Defined by both its utilitarian functionality and rugged good looks, military watches have been pivotal in the lives of soldiers in both times of turmoil and triumph. Anyone who lives on the edge and is constantly dogged by danger knows of the importance of a good and accurate timepiece.
Originally created as a pocket watch placed in upper leather straps on the wrist to free up soldiers’ hands, military watches have been seen on members of the Imperial German Navy as early as the 1880s. By World War I, the big powers recognised that accurate timekeeping was important in combat, and the wristwatch had become indispensable to the military. Soon enough, features such as luminosity, indestructible glass crystals and metal guards to prevent breakage and shrapnel damage was applied and the military watch had evolved to become a worthy companion of the brave men.
Inherently simple, these watches are often produced in a camouflage colourway in keeping with uniform, and are devoid of elaborate complications and precious metals. However, these timepieces are by no means sterile; in fact, it’s interesting to see how luxury watchmakers of today are keeping the style alive without losing its longstanding heritage. From Tiffany & Co.’s unique tribute to a classic to Breitling’s aggressive-looking mammoth, here are 5 of our favourite military watches to march proudly with.
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This is a brand that might be famed for its robin blue box, but Tiffany & Co. knows how to do a mean military watch too. Named after its founder Charles Lewis Tiffany, the CT60 collection is now back in business in a blacked-out case. It is coated with the scratch-resistant diamond-like carbon (DLC), which gives the case its black finish.
With a metallic black finish on its dial and contrasting applied numerals and red accents, the timepiece — modelled after a 1940s piece gifted to Roosevelt — is kept legible. The 42mm chronograph version is powered by the Sellita automatic movement with Duboi-Depraz module on top and of course, comes fitted to a grey and black striped NATO strap.
In an all-matte OD-green colourway that’s capped with a green ceramic bezel insert, Tag Heuer’s new Aquaracer is one of the most understated military-inspired watches around. Inside, the new watch remains beating with the same heart as the “all-terrain diver” last year, with Calibre 5 automatic movement under a PVD-coated grade 2 titanium case construction.
With 300m of water resistance, a date that’s magnified by a cyclops at three o’clock, and a dial that’s also matte to minimise reflective glare, the timepiece is one that you can take with you to any occasion.
A no-frills reissue that’s limited to 1948 pieces, IWC’s “Tribute to Mark XI” is a watch that pays homage to the timepiece that paved IWC’s road to becoming a name closely associated with pilot’s watches. Referencing the original, a triangle at 12 o’clock, baton markers at the quarters, and pencil-shaped minute hand are features that harken back memories of the one that was first produced for the British Royal Air Force back in the ‘50s.
The remake of the military-issue Mark XI is a comfortable 40mm across its steel case, and inside the soft iron cage — for protection against magnetism — is the cal. 35111, an automatic movement with 42 hours of power reserve.
This isn’t a special make for the Hulk, but this watch looks fit for a superhero. At 48mm, this watch is massive so you’ll need the right built to pull this off. DLC-coated for an aggressive blacked-out finish, the chronograph features some useful military functions such as 24-hour time display and water resistance to 300m.
Inside, the watch remains highly refined, with a COSC-certified Brietling cal. 22 powering the watch which the brand describes as “an elite force on the wrist”. Limited to 500 pieces, the watch comes with a functional black fabric strap for a look that shows you mean business.
While the rest kept their military watches as fuss-free as possible, Bell & Ross decided to look the other way and instead create one that’s mechanically intricate. Incorporating four complications — tourbillon, precision indicator, regulator and power reserve — the 45mm watch is kept protected behind a protective cover, just like those from WWI, which were encased in fragile glass. Strategically revealing only critical information when closed, the timepiece might be complex, but serves its purpose of functionality whenever needed.