7 of the best military watches you can buy in 2021

War may not be good for many things, but it has benefited the advancement of watchmaking technology. The need for timepieces to be more resilient, less visible, able to go to lower depths or survive higher temperatures has led brands to make discoveries that they might not have made without a document conforming to the specifications. was on their desk.

What is a military watch?

A Rolex 5517 MilSub watch with military specifications

Technically, it’s any timepiece worn by anyone in the military — the first of which were said to have been used during the Boer War of 1899-1902. During World War I, soldiers tied everyday pocket watches around their wrists to avoid fumbling through their clothes, but it was during World War II that real innovation took place. This was thanks to governments realizing that a watch could be a valuable part of the military toolkit and so more and more brands asked to customize their watches to military specifications, hence the mil-spec.

Most of the watches the military asked for specs share features: they have large legible, luminescent numerals; a 24-hour track so that operations can be timed throughout the night; matte or blasted housings so they can’t be detected and don’t succumb to environmental damage so easily. There’s also the NATO (or G10) strap, which is made of fabric and designed by the Ministry of Defense with a specific loop construction that keeps the watch on the wrist even if the spring bars break.

The main types of military watch

WWII soldiers wearing military field watches

There are three different categories of military watches, each with slightly different features to meet the needs of the military, air force and navy.

Field watches are the most basic – usually cheap, rugged three-handed watches. Then there are pilot watches and diving watches, both are self-explanatory, except that the military versions of these styles may be more technical or can go deeper than the ones made for ordinary civilians.

The Best Military Watches You Can Buy Today

While we may not be able to get our hands on a Rolex 5517 MilSub, there are watches that have turned their military connections into timepieces that work just as well in the local as they do in the officers’ mess. Here are seven that are ideal for burgers.

Tudor Pelagos FXD

A new kid on the military bloc, this is another timepiece that stems from Tudor’s relationship with the Marine Nationale (French Navy) that has been going on since 1956. This time, the company has teamed up with the prestigious Commando Hubert unit of combat swimmers.

Combat swimmers navigate the water in paired pairs, changing direction every 10 minutes to avoid detection. This new Pelagos has a bi-directional bezel, which is necessary for the countdown before they have to change course, the dial is matte, the robust fixed bars on the strap keep it from falling and, interesting for a military diver, the watch is good to only 100 meters because combat divers stay close to the surface.

Buy now at Watches Of Switzerland

Traser P66 Automatic Pro Military Watch

In 1989, the US military became interested in Oskar Thüler’s invention: trigalight. This self-illumination technology was developed by his company mb-microtec using the world’s smallest gaseous tritium light sources, providing light for decades without any external light source. The US wanted to include it in a watch that was perfect for nighttime operations, so the Traser P66 Automatic Pro Military was born.

After the US military, the British decided to supply this watch to select service people and anecdotally it is one of the few brands that military personnel will buy for themselves.

Buy now at Jura Watches

Panerai Submersible Marine Carbotech

Panerai was a military brand before it was a civilian one, producing technical tools and eventually watches for the Italian Royal Navy since 1935. This 2019 beast is specially designed for the Navy’s special operations unit known as Teseo Tesei or Comsubin.

It is made from hardwearing yet lightweight Carbotech, a carbon fiber composite unique to Panerai, has an easy-to-read Blue Superluminova and a unidirectional bezel. And if you’re lucky enough to find one of the limited editions in store, it comes with an exclusive training day experience with the Teseo Tesei itself.

Buy now at MR PORTER

Timex MK1 Steel 40mm Watch with Cloth Strap

Timex has a long history of producing military-inspired timepieces, but for a very short period of time between February and March 1982, it actually had a military contract. As part of this, it created the Mil-Spec W-46374B for the US Marine Corps: a watch designed to be thrown away. You couldn’t replace the battery or make repairs, so as soon as it stopped, you threw it away.

Fortunately, the civilian version of this field watch, the MK1, is more robust. The case is made of hardwearing stainless steel, comes on a military-inspired cloth strap, has a mechanical movement and costs just $185.

Buy now at Timex

Breitling Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 Mosquito

Breitling has had links with the RAF since the 1930s, when it began producing onboard chronometers for aircraft, many of which helped secure an Allied victory in World War II. Which leads us to the Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 Mosquito, a watch inspired by those of early British pilots and a tribute to the de Havilland Mosquito, one of the most iconic bombers of WWII.

The red and orange accents on the dial are a nod to the colors used on the Mosquito’s body, while the retro leather strap refers to the era in which the aircraft was made. Powered by the in-house Breitling Manufacture Caliber 01 movement, it’s a fitting tribute to an incredible aircraft and the men who flew it.

Buy now at Goldsmiths

Bremont Argonaut

Bremont and the military have been unofficially courting each other for years; there is even a side of the trade exclusively for service men and women to have their Bremonts specified with their insignia. They made it official in 2019 when the Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced the British watch brand as a luxury watch partner.

Bremont’s MoD collection includes the Broadsword for the Army and the Arrow for the RAF, but this fantastic retro diver is a must-buy. The Argonaut has an elegant rotating inner bezel, custom Superluminova in a pretty mint color and, despite being a tool watch, it feels more like a timepiece made for a gentleman than an officer.

Buy now at Jura Watches

Vertex Bronze 75

Vertex has the honor of being the only British brand in the Dirty Dozen – the group of 12 watchmakers who produced reliable watches for British soldiers during World War II on behalf of the British Ministry of Defense, including Jaeger-LeCoultre, Omega and Longines.

Today, Vertex continues to build on its military history with watches inspired by that era, like this beauty. Launched to commemorate 75 years since the end of World War II and inspired by the Cal 59 Nav, one of which is currently on eBay, the Vertex 75 ticks all the military inspiration boxes but encases them in bronze for a modern take on a classic design.

Buy now at Vertex

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