Military watches Grana , Buren , Cyma , Eterna ,JLC , Lemania , Longines , IWC , Omega , Record , Timor and Vertex to name but a few are a fascination for me.

The biggest driving force behind the development of the modern “chronometer” wrist watch as with many useful things we have in our complicated lives is of course money. 

Back in the day those who ruled the waves pretty much ruled everything else and that’s why there are few forests left in the UK. They were all chopped down to make gun toting ships that allowed Great Britain to rule the waves. The biggest cost of all of this was the continual loss of ships which ran aground especially at night as they really did not know where they were !

Vintage Navy Watches

This was solved with the introduction of super accurate clocks ( without pendulums ) created by no not the Swiss but by the British good old Mr Harrison. The father of the accurate timepiece . If you know the time you know where you are .

Oddly enough this is also the whole reason sat navs can work ie super accurate clocks.

Having sorted out their own sinking ships the military then realised that having everyone on your side knowing the same and accurate time was also pretty handy . If everybody attacks at the same time then you can be more effective. If your going to send a 1000 bombers over a target they will all need to have their watches set at the same time ( that’s where the hacking feature comes in ) so they can gather, travel and bomb at the same time.

Military watches and their fantastic History

The history of military watches is a s long and as fascinating as it gets but the most interesting bit is that whilst the watches had to be super accurate they needed to be rugged , long lasting and not too expensive.

It is that quality of military watches that makes then so interesting ie they are “pure “ and functional not too complicated and always carrying a bit of history. Some would say they are the best looking but give me a E type Jaguar over a Willy’s Jeep any day . Having said that I would prefer a XJ8 !

A-11 1940s WW2

However getting back to the military watches , my favourite military watches stem from WW2 and shortly thereafter and one of the best exponents of these watches are the A-11 military spec watches issued by the Americans not only to their own forces but  all of the Allied forces. For many in the ranks this would have been the first timepiece they had and it was a necessary tool in staying alive and in touch. If you don’t arrive at a point on a map by a certain time all sorts of bad things can happen especially if those thousand bombers were planning to bomb where you should not of been at a certain time !

As with the A-11 many military watches were not produced to a particular design but to a rigorous performance specification which had to cater for dust , heat/cold  , water/humidity  and shock whilst keeping time to plus or minus 30 seconds a day and a power reserve of of 30 to 56 hours between winding. Oh and don’t forget they had to be read in the dark !

The American A-11 is often called the “watch that won the war” and indeed it was the most produced watch of WW2 this fact being a testament to its popularity is however also the reason they are not so collectable .

American A-11

British Army and The Swiss Watchmakers during the Wars

The British army also had a similar process of issuing a specification to manufacturers and then buying in various quantities ( probably depending on price and availability ) and many of these watches were produced in Switzerland who remained neutral. Put this fact together with the decimation of the British watchmaking industry ( lack of materials , being put over to making timers for those bombs etc ) and you may figure out why the Swiss watchmaking sector eventually took over.

The Grana , Buren , Cyma , Eterna ,JLC , Lemania , Longines , IWC , Omega , Record , Timor and Vertex all had the same specifications but were not identical military watches there were minor variations in case sizes but the dials had to stick to a pretty rigid design.

Here is a favourite of mine the Buren military watch.

There’s no doubt this watch has seen many battles and had been worn on a daily basis until recently by the gentleman I bought it from. Unfortunately it was his fathers who I was told wore it on active service but alas was no longer with us.

In common with and long before the Omega Speedmaster all of these watches utilised a internal dust screen comprising of a thin metal plate ( in the middle  of the picture ).

The case on this watch is plated brass ( cheaper ) but some utilised stainless steel. 

All of the watches utilised a sub dial seconds hand ( a throwback from pocket watches ) as the seconds hands were less prone to getting knocked off as they were much smaller .

Unlike most of the pictures detailing these watches , they were not “shod” with NATO straps as they had not been invented then but by the long forgotten A.F.0210 spec strap which was the forerunner to the NATO nylon strap and these straps are now available as incredibly accurate copies from

If you have anything similar you would like appraised please feel free to contact me.

October 28th, 2020

Posted In: Second Hand Watches

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