Although less common today, defense departments would collaborate with watchmakers to provide their military with the right tools for the job as early as the 1880s. These extremely accurate watches are still treasured for their unique utilitarian aesthetic and historic value. The watch experts at online auction platform Catawiki have shared a few of their favourites military watches and the stories that make them special.
The German air force (Bundeswehr) ordered Heuer and Leonidas flyback chronographs starting in the early 60s. There are a few of different dial variations: a Leonidas, the Sternzeit Reguliert, with 3H logo (stands for Hydrogen 3, to point at the luminous material used on the dial and hands), and a regular one. The Sternzeit Reguliert is a collector’s dream.
The Dirty Dozen
This nickname was given to a group of 12 military watches which make up a very collectible set. The Swiss produced watches for both sides during WWII, but the British Ministry of Defense didn’t feel these were suitable for their soldiers, so they placed custom orders with 12 different watch companies. The dirty dozen are easy to identify as they are all engraved with WWW on the back (Watch, Wrist, Waterproof). It’s very rare to find a complete collection because some are quite scarce.
The legendary timepieces issued to French pilots in the 50s served as tools and therefore focused on performance. One especially useful feature is the flyback function, which allows pilots to reset the chronograph with one push of a button. Breguet combined their horological history with aviation experience to create a lineage of military watches still appreciated today.
Whether you’re looking to complete your collection or find the perfect utilitarian timepiece, Catawiki’s weekly Watches auctions feature some 2500 timepieces to choose from. New auctions start every Friday, so each week offers a new chance to find what you’re looking for.