The History of CWC (Cabot Watch Company) – The Watch that Replaced the Military Submariner (MilSub)

Rare military watches have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Among collectors of vintage military watches, the Dirty Dozen's WWW.
The Royal Air Force's IWC Model XI and the Heuer Flyback are some very valuable watches.

The first of these is, of course, the legendary Rolex Military Submariner (MilSub).

This watch was made for British Navy divers around 1960-70.

These popular watches do come up for sale from time to time, but
There is a possibility that it may be a counterfeit product, so it is not easy to get hold of.

But did you know there is another type of dive watch?

It is a British manufacturer called Cabot Watch Company, and it is not a luxury brand.
It was used as a replacement for the Rolex MilSub (Military Submariner) used by the Royal Navy.

This first model had an automatic winding movement.
It was a far cry from the Rolex it replaced.

CWC Military Watch

Cabot Watch Company (CWC) is not a company with a long history like Swiss luxury brands.
It's not a company founded by a famous person.

The company was founded in 1972 by a businessman who took a chance.

In the early 1970s, the British Ministry of Defence used a number of different brands of watches.

Divers have Omega and Rolex, pilots have Precistar, Newmark, Hamilton,
For soldiers, they had names like Smith and Hamilton.

However, in 1972, Smith stopped making watches, and Hamilton was faced with a quartz shortage.
It decided that continuing its contract with the UK Ministry of Defence was not profitable.

Ray Mellor was Hamilton's UK manager but left to pursue his own path.

Afterwards, I visited Bristol in the southwest of England and had an idea.

Bristol is where the famous explorer John Cabot set out on his world exploration in the 15th century.
In honor of Mellor's love of the sea and the name of a ship's captain, they decided to name the new company "Cabot Watch Company."

Having previously worked with the Ministry of Defence during his time at Hamilton, Mellor decided to focus on the Ministry of Defence again.
CWC watches were soon in use by the British Army, Navy and Air Force.

These CWC watches are made to the strict standards of the British Ministry of Defence.
It looked the same as a watch signed Hamilton from a few years ago.

All CWC watches are made in Switzerland and feature top-notch movements such as ETA and Valjoux, as well as strap bars.
It had a simple steel case.

There are simple watches for the general reserve force and asymmetrical pilot chronographs.
The latter was one of the so-called Fab Four.
It has become one of the most valuable CWC watches among collectors, alongside the Precista versions from Hamilton and Newmark.

The one contract that CWC was initially unable to secure was for a diver's watch.

The Royal Navy has a long history with Rolex, dating back to the 1950s, and even used Omega watches for a short time in the 1960s.

However, by the end of the 70s, likely due to the rising prices of the Submariner,
The UK Ministry of Defence began looking for other brands and developed a good relationship with CWC.
In 1890, the Ministry of Defense approached CWC.

In response, CWC offered its robust dive watch.

This watch is made to UK Ministry of Defence standards (DEF STAN 66-4 [Part 1] Issue 3)
Bakelite rotating bezel, sword-shaped hands, bold and tritium-illuminated dial,
The glass is made of mineral glass,
It had a fixed strap bar for attaching a nylon belt.

CWC Diver's Watch Standards

Inside is a sturdy automatic ETA2783.

It features a curved design and a 44mm steel case, the first of its kind made by MRPS.A.
This case was a model used by many brands, from Heuer to Chrono Sports in the early '80s.

Of course, by the early '80s, quartz technology had quickly become established throughout the watch industry.
This was shortly before the CWC began rolling out battery-powered watches to its pilots from the reserve forces.

In fact, the mechanical model of the Royal Navy diver is made by the Ministry of Defence.
It was only used for a very short period of time, from 1980 to 1981 (or 1982).

It's also becoming very hard to find one in decent condition.

The reason is that divers are used to dispose of unexploded ordnance at the port, inspect the hull,

and other military exercises.

These watches are becoming rarer rather than more expensive.

CWC Military Watch

After the transition to quartz technology, even when the Royal Air Force introduced Seiko and Pulsar watches for their pilots,
The British Ministry of Defence continued to use CWC dive watches.

British Navy divers joined the Special Boat Service in the mid-1890s.
It featured a repeat run of black PVD case models with and without day/date functions.

Tritium was replaced with Luminova and the dial now featured a T in a circle instead of a T in a circle.

Quartz technology models are a great alternative to Seiko and Citizen diver watches around the world.
The reasons behind this were the trust placed in them by the military and the high quality of Swiss-made products.

And to this day, the Royal Navy and Special Boat Service still source their dive watches from CWC.

CWC Military Watch Case Back

Ray Mellor never intended to sell his watches to the general public.

He was good at military contracts and business was going well.

However, around 1990, Silvermans, a London-based military equipment company,
He started buying CWC watches directly to sell them.

Around this time, Mellor began to consider retiring from the management of his company and developed a good relationship with Silbermans.

The deal was made and the Silvermans became the owners of the CWC brand.

Mellor remained with the company as a director until his retirement in 2012.

Now in his 90s, he still attends meetings and plays his role in providing historical context.

There are some later quartz dive watches available,
The 1980/81 automatic CWC dive watches in particular are very rare and special.

The diver's watches in this transitional period were what we call "maintenance replacements."
It was a bridge from Rolex to CWC, from mechanical to quartz.

What was appealing about the Rolex MilSub was that it was a luxury brand specialized for the military.

However, CWC watches do not have attractive names like Submariner or Seamaster.
They were just like military items, except for the code and stock number on the back of the case.

For those who don't need the functionality of a dive watch or who prefer a more conventional military watch,
We're sure you'll love your CWC dive watch.

CWC Military Watch

CWC Military Watch Sales Page