be used in places where the use of tritium could be problematic, such as nuclear submarines.
Mk II has a modern version called the Paradive, and Marathon also sells a watch with a plastic case called the Navigator.

"Bund" Flyback Chronograph

Benrus Type 1 Type 2 Military Watch

These military watches were produced by TAG Heuer, Leonidas, Zenith, and others from the 1960s to 1970s, and were issued to the German Army and the Italian Air Force.
Since many of them were used by the German military, they are also known as "Bund" after the name "Budeswehr" (German for "German army").
Although this model has been produced by a variety of brands, they all share the same feature: a dual-register chronograph with a Valjoux flyback movement and a graduated rotating bezel.
In fact, some of the early models were manufactured by Sinn, and products from this brand are still available today.
Now, Ginaan is producing a modern version.

Asymmetrical Chronograph

Asymmetrical chronograph military watch

After the monopusher chronograph, the British Ministry of Defence used asymmetrical case chronographs produced by Hamilton, CWC, Newmark and Precisa.
These were issued in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and feature two buttons, Valjoux 7733 movements, steel cases, black tritium dials, and military markings indicating their issuer (either "RN", "RAF", or "Royal Australian Navy").
CWC is selling a modern remake of the product.

Eterna Kontiki Super

Eterna Kontiki Super Military Watch

Although Eterna's Kon-Tiki Super was not designed as a military model, its sturdiness, easy-to-read dial, and rugged Eternamatic movement made it a favorite of the Israeli Special Forces, S-13.
Although it was for civilian use, the case diameter was 44mm, almost the same size as the military version, and those used for military use had the issue number and the word "tzadi" (which means "Israel Defense Forces" in Hebrew) engraved on the case back.
You can buy a modern version of the Kon-Tiki Super in Eterna.

Rolex MilSub

Rolex MilSub Military Watch

Since first being produced in 1954, various Rolex Submariners have been supplied to the British Ministry of Defence, but the three models that are most famous in the world are the civilian model “5513”, the transitional model from civilian to military use “5513/5517”, and the military-only “5517”.
These special "MiliSub" series feature a "T" mark on the dial to denote the use of tritium.
It features a graduated bezel for accurate underwater measurements, sword-shaped hands and fixed spring bars.
Only around 1,200 of the original were produced, so it is said to be worth at least 10 million yen today, but remade versions are available at Steinhart and other stores.