What is a military watch?


Over 100 years of evolution has led the military watch to what it is today. Back in the early 1900s, a simple pocket watch with straps attached to it was common practice for soldiers. WW1 soldiers would remember names such as Cartier, and “soldier” or “tank” watches, while soldiers of today use Luminox or G-Shock military watches

It wasn’t until 1940, when the United States Army decided to regulate and standardize watches for use, with the release of Specification 55-1b.The first watch under the name Model 1-B was the father to all the military watches we have today and came the birth of Mil Spec or Mil PRF (Military Performance Specifications). During the Second World War specialized watches for the United States Air Force, Army Air Corps, Field Operations, Marines Corps, Royal Canadian Air Force, and other military sections needed highly specialized watches, and standard military issued watches would not suffice. This brought into the world three main sections:

  • Pilot Watches (Navigator Watches)
  • Field Operation Watches (Army Watches)
  • Marine Corps (Naval Watches or Diver Watches)

Many of these watches share hybrid components because of the complex environments each watch is required to withstand. The military has been standardizing equipment for over a century now but there’s a difference between military spec and military issued. Military issued refers to a company manufacturing for the government through a contract for the Department of Defense (DoD) and then being issued as “standard” kit to soldiers of specified corps. While many commercial watches conform to Mil Spec and are used in warfare today, it does not mean they are standard military issued watches.

With so many commercial watches meeting or exceeding Mil Spec, many soldiers today prefer to use their own timepieces in combat. Regulations vary, but it seems common practice to be able to do so.

So what is a military timepiece in the 21st century?

It must conform or exceed Mil Spec regulations and usually falls within the three categories: Pilot watches, Field Ops Watches, Navy Seal Watches.

Pilot Watches (Aviator Watches/Navigator Watches):

  • Vibration Resistant (cockpit vibration)
  • Magnetic Resistant
  • Large Numbers (Easy to read with vibration)
  • Chronograph
  • E6B (Flight Computer Integrated into bezel)
  • Tachymeter (Calculating Time, Distance, Speed)
  • Altimeter (Altitude readings)
  • Easy to read in low light scenarios

These are SOME of the common functions included in pilot watches. Common brands for pilot watches are Heuer, IWC, A Lange & Sohne , LeCoultre , Omega, and Hamilton.

Field Operations (Army Watches):

  • Water Resistant at least 100 Meters
  • Reverse/ Inverse LCD screen – Screen stays black but the numbers are colored lightly – stealth operations
  • Red Backlight LED Screen – Helps maintain night visibility also, less likely to be spotted by enemy troops.
  • Low Temperature Operation
  • Altimeter (Reading of altitude)
  • Compass
  • Either Automatic movement or long lasting battery
  • Made of Titanium or Carbon fiber- lightweight but durable
  • Pressure Sensing for storms
  • Chronograph
  • Magnetic resistant
  • Shock Resistant

These are some of the more common options on field operation watches.

Navy Seal Watches (Diver Watches):

  • Unidirectional Bezel with markings minimum every 5 minutes
  • The presence of clearly distinguishable minute markings on the watch face.
  • Adequate readability/visibility at 25 cm (9.8 in) in total darkness.
  • Magnetic Resistant
  • Shock Resistant
  • Chemical resistance.
  • End of Life (EOL) indicator on battery powered watches.
  • Water Proof at least 100 meters

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