Recently, as you may already be aware, I've been re-organising my collection and assessing my stock. This has nothing to do with Mrs Watch Collectors' insistence on me getting my act together, I was going to do it anyway (honestly). In any event last week was all about sports watches, but this week I've been categorising my collection of military watches and what a joy it has been. I can barely pick a piece up without spending an inordinate amount of time either researching it again on the internet or just plain old wearing it.
I'm not particularly a man of action, unless you count walking the dogs every morning, in which case I'm Jason Bourne! Likewise it's unlikely I'll be called upon anytime soon to lead a beach assault with the Special Boat Service or, indeed, be required to leap from an aircraft over enemy territory (extra large parachute for me please!) And yet....and yet.... Put a vintage military watch on my wrist and I'm there. Steely eyed and focused, ready to do what needs to be done. There is just something so wonderful and inspiring about a vintage military watch.
These are timepieces built for action. Built for men and women who operate in a world of absolute certainty and functionality. Stripped bare of superfluous features they are designed to deliver the right information clearly and concisely. Design is influenced hugely by operational environment and that makes for a wide variety of options for the keen enthusiast. Those are the stories I love about these watches. Why a second world pilots watch has a 55mm face (unheard of at the time) with super legible indices for night time missions, to the fact that a military issue army watch blends perfectly with relevant camouflage. Many of the developments dictated by military requirements have gone on to influence generations of watches. One only has to look at the Dirty Dozen, watches commissioned by the MOD for use in WW2 to see the impact of military design extend throughout the 20th century.
Resilience too is a given, as is mechanical excellence. If you can't withstand the challenges presented by military service, you have no right being classed as a military grade watch. Likewise if you can't guarantee accuracy then missions could be at risk! So even watches from the second world war are still as wearable today as they were 80 years ago. Some achievement! And they often wear their battle scars in a way that makes them all the more enjoyable for me. Whilst the most action they are likely to see these days is a brisk walk across the local fields, it's a real pleasure to gaze at the face of a watch that has not only seen more life than me, but has probably survived scrapes and adventures the like of which I could only imagine. I think that's one of the reasons I started collecting watches all those years ago. The stories I imagined they told me and the pleasure I derived in trying to picture the journeys they had been on. That's why, perhaps more than any other category of watch, military watches still have the capacity to capture my imagination in a unique way. Or maybe I am a man of action after all and I just haven't realised it yet.