The Edit: The best military watches

Inspired by the original military watches, the Dirty Dozen, these tough timers might not have been through many wars — but they’re ready just in case

War is hell, as General William T. Sherman (of Sherman tank fame) once put it. And, to survive hell, you need a special type of grit, determination and hardiness. So does your watch. In a time before laser guiding systems and night vision goggles, one of the most useful and possibly life-saving pieces of tech used on the battlefield was the humble wristwatch.

In 1944, the British military laid out exactly what they required from a watch and sent these specifications to 12 manufactures who came back with what is now referred to as the ‘Dirty Dozen’.

Some of these brands are very recognisable today, such as IWC, Omega and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Some are less well-known names, like Buren, Lemania and Vertex — familiar only to hardcore collectors.

And, while some of these brands have been lost to the passing of time, their designs remain with us. So take look at our selection of the best watches of today, which can be traced back to the original Dirty Dozen.

Vertex M100B

The Edit: The best military watches

Vertex was an original member of the Dirty Dozen, relaunched by the founder’s great-grandson. And it’s a brand with some real military watch making heritage.

The M100B is a black DLC-coated version of the brand’s first modern timepiece, the M100. Made to resemble the original 1944 model, but made to modern specifications, these models come with a hand wound ETA movement that carries a 42 hour power reserve. Only 150 pieces have been made, so getting your hands on one might be tricky.

Hamilton Khaki Field mechanical

The Edit: The best military watches

American-designed and Swiss made: Hamilton watches have had this unique combination for years. With their roots firmly placed in the expansion and timings of the American railway in the 1800s, Hamilton were contracted to make “milspec” watches in the 1960s and this, visually, is a near-identical reproduction.

Functional, robust and subtly good-looking, this is a watch that you can wear everyday and bash about without a second thought.

The Edit: The best military watches

Hamilton Khaki Field mechanical

£375

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IWC Mark XVIII tribute to Mark XI

The Edit: The best military watches

In 1948, following on from their appearance in the Dirty Dozen, IWC produced the Mark XI: A military watch that seemed to tick every box. The design was so perfect that the watchmakers saw it fit to recreate it for modern times and modern pressures.

The Mark XVIII gives all the vintage nostalgia you could ask for, along with the incredible watchmaking expertise that modern IWC pieces are packed with.

The Edit: The best military watches

IWC Mark XVIII tribute to Mark XI

£3890

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Seiko Prospex

The Edit: The best military watches

If you were enlisted to the Swedish Navy in the 1970s, you would have been handed — along with your tough leather boots and dress uniform — a new Seiko divers watch, much like the one above. It’s a safe bet that many of those sailors still have their Seikos perfectly working.

Tough, endlessly precise and extremely legible, these watches are ones that outperform models far more expensive than themselves. This will keep ticking for years to come, and through the toughest of conditions.

Longines Heritage Military

The Edit: The best military watches

Automatic movement with 64-hour power reserve, scratch resistant sapphire crystal and many other trappings of modern watchmaking are completely invisible in this incredible model from Longines Heritage line. Taking its inspiration from a pilots watch that Longines produced in the 1940s, this looks more like a vintage model rather than a timepiece fresh out of the manufacturer.

Spattered with a unique pattern of fake aging, each model is unique — and completely bewitching.

The Edit: The best military watches

Longines Heritage Military

£1460

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Further Reading