Don’t be fooled by the glamour: wristwatches were born on the battlefield, not the boardroom. And though nobody in their right mind would take their Swiss finest to the gun range (minus Dan Bilzerian), traces of trench warfare are still apparent.
“Some of the earliest records of men wearing watches can be traced back to the military in the 1890s – particularly in the German navy,” says Nick English, co-founder of British fine watch brand Bremont. “Many of these were no more than pocket watches on a leather wrist band that eventually evolved into bona fide timepieces during the 20th century, in which accurate timekeeping became essential in war.”
Fortunately, most of today’s battlegrounds – from the office to your next triathlon – aren’t life-or-death situations (hopefully). That’s not an excuse to be late, though. “Accuracy and durability are priorities, and the robust devices designed for military situations lend themselves well to modern life. A mechanical watch accurate to within just a few seconds is a minor miracle, and such devices were made possible thanks to extensive testing by the military.”
So, in a bid to pay homage to horological forefathers, we’ve pinned a medal of honour to the finest army-inspired watches on the home front.
Bell & Ross BR03-92 Military Type 42mm Ceramic
“To me, a Bell & Ross watch is the epitome of military style,” says Simon Spiteri, accessories buyer at Mr Porter. “Inspired by the history of aviation, the BR03-92 has been designed especially for military professionals with in-the-cockpit features such as luminescent indices for greater visibility and a legible, square-shaped dial.”
Available at Mr Porter, priced £2,900.
Cartier Tank MC
“Created in 1917, the Tank was Louis Cartier’s reimagining of the war machines he saw in active duty during World War One,” says Watchfinder’s head of retail, Alex Stonely. “The design is functional, integrating the lugs that hold the strap into the case, whereas other pieces from the era used simple wire lugs instead.”
Available at Watchfinder, priced £10,950.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII Top Gun Miramar
“The IWC Miramar Mark XVIII is a military watch throughout, designed in tandem with the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar fighter school in California,” says Philipp Man, co-founder of luxury watch etailer, Chronext. “The case is made of high-tech ceramic, with titanium crown and pushers – two robust features present on most military pieces.”
Available at Chronext, priced £4,260.
“My favourite military-inspired watch is the Longines Heritage L28324735,” says Alan Moore, founder of online watch retailer Twisted Time. “While most watches of this ilk are overtly masculine, this particular piece is more unassuming thanks to a smaller diameter and neutral tones.”
Available at The Watch Gallery, priced £1,170.
Mappin & Webb Campaign Limited Edition
“Mappin & Webb were a major supplier of wristwatches to British troops in the Boer War and the first World War, and the brand has celebrated the partnership with a limited edition replica,” says Brian Duffy, chief executive at Aurum Holdings, the parent company behind Watches Of Switzerland and The Watch Lab. “The piece is almost identical, with a silver steel case and numerals lifted from the original.”
Available at Mappin & Webb, priced £2,500.
Luminox Navy Seal Colormark 3050 Series
“Developed in partnership with the US Navy Seals, the Luminox 3050 Series is light on the wrist thanks to a carbon and polycarbonate case,” says Terry Markham, head of buying at WatchShop. “Other military functions also translate well to an off-duty watch, including Tritium gas tubes for low light visibility.”
Available at WatchShop, priced £349.
“As a British brand through and through, Bremont takes cues from the air force on most of its watches,” says Erica Redgrave, a buyer at online retailer The Watch Gallery. “The Solo in particular melds cockpit aesthetics with understated British elegance, resulting in a watch fit for everyday wear.”
Available at The Watch Gallery, priced £2,995.
Casio G-Shock Timer Alarm Chronograph
“Scores of combat troops trust Casio’s G-Shock range for durability, readability, and functionality, such as an alarm system,” says Markham. “This particular model adds a vibration countdown timer too, for silent operation, as well as an LED backlight for visibility in pitch black.”
Available at WatchShop, priced £63.