The story of the military watch is almost as old as that of the wristwatch itself. As far back 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 wrist straps.
In converting the pocket watch into a wristwatch, the soldiers inadvertently created the concept of watches we are familiar with today. And the large dials, minimally decorated with clear and simple markings, remain staples of today’s military’s watches.
Wristwatches later featured in the First World War, but weren’t commonplace for both soldiers and civilians until the Second World War, when over a dozen companies were commissioned to produce watches for the British military. These companies included Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines and Omega, who produced the watches to primarily be tough, legible and functional – not the luxury, design-led pieces we’re familiar with today.
- T3's guide to the best watches for men
- Best dive watch: stylish watches to suit any budget
- The best watches under £1000
Fast-forward to the present day, and while the UK’s Ministry of Defence allows its signage to be used by several watchmakers, it does not state publicly what watches soldiers use.
As such, we’ve gathered up a selection of our favourite military-inspired watches. Many of these feature design elements that trace their DNA back to those modified pocket watches of 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-issue watch to be created by a British firm in over a decade. To give the Holton further 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 stretch from £445 to £650 and colourways include military-appropriate black and green.
Much like many dive watches, the Holton’s design focuses on durability, shock-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 calibre 715 movement has a life of approximately three years, plus a low-battery indicator.
2. CWC British Military G10
Standing for the Cabot Watch Company, CWC produced the first quartz watch issued to British armed forces, in 1980. CWC watches were last issued to British forces in 2008, and since then the G10 model available for sale remains unchanged.
CWC estimates that over 200,000 G10 watches have been produced for military deployment over the years, with 22,000 alone supplied to the Royal Navy in 1991.
The watch features acrylic glass, water resistance to 5 ATM, a Swiss-made quartz movement and a battery hatch for easy replacement. The case is a compact 38mm including the crown, and fixed lug bars hold a grey 18mm NATO strap.
3. Christopher Ward C65 Sandhurst
Christopher Ward doesn’t supply watches to the Ministry of Defence, but it has the department’s permission to use the heraldic badge of the British Army. This appears on the screw-down stainless steel case back 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 inspired by the Smiths W10 watch given to British soldiers in 1969.
4. Breitling Aviator 8 B01 Chronograph 43 Mosquito
Although not issued to soldiers or licensed by the MoD, this Breitling Aviator 8 has close ties to a famous British military plane. The watch honours the de Havilland Mosquito, a lightweight wooden plane that was one of the fastest of World War II.
The watch features red and orange markings as a nod to the military rounders on the fuselage of the Mosquito.
It has 100 metres of water resistance, a 43mm stainless steel case with cambered sapphire crystal and rotating bezel, and is powered by the in-house Calibre 01 movement with 47 jewels and a lengthy 70 hours of power reserve.
5. CWC RAF Pilots Quartz Chronograph
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 has a three-dial chronograph with minute counter, hour counter and running seconds for accurate timekeeping. 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 while resistant to splashes, does not have a waterproofing rating.
6. Bremont Broadsword Bronze
Bremont is another watchmaker granted permission to use the MoD’s markings, and the Broadsword Bronze was added to the company;’s military timepieces in 2020.
The watch dial features a sub-second hand at the six o’clock position, plus a date complication at three o’clock. Multiple layers of luminous paint on the dial and hands ensure the watch meets British Army specification. ‘HMAF’ (Her Majesty’s Armed Forces) is written beneath the Bremont logo on the dial.
The bronze case has a high tin content (eight percent) to add strength and resistance to corrosion. The ‘living’ nature of the bronze case means the watch will develop a unique patina over time.
7. Bremont Arrow
Another military watch by Bremont, but this time a model intended for airmen, complete with two-dial chronograph. The all-steel Arrow also has a date complication at the six o’clock position and Super-LumiNova for clear nighttime visibility.
‘HMAF’ is written below the Bremont name and on the steel caseback, while the case itself measures 42mm across. The watch is driven by a calibre 13 automatic movement with 27 jewels and a 48-hour power reserve. The chronograph dials are a second counter and minute counter.
A domed, anti-reflective and scratch resistant sapphire crystal protects the dial, and water resistance is rated at 10 ATM, or 100 metres.
8. G-Shock British Army 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 case made partially from carbon fibre, along with a dual-layered case back made of stainless steel and fine resin.
Major features of this watch include an altimeter, barometer, thermometer, compass and step counter, plus Bluetooth for connecting to a smartphone, a calorie counter, stopwatch, 24-hour countdown timer, five daily alarms, sunrise/sunset times, and LED illumination.
The G-Shock Mudmaster has 200 metres of water resistance, an automatic calendar that is always correct, and a two-year battery life with low-charge warning.
9. G-Shock RAF Gravity Master
The second military watch from Casio is the RAF Gravity Mud Master. Designed in conjunction 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 aircrew.
The watch’s three 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 features, this watch is the same as the Mudmaster. This means 200 metres of water resistance, a whole bunch of features from an altimeter and barometer, to step counter and more. There’s also Bluetooth, an automatic calendar, a two-year battery life, shock resistance, a thermometer, and LED display illumination.