The history of the military watch is almost as old as that of the wristwatch itself. As early as the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, soldiers modified their pocket watches with wire lugs soldered to the case and attached to primitive leather bracelets.
By transforming the pocket watch into a wristwatch, the soldiers inadvertently created the concept of watches we know today. And the large dials, minimally decorated with clear and simple markings, remain staples of today’s military watches.
Wristwatches then featured during WWI, but weren’t commonplace for soldiers and civilians until WWII, when more than a dozen companies were commissioned to produce watches for the British army. These companies included Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, and Omega, which produced watches that were primarily durable, readable and functional – not the luxury and designer pieces we know today.
Fast forward to the present day, and although the UK Ministry of Defense allows its signage to be used by several watchmakers, it does not publicly state which watches soldiers use.
As such, we’ve rounded up a selection of our favorite military-inspired watches. Many of them feature design elements that trace their DNA back to these modified pocket watches from the Second Boer War.
1. Elliot Brown Holton Professional
Elliot Brown’s Holton Professional range was developed in collaboration with a branch of the British Armed Forces and is the first new military watch created by a British company in over a decade. To give Holton even more credit, the 101-001 model has a NATO stock number.
There are nine models in the Holton collection (including a collaboration with Land Rover), prices range from £ 445 to £ 650 and colorways include military black and green.
Much like many diving watches, the design of the Holton focuses on durability, impact resistance and clarity day and night. The rotating bezel has a high-grip finish that can be used with a wet gloved hand, and the Swiss Ronda caliber 715 movement has a lifespan of around three years, plus a low battery indicator.
2. British military CWC G10
Representing the Cabot Watch Company, CWC produced the first quartz watch issued to the British Armed Forces in 1980. CWC watches were last issued to the British Forces in 2008, and since then the G10 model available for sale has remained unchanged.
CWC estimates that more than 200,000 G10 watches have been produced for military deployment over the years, of which 22,000 alone were supplied to the Royal Navy in 1991.
The watch features acrylic glass, water resistance up to 5 ATM, Swiss made quartz movement and battery door for easy replacement. The case is a compact 38mm case including crown, and the fixed bar bars contain an 18mm gray NATO strap.
3. Christopher Ward C65 Sandhurst
Christopher Ward does not supply the Department of Defense with watches, but the Department has permission from the Department to use the British Army’s heraldic badge. This appears on the screwed-down stainless steel caseback of the appropriately named C65 Sandhurst.
The watch has a 38mm case housing a textured black dial driven by an automatic movement with 26 jewels and 38 hours of power reserve. Christopher Ward says the C65 is based on the Smiths W10 watch given to British soldiers in 1969.
4. Breitling Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 Mosquito
Although not issued to soldiers or authorized by the Ministry of Defense, this Breitling Aviator 8 has close ties to a famous British military aircraft. The watch pays homage to the de Havilland Mosquito, a lightweight wooden plane that was one of the fastest in WWII.
The watch features red and orange markings in homage to military curves on the Mosquito fuselage.
It has a water resistance of 100 meters, a 43mm stainless steel case with a domed sapphire crystal and rotating bezel, and is powered by the in-house Caliber 01 movement with 47 jewels and a long power reserve of 70 time.
5. Quartz chronograph of the CWC RAF pilots
Another military watch from CWC, this timepiece is an updated version of a timepiece issued to the RAF in the 1990s and early 2000s.
With a 40mm stainless steel case, the Pilots Quartz features a three-dial chronograph with minute counter, hour and second counter for precise timing. The dial, which also includes a date complication at four o’clock, is protected by a sapphire crystal and the watch is powered by a Swiss Ronda 5030 quartz movement.
This watch is supplied with a NATO strap and although it is splash resistant, it does not have a waterproof rating.
6. Bronze at Bremont Broadsword
Bremont is another watchmaker licensed to use Department of Defense marks, and the Broadsword Bronze was added to the company’s military watches in 2020.
The watch face features a seconds hand at six o’clock, as well as a date complication at three o’clock. Several coats of luminous paint on the dial and hands ensure that the watch meets British Army specifications. ‘HMAF’ (Her Majesty’s Armed Forces) is written under the Bremont logo on the dial.
The bronze case has a high tin content (eight percent) to add strength and corrosion resistance. The “living” nature of the bronze case means that the watch will develop a unique patina over time.
7. Brémont arrow
Another military watch from Bremont, but this time a model intended for aviators, with a chronograph with two dials. The all-steel Arrow also has a date complication at six o’clock and Super-LumiNova for clear nighttime visibility.
“HMAF” is written under the Bremont name and on the steel caseback, while the case itself measures 42mm in diameter. The watch is powered by a caliber 13 automatic movement with 27 jewels and a 48-hour power reserve. The chronograph dials are a seconds counter and a minute counter.
A domed, anti-reflective, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal protects the dial, and water resistance is rated at 10 ATM, or 100 meters.
8. British Army G-Shock Mudmaster
Now for a pair of digital watches from Casio, each the product of a collaboration with the British Armed Forces. The first, called the G-Shock British Army Mudmaster, features a partially carbon fiber case, along with a double-layered stainless steel and fine resin case back.
The main features of this watch include altimeter, barometer, thermometer, compass and step counter, as well as bluetooth to connect to smartphone, calorie counter, stopwatch, 24 hour countdown timer, five daily alarms, sunrise / sunset times and LED lighting.
The G-Shock Mudmaster has a water resistance of 200 meters, an always correct automatic schedule and a two-year battery life with low charge warning.
9. G-Shock RAF Gravity Master
Casio’s second military watch is the RAF Gravity Mud Master. Designed in collaboration with the Royal Air Force, this G-Shock has the same carbon structure as the British Army Mudmaster, but with a design better suited to pilots and crews.
The three watch buttons on the right side of its case are arranged to resemble a helicopter control stick, while the stealth colourway is inspired by that of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet.
As for the features, this watch is the same as the Mudmaster. That means 200 meters of water resistance, a whole bunch of features ranging from an altimeter and barometer, to step counter and more. There’s also Bluetooth, an automatic calendar, two-year battery life, shock resistance, a thermometer, and LED display lighting.