An Introduction to Collecting Military Timepieces
J. Heffner | @pinaplwtchs
A market every collector ventures into at least once in their career
There’s two distinct genres of ‘military’ watches. One sect of this market deals in genuine military surplus pieces - those often produced by American manufacturers for issue to troops. On the other hand, there are watches typically adorned by those in the service, purchased at PX stores, and valued for their ruggedness (think Zodiac or Seikos from the 1970s).
I originally started this article off with an attention grabber discussing the merit and excitement promised by collecting these pieces, especially the military field watches. I ended up deleting that hook, primarily because this market is so vast and general with more opportunity than specifics.
But that’s just it - field watches are a sort of general timepiece that fills its need and nothing else. Perhaps that’s the fault in my judgment - neglecting to realize how vanilla field watches are, yet acknowledging that they’re anything but boring.
One of the final frontiers in the watch world is the vintage military genre. With an expansive catalog spanning nearly a century, these watches were produced by some of the biggest names in the watch game. As such, this is the perfect recipe for collectors to crave - today we are looking at some of the various military field watches that deserve a second look.
The Field Watch Side of Things
These issued field watches are one side of the military watch coin. They in and of themselves practically invented the field watch genre, popularizing their existence within civilian markets.
One of the earliest examples of these field watches harks back to WWII with the production of the original Dirty Dozen. This phrase refers to the 12 manufacturers who banded together in support of the war effort, contracting simple timepieces for various militaries.
With WWII proving the usefulness of a simple watch in the field, similar trends were observed with American manufacturers throughout the Korean and Vietnam conflict. Examples include the Bulova A-17, and Hamilton MIL-W-46374B.
These field watches were built with one purpose - to provide reliable time. There’s absolutely no frills, and to some, this is their most appealing aspect (outside of their history).
The purpose built nature of these watches are, to me, a beautiful thing, especially when this was done out of utility. These Bulova/Hamilton/Benrus watches do just that, and in my eyes, the sense of fulfilling purpose gives the wearer an immense feeling of satisfaction.