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A Short Summary Of The History Of Military Watches

Army watches, as their name suggests, were created to be used in the armed forces. The 1st armed forces watches were naval pieces, chronometers that worked okay for their purposes, but as other branches of the army – aviation especially – made major technical advances round the time of the second World War, correct measurement of the seconds became vital.

As the old chestnut goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ and Navigator ( occasionally called ‘Pilot’ ) watches were born. In the Navigator watch design, the seconds bezel allowed the pilot to synchronize the second hand with a correct reference time before takeoff, and to make manual corrections to radio time signals while in flight, therefore getting rid of any ‘chronometer inaccuracies’ and the navigational gaffes that would result.

In World War I seconds continued to be crucial in both armed forces technology and armed forces watches. The feature that allowed for synchronization between 2 timepieces – continued to enhance and advance. These watches were worn on the exterior of a flight jacket or on the navigator’s thigh.

The Germans also added antimagnetic protection to their chronometers. Inside another major Axis power, Seiko produced an amazing number of military watches for the Japanese Imperial armed forces and Navy. These watches averaged around 49mm in diameter.

As the times of WWII faded into memory and the strained peace of the ‘Cold War’ became fact, military budgets and army technology boomed. Watchmakers rose to the call by planning an instrument worthy of going into battle with humankind’s strongest weapon. Those were the wonderful times of the army watch, though no definite design house can claim full credit for the steps made in that time.

Cold War-era military watches were much larger than the everyday US citizen navigators before them. Averaging 36mm in diameter, the making of these watches was moved to Switzerland and the Swiss armed forces watch corporations who came to the task with centuries’ old reputes for precision.

Like those before them, these Navigators also featured a matte black dial marked with white Arabic numbers 1-12, and with white indices. The new designs did not have white numbers at cardinal three, 6, 9, and 12. Another new addition was a shatterproof Perspex acrylic crystal, which protected its giant 12 ligne movement from magnetic fields.

These hand-wound watches were predicted to be water-resistant to twenty feet, including water-resistance under low pressure at operational altitudes, and added a naval dimension to the regular military watch.

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