Brief History of the Military Watches

Brief History of the Military Watches

Posted November 11,2019 in Science and Technology.

Alex Smith
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Brief History of the Military Watches

Officer Wrist Watch

The officer’s wristwatch, supplemented by a lattice that protects the glass and the dial from shrapnel fragments, began to be in great demand after the Battle of the Somme, which lasted from July 1 to November 18, 1916.

In addition to the Jaeger-LeCoultre, the official pilot watch Mark XI was also produced by the IWC manufactory (and this is even a more well-known and widespread version, more than 8,000 of them were produced), and more than twenty Swiss, British, American and even Japanese or casio brands.

Anonymous World War I Pocket Watch with Soldered Wrist Strap

Today, Mark XI and other watches with a “wide arrow” are perhaps one of the most fascinating directions for collectors, to which William Gibson belongs. Many communities and forums, print and electronic catalogs are devoted to them, each digit and symbol of references are fixed and decrypted, each story is recorded. Connoisseurs track the fate of these watches at auctions, like the literary Silenzo in his virtual helmet. And this interest is well deserved.

Bell & Ross, Vintage PW1 pocket watch with ETA 6497 caliber with manual winding and Vintage WW1 wristwatch equipped with an automatic caliber with power reserve indicator

Bell & Ross, Vintage PW1 pocket watch with ETA 6497 caliber with manual winding and Vintage WW1 wristwatch equipped with an automatic caliber with power reserve indicator

Indeed, in essence, the distribution of watches is due to the army, the great war, and last but not least the British “wide arrow”.

Officer List

According to archives, British officers began to remodel their pocket watches into watches, soldering their ears on their own, back in 1895. There is also a sketch of the order of the case with two belt mounts sent from England to the Dimier brothers factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds (now the Dimier brand belongs to Bovet) in 1903. The advertising campaign of the London company Mappin & Webb of 1901 during the Anglo-Boer War, representing the so-called Campaign Watch, a watch for officers on a thin leather strap, is widely known.

The Rolex Silver Officer Watch, first released in 1916, became the model of the officer’s wristwatch

The Rolex Silver Officer Watch, first released in 1916, became the model of the officer’s wristwatch

However, the watch became an integral part of military equipment only with the outbreak of the First World War. In 1916, Hans Wilsdorf released a model that without any fancy, but perspicaciously called the Rolex Officer Watch - in a round silver case with semicircular strap arches and large Arabic numerals on a white dial. They instantly became the standard of army watches, followed by other manufacturers.

Omega CK2129 with a rotating welt, the most common watch among RAF pilots at the beginning of World War II, about 2000 copies were produced

Omega CK2129 with a rotating welt, the most common watch among RAF pilots at the beginning of World War II, about 2000 copies were produced

In the same 16th year, the popular Knowledge for War: Every officer's handbook for the front guide, written by Captain Basil Charles Lake, was published, in which, in particular, a list of things needed for each officer was given. In the first place, before the revolver and binoculars, it read “a clock with a luminescent coating and durable glass”. The most popular luminous material of the time was radium, and to protect the glass of watches, the military invented a witty lattice that covers the top of the case. In addition to officers, watches with all of the above characteristics were in great demand among pilots flying then in open cockpits. In 1917, the British Department of Defense finally announced the standard requirements for officer watches that were sent to manufacturers, and in 1918 the first models appeared. officially marked with a "wide arrow". In the same year, the Royal Air Force (RAF) separated from the Admiralty. Here, unfortunately for many watch brands, the war ended.

World War I Omega Watch Radium Watch

Swiss, British and even American watch companies still have warehouses clogged with officer watches, which civilian buyers have not yet evaluated. Today in museums you can see many Longines, Electa and Waltham models that were originally made in the 18th year, but remade and put up for sale in the late 1920s, when there was already a massive demand for watches.

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