Military and field watches have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years and it’s easy to see why. They have a retro, vintage charm without compromising on accuracy and durability. The ideal mix of utility and aesthetics. So whether you add one to your collection for the nostalgia or as a serious addition to your outfit, you will want to pick up one of the great military inspired field, diver’s or pilot’s watches that are out there.
So let’s have a look at 10 of the best military watches on the market that you should consider adding to your roll call.
Airain Type 20 Re-Edition, £1,942
While it might be a lesser known brand, this Chronograph from Airain is worth taking seriously. It’s a faithful recreation of the original 1950s Type 20 issued by the French Ministry of Defence to pilots –similar in some ways to Breguet’s much more expensive and sought after Type 20.
Case/dial: 39.5mm diameter, stainless steel, black dial | Movement: Calibre AM1, automatic, chronograph and flyback movement, 28 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 60h | Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph with 30-min counter | Strap: Suede leather with stainless steel pin buckle | Price: £1,942 (or £1,793 for pre-order) for July 2021, available at Airain.
Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Military, £1,900
The BR V1-92 is a more traditionally styled field watch, as expected from the French brand who revel in accurate cockpit and instrument inspired watches. It has a simple black dial with only the bare essentials of hours, minutes and seconds hands and a date function tucked away between 4 and 5 o’clock. Although a standout feature is the fact the numerals accompanying the hour markers are a 60-minute timer rather than the typical 12 hours.
Case/dial: 38.5mm diameter, satin stainless steel, black dial | Water Resistance: 100m (10 bar) Movement: Calibre BR-CAL.302, automatic | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 38h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and date | Strap: Brown leather with steel pin buckle | Price: £1,900, available at Bell & Ross.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, £395 – £515
The Khaki Field Mechanical is Hamilton’s quintessential field watch faithful to its 1960s forebear and available with a variety of dial colours and case materials. It’s also the most accessible timepiece on this list making it great value. We favour this striped back brown dial version with matt stainless steel case, as it feels suitably utilitarian with a nice desert fatigues flavour.
As an American brand, Hamilton are fond of using the A-11 as their inspiration, the American ‘watch that won the war’ and this piece definitely pays homage to it.
Case/dial: 38mm diameter, satin stainless steel, brown dial | Water Resistance: 50m (5 bar) | Movement: Calibre H-50, hand-wound | Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz) | Power reserve: 80h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds | Strap: Beige NATO fabric with pin buckle | Price: £395 – £515, available at Hamilton.
Vertex MP45 Arctic Automatic, £3,480
The Vertex MP45 Arctic is the most expensive watch on this list at £3,480, limited to just 30 pieces – 20 automatic and 10 manuals. It’s inspired by an original commission from 1945 making it a contemporary take on the Mono-Pusher timing watch. It has the same asymmetrical design to its 40mm brushed steel case as the original and a cool monochrome colour scheme. It also bears lots of the aesthetic characteristics of the famous Dirty Dozen from the MOD.
Vertex was re-established as a brand in 2015 and these heritage recreations are a welcome return to some of their best designs from the brand’s 100+ year history. Bringing iconic watches back to the forefront with contemporary updates, like the Sellita SW510 MP Automatic mechanical movement, is a great way to pay homage to classic designs.
Case/dial: 40mm diameter, brushed steel, white dial | Water Resistance: 100m (10 bar) | Movement: Sellita SW510 MP calibre, automatic | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 48h | Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, 30-minute counter, central chronograph | Strap: Black leather with additional rubber and NATO straps | Price: £3,480, limited to just 30 pieces – 20 automatic and 10 manuals, available at Vertex.
Farer Exmoor, £875
Farer recently launched an entire field watch collection, which we had a look at, and all the offerings in the range were great. Our favourite of the trio of timepieces was the Exmoor, an olive green-dialled watch inspired by the Devon and Somerset National Park.
It’s actually a fairly busy looking watch with lots of different colours and various numeral and pip sizing and designs – typical of Farer – yet somehow it remains as legible as the most barebones field watches, which is quite a feat. The 38.5mm stainless steel case and Sellita SW221-1 movement make it a nicely proportioned technical watch with a hint of vintage flair. It has a real exploration feel to it.
Case/dial: 38.5mm diameter, stainless steel, olive green textured dial | Water Resistance: 200m (20 bar) | Movement: Swiss Made Sellita SW221-1 calibre, automatic, 26 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 38h | Functions: Hours, minutes, sweep second, date by pointer with quick setting, hacking seconds | Strap: Tan American Horween leather with steel buckle, airforce blue waterproof nylon NATO and ‘5 row’ integrated stainless steel bracelet with tri-fold clasp | Price: £875, available at Farer.
