Military watches have obviously been named because they were designed for the use by the armed forces.
The initial military watches were for the navy, chronometers that performed well for their requirements. But with the increased demand during World War II by different branches of the military, there were major technological innovations. Nowhere was that more apparent than innovations that were made for aviators. As the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of all invention,” and the Navigator (also called “Pilot”) watches were created.
With watch design in the Navigator, the seconds bezel could be used to let the pilot synchronize the watch which would give an accurate reference time prior to takeoff. This feature also helped the aviator to make corrections to any radio time signal during flight. This removed virtually any “chronometer error” plus any navigational errors that may result.
Huge War, Huge Advances in Technology
Time measured in seconds remained a critical factor in both military watches and military technology. “Center-seconds” hands (referred to as a “hack seconds feature”) continued to further improve and progress. This feature or function that allowed for synchronization involving two timepieces.
The Navigator “hack” watch had a black watch dial with white Arabic numerals. They also contained a minute, hour, and center-seconds hands. Sizing with these watches was all over the place. Well known watch companies such as Bulova, Elgin, and Waltham no more than 31mm in diameter. These watches were created for a renamed Army Air Force in 1941. Watches created for the German air force were larger, frequently around 55mm or so. These watches were designed to be worn on outside the flight jacket as well or even on the the navigator’s thigh. Germany also included antimagnetic protection with their chronometers.
Seiko created an astounding quantity of military watches for Japan’s Imperial Navy and Army. Seiko’s watches averaged somewhere around 49mm in size.
Navigating The Cold War
As the days of World War II faded into the past and the peace of the “Cold
War” became reality, military technology and budgets exploded. In the age of nuclear weapons, the plane ascended to its most powerful political and military position of all time. Watchmakers answered the call by designing instruments worthy of entering battle with mankind’s most powerful weapons. Those were the Glory Days of the military watch, although no single design house could claim total credit for any advances made in that time frame.
During the Cold War military watches became much bigger in size compared to typical American Navigators that were made earlier. These watches averaged 36mm in diameter compared to the earlier size of 31mm. The crafting of these watches was also relocated to Switzerland, who had centuries’ old reputation for precision. Just like the early Navigators, these new models included white Arabic numerals, white indices, on a matte black dial. The new Navigators do not have the white numerals at cardinal 3, 6, 9, and 12. Another recent innovation was adding a shatterproof Perspex acrylic crystal, that shielded the large 12 ligne movements from all magnetic fields. These mechanical wound watches were anticipated to be water-resistant up to 20 feet. This water resistance included under low-pressure at operational altitudes.
Your Own Piece of History At A Reasonable Price
Although a number of the top-tier watchmakers are reviving this classic style, vintage high quality does not have to break the bank. Seiko has established a popularity for the brand, which has been recognized by watch collectors. You can purchase watches from Seiko for affordable prices, which means that classic Navigator-style watches may be appreciated by all.