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Military Watches: Our Top Picks

Military watches are the subject of interest for many a luxury watch collector. They have come to play a pivotal role in the history of both World Wars, acting as dedicated tools on the wrists of soldiers who depend on their wristwatch for making life-threatening decisions. The likes of Bremont, Breitling, Omega, Hamilton and Longines have specialised in the manufacture of luxury military watches – honing into the needs of military personal both on the ground, in the air and those involved in underwater missions.

During the 17th century, pocket watches were worn by men, whilst wristwatches were perceived as a piece of jewellery only to be worn by style-conscious ladies. But that was all about to change when manufacturers began improving the reliability of a watch’s mechanism, and gentlemen began realising the benefits of wearing a watch on the wrist as opposed to in their pocket. Military personnel needed free use of both their hands whilst out on the frontline – another reason why the convenience and the comfort of a military watch on the wrist came to be realised. Leather straps also proved a comfortable option for wearing upon the wrist in any situation, whether to embark upon missions with or to simply look smart and sophisticated on the wrist. By the time World War II came around, wristwatches for military purposes were so much more refined, with legible hour markers and a simple dial layout that was easy to read, even in light-limiting conditions, thus came the relationship between luxury wristwatches and the military.

During the post war era, the popularity of luxury wristwatches had risen so much that they soon became a symbol of wealth – an accessory for rich young men. Military watches and war however, share a significant relationship with one another and will forever mark a time in history when the movement from a stylish accessory to a tool for practical use happened. Soldiers were subject to terrible conditions when out at war, leading watchmakers to equip their timepieces with a selection of robust materials and innovative features that would survive even the toughest of conditions. Being able to withstand impact and resist weathering as a result of harsh environmental conditions, military watches became more corrosion-resistant, more shock absorbing and more durable on an all-round scale. Today these features are as desirable as they ever were, and are defined by some of the following characteristics:

Legibility;

A simple and straight-forward dial is an indispensable tool for anyone collecting military watches. Some manufacturers during the Second World War used a combination of luminescent paint and radium to ensure that hour markers, minute markers and central hands could be read at a quick glance whilst out on the frontline.  Many watch collectors prefer a clear and legible dial with minimal complications, hence military watches have become sought after by non-military personnel too.

For those that want a little extra for their money, the Breitling Chronospace Military 46mm black steel watch has additional technical features like a countdown timer, duel timezone, independent alarm, coordinated Universal Time UTC and a 1/100th of a second chronograph, yet it also boasts a thermocompensated quartz electronic, analog dial with powerful luminosity applied to the oversized Arabic numerals and bold central hands of the dial.

Easy to use:

Clutter or over-fussy complications can hinder or obstruct a military watch’s functionality, so many luxury watch manufacturers will steer clear of adding too many distractions to the dial of a military watch. A timepiece that is not too bulky or difficult to handle is also a preferable feature, since a lightweight and simple-to-use design will allow the gentleman to access their watch even through heavy gear and uniform.


Panerai Luminor 1950 watches are popular for their military-inspired design and their high performing in-house developed movements, which are created in Neuchatel, Switzerland. These meticulously crafted calibres offer the very best in terms of power reserves, performing with a high number of oscillations per hour. All individual components of the movement are hand assembled by a professional team of artisans and watch technicians at Panerai.

View the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Titanio Automatic Rubber Strap Watch here

Durability:

Aside from the usual robust watch case and anti-shock technology that one would normally expect from a luxury military wristwatch, many tools belonging to the military watch genre also promise impressive water resistant capabilities and usually come with a scratch resistant glass lens crafted from sapphire crystal, integrated with anti-glare properties.

The Bremont Armed Forces watch collection features a trio of designs that combine a functional layout with a durable and easy to wear case construction. The Bremont Argonaut watch for example, is constructed from a hardened stainless steel case that resists corrosion as well as knocks and bumps without a fuss. The simple dial features a black metal surface with luminous filled hands and the archetypal Arabic numerals for easy reading.

View the Bremont ARGONAUT Armed Forces Collection Watch here

Reliability:

Finally, synchronisation and coordination amongst troops is the difference between a life saved and a life lost, that’s why one of the most vital features of a luxury military watch has to be its reliability. Some military watches are quartz powered, others are driven by a supreme in-house mechanical movement.

For those looking for an affordable military watch that doesn’t break the bank, the Hamilton Khaki Field Day Date 42mm watch is a tool that offers something a little different from the usual military watch dressed on a textile or canvas strap. A solid stainless steel bracelet with perfectly tailored links that sit comfortably against the skin, will enable any military watch collector to wear this timepiece out of work as well as with his uniform. The Hamilton Khaki military watch comes with an additional 24 hour track – a familiar feature seen in many traditional military watches, placed upon a black dial accompanied by striking white Arabic numerals and minute markers. This timepiece, with its distinct high-contrast display, is equipped with the ultra-reliable H-30 movement, complete with an impressive 80 hour power reserve.

View the Hamilton Khaki Field 42mm Day/Date Black Dial Men’s Bracelet Watch here