Wristwatches have long been useful tools in military life, and over the years various watch brands have created special timepieces to honor certain branches of the armed forces and those that support them. Here we re-present our updated list of seven “Tribute to the Military” watches.
IWC Schaffhausen, a watch brand with deep roots in making military-grade pilots’ watches, introduced its Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun collection in 2007. Created in cooperation with the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, known widely as “Top Gun,” the collection was expanded in 2012 with the addition of the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Miramar, a distinctly military-styled watch named for, and paying tribute to, the area in California where the Navy’s elite Top Gun pilots receive their training. The Top Gun Miramar (also available in a chronograph version) has a big, 48-mm ceramic case and anthracite dial. The hands and chapter rings are in a camouflage beige color and the military-green textile strap is reminiscent of the fabric webbing belts in an aircraft cockpit.
Developed under a special trademark agreement with the United States Navy, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving Automatic Navy SEALs is a rough-and-tumble timepiece designed to be worthy of the elite combat unit for which it is named. The watch is engineered to withstand extremely harsh conditions and features on its dial a new form of Super-LumiNova that is particularly visible underwater or in the dark. It also contains an in-house Jaeger-LeCoultre automatic movement intended to provide a high degree of accuracy. Jaeger-LeCoultre solicited the input of actual Navy SEALs in its development of the watch; some of its features, including the matte black bezel that reduces glare, are a direct result of these consultations. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving Automatic Navy SEALs is limited to 1,500 pieces.
Released in 2013, the Breitling Navitimer 01 Honor Flight Limited Edition is a watch made in tribute to the Honor Flight Network, which flies World War II veterans to the memorial dedicated to their service in Washington, DC. This special version of the Navitimer — an iconic pilots’ watch from a brand with a rich history of producing watches for aviation — has a deep blue dial with the Honor Flight logo just beneath the 12 o’clock position, and a solid steel caseback with an engraved “wreath and bracket” from the World War II memorial in the nation’s capital and the inscription, “Honor Flight — One Last Mission.” The watch, which contains a Breitling chronograph movement, is limited to just 56 pieces, representing the 56 U.S. states and territories that participated in the Second World War.
The striking skull-and-crossbones dial on the Bell & Ross BR01 Airborne is based on the patches worn by American paratroopers of World War II, who wore it on their uniforms as a defiant symbol of courage in the face of death. The skull on the dial is coated with Super-LumiNova so that it glows in the dark. On June 8, 2009, the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Bell & Ross introduced the 500-piece limited edition of the BR01 Airborne at a boutique in Paris. The brand has since followed up the original model with a 999-piece limited edition, the Airborne II, with a “phantom black” dial and “rifle barrel” patina finish.
While not a military unit per se, the cryptologists at Britain’s Bletchley Park played a crucial role in the Allied war effort with their deciphering of the Enigma and Lorenz codes used by Nazi Germany (as those who’ve seen the Oscar-nominated film, The Imitation Game, may already be aware). The Bremont Codebreaker pays tribute to these often unsung heroes of WWII by incorporating actual historical materials from Bletchley Park and its codebreaking machines into the watch. Limited to only 240 pieces in stainless steel and 50 in rose gold, the Bremont Codebreaker features pieces of the actual German Enigma machine in the winding rotor of its automatic movement and fragments of the punch cards used in the decryption machines embedded in the case middle (to spell out the watch’s serial number). Additionally, a piece of the floorboard from the actual Bletchley Park building where the codes were broken (thus shortening the war by probably two years and saving countless lives) has been incorporated into the watch’s crown.
U.S.-based Kobold takes pride in the fact that many of its watches are made in America, several with military usage in mind. The company worked with Navy SEALs to create the Kobold Phantom Black Ops Chronograph, whose black-DLC-coated, 41-mm steel case is made in the U.S.A. and contains a solid ETA 7750 chronograph movement. The rugged “stealth” timepiece also features a bidirectional rotating bezel, a domed, nonreflective sapphire crystal, a screw-locked crown, and green-tinted luminous hands and hour markers that would pair well with a set of night-vision goggles. The price is $4,150, but if you’re a SEAL or other armed service member, says Kobold, you will be offered a “healthy discount.”
Graham, the Swiss watch brand with British roots, partnered with a decidedly American institution for the limited-edition Graham Chronofighter Oversize Navy SEAL Foundation. Designed with the needs of the U.S. Navy’s highly specialized Sea, Air Land (SEAL) team in mind, the not a replica watches has been tested for endurance in climatic conditions ranging from scorching deserts to hot, humid jungles to icy Arctic environments. The watch also embodies “stealth” with the dark hues of its 47-mm-diameter case with black PVD coating, and the use of carbon fiber for the side-mounted “trigger,” a hallmark of Graham’s chronograph watches. Graham donates a portion from the sale of each watch to the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to providing support and assistance to SEALs and their families.