The World's Military Watches: "The Dirty Dozen"

A vintage utility watch designed to perform a specific task with the greatest possible precision.
Its appeal lies in its design that emphasizes functionality.
Military watches are the ultimate timepieces, with no extras added and everything except what is truly necessary removed from their design.

During World War II, Britain imported Swiss watches and issued them under the name "ATP (Army Trade Pattern)".
Most of the watches issued at this time were around 29-33mm in size, had chrome or steel cases, silver or white dials, and luminous or bar indexes.
There were two types of second hands: one in the same position as the hour and minute hands, and one that was independent.The watch had a 15-jewel movement and there were two types of case backs: snap-back and screw-back.
However, wristwatches at that time only had military dials, product numbers, and issue numbers, and were essentially civilian models.
Therefore, the British Ministry of Defence decided that such watches were unsuitable for the battlefield and set its own specifications to create a new watch with functions specifically required on the battlefield.

The Dirty Dozen movie poster

The specifications were named "WWW," an acronym for "Wrist," "Watch," and "Waterproof," and because 12 Swiss manufacturers produced watches with these specifications, the group became commonly known as The Dirty Dozen, after the title of a famous 1967 war movie.
The Dirty Dozen watches were not issued until May or December 1945, so they saw little actual use during World War II (Victory in Europe Day was May 8, 1945).
However, wristwatches continued to be in circulation for a few years afterwards, and some were even issued to foreign military forces.

The WWW spec had the following rules:
Sizes range from 35mm to 38mm in diameter excluding the crown.
The dial is black with luminous paint around the indexes and a separate second hand.
It must have a 15-jewel movement between 11.75 and 13 lignes (approximately 26.5 and 29.3 mm), a shatterproof windproof case, and a chrome or stainless steel case.
Specification requirements also included that it be waterproof and chronometer certified.
The case back (all except IWC models have screw-backs) is engraved with four marks: the Broad Arrow (a mark indicating British government property), the letters "WWW", the manufacturer's number, and a military supply store number beginning with an alphabet.
Dity Dozen W.W.W. Certified Watch

The twelve manufacturers known as the Dirty Dozen varied in size and production capacity, but each produced as many watches as they could, for a total of approximately 150,000 watches.
The twelve manufacturers are: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, IWC, Jaeger LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, Omega, Record, Timor and Vertex.
Enicar was also founded to make WWW-certified watches, but the company never made it into the Dirty Dozen because its watches were not accurate enough.

Longines watch back

Although WWW watches were called "job watches," they were actually given to relatively high-ranking soldiers, such as artillerymen and radio operators, whom American soldiers called "pogues" (cowards), a derogatory term, and were never issued to infantrymen.
There are no clear records as to which soldiers were issued WWW-certified watches and for what reasons, but in any case, the end of the war was drawing near by the time this watch was produced.
After the end of hostilities in Europe in 1945, conflicts continued around the world, so the Dirty Dozen watches were renumbered and sold to the British and other armies.
At the time, Holland, which was in conflict with the Indonesian resistance movement that had declared independence, also purchased WWW-certified watches from the UK.
However, some of the watches acquired by the Netherlands ended up in the hands of their enemy, Indonesia, and the "KNIL (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger: Royal Dutch East Indies Army)" stamp was removed and the letters "ADRI (Army of the Republic of Indonesia)" were engraved instead.
IWC watch engraved with ADRI

The authority to handle WWW certified watches is the British military unit called the Royal Electronic and Mechanical Corps, which is responsible for ensuring that the watches are in working order and meet the specification requirements.
Therefore, over the years, many non-genuine parts end up being used in WWW certified watches to meet the specification requirements.
The original radium dials were replaced with tritium and promethium substitutes, resulting in some watches still bearing the name of the original maker and the Broad Arrow stamp, but with a different material used for the lume, such as promethium or radium.
Other dials available are the Ministry of Defence dial, engraved with five numbers identifying the maker of the Broad Arrow and Dirty Dozen, and the NATO dial, engraved with the Broad Arrow, a circled "T" for tritium, the stock number and the maker code.
To complicate things further, there are still new and emerging minor variations being discovered that would qualify as legitimate WWW-certified dials in addition to the differences mentioned above, all of which has further fuelled the collectors' market.
Since each brand produced different amounts of watches, the brand from which the watch was made is also an important factor in determining its value.
For example, although Omega uses the venerable 30T movement in a 35mm stainless steel case, only 25,000 were produced and are currently only valued at around $2,000 to $3,000.

Cyma W.W.W. certified watch

Cyma, a brand not well known to modern watch enthusiasts, also has a 37mm stainless steel case and a caliber 234 movement, making it a popular choice among military collectors as it is practical even by today's standards. However, with only around 20,000 pieces produced, these timepieces are likely to sell for between $1,000 and $2,000.

Meanwhile, the Grana models command extremely high prices: the brand's 35mm stainless steel models, powered by the in-house caliber KF320, were only produced in numbers between 1,000 and 5,000, and are currently valued at up to $15,000 each.

Grana W.W.W. certified watch

Currently, many watch manufacturers, such as IWC, Longines, and Bell & Ross, produce military watches that are modern adaptations of those from that time.
Vertex recovered once again under the founder's grandson, and now sells modern versions of the WWW-certified watches that it produced under its own brand at the time.
However, regardless of the brand or size, all WWW-certified watches from that time have one special thing in common:
The thing is, these watches are precisely crafted to achieve one purpose, and with great precision, even in adverse conditions.
While wearing it on your wrist, you can think back to where it has been and what it has seen; that's something only a genuine WWW-certified watch can do.