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The Top 5 Iconic Military Watches

Top 5 iconic military watches
The WW1 trench watch
As pocket watches were impractical in the trenches London jewellers started to create ‘service watches’ for officers fighting on the Western Front. The first advert for such a watch appeared in the Times in February 1915 which was entitled the ’Military Luminous Watch’. By the end of the war all major Swiss watchmaking companies, from Rolex to Zenith, were producing watches for serving officers. In 1918 the British Ministry for War decided that the Army should produce their own wristwatch for men in the ‘other ranks’ who could not afford to buy their own state of the art, high end wristwatch. The watches produced by the British military were all stamped with the ‘broad arrow’ to indicate that they were government property. The Lufbery logo is inspired by the British military’s broad arrow.
 The B- Uhr
 
Issued to the pilots of the Luftwaffe during WW2 the B-Uhr (short for Beobachtungsuhr or Observer) was the most state of the art watch of the 1940s. Its functional design and large case (55mm) have made it the forerunner of many pilot watches created since 1945. The B-Uhr’s were preciously synchronised using tools from the German Navy and were housed in an anti-magnetic case to stop interference with aircraft tools. The watches were so large as they were designed to be worn over the pilot’s jacket.
 
 The W.W.W.
 
Issued to the servicemen of certain British regiments during WW2 (for example the Royal Engineers and the Royal Signallers) the W.W.W. is an iconic military watch. The watches were designed to be waterproof and durable and each was issued with luminous hands (the luminous hands were painted with Radium so the vast majority of the watches were destroyed in the 1970s). The W.W.W. was manufactured by twelve watch making companies including Omega and IWC.
 
 
The Mark IV and Mark V pocket watches.
 
The first military issue watches were pocket watches issued to the airmen of the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. The watches were designed to be cockpit tools as well as timepieces and were the only item of equipment pilots were ordered to retrieve from a stricken aircraft. Each watch was stamped with the British Military’s ‘broad arrow’ to indicate that they were government property and to stop them from being ‘misplaced’.
 
 
The MIL-W-46374
The watch issued by the US military from the 1964 to the early 1970s the MIL-W-46374 is the classic field watch and is famous for been worn by US servicemen during the Vietnam War. Produced by companies such as Hamilton and Timex, the MIL-W-46374 had 17 jewels and like the W.W.W. had a luminous dial that was painted with radioactive material. By modern standards the MIL-W-46374 was small, the dial was 34mm, but the watch does look great.

Military Watches since 1914

WW1

Prior to the twentieth century wristwatches were worn by women as an item of jewellery, the first one being created by Patek Phillipe in 1868 for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary. Military men soon saw the potential for having a watch on their wrist as opposed to having to fumble for their pocket watch in the heat of battle. The German Imperial Navy experimented with wristwatches throughout the 1880s and soldiers in the Boer War used to tie their pocket watches to their wrist. However, it was in WW1 that the wristwatch was really born. As warfare became more advanced and synchronised, soldiers needed to check the time instantaneously for battles to be coordinated effectively. The Royal Signals was the first regiment that ordered officers to wear wristwatches and by 1916 wristwatch wearing had spread to civilian life. Originally officers were expected to buy their own wristwatches, which were either advertised as ‘service’ watches or ‘campaign’ watches. The Lufbery Mark VII is inspired by these original service watches. By the end of the war the War Department was issuing cheaper wristwatches to men further down the ranks.

 

WW2

In 1939 the Ministry of Defence commissioned a dozen companies to make wristwatches for the military. The companies were: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex. Each watch. Each watch needed to have to have a black dial, Arabic numerals, luminous hour and minute hands, luminous hour markers, a railroad minute track, a shatterproof crystal, and a stainless-steel case. In total 150000 watches were produced with the majority going to radio operators and artillery officers.

 

Korean War

The most popular watch in the Korean War was the Waltham A-17 which first came into service in 1950 and had a 17 jewel movement. The last Waltham A-17 was created in 1956.

 

Vietnam War

In February 1964 the Department of Defence awarded a contract for a new field watch. The specs required a 17 jewel hand wound movement, with accuracy of +/- 30 seconds per day, and a second hand setting feature ("hacking"). The steel case was a mere 34-35mm wide, antimagnetic, and water resistant. Many were made with fixed lugs instead of spring bars, requiring a pass through strap. The crystal was domed acrylic. The dial established the template for the American "field watch": a black dial with 12 hours in Arabic numerals, an inner ring marking 24 hour time with smaller Arabic numerals, and a 60 increment index with darts at each hour marker. The watches were made by Benrus, Belforte, Westclox, Hamilton, Timex, and Stocker and Yale. All of these watches will bear case back markings with contract type, federal stock number, manufacturing part number, contract number, manufacture month and year, and serial number. 

 

The Gulf War

General Schwarzkopf famously wore two watches. The watch on his left arm was set at Saudi Arabian time and the Seiko on his right arm was set at Eastern Standard time. Schwarzkopf’s $200 Seiko recently sold at auction for $11000. For most US soldiers however they wore Stocker and Yale Sandy 490 series which was powered by a Swiss ETA 2801 movement.

 

 

 

The History of the Tank in WW1

The wrist-watch was one iconic innovation of the First World War; the other was the tank. First used by the British in September 1916 the tank changed the face of warfare. On the back of every Lufbery Trench Watch is an engraving of a Mark VII tank which was first produced in 1918.

The Mark VII tank. First produced in the autumn of 1918.

 

The concept of a vehicle to provide troops with both mobile protection and firepower was not a new one. But in the First World War, the increasing availability of the internal combustion engine, armour plate and the continuous track, as well as the problem of trench warfare, combined to facilitate the production of the tank.

Little Willie prototype tank. Built in 1915.

 

The name 'tank' came from British attempts to ensure the secrecy of the new weapons under the guise of water tanks. During the First World War, Britain began the serious development of the tank. Ironically, the Royal Navy led the way with the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, establishing the Landships Committee in early 1915.

 

The military combined with engineers and industrialists and by early 1916 a prototype was adopted as the design of future tanks. Britain used tanks in combat for the first time in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916.

An early tank (the Mark I) in battle in 1916.

 

As production increased and reliability improved, they were used in greater numbers. By the summer of 1918 they were a common element of British fighting methods, with around 2,600 tanks manufactured.

Tanks were common by 1918.

 

France began development in late 1915, eventually creating the Renault FT light tank. This was the first to use a fully rotating turret that contained the tank’s main armament - the basis of tank design ever since. Over 3,000 of these machines were made by late 1918.

Renault FT

 

By contrast, Germany lagged behind. German forces often salvaged British and French tanks, both for research purposes and to use on the battlefield. Germany developed the A7V tank, but only 20 were produced.

German A7V Tank