One of our favorite wristwatch styles is the field watch. They go with almost every outfit, will withstand anything your noncombatant life can throw at them, and they continue a long heritage of civilians adopting military flair. Their dials are meant to be as simple as possible to read, their straps don’t stretch out after a few days, and their motions are practically difficult to break. The field watch is maybe the closest thing we’ll ever come to a flawless wristwatch. Here’s a little background on it.
The First Military Timepiece
The first wristwatch may have been developed anywhere between 1571 and 1868, but everyone agrees that it was nearly three centuries of almost all female customers regardless of the provenance. Early names for these watches, such as wristlet, montre watch, and bracelet watch, were more appropriate for delicate accessories than tough equipment, and early words for them, such as wristlet, montre watch, and bracelet watch, were more suited for soft accessories than sound equipment. If a man was wearing a wristwatch, he should be exhibiting suitable masculinity in other ways, such as riding or ballooning. And practically, as soon as they got off their bike, they were back to their wonderfully macho pocket watch.
The first wristwatch created specifically for males, according to our research, was ordered by Kaiser Wilhelm I in 1879. He called two thousand watches from Girard-Perregaux for his navy personnel, marking the first time the military and wristwatches had officially interacted, albeit they were still far from the field watches that contemporary men are so proud of.
The watch’s parts were constructed of 14k gold to prevent corrosion, something we can do today with plain stainless steel. Because more robust casings had not yet been produced, the dials of these watches were covered by metal grids over the glass, which obscured a large portion of the display. Finally, unlike many current watches, these timepieces did not come with leather, cloth, or rubber bands. They, like their pocket counterparts, utilized chains. Indeed, if you were a late 19th century gentlemen and placed your pocket watch’s chain over your Wrist, you’d have developed the wristwatch, according to the accounts we’ve read.
However, one single directive did not guarantee that all military personnel would wear wristwatches. Other countries did not begin equipping their military with such equipment for another few decades, and Wristwatches remained a woman’s toy in the meantime.
While World War I killed many people, it made watches cool.
In the trenches, manly pocket timepieces were not always the best way to tell time. A channel in France is tight, muddy, and fast-moving, making them ideal for a stroll in turn-of-the-century London. While his soldiers are meant to be climbing over the top, an officer can’t be fiddling with the pockets on his trench coat. The British military didn’t know this going into the war in 1914; therefore, the pocket watch remained a common issue.
Because militaries like to learn from the bottom up, the trench officers pioneered the transition from pocket timepieces to wristwatches, or trench or service watches, as they were originally known. Officers would purchase trench watches in advance of their deployment, knowing from personal experience or word of mouth that a trench watch was a vital instrument in the war. Advertisements from 1915 and 1916 followed divergent directions, with the first focusing solely on function and the second attempting to make the service watch into a status symbol.
While claiming that a product is a status symbol may be a good way to convince people to buy it, commanders in the trenches discovered a far more fundamental purpose for their timepieces. Specifically, not being blasted to kingdom come by friendly fire. Officers meticulously matched their clocks to those of the artillerymen behind them throughout any activity. They were able to time their motions down to the second due to this. Men knew exactly when the large guns would switch fire, making it theoretically impossible to miss a beat.
However, all of this wristwatch coordination took place outside of the sphere of normal issue gear. The field watch was not created during the First World War because everyone was so preoccupied with buying personal wristwatches that no nation saw the need to commission one. There isn’t a single watch from WWI since everyone bought what they liked or what was on offer. The British didn’t start thinking about making a standard-issue wristwatch until the very end of the war.
World War II Equipment Becomes Standard Issue
It’s a good thing the international military learned a few things during World War One since World War Two was on its way to wiping out whatever parts of Europe felt they were safe. It was going to accomplish so owing to the exact accuracy of spanking new standard-issue wristwatches, in part.
The American A-11, which was produced by four different companies—Elgin, Bulova, Waltham, and Hamilton—is by far the most popular of the WWII field watches. The A-11 is still the gold standard for American military timepieces, and it’s where the unique look first gained traction. It was tough, precise, dust-proof, and waterproof, and it was the epitome of utility above form (though where the form was still pretty nice). Air and ground troops, like artillerymen and trench soldiers in World Conflict One, synced their timepieces, helping the Western Front Allies to achieve near-total air supremacy later in the war. Some people refer to it as the “watch that won the war,” and we’ll mention it, but take it with a grain of salt. Because nearly everything America produced at that time has been dubbed the “___ that won the war,” the term has lost some of its sting.
The W.W.W., which stands for Wrist. Watch, was chosen by the British. Waterproof, and it needed all of British High Command’s ingenuity to pull it off. It wasn’t as popular as the A-11, although it was fairly comparable. It was a watch designed to endure combat trauma while keeping accuracy and integrity, yet it did have one advantage over the American watch. The W.W.W., for example, came with bright hands, which meant no more risking your life to attempt to move your watch hand into a sliver of light. Because the watch’s light was caused by Radium-226, individuals began to destroy them for fear of radiation, making these watches far more rare than other Second World War field timepieces.
Both Germany and Japan produced passable field watches, but because few individuals enjoy wearing standard-issue Rising Sun or Nazi uniforms, their designs had little effect on the current field watch. The majority of field watches available today are based on Allied designs.