Timepieces taking cues from the armed forces have always had much going for them: rugged looks and durability to name just two. Emerging as a definite theme in horology this year, we select our top five that most certainly pass muster
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While there are myriad reasons to own a classic dress or sports watch, you should also consider adding a military timepiece to your collection – especially this year, as army-inspired watches were a definite theme of both the SIHH and Baselworld watch fairs earlier in 2019.
What are the advantages? A distinctive, rugged aesthetic, action credibility built-in and, of course, durability. Practical, athletic and fit for almost any purpose, these tactical watches are not only a tougher breed, they should also serve equally well in both formal and informal situations (as well as establishing a beachhead).
Having for years produced customised watches on a private basis for military units, Bremont becomes an official partner of the MoD with its new Armed Forces collection, led out by Broadsword, an automatic. The look, emphasising legibility and luminescence, harks back – but not too far – to the watches commissioned by the MoD in World War II, known as the “Dirty Dozen” for the 12 firms that produced them. This new case style for Bremont is simple and rugged, emblazoned on the reverse with the emblems of the Her Majesty’s Armed Forces (referenced on the dial with “HMAF”). “Broadsword”, of course, was the immortal callsign of Richard Burton’s Major Smith in Where Eagles Dare, a character who would certainly have sported a Dirty Dozen ticker.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
Inside the straightforward, and strikingly affordable surrounds of the Khaki Field Mechanical, lies a hand-wound movement with a difference. Developed in partnership with movement powerhouse (and fellow Swatch subsidiary) ETA, Caliber H-50 offers a hefty 80 hours of power reserve, meaning the watch only needs winding once every three days or so – useful for reliability out in the field. A relatively dinky 38mm in diameter, and inspired by Hamilton service watches of the 1960s and 70s, this version is cased in bead-blasted steel with an “Earth PVD” coating, and dial in similarly dusty tones.
Price: £515 | Hamilton Watch
Vertex MP45 Black
Vertex was the sole British member of the Dirty Dozen companies commissioned by the MOD to make the “Wristlet Watch Wearable” watches during WWII (others included Omega, Longines and IWC). Its name returned to dials a couple of years ago, revived by the great-grandson of Vertex’s founder with a watch breathing new life into that old WWW template. The MP45 is a chronograph follow-up, whose asymmetrical case and single-button actuation takes cues from military chronos of yore, but the black PVD-coated case and numerals in extruded blocks of luminescent material make it a distinctly modern proposition.
Price: £3,480 | Check price on The Rake | Vertex Watches
IWC Pilot’s Watch Spitfire Bronze
IWC, another Dirty Dozen maker and producer of the RAF’s post-war service watch, the Mark 11, has this year converted its Spitfire pilot’s watch from a rather polite, silver-dial affair into a bold range with a hearty military bearing. That’s especially the case in this version with a deep green dial and 39mm bronze case that will take on a rough-hewn patina over time. The watch, which features an engraving of a Spitfire plane on the case-back, also sees the debut of a sturdy new automatic in-house movement from IWC, Caliber 32110, which has a 72-hour power reserve.
Price: £4,590 | IWC
Triwa x Humanium Metal HU39-DA
The Triwa x Humanium Metal is a new automatic version of Stockholm-based brand’s quartz-powered HU39-D (the brand name stands for Transforming the Industry of Watches, FYI). Available in 34mm and 39mm versions, it has a kind of brutalist appearance with echoes of military watch design, but promotes a very different message. Triwa’s Humanium metal, in which the watch is cased, is formed from destructed illegal firearms to highlight issues of violence and conflict. For each watch sold, 15 per cent of takings go to charities supporting victims of violence and poverty. Power is supplied by a Miyota 9015 movement, and the watch is water resistant to 100m. Choose from either an organically tanned leather or green canvas strap made from recycled PET bottles.
Price: £550 | Triwa