For those who don’t really know anything about watches in general, the question of whether Swiss military watches are any good or not seems like a reasonable question. But for many in the know, it’s only reasonable for the uninformed.
So, Are Swiss Military Watches Any Good At All?
For people who even know anything about the wristwatch industry, military watches from Switzerland aren’t just good—they’re among the best in the world.
Here are some reasons why:
Rolex makes military watches
Even people who don’t know much about wristwatches have heard of the Rolex brand. Their watches are invariably fantastic and expensive, and owning one is a sure sign of success. That applies to their military watches. In fact, the Rolex brand is perhaps the most dominant in military watch collecting among fans.
This dominance all started way back in the 1970s. The brand at the time created a series of Submariner dive watches for the British Ministry of Defense. They’re quite distinctive due to several unique design characteristics, such as having the dial feature a “T” with a circle to denote the use of tritium on the markers.
They featured sword hands and fixed solid spring bars. These are now famed in the watch industry as the “MilSubs”, and they fetch astounding prices at auctions. One recently sold for more than $195,000 at an auction.
If you want something even more collectible, try going for the MilSubs that Rolex made for the Iranian Special Forces during this decade. It’s thought that only 10 or so of these are still in existence.
A long history of watchmaking excellence
Everyone knows how exacting these Swiss craftsmen are about the art of making timepieces. Swiss watchmakers were tasked to create sturdier watches for the start of WWII.
Soldiers could no longer afford to use the more fragile watches that were used in the First World War. Swiss military watches were made according to military specifications with emphasis on readability and durability.
Since Switzerland was neutral, their watchmakers were free to produce watches for servicemen on both sides of the conflict. Brands like Omega, Longines, and Breitling were all heavily involved in producing military watches.
The Swiss-German brand IWC Schaffhausen produced excellent pilot’s watches for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force). Yet they also provided the waterproof Mark X to the British Army in the later years of 1930s. This watch is also highly collectible, and they feature the icon of a broad arrow logo designation from the British crown.
Ready for the end of the war
At the time of WWII, the watchmaking industry was dominated by the Swiss, Germans, and the Americans. But only the Swiss came out ahead after the war.
The German watchmaking industry was devastated by the country’s loss. During the war their factories were bombed, and those that survived were taken over by the victorious Soviets.
The Americans didn’t fare much better. These watchmakers were patriots, and so their entire manufacturing capacity and R&D were devoted for the military. Once the war was over, they no longer had the stock to sell for civilians. The Swiss watchmakers didn’t have that problem and they swooped right in.
Tudor is another well-known Swiss watch brand, and in fact it’s the sister company of Rolex. So it stands to reason that it too is highly insistent on quality. When the Vietnam War raged, it sparked a huge demand for military diving watches that’s still a major trend in the watch industry today. Tudor was among the first brands to start that trend.
It actually began back in the 1960s. At the time, Tudor was a major supplier of wristwatches for the Marine Nationale (French Navy).
By the end of the decade, the French divers were asking for modifications to the shape of the hour and minute hands, so that they were easier to read when underwater. This led to the creation of the now-iconic “snowflake hands”, which can still be seen in premium Tudor collections.
Overall Swiss quality
All over the world, there’s a certain prestige to be gained when you own a Swiss watch. That’s how highly regarded these watches are. Swiss brands are famed for their exacting craftsmanship, and they guard their reputation so closely that they always make sure that they never release a substandard unit. These are so durable that often they become heirlooms. They don’t just last for years, but for generations.
Part of this insistence of creating premium quality watches is that often these brands are run by the same family through the decades.
The brand usually bears their family name, and they will never besmirch their name just for the sake of short-term gains. They continue to uphold their traditional adherence to high quality and accurate timekeeping to make sure their brand remains highly regarded.
So you can bet your bank account that as a group Swiss watches are truly terrific. To call them good is to understate their value. Swiss military watches have a fantastic durability, quality, and history. It’s like wearing a piece of military art on your wrist.