Timor Heritage Field, £910
When it comes to heritage field watch designs, it’s no surprise that some of the most acclaimed and well-loved are from the World War Two era. It’s a period of time that still fascinates us to this day and any connections to the period feel special. Timor can trace the lineage of the Heritage Field back to that war when the British War Office commissioned 12 watchmakers to develop highly accurate and durable watches for the military, making this the most faithful re-creation of a piece from the Dirty Dozen on the list.
The Heritage Field remains true to its provenance with a vintage 36.5mm diameter and beige coloured Superluminova and it’s also available with an option to get a heritage inspired AF0210 webbing strap that’s the predecessor of the modern NATO strap it usually comes with.
Case/dial: 36.5mm diameter, stainless steel, black dial | Water Resistance: 50m (5 bar) | Movement: Modified Sellita SW216, hand-wound, 24 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 42h | Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds at 6 o’clock | Strap: Black seatbelt fabric | Price: £910, available at Timor Watch Company.
Hanhart 417 ES, €1,790
The historic counterpart to the Hanhart reissue of the 417 ES served as the first ever pilot’s chronograph for the German armed forces, laying the blueprint for all future Flieger pilot’s watches, meaning it’s a truly legendary military watch. As with the other ‘reissues’ on this list, it’s a modern construction of a heritage design making for a cool and robust timepiece perfect for any warcore getup.
The bicompax layout and fluted bezel with red position marker are all true to the original and modern production has given it 10 bar (100m) water resistance that the historic version sorely lacked. A particularly nice touch is that on the caseback that hides the hand-wound SW 510 M movement is a period accurate version of the Hanhart logo.
Case/dial: 42mm diameter, stainless steel, black dial | Water Resistance: 100m (10 bar) | Movement: Sellita SW-510 M, hand-wound chronograph, 23 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 58h | Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph | Strap: Black calfskin leather with white stitching | Price: €1,790 EUR, available at Hanhart.
Christopher Ward C65 Sandhurst, £945
Plenty of the brands on this list have a large back-catalogue of field watches and military timepieces to pull from for inspiration for their newest releases. Christopher Ward, not so much – The C65 Sandhurst was the brand’s first foray into the military ring and they made quite the impression. The watch bares the British Army’s heraldry engraved on its back and it’s MOD approved, pretty good going for a first effort.
It isn’t without vintage charm either, as Christopher Ward used the Smiths W10 watch from 1969 as a guideline. The lume is a mixture of modern and period accurate material for an interesting fusion of styles. The Sellita SW200 Automatic Chronometer movement is, surprisingly at this price range, COSC-certified, putting it a cut above many on this list. In short, this is a lot of watch for the money.
Case/dial: 38mm diameter, brushed and polished stainless steel, matte black dial | Water Resistance: 150m (15 bar) | Movement: Sellita SW200 COSC calibre, automatic, 26 jewels | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 38h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds | Strap: Stainless steel bracelet | Price: £945, available at Christopher Ward.
Longines Heritage Military Marine Nationale, £1,570
When it comes to simple designs, Longines surely mastered it with the ref 5774 from the mid-20th century, brought up to modern standards as the Heritage Military Marine Nationale. It has a distinctly maritime flavour with the light beige and darker numerals giving the impression of weathered sea charts but on a functional level is well within the range of field watches – its 3 bar (30m) water resistance prevents it being an effective modern diver.
The 38.5mm stainless steel case houses the modern L888 automatic calibre from Longines with an admirable 72-hour power-reserve. This might be the most basic watch on this list in terms of functions but it has an almost unrivalled charm.
Case/dial: 38.5mm diameter, stainless steel, beige dial | Water Resistance: 150m (15 bar) | Movement: In-house L888 calibre, automatic | Frequency: 25,200 vph (3.5 Hz) | Power reserve: 72h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds | Strap: Leather | Price: £1,570, available at Longines.
CWC Mellor-72 Mechanical, £449
The tonneau-shaped Mellor-72 from Cabot Watch Company is a tribute to the first watch made for the MOD by Ray Mellor in the 1970s. CWC has been working alongside the MOD and specifically the elite Navy force SBS (Special Boat Service) giving their timepieces a special place in field watch history. The design of the dial is about as vintage field watch as it’s possible to get, although the case shape does lend it a quirky air. It’s super legible with large numerals in stark white lume against a simple black background with clearly defined hands.
There are a few fun vintage elements thrown in alongside the case shape, which is 38mm wide and 42mm lug-to-lug, there’s the CWC logo, the broad arrow and T markings, which are all taken from pre-1980 designs. The calibre is another Sellita, the hand-wound SW210 Swiss-made hacking movement with 40-hour power-reserve.
Case/dial: 38mm diameter, brushed stainless steel, black dial | Water Resistance: 50m (5 bar) | Movement: Sellita SW210, Swiss-made hacking movement, hand-wound | Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz) | Power reserve: 40h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds | Strap: NATO fabric | Price: £449, available at CWC.