Military timepieces are the ultimate embodiment of the tool watch. Overbuilt for a specific purpose and devoid of any superfluous touches, they’re pure “form follows function,” and, ironically, this often serves to make for incredibly beautiful design objects. Built to withstand hard abuse, many 20th-century military watches have actually survived rather well, and can be had for a relative bargain when compared to some of today’s popular vintage steel sport watches. Here are three awesome selections available right now.

Junghans German Military Chronograph

What We Like: A perfect 38mm in diameter and and featuring an awesome 12-sided bezel (dodecahedron — I never get to use that word…), this Type 88 manually wound chronograph from German manufacture Junghans is simply gorgeous. Though the plated case has some wear, the dial features intact, faded luminous material and wonderful oversized sub-dials.

From the Seller: The watch is in great condition with normal signs of wear consistent with age and use, with light wear around the scalloped bi-directional timing bezel. Luminous black gloss dial is in fantastic condition with rich puffy lume showing even patina throughout. Luminous syringe handset shows light patination. Unsigned crown.

Omega Single Button Royal Canadian Air Force Chronograph

What We Like: Military monopusher chronographs used one pusher to start, stop and reset the watch’s timer function. Those built for the Royal Canadian Air Force, such as this Omega, are among the coolest, with dual-register layouts, Arabic dials and syringe hands. Housed in a 38mm stainless steel case, if not for the (extra cool) patina to the dial, this watch could conceivably have been built yesterday.

From the Seller: Excellent case with light wear from use. The watch comes with a Lémania caliber 2221 hacking movement. The original RCAF numbers have been polished off by the original owner. Excellent Arabic number chronograph dial that has aged to a creamy hue. The watch comes with the original matching hands.

Vacheron Constantin WWI Army Corps of Engineers Military Chronometer

What We Like: Now here’s something you don’t see everyday, and something that in wristwatch form would be likely be found in a Phillips catalog with a 5-digit reserve price. Part of a run of silver-cased pocket watches ordered directly from Vacheron during World War I, these were meant for use by the Army Corps of Engineers within the American Expeditionary Forces. Miraculously, this example still has much of the radium on the indices and original cathedral hands intact. A pictured document shows the original order, placed 101 years ago.

From the Seller: The case of this pocket watch is 900 fine silver and in excellent condition. The dial is also very clean apart from small amounts of dissipated lume on the numerals — no hairlines or cracks. There is high-end gold gilding on this entire movement, not specified as a requirement of the order, but a very expensive nice touch by Vacheron.

21 Military Watches and Their Histories

The best mil-spec timepieces and the stories behind them. Read the Story

